You are beginning to get lines on your forehead and around your nose, does aging scare you? Me I am terrified!
I used to worry all the time about aging. Everyone thinks about aging and what that means for them but Gay men seem especially sensitive to it. Aging is something in the Gay community that is hard to talk about. Even when I tried to contact the Vintage Men in Melbourne to talk about aging and many of the misconceptions that younger Gay men have about it, my enquiries were met with silence.
It’s no small coincidence that last year I spent six weeks sailing with Graham aboard the Arion and my understanding of what it means to grow old as a Gay man changed. The person who asked the question was referring to physical changes but I think we can go a little deeper than that.
Gay or straight, the importance that is placed on youth cannot be missed. I just spent two days working on a project talking about the importance of organic anti-aging foods and how important they are for our well being.
Everyday I notice my hair receding, new lines on my face and the slowly increasing recovery times from illness and nights out with friends. I have to work out harder and I’m getting softer around the middle. The thing is… all these things are natural and inevitable and to be honest they don’t bother me as much as I thought they would. I had a friend once who was obsessed about his appearance, I thought he was hot but he was 22 and already getting botox, in the end he ruined himself.
The times in my life when I have been the most focussed on how I look were also the times when I felt like I had the least to offer although I did not realize it at the time. This might not be true for everyone but it was certainly true for me. For somebody who seeks validation by spending too much time in his underwear, the specter of aging is terrifying. It wasn’t until I started to see some success in my personal life and began to achieve the goals that I had set for myself that my self esteem began to build, and the importance I placed on the way I looked began to diminish. It was also my experiences with the older Gay around me, who were living the vibrant lives that I wanted for myself that helped me to see that life really is about how you live it and not how you look.
Do not misunderstand, I still want to be desirable but I have come to know within myself that the attention you get when you are young and bouncy is fleeting. The kind of people who will only value you for your youth and your looks are fickle and will abandon you the first moment you post a less than amazing selfie. Instagram a cute butt in underwear – get 10 followers, post a tired old face pic – lose 10 followers. I have been doing this long enough to know how it works and long enough to know that it really doesn’t matter in the long run.
For those of us who place so much of our self worth on how we look, aging and growing old can be a scary thing. It wasn’t until I began to understand that there were things in my life that were far more important to me that I really started to let my fear of aging go.
I stop sometimes and wonder what in my life has really changed… In my early twenties when I was smashing out the gym, drinking my protein shakes and dyeing my hair I was firm, tanned and bouncy. everything was in the right place and guys eye fucked me on the street. I was also very insecure, hopelessly shy and never picked up. Now my hair is receding, I have crows feet and stubble that I would never have been seen dead with, and I get laid every week. I have good friends who are the real kind of friends that will stand with you in the hard times, not just the firm and bouncy ones.
Work now is important to me and all the other things that go in to building myself a life. Preening myself has lost out to researching equipment, Gym time has been sacrificed for accommodation money and the sense of achievement I am feeling has me feeling much better about myself than the more superficial things in my life.
So am I afraid of aging? Yes but I understand that there is nothing I can do about it. I also know that there is a life of wonderful vibrant experience ahead of me. I’m going to travel and do all the things I have dreamed of, and I’ll have the maturity and hopefully a little of the wisdom I need to truly appreciate it.
One day I’ll have to graduate from cheeky exhibitionist to wise old mentor and leave the firm and bouncy to those whose turn it is and thats fine by me, I’m already having the time of my life.