March 11, 2016 at 12:43 pm EDT | by Brock Thompson
Gay. And approaching 40.
gay couples, gay news, Washington Blade, gay friends, older gay men

The pursuit of happiness can be a real struggle for many gay men. And we can throw so many barriers in each other’s way.

Next week I enter the last year of my 30s. And I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed the past decade. Think of your 30s as your 20s, but with more money and a bit more sense. And I’d like to think I’m happier now, too.

Nevertheless, I find getting older a bit hard, especially knowing that in the gay community, age is not something we put a premium on. In many ways we’re surrounded by those with severe Peter Pan Syndrome — boys that refuse to grow up. As a community we cherish vigor and six-pack abs. While I generally think I have the vigor part covered, I have stopped trying for the six-pack and settled for just “an ab” of sorts.

What brought all this worry about aging on exactly? Last Saturday I went to a house party celebrating the birthday of a friend of mine. Granted, he’s a little younger than I am, but wiser and more mature than most. I was chatting to another guest there, a bit of a twink no more than 21, and after introducing myself he basically said to me, “nice to meet you, but I’m not taking on any new Facebook friends right now.”

Yeah.

Probably a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly wasn’t going to send him a friend request, and talking to him any further may very well have triggered an Amber Alert. But I began to think — am I too old for this? Am I embarrassing myself by being here? All those thoughts akin to the first time I saw my dad fast dance at a family wedding. Is this whole thing getting a bit unseemly?

But then again, who cares?

The pursuit of happiness can be a real struggle for many gay men. And we can throw so many barriers in each other’s way. Older gay men are too quickly labeled creepy trolls with little to offer. (And don’t point out the fact that I freely used the word “twink” above. It’s different.)

Some suggest that as a community we lost far too many in the past to AIDS that we simply don’t have enough strong voices or role models to look to on how to grow up with style and dignity. That may very well be part of it. But finding and keeping happiness as one ages must be its own formula. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, keep moving forward in your life, ditch the fear of missing out, and just live. As writer William Dameron pointed out upon his 50th birthday, we have spent a great deal of time convincing others that being gay isn’t a choice, we should also remember that getting older isn’t a choice either. If we as a community start accepting all of that, maybe we’ll all be a bit happier. And while I may not be aging perfectly, I’m perfectly aware of it. And I will continue the formula of daily moisturizer, cultivating friends from every generation, activity, and keeping at bay anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself.

And as I close, this article became less about how to age gracefully, but maybe about reminding those to respect gracefully those that age. In many ways, I hope to be my dad at that family wedding. Someone who has aged with style and managed to keep his honor and his kindness, too. And he doesn’t put much stock into what people think. He says having a gay son helped him out there.

And keeps on dancing. Especially at family weddings.

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based freelance writer.

11 Comments
  • PUNCH! That would have been my initial reaction. Rude and cunty.

  • I think the problem isn’t that younger gays are agist or older gays won’t grow up; it’s that “mainstream” (straight) society has blackballed us. Straight people stop going to the clubs when they get married and have kids. That’s also when they cut loose their gay friends because time, the kids, you know, though the straight ones usually survive. Straight people then engage in all manner of age-appropriate activities: golf, vacations, dinners out and in, stuff centered around their kids or their friends’ kids, or their grown kids, it’s endless. But even when the kids are grown these people seem rarely to integrate gay friends back into their worlds, an exclusion for which there is no social consequence whatsoever. So that leaves the bars and gay parties for us. We absolutely grow too old for both. But what are our choices? We’re locked out of the larger world. We should direct our anger that way, not toward each other

    • Read what Dave in DC said. Gay people are not “locked out of the larger world”, at least in cities. There is a lot more to life than bars and parties.

      Try doing something else–volunteer work, travel, hobbies, sports. If you are of a religious bent, church, temple or synagogue. In most U.S. places with significant gay communities you can find liberal congregations.

      Expand your horizons. You’re not going to meet many non-superficial people if going to bars and parties is all you do to socialize. That’s true for gay and straight people alike.

  • It sounds like you need different friends. Gays aren’t blackballed in DC. You can live the same life as a single straight person in DC. Instead of parties and bars, how about music, sports, movies, dinner parties, travel, charitable volunteering, hobbies, politics, cultural activities?

