Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old And In The Way

I'm not sure what's been bugging me lately.

No, that's not true. At all. I know what's been on my mind.

I'm getting old.

I know. Not big news. But I'm sure as hell feeling it lately. And it's been bothering the crap out of me. Not the actual act of getting older. That's inevitable. It's making peace with the Mark that's fading away, and trying to come to terms with the Mark that's coming into play.

For the most part, I've been more than mildly surprised and pretty much pleased with how I turned out. Neil Tennant says it best in Being Boring:

"I never dreamt that I would get to be
the creature that I always meant to be."

All through my early years I was convinced I would somehow manage to change into someone else. In my teens, I desperately wanted to be older, received and accepted among Men. In my twenties I was convinced that thirties Mark would somehow be different, more together, less emotional, better dressed, built built. It just wasn't to be. My twenties and thirties were turbulent. You couldn't pay me to relive them.

After living through the holocaust that was my fourth decade, turning 40 brought me a modicum of comfort. I was newly single for the first time in many years. A journal from that time notes that I was totally surprised to find I was this "growly old man". I'd lived for so many years under the influence of someone much older, if not wiser; a man who had definite ideas of what was or wasn't appropriate for gentlemen "our" age. It took a little while to shake free of those shackles and tend to the nascent Mark, so long neglected.

If you're thinking that 40 is the end, let me be the first to assure you it is not. I found it to be the beginning of a life free of self doubt. All sorts of social and peer pressures fell away. Compulsions that drove me dwindled down. I settled luxuriantly into a relationship with a man who was my equal. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin. All was good.

Now, I find myself standing on top of a hill looking down the road at the rest of my life.

I can deal with the physical artifacts of aging, so far. A friend, upon seeing an old photo exclaimed: "My God, you were such a babe! What happened?"

At the time, I just growled at him, but the true answer to that question is: Life. Life happened, and I don't mind the markers it's left on my features. Time has sharpened and refined my face. I've grown used to it, as well.

However, I'm well aware that I don't have the drawing power I once did. Whereas once men would follow me home, now I can walk across Manhattan and garner nary a glance. Granted, in the right venues I still have my fans, but I am aware that my physical attributes have an expiration date, and I'm approaching it.

Maybe it's time to really cultivate my abiding avocations, music and reading.

I could get to many of the books I'd meant to read for years, albeit with fading eyes. Just recently I've started to need reading glasses when I have my contacts in. I have to take my regular glasses off in order to read when the contacts are out. I think I need to see my optometrist immediately.

As far as music goes, I find I need to gather up the patience to listen to new things, and it takes longer for me to absorb them, and even determine if I like them. I find myself delving deeply in the music of the past 40 years, as anyone in the Dugout on a Sunday afternoon can attest. Contemporary pop hold little to no appeal to me. As Joni Mitchell famously said about some young upstart: "That child has nothing to say to me."

Lastly, going to the gym these days has turned into a trial. I belong to the New York Sex, uh, I mean Sports Club. The gentlemen at my 14th Street location all seem to be between the ages of 18 and 35, putting me almost 20 years older than most of them, if not more. As has been pointed out in other blogs, some of these boys seem to have descended from Olympus, or other nearby mounts. They have little or no patience with an old duffer like yours truly. I might as well be invisible in my gym. Thank god some of the trainers say hello, or it would be a very lonely workout. I've had to learn to be mean and stand my ground there, because those kids will try to mow you down. If they're not pushing you out of the way, they're hooking up with gay abandon. I've learned to put my blinders on, work fast and get out. I think everybody's happier that way. But it would be nice if some of the people I've seen in social settings would at least nod in recognition. Ah, well. Fond foolish wishes!

So, this is going to be a learning process. With so few people to guide me, I'll have to blaze a new trail myself.

I'll probably be writing about these travails a bit. I hope you'll indulge me.


Anonymous bryce said...


There will always be guys who are younger, stronger, better looking and more sought after than you. Than anyone, really.

The reality is that in American society (and the gay world in particular), there is an "out with the old, in with the new" attitude that while impossible to stop, is not that hard to ignore. Especially when you have a man like Tim around and some amazing friends. No need to be a narcissistic, vain freak like all those boys at the gym!

I'd be willing to bet that when these "Olympian" men get to your age, none will be quite as wonderful as you are. Sweet natured, funny, sexy, charming, warmhearted and wise are just a few of the words I would use to describe you and I've only known you for a few short years. I'd be willing to bet that I could find another few dozen people to back me up on that.


6:12 PM  
Anonymous Matty said...

I realize you went to San Fran recently... but it sounds like someone needs a vacation.

As the British say, "Keep your pecker up!"

7:24 PM  
Blogger farmboyz said...

Mark said:

Granted, in the right venues I still have my fans,

Cher Marc,

Yes, you do have your fans. More of them than you realize. The one thing I thought you'd mention is what I feel to be the final lesson of the aging process: there is no difference between turning one head and turning a thousand. The only ones among us who are to be pitied are those who have never turned even one head. I always thought that no one missed being twenty-five more than I did, now I'm not so sure.

PS: Come to my gym. Yours seems neurotic. I've never once gone to my gym without becoming entangled in some sort of...event. I just know the members will loveya, but not more than we do.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Matty said...

For the Farm-boys,

Aren't you just encouraging a psyche of narcissim that Mark is saying he thinks he's outgrown?? It sounds like you're saying you think he's pining for his 20's, when to me he's saying that he's grown beyond them - and he's OK with that. Maybe I'm mistaken.

