I have a big birthday coming up and I’m dreading it. Friends and acquaintances ask “oh, so how old will you be?” I blush and giggle and say it’s my 25th birthday, knowing full well they’re aware I’ve somehow mysteriously remained the same age for the past five years. Eurgh, I don’t care what they think. I plan to be 25 until I die! I know I’m tragic.
As you can tell by my juvenile denial and insecurities about my age, I hate getting older. But are you surprised by my attitude? Let’s face it, particularly among gay men, youth and masculinity are two of the most celebrated attributes in our community. I have no idea how this all came about, but older gay men (who don’t fit in the ‘masc daddy’ tribe) are completely invisible in gay media.
Apart from say Sir Ian McKellen, I don’t see many older LGBT role models or stories being picked up. It seems young gay men give ageing pop culture female divas more respect and notoriety then older gay men. I know I’ve been guilty of this dismissive behaviour and I can’t help but think it’s all a bit sad. Birthdays are a reminder that time is flying by and the things I coulda, woulda, shoulda done with my life. I think this hurts the most, the regret.
Recently, I dug up some old photos of me travelling around North America in my early 20s. In a particular picture I was standing next to New York’s Wall Street Bull and by gosh I looked gorgeous and thin…soooo thin. Not to toot my own horn of course (but then if I don’t, who will?). Frankly, looking at these old pictures fills me with melancholy that I didn’t take advantage of my awesome figure i.e. worn better fitted clothing and pursued indecent proposals that came my way. I wish I’d lived a bit and had taken the chance to actually express myself instead of being wrapped up in worrying what people thought of me and ditched my self-inflicted pressures. It’s true what they say: “youth is wasted on the young.”
I see many young gay men beat themselves up for not achieving something at a certain period in their lives, be it the perfect body to the perfect career. I can’t help but feel there’s a taint of heteronormative behaviour to all of this. We have consciously or unconsciously absorbed from wider society that happiness follows a certain order and time-frame. Such as getting an education, a job, a partner, a house, kids and finally retiring in adult nappies. On top of it all we as human beings have an innate compulsion to make comparisons with one another – which is the most toxic part of it all.
As a hopeful wide-eyed teenager I had aspirations and goals. I’d envision that before reaching 30, I’d be married to some masc top while living in a Disney-themed castle and driving a Mercedes Cabriolet. I can confirm, I haven’t got any of these things in my life and that’s OK. Funny thing is, many of my straight peers have somewhat achieved these goals and I initially felt left behind. Now I’ve come to realise these comparisons to heteronormative and materialistic ideals are not healthy for LGBT people.
We as LGBT people need to celebrate that our lives won’t necessarily follow a conventional path – be it finding love in our 50s to finally getting that Mercedes at 70. I think my fear of getting older would be eased by seeing older LGBT people being respected and valued by our youth obsessed community. After all, none of us can escape old age, but what we can control is that we don’t get bitter by regretting things we coulda, woulda, shoulda done and focus on opportunities that exist now, no matter what our age.
Perhaps then, being gay and ageing won’t seem so bad after all.