    I don’t hang around the Peter Pans of DC. Make some friends that aren’t hung up on six packs and that do fun things other than nightlife. Be a home body sometimes. I lived the night life in my 20s and I’m very happy now doing other things after having moved on (currently 37). I go to gay bars a handful of times per year and I’m not missing anything. If you’re single, you can still meet the love of your life online who likes to do similar activities.

    Aging gracefully is a lot more than moisturizer and working out. It’s also about living a life that’s suitable and makes you feel whole. The party scene will not help you achieve any kind of self actualization.

  • Oh, brother…! Mr. Thompson, every last one of the tribulations you bemoan is of your own making. It starts right in your first paragraph. If your 30s were really like “your 20s, but with more money and a bit more sense”, you completely missed the bus. And the point. And the opportunity.

    In many ways we’re surrounded by those with severe Peter Pan Syndrome — boys that refuse to grow up.

    I don’t have any people like that in my life, and that suits me fine. If you are surrounded by arrested-development cases, that’s regrettable, but it’s your own doing. It’s because of your own choices. You choose to buy into silly stereotypes and fatuous tropes about age. You choose to surround yourself with thoughtless, vapìd people who do the same. Big surprise, amigo, the result is that you’re in an echo chamber of mirrors where all you see and hear is one instantiation or embodiment of this asinine life-ends-at-thirtysomething bulk wrap.

    Get a hold of yourself—no, not down there, I mean up by your shoulders—and be a grownup. Part of being a grownup is socializing with other grownups. Part of socializing with other grownups is forming adult friendships based and maintained on stuff that matters. It’s going to be a good few years before you have any business lecturing anybody on anything about aging, perspective, or perspective on aging. You simply and flatly don’t know what you’re talking about, child, and you’re making an aѕѕ of yourself.

    Who am I to be calling you out for your juvenile perspective? Nowt but a newly-40-year-old happier and more delightedly content (they aren’t synonymous) with my life this year than last year, which was better than the year before, which was better than the year before that, etc. My thirties were nothing at all like my 20s, they were vastly and increasingly better in all kinds of ways. And I’m not special; I don’t have any magical powers of perspective or motivation or anything, I just didn’t—and don’t—surround myself with ìmbесіles. Now go get at it; you’ve got a decade’s worth of catchup in front of you.

    • Your self-righteousness is nauseating. I recognize that troll-feeding is generally not advisable. But damn. If I could, I’d send you back to your teens for a proper education in humility and self-awareness.

      • OK, you don’t like me or my opinions. That’s fine; you don’t have to. Will you substantively refute any of my points, or are you just sticking with ad hominems?

        • That your argument is self-righteous, devoid of humility and lacking self-awareness, those are substantive criticisms. Ad hominems are problematic when untethered from a proffered argument (e.g. what you said is stupid because you are fat and ugly). That is not the case here.

          Let me help you along. The entire thrust of your argument appears to be: “I adult right, and you adult wrong.” Mr. Thompson has apparently mistepped because, unlike you, he is not socializing with other “grownups” or forming “adult” friendships grounded in “stuff that matters.” Instead, Brock surrounds himself with “imbeciles,” with “thoughtless, vapid, and babyish people.” I will set aside for the moment that the majority of your argument is ad hominem by your own definition (I never accused you of being self-aware anyway). But you very clearly fail to recognize that there are many ways to age, ways that are altogether different from your own and yet no less worthy of praise.

          There is nothing inherently wrong with what Brock has described. He’s self-reflective, he’s making his own path, and he seems happy with that. The problem only arises if we buy into your underlying assumptions about how one ought to age, despite the fact that you have not even endeavored to defend your approach to aging. You have not explained *why* your perspective is correct, ostensibly because you simply take that as a given. And here is where your self-righteous undercuts the force or your argument.

          • Well, maybe.

            You’ve misunderstood or misrepresented my position; I don’t think Mr. Thompson is adulting poorly, I think he’s not really adulting at all. But that’s sort of beside the point, and so are what you categorise as ad hominem attacks on the people he surrounds himself with.

            More crucially, there’s a basic, important difference between the underpinnings of Mr. Thompson’s position and those of mine. I’m not the only one to have perceived it, judging by other comments in this thread.

            Thanks for your input—I’m sorry you felt so offended by my comments; that’s no fun.

  • Why did he think you wanted to friend him on Facebook?

  • Move, then. Seriously! Nobody should live somewhere he hates; when he moves away everyone’s happier.

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