In the words of the Bard, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” On those rare occasions when we find ourselves contemplating our return to Source, it seems that we share at least one fervent hope… to be remembered kindly by those we leave behind. While we might aspire to leave the world a better place than when we entered it, at a minimum we hope we didn’t make it worse.
As a queer cis-male of the Pagan persuasion, entering my 60th year, I have had cause to consider what lies ahead. It’s no secret that aging in the gay world is challenging. There’s no shortage of editorials and opinion pieces chastising the hyper-active “cult of youth” among gay men.
Thousands of pages have been written lamenting the “invisibility” that age inflicts upon gay men as they pass through mid-life. By the time you hit sixty, many of the young denizens of the public and social spaces that we frequented in our youth now treat us like ghosts, invisible at best; subject to smirks, sneers and verbal insults at worst.
In part, this fetishistic worship of youth is understandable. Queers are embedded in our hetero-normative culture, which also puts young bodies (male and female) on a pedestal. In our predominantly patriarchal society, older men can sometimes compensate for the “sin” of being old by achieving material success. The stereotypes about sugar daddies and gold diggers are based on historical fact and social norms that go back a very long time.
Nevertheless, the prevailing attitude seems to be, “You can buy me a drink, but please don’t clutter up the dance floor with your wrinkly ass.” It’s entirely understandable that this situation, whether expressed explicitly or through subconscious behaviours, can lead many older gay men to express anger and frustration with the status quo. Others may experience mortal wounds to their self-esteem that drive them to retreat from social situations, becoming reclusive and isolated. This is particularly difficult, since in our youth we were (for the most part) extremely social creatures, always looking for the next social or sexual encounter, living it up and enjoying our days and nights.
Interestingly, lesbians are frequently spared these indignities. My lesbian friends often partner in relationships where there can be a decade or more between their calendar ages. Lesbians also seem less obsessed with hetero-normative standards of female beauty. This is a gross generalization, of course, but seems to hold true for many of the lesbians I know. Their partner’s spiritual essence, intelligence, creativity, and a host of other personal attributes often seems to trump society’s definition of female beauty.
Perhaps gay men have something to learn from these womyn. While lesbians are not immune to the self-esteem issues that plague so many people in our society, many of them seem to have risen to the challenge, nurturing their own well-being through healthy introspection, focused attention on their emotional, social and psychological needs, and making space in their lives for opportunities to connect and communicate.
For myself, I have made joyous peace with my circumstances. I’m the father of four adult children who are the best allies any queer dad could hope for, an ex-wife who remains one of my very best friends, and a small group of gay male friends whose smiles light up my days (and occasionally my nights). My left hand is jealous, but my right hand takes me to breakfast!
One of the most powerful forces we can conjure in our lives is a combination of gratitude for what is and positive anticipation toward what is coming. I am grateful for the life I am living and I apply my creative energy to encouraging positive anticipation about the future.
For now, I am content. Should you see my wrinkly ass on the dance floor during the holidays, please take a moment to say hello. I might even buy you a drink!