Friday, September 5, 2008

Dealing with Getting Older

A friend of mine looked over the crowd at Ty's bar one night and said, "Everyone here is over the hill."

"Speak for yourself!" I told him.

Everyone knows that it's no picnic growing older in a society that
mostly scorns and demeans older people, sometimes out of ignorance and stupidity and more often out of fear. Younger people mock those who are older because they're terrified of growing older themselves. This is true in both gay and straight communities.

The thing is that, while no one wants to get older and that much closer to old age, possible sickness and indignity, and an undeniable death, having a bad attitude will only make things worse. It's one thing when twenty somethings make stupid remarks and give attitude to older people, but let's not do it to ourselves. Getting older is like being gay. There are enough people out there putting us down, let's not make things worse by adding to it.

When it comes to middle-aged gay men (and this probably applies to straight men as well) I've noticed there seem to be (for our purposes, at least) two kinds.

The first kind has completely given up on love and sex and dating and doesn't remember the last time they got laid or the last time they were on a date -- it's been that long. They may feel they're too old, or have let themselves go and have a negative self-image (more on this later), or they just want to drink, have fun, and forget about everything else. To quote a line from Dodsworth (the film version) they're rushing at old age. These men may only be in their forties but they might as well be elderly (although may I say right now that there are elderly men who are more vital and active than their middle-aged counterparts).

The second kind (count me in this group) don't let age -- however old they are -- stop them from doing whatever it is they want to do. And they certainly haven't given up on sex, dating, the search for love, or what-have-you.

A lot of middle-aged men have let themselves get out of shape, but this should not be a deterrent to a love life. In the bear community, for instance, you don't have to be slim, handsome or smooth-skinned, and for those who are looking for younger conquests, there are many cubs looking for "daddies." True, not all out-of-shape men have a bear "aura," but it isn't all that difficult to get back into shape. I found that regular exercise -- nothing too extreme -- and watching what you consume worked wonders.

Frankly, I can't understand people who let their age define them. One of my closest friends, Larry, enjoyed the pursuit (and you shouldn't have to ask pursuit of what) until he was in his seventies, and was successful more often than not. But it isn't just about sex; it's about everything. I refuse to put limits on myself as I age and I don't want anyone else putting limits on me.

The friend who made the "over the hill" remark wasn't being unkind. He's certainly not over the hill but he's in a difficult period of his life, grieving for a lost loved one, and this understandably colors his attitude.

Later that night at Ty's I met a guy who was as horny as I was and helped remind me that Ty's -- even if most of the customers are middle-aged and up -- can be very cruisy, and that the party doesn't stop at 45, 50, or older. Many middle-aged men, even senior citizens, are still quite attractive -- and damned good in bed (experience never hurts). There's a reason why there are jars full of condoms on the bar at Ty's.

Sure, guys in their 20's may snicker at the thought of, say, a hot 52-year-old, but they don't know what they're missing. Far from being over the hill, I'd dare say I'm better at just about everything than I was twenty years ago.

The sad truth -- one which younger people often just don't want to face -- is that we all get older and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

Except adjust your attitude and live life to the fullest regardless of how old you are!