Monday, August 15, 2005

I was reading a book the other day that was theorising that gay men have 4 "ages". There's 1) your real age, based on when you were born. Then there's 2) your "coming out" age, based on how long you've been out as gay. And there's 3) how old you actually look and 4) how much "life experience" you've had. It's an interesting way of understanding age (particularly as gay culture is so obsessed with types 1 and 3.) I'd also say there's 5) how grown-up you are and 6) how old your tastes are. A lot of my tastes in music, fashion, film, literature etc are rather old-fashioned. I do like recent stuff, but nothing interests me like things from the 1930s to the 1970s. I'm not sure why this period fascinates me so much. I think it's exotic because it's gone, and I missed out on it the first time around. I also feel it was somehow classier (as long as you can overlook the more obvious sexism, racism and homophobia etc.)

When I was in my 20s, I was acutely aware of how nice it was - how the whole world (and the gay scene in particular) seemed geared towards the whims of my age group - how my body never ached, how I could eat as much junk food or drink as much alcohol as I wanted without any waistline consequences. Although there were plenty of problems, it felt like a very sun-shiney period - and one that I couldn't ever forsee ending - because all I had known of adult life was that.

Turning 30 for a gay man, is a kind of coming of age. You're slowly edged out of that important demographic. You're second-division and start to experience that disconcerting feeling of invisibility if you go out to the trendier clubs. The pictures of guys in the gay magazines (porn and "lifestyle" (which really means soft porn) all look younger than you. And in better shape.
If you can get past that though, then your 30s are great. I've stopped making any concession to follow fashion. My hairstyle looks like something out of the 1960s. I haven't kept up to date with the Top 40 for years. I listen to naff music and don't feel I have to apologise for it. There's no point in trying to be cool (I never was anyway) so I can just hunker down and enjoy being old. And the money is better too. I'm afraid I was never much good at the 20-something spontaneous inter-railing, hitch-hiking, youth-hostelling thing. I hate back-packs (they're so ugly and bulky)! I much prefer first class travel and swanky hotel suites. In fact, the only time I speak to 20-somethings these days, is when they're bringing me room service!

Over-30s do get a very rough deal on the gay scene and in the gay media, which is a pity, because age comes to everyone who stays alive - and the gay scene does very little to prepare you for it (other than to pressure you to act and look young and punish you if you don't). I stopped buying gay magazines several years ago, because they made me depressed and because there were so few older role models in them. But I wish there was a magazine aimed at older guys, which wasn't full of pictures of 20-something models or so obsessed with the scene and fashion. To me, the whole point of magazines is to get you to feel bad about yourself so you buy stuff, and while younger people don't have much money, they are easier to persuade to part with what they've got. In many ways, the collective age of the mainstream gay scene and media is still very much in its adolescence. As a new generation of gay men finally grows up - hopefully this will begin to change and we'll see that there's more to life than the size of our biceps and the latest DKNY offerings. Let's hope so anyway.

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