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.”
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.