"The only ones among us who are to be pitied are those who have never turned even one head." - that's just superficial. The only one's who are to be pitied are those that think they MUST turn heads.

And Oh Jeez the "come to my gym" comment?? What are you, a pimp?? Or just an unapologistic whore??? I think Mark can get his rocks off wherever he pleases without your guiding hand (or worse).

Mark - I don't know you and your circle of friends, but it seems to me - no matter what your 'friends' say - you're on the healthy track.

I always second guess these kinds of posts, because I think I may have mis-read the intent. If that's the case - then I'll happily retract what I've said. If not, then....

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Foxy said...

I have been telling myself my thirties will be better than my twenties. If I am's going to be like crossing the streams...B-A-D.

The not-so-name-brand gyms aren't nearly as cruisy and weird, FYI.

Your lack of interest in modern music cannot be forgiven though.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

As you may know from reading my own “psyche of narcissism” blog, I started freaking out about getting “too” old back when I was around 26. It seems pretty moronic in retrospect.

Wanting to turn heads may seem superficial, but there are probably very few individuals in the world who are not superficial in this way. It’s kind of simple-minded to scold someone for wanting to be attractive to others. I think it’s safe to say that it’s human nature, or at least gay-male nature.

That being said, that 14th Street gym is not a very good place for one’s self-esteem. I think a lot of those deity-porn-gods actually end up leaving that place feeling bad about themselves. Not that you should change gyms -- I enjoy going there just for the show. But you can’t use the behavior of those Titans to evaluate your desirability. The queens at David Barton Gym are friendlier than those at the 14th Street NYSC.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Thom said...

As someone who is going through the same sort of process as you - kind of a redefinition of self, I suppose - I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts.

4:00 PM  
Blogger prior said...

My husband tells me that you sound like me. True. Except that part of me is looking forward to being one of those old men who hang out in the shower at the Y, endlessly soaping themselves. Well, maybe not.
Life starts at 50. It is just that it is a much shorter life than those that start at 20. But we are troopers. Not much other choice.
Just one point: a martini is NEVER made with vodka. That is a totally different other drink altogether.
Cheers, Prioroffense

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

It's amazing that everyone started going to the 14 St. gym once I stopped going there. I hear that Arpad Miklos still works out there, though ...

9:12 AM  
Blogger Babsbitchin said...

OMG Mark, it's as if I wrote this myself. You've mirrored my emotion and my take on the travesty of, "this is your life." I'm ok with being ok and have come to terms, it is a freeing experience, isn't it? Good post and commentary on the 40+ group that we are. Being an ol' fag hag, appearances have been all and everything up until now and although I haven't just let myself go, I've adapted to live a less emotionally cluttered life. It is free from some of the dumb shit that only accompanies youth.And unless you are in that 40+ catagory, you can't appreciate your post as much as I do. Enough said, have a good one!!

11:30 AM  
Blogger David said...

Holy synchronicity, Batman. I was just thinking about the subject this morning. I've finally become as close to the person I've wanted to be as I'll probably get, just in time to watch it start to disintegrate.

You've got one up on me, though. I was never the type who had men follow me home. I had to scratch and claw for every trick I managed to score. Or worse, sift through the trash.

And to adapt a popular phrase from the gay canon, there are those who turn heads, those who wish they turned heads, and liars.

11:38 AM  
Blogger MEK the Bear said...

Mark, I can't imagine you looking any sexier than you do now. Men who know what they want and who they are are far more attractive than those guys at your gym who seem to do more cruising than working out because they've got nothing else going on in their lives besides the next roll in the hay.

And believe me, there's probably a good number who are afraid to talk to a hot older guy like yourself because THEY'RE afraid of rejection, and I'm just talking about having a conversation.

I do know one thing, if I visited New York and saw you at the Dugout I'd follow you home.
Though your boyfriend might not like that too much.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous seymour said...

Mate, you've still a total babe. Ive heard that men can age like a good red wine.. a more robust body as the years go on... if thats the case I'll take a pitcher of you thanks.
See you next month handsome x

10:43 PM  
Blogger Joe.My.God. said...

Don't let him kid you, guys.

I stand next to Mark at the Dugout every week, and HE TURNS PLENTY OF HEADS.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Bigg said...

I would echo Thom:
I am also facing those same travails, and look forward to reading what you write about them. All my best to you, Mark.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO, it may be the fact that you're happily partnered which keeps you from realising that there are many many men cruising you. For at LEAST ten years now I've stood across the Dugout gazing at you ... the thrill at the crinkle of your eyes when you smile, wishing it were me who HAD made you smile ... anywho ... I got me a man now, but I still have a huge crush on you ... "be awake while you're alive and trust and fly" is a motto I was taught as a youngin'. I can only imagine that you're going to get more beautiful by the day and, God willing, I look forward to The View for years to come. Happy, healthy days to you, good Sir.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Apteryx said...

Welcome to the club mate. Getting old is no fun. (I don't shower any more. Instead I have myself sand blasted.) But I've never much been into twinks myself anyway, and there is something to be said for a man who has mellowed with age. Besides, there is always Viagra, so no worries mate!!!

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, I'm posting anonymously because I don't want to embarrass either of us. But I've seen you for years at the Dugout, and talked with you often, and you are one of the hottest, most handsome men I've ever met! At first I couldn't believe you'd even consider talking to me, but then I discovered that you are sweet, good-natured and intelligent, which makes it even better.

A friend and I have a name for you - it's "Uber-bear". To us, you are the platonic ideal of what a bear is.


8:15 PM  

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