Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I came across this rather startling photograph this morning as I was riding the subway on my way to one of those pre-dawn job-site meetings in midtown, and it served to jog my memory about an incident that occurred this past weekend.

There I was, late Sunday afternoon, at my usual post near the jukebox at the Dugout. The bar started off fairly quiet, as it does these days, and it was a while before some of the gentlemen I usual socialize with arrived. I'd been to the gym for the first time in almost three weeks earlier in the day, and was beginning to feel that old, familiar soreness returning to several long neglected muscle groups. I had tugged on an old t-shirt which served to hide a myriad of sins.

I had been expecting a fairly quiet evening, and in the absence of my friends, thought for a moment that I might spend the night by myself, speaking with no one. Though this has actually happened on occasion, it did not come to pass. The usual suspects poured in, followed by a fairly large brigade of tourists and the like, many of whom had taken in the Gay Expo that had been held all weekend. Soon the intermingled crowds were enjoying that warm and fuzzy Sunday afternoon beer buzz and checking each other out. Trips to the men's room and the bar were utilized for general scouting purposes and preliminary flirtation tactics.

Midway through the evening, a rather handsome, bearded and burly redheaded gentleman appeared across the room from us. One of our number mentioned that he had just jacked-off the previous day to said redhead's picture on one of the many meat and greet sites that exist expressly for that purpose and more. We marvelled at the synchronicity of it all. He was pretty awesome, I must say.

Now, for the most part, redheads hate me. It's a fact. I must represent something evil to them, because they seem to shun me in droves. No one has quite made the sign of the cross at me, but you get the idea. And yes, I think red hair and red beards are beautiful. Of course. They've been mostly unobtainable. At least until recently.

At some point in the evening, after a few beers had kicked in, this man grabbed me on my way back from the bar. He was my height, which I sometimes find disconcerting, and we were able to look directly into each other's eyes. I was a bit awestruck in the presence of all that red. After a bit of small talk about his tourist status and the fun he'd had at the Expo, he managed to get his hand up under my shirt. I was okay with this, and silently glad I'd done all those crunches that afternoon at the gym. He pulled me close to him, managing to lift my t-shirt up over my midriff area. I smiled and pulled it back down. Just as quickly he worked the shirt back up, and attempted to pull it off me. I stopped him, and he looked at me quizzically. I pulled the shirt back down and flashed a steely little smile.

"C'mon", he said, "let's take our shirts off and rub bellies".

I explained that I don't take my shirt off in bars anymore, and watched his eyes glazed over and his attention drifted elsewhere.

So, there you have it. Mark's fashion tip for middle-aged men: Even if all the youngsters have stripped down, exposing acres of flesh and fur, you might want to consider leaving your shirt on. Now, for the record, I am not ashamed of my body. In fact, I rather like it. I'm hard and soft and furry in places that some guys seem to like. As I've said before, I have my fans.

At this age, I'm just not all that comfortable hanging out in public shirtless, and I think a variety of people are breathing sighs of relief as we speak, just to know that. Just like Mr. Stallone up there. Not that I'm comparing my body to his, in any way, shape or form. But muscle looks very different when you age, as does skin tone and quality. Quite simply, it's all a matter of blood flow to the skin's surface, which diminishes vastly as one ages. What was once a rosy glow now appears red and blotchy.

Now, you may be able to view me shirtless in some of the following venues:


Sur la Plage

On my terrace, taking the sun

In the locker room at the gym

In my bedroom

Lounging around your apartment, apres sex.

Nora Ephron writes that one of her "great life regrets" is "not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26. If anyone young is reading this, go right this minute, put on a bikini. Don't take it off until you're 34."

She's quite right. I should have removed my shirt in 1974 and left it off for the next twenty years. Who knew?

Oh, well.

Now, can we please talk about what Sly Stallone has done to his face?


Anonymous stephen said...

oh, poppycock. my husband is 53 years old, and while it's true that he's been blessed with good genes, he turns heads (in a good way) whenever his shirt comes off in a bar. while i get what you're saying about understanding when you've passed onto another stage of life, i don't think age as a number necessarily defines it as so much how you look and feel at any point in your life. quite frankly, there are many 20 and 30 year olds i really would rather not see with their shirts off. all this to say that i'll keeping checking back here until i see a picture of superdaddy sans chemise....and i'll growl.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Stallone has the face of a Swedish teenager! A female Swedish teenager ...

I don't take my shirt off in public, either. Too shy.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Kel-Bell said...

He looks like a piece of clay that hasn't yet been fired but has that weird glaze on it still. Blech. And his face looks like rubber.

I think you're handsome though! (Too bad I'm a straight hairless girl... hehehe!)

12:20 PM  
Anonymous kitchnebeard said...

I seem to have developed a reputation for taking it all off. I figure I've butsted my ass at the gym, why not show it off?

2:51 PM  
Blogger Maddog said...

I agree with you. Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I was a reserved in taking off my shirt. Now that I am not, I'm sure it makes everyone happy that I don't.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Happy thanksgiving.

11:50 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hmph, if he asked you to rub bellies I'd have no qualms if you did, as long as you restored your shirts afterwards. Nothing wrong with a little skin show as long as you know when to end the show.

And Aaron, I've seen you shirtless in public enough to know that was a big fat lie.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Hmm, I wonder if Mr. Redhead lost interest because he interpreted you explaining your thing about not taking your shirt off in public as some kind of judgement on him because he does? Just a thought. His eyes glazing over was probably him thinking "oh great, he thinks I'm cheap" his attention drifting was probably "lord, let the floor open up and swallow me now--I'm so embarassed I could die."

I don't know the exact word exchange between you two, but as someone whose been accused of being cheap once in a while...okay, maybe even more than once in a while...I could easily see it from his perspective.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Travis said...


I respect your choice of not taking off your shirt. I've never been one to take my shirt off in public either, unless I'm at the beach, and trying to tan.

However, I do think Stallone looks pretty good in this picture. I love the shoulders and the arms and what I can see of the chest, and I think the face is kinda sexy.

But I guess I'm weird.


4:38 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

Well I for one would have enjoyed seeing you shirtless. You don't give yourself enough credit. You can pull it off easily. :) But I do understand being hesitant. It's all a matter of personal comfort.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a sad thing to me--to realize that as many gay men of all ages have body image problems as young women do. As a result, a lot of people keep their shirts on at any age, which robs eye candy from people who would appreciate them as they are. Did Cher and Sly look better when they were in their early twenties than they do now? I think so. If I didn't know what they looked like in their 20s, would I judge them the way they are now, or would I simply see two people who do what they can to look as good as they can, based on biased western standards? On a personal level, I prefer a guy with some extra weight, even though I don't carry extra weight myself. But when I go out I face the reality that unless I'm at a specific Bear event, a lot of guys who might otherwise flash a love handle will keep their shirt on precisely because of some of the remarks that have been posted so far. It's a bell shaped curve of reality--The Little Prince's snake who swallows an elephant...a little part a big lump and a little part...There will be a small number of people who absolutely love your look, a large number who hate your look and a small number who hate the way you look. Do I find a 6 pack A&F model as erotic as I would find him if he had spent a summer sipping drinks around the pool and eating bonbons? Having slept with both versions--I prefer the softer ones.
It's your body and your rules, but I will say if I had been in the bar, I would have been very disappointed that you rejected the nice red headed man.

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops--needed to preview that better-it should have read that the hump in the bell shaped curve were people who were "ok" about your look.

9:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home