Over the Rainbow…Not Over the Hill
You’re getting older. There’s nothing you can do about it. You are aging like everyone else. And no matter how much you try to deny or be evasive, you’re getting older. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
LGBTQ people are living healthier lives and—as with many other demographics in our society—getting older. More and more queer men and women are racing past 50 in huge numbers and that has a lot of ramifications on many levels.
There are unique issues with aging when it comes to the LGBTQ population: relationships, retirement, self-image, self-esteem and self-worth—even the prospect of changing and shrinking social circles. There are the practical and the emotional issues that are raised as our number goes up. What to do when it comes time to retire? Have you saved enough to retire? What about aging and being single? What are the prospects of dating, finding a meaningful relationship or even just getting laid? What about simply accepting you are aging?
We have a very body-centric, youth-obsessed culture that we promulgate,
praise and aspire to.
I think the last one is one of the biggest ones for gay men to wrap our heads around. Let’s face it; we are not exactly encouraged to embrace getting older in gay male culture. Yes, things have progressed a little over the years, but for the most part, we have a very body-centric, youth-obsessed culture that we promulgate, praise and aspire to. There is a double-edged sword when it comes to gay men and age: getting older and becoming a Silver Daddy or some sort of Daddy is great…as long as you have the body of a 30 year-old. Check the pecs. Is that ass high and firm? Are those thighs thick, muscled and well defined?
Sure, we can get older; we’re just not allowed to look like we’re getting older. And therein lies the rub. Many gay men are turning to the cosmetic industry and science to stay young looking. And there isn’t anything wrong with that (unless you Botox and surgery yourself into looking like Joan Rivers or Kenny Rogers). If you feel youthful and vibrant—and many of us in middle age certainly do—then why not look that way.
The problem arises when it sets off a shame/fear spiral. In the race to stay youthful and sexually competitive and desirable, we can find ourselves living in denial. Ask the average gay man how old he is and you’ll typically get an answer like, “How old do you think I am?” Ask a lesbian and you stand a much better chance of her looking you in the eye and telling her age. Interesting how women in queer culture are much more accepting of aging than their heterosexual counterparts.
I challenge you to openly admit to your age…by doing this we can break down the stigma of aging and get on with the joy of living.
This could come down to the way we are segmented, targeted and marketed to. Gay men are marketed to very much the same way straight women are: very aspirational lifestyle campaigns and products that promise a better life and a more youthful visage in 3-5 minutes. Sleek designer clothing, shoes, fabulous vacations, and underwear so sexy, you’re man will hardly be able to control himself.
Again, all that is fine and dandy until it begins to overshadow your sense of self and individualism. And worse, when it sucks up all your earnings and you find yourself with a fabulous wardrobe, great pictures from your latest vacation and enough consumer debt to choke a bear.
The key is balance. You can live a great life, look terrific, embrace your age and not spend yourself into a state of senior poverty—which in itself is a very serious issue. I challenge you to openly admit to your age if asked. Embrace it and announce it. You’ve achieved what many before you haven’t. By doing this we can break down the stigma of aging and get on with the joy of living.
This article originally appeared in The MILK Moment.
photo credit: morberg
, Andrew Vail
, Joan Rivers
, Kenny Rogers