The mere mention of age is a tragedy for women. The media exacerbates the problem of aging by the continued portrayal of smoking hot super models always looking their best. Always young, always pretty, always happy. The “average” woman cannot resist but stand in front of the mirror and compare; and the findings, not satisfactory. Getting on the scale only complicates matters further.
The quintessential issue of beauty among women has been an on-going battle one day too long. But we get it. At least, I suppose we do. Now, what does that have to do with gay men? Everything.
The other day on Facebook I came across an interesting update from a close friend of mine. It read: “I just realized that I’m 26yrs old, aaaaaaaaaa nnnnnnnoooooooo I’m ooollllllldddd sniff sniff sniff.” At first I thought that he was just being silly on Facebook, posting random and unnecessary updates about the mundane minute-to-minute activities that most do not care nor have the time to read. But no, he was being serious. He was having some sort of “mid-life” crisis at barely 26!
So I got on the phone with him and asked him what was going on. He said that he did not realize how old he was until his friend who is 27 brought it to his attention. I was like, wow.
In my previous job, my main focus was on HIV prevention with young gay men. And in group conversations, the issue of age would come up constantly. They would tease me about my real age. Some would place me in my 20’s, others in my 30’s, but then the conversation would change tone as they could NOT see me in my 40’s! So I would ask, what is “old” for you? The most common responses would be: “anyone over 25!, Eww, I would never date someone who’s 30!, Men in their 40’s are disgusting!” I always did enjoy a rich conversation. So then I would ask them, how will YOU feel when you reach that age? The answer: a dead silence.
Aging in the gay community is a big issue. The stigma about growing old is rampant. In a previous piece, I referenced the club scene and social dating websites when I spoke about building and fostering healthy relationships. I will do again, but this time for the purpose of painting the picture of how terrible aging is viewed among gay men. At clubs, it is interesting to see what one would call the older generation trying desperately to hang on to their youth. Whether it is through their means of acting/talking “hip” or “modern,” keeping up with the latest fashion clothing trends and gadgets, or simply leading “childish-like” lifestyles that would not fit the profile of someone their age.
In the social dating websites, there are profiles with specific parameters: “no one over 30, I’m looking for a good f*ck, not a grandpa!” These profiles are written in a very strongly-worded manner. They mean what they intend to warn you against. Many argue that it is their sexual preference. While it is mostly true, these profiles also help craft a story. A story of normalizing the standard of age for a socially attractive gay man. Reading these profiles gives true material evidence that in the efforts to establish romantic connections with other gay men, these individuals have been hurt. Therefore, they have to react to the environment they are used to and continue to perpetuate the problem with growing old as a gay man.
These three vignettes are just the tip of the iceberg.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This no longer applies to the gay community. At least not at face value these days. When one picks up most gay publications, the first image that capture’s the reader’s attention is that of a young 6-packed muscular, clean-cut, free of wrinkles, skin blemishes or other any other body imperfections, type of man. One that the “average” gay man could never measure up against. This is the same strategy for name brand alcohol companies that single-handedly target this vulnerable population. Again, one would argue that these are marketing tools to sell a product. I agree. They are. But one has to ask the million dollar question: at what cost?
A community that is plagued with low self-esteem and self-love issues, is a community that is hungry for acceptance, at any cost. Even if it means giving up any sense of individuality to become the stereotypical “WeHo” clone.
What this generation of gay men forgets is that, an entire generation of gay men before them was lost to HIV. My last article dealt with embracing our past, as it is our present and our future. History left the gay community with a gap; a gap that only few ever talk about.
At Legacy, we work with the individual. We believe that the individual needs to heal first, so that in turn, the collective can become stronger. Legacy envisions a healthy LGBT community, but also one that sees itself growing old, building families and leaving legacies behind.
A very sharp young man once slipped me a note on my birthday. Of course no one knew my real age, so they used a question-mark candle. The note read:
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many” ~Author Unknown
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