According to all of the images forced down my throat and into my psyche, I am not among the “hotness” that is gay male culture.
Recently, I have been looking at and questioning the reasons that I and others find certain things attractive. In my posts, Moving Beyond Fetish and How Money affects Gay Male Couples, I take on the often obsessive but rarely discussed topic of desire.
As I begin to age, I slowly and methodically have started the process of appreciating my looks less by adamantly not liking what looks back. Mirrors are no longer trusted friends and seem to enjoy lying to me. These days I am not feeling so attractive and am unable to figure out why. Perhaps, it is the realization that all of my peers have “grown up”. Which in this culture is measured by a mortgage and kids? I have neither. It could be the sobering fact that in the bevy of gay men I am now part of the “older” contingent.
Is my ability to attract male attention only limited to my looks? Is it important to attract and keep male attention as we age? While it is natural to want to be attractive to others, the ego can quickly take over and make this an all-consuming affair.
Interestingly, it is at the same time that the looks have begun to change that I have now figured I have the most to offer and am the least bit motivated to share this knowledge with men. Luckily, I am in a great relationship. What would I be doing if I were single? Dating men in their 30’s or horror of horrors dating men in their 20’s?
Too young and broke to be a daddy and too old to be a cutesy bowl of “fresh meat”, I straddle the world of the “in-between”. I am beyond curious as to the type of action men in my situation (forties and beyond) take in regards to feeling both great about what they have to offer and the fact that so many of us have been socialized not to see it?
Post 40 are we relegated to fetish status and the occasional financier for our younger community members? Is there something beyond picking up the tab at the local bar for a person who was not born when you learned to drive?
In the words of Chris Rock, “nothing sadder than being the guy at the club who is just a little too old to be there.”
I know a man in his late sixties whose daily activities include cruising parks and bars. I once asked him: Is this what you do all day every day? His only response was one of indignation and a smidge of embarrassment. If my partner and I split or one of us popped our clogs, I would like to believe that there would be better uses of time and more productive afternoons than those exhibited by my previously mentioned acquaintance.
This can only occur if I change the nature of what I find desirable and become comfortable with my own aging process.
It also has a better chance of working if those around me, the culture at large, also goes about making some necessary and more inclusive and self-esteem building thinking around what is attractive and why. Does aging mean becoming less attractive? Does youth mean “hotness”? Why is hotness limited to the purely physical?
As an individual who has gone through phases of being gay, I know many of the pitfalls and assumptions that peers and well-meaning friends often heap our way.
Twenty years ago, I was mortified at the thought of being with someone my father’s age. At 23, I started attracting and dating men who were 43 and beyond. I could dine and laugh with them but any type of physical interaction gave me the “willies”. Was I more attractive then or simply young? I am now beyond 43. Why did I think I would be in my 20’s for eternity?
Although I feel the same, recent photographs remind me that the youth I still believe is mine only exists in my head.
The first time a young person called me sir, I looked around for my dad.
So how does one prepare for the “Big Bad” (aging within the gay community)? To prepare, we need to get rid of the ridiculous notion that it will never happen. We need to let go of the very physical and real shock we experience whenever we pass a mirror or dare to take a gander at a recent photo.
This is no easy task.
My baby sister is now a lawyer and I remember helping her walk and feeding her. There is no legitimate way I can still claim to be thirty if my youngest sibling is 26. Still, how do we as a community welcome and revere ourselves and others regardless of the aging process?
Aging is not an option.
Evolving and challenging our thinking and positions in life is. Take stock of all you have accomplished and congratulate yourself often. I told my partner the other day that my only regret is that I was not bolder when I was younger.
Perhaps the secret to getting older is understanding the consequences of your life choices and having the cajones to go for things anyway.
Trust me nothing is more pathetic or ridiculous than listening to an old queen wax poetic about all the sex they’ve had with this being their only contribution to society and the gay male community as a whole.
Instead, build a series of powerful moments and memories wherein you took on life and won.
As a gay man well into middle-age, I am well aware of the points
made in this two-part article. Yet, I wonder if being an aging gay is
any less emotionally bracing than our straight brothers?
A good friend of mine, divorced, straight, recently unloaded on me
some of the same concerns made by Mr. Carter. He pointed out that
he realizes he is beyond attracting the type of woman he has so
long chased after — young, bright, fit. He has made a fool of himself
more than once at his local club. In chatting up younger woman, he
has found himself out of his league in competing against these younger
women, who are not only in better condition, but stronger and more
muscular than he.
He is having great difficulty in coming to terms with the aging process.
Perhaps all of us, gay and straight, need to take stock of who and what
we are as plow into middle-age. Perhaps the physical satisfactions are
no longer as important as the intellectual and emotional.
Thanks for writing these two thoughtful columns, Anthony, they are
well worth exploring, gay or straight.