Thursday, June 07, 2007

Another Country

"I grow old...I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me."


-The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot

I've written a bit on this subject a little over a year ago here, and posted some additional thoughts here.

At the time, I was feeling under-appreciated, and was dealing with my diminishing powers of attraction. Yes, I know, shallow. So be it. The feeling certainly haven't gone away, and as expected, has only intensified this past year. It's been made abundantly clear to me to that men of a certain age are at best tolerated, and at worst, scorned and shunned in this social whirl we call Gay Life 2007.

I'll be 53 this year. In the ordinary work-a-day world out there, that's no big deal. I'd still be working, giving my children cause to roll their eyes, and no doubt bouncing a grandchild or two on my knee right now, instead of sitting at this computer ranting. I can clearly remember my grandfather at my age. He seemed infinitely old to me.

Among our so-called brethren, I seem to be viewed exactly the same way.

I have a fairly large number of friends and acquaintances and we travel grouped in various permutations thereof, as is our wont to do. I've been wondering why I sometimes find myself at the sidelines of a group, going completely silent, and feeling as if I have nothing to say or do with anything that's going on. As if I'm suddenly locked out. I certainly don't feel a part of any sort of community at large. It's as if a door is closing.

The sort of men that used to find me attractive mostly no longer do, which was a quite a shock, and took some getting used to. It's not a matter of whether my mojo's working, because it does work, if only for a much more select and rarified group. I've become an aquired taste, like anchovies. I'm a fetish object: the (much) older man. I have my fans, thank you! But I've continually seen men's eyes take on that opaque cast when they're introduced to me these days, their handshakes making very clear their complete and total disinterest.

"it's hell to lust for your tormentors, to know from the beginning that your deepest need can only betray you, only expel you from the tribe. So when you grow up, you find a tribe of your own, with guys just like you, to keep from feeling that way ever again. Only you do, sometimes..."

-Armistead Maupin, The Night Listener

In the past five months I've had a couple of experiences that, if I wasn't the stubborn man I am, would have sent me home permanently. Both occurred in waterholes I've frequented on an irregular basis, Therapy and The Boiler Room. Both times I was with a fairly substantial crowd.

At The Boiler Room, a young man was leaning against the corral, his legs sprawled out directly in front of him, into the passage. As I approached, instead of moving them in to allow me to pass, his legs remained there until I was standing right up against them. I felt as if I was back in grammar school, dealing with the class bully. Would he let me pass? In fact, he would not. Instead, he fixed me with a challenging glare, while all conversation halted around him. I looked at him, thinking it must be some sort of joke. It was. On me. I decided to step over him and head to the bar. Upon my return, he was ready for me, and I, him. Back in the same position with him, I reached out, and grabbed the front of his skinny ribcage in my fist, using it to balance myself as I stepped over him again. He gasped in pain as I walked away.

I thought this might be an anomaly, an encounter with some rude drunken fuck who was looking to make my night, or anyone's, miserable. As this seemed so random, I chose to let it pass.

Until I was in Therapy a few weeks ago, making my way towards the bar. I couple of young men were sprawled decorously across the service area, and as I jockeyed myself into a position where I could order my drink, I noticed one of them fix me with the exact same challenging glare. This time, both boys looked me up and down, in that cartoonish Marlene Dietrich sort of way. The taller of the pair reached out and ran his hand across my chest. I smiled, just to be friendly, and reached for my drink. The young man then leaned forward and said:

"You let just anyone touch your tits like that?"

I didn't answer, because I suddenly knew where this was heading.

"You're disgusting!", he spat, as they both laughed and quickly walked away.

I found a quiet place to stand in that very crowded bar; I had to collect myself before I could rejoin my friends. I stood, pinned up against the wall, listening to the sound of my own heartbeat over the thump of the cruddy music.

Perhaps Open Season has been declared on me.

I know, you probably think I should stay home, that I'm too old to stand around in bars anymore. I'm beginning to see why men my age seem to drift off and desert their bar stool after a while. We're just not welcome. I know what those glances mean now.

"He wants awfully to be on the inside staring out; anybody with their nose pressed against a glass is liable to look stupid".

-Truman Capote, Breakfast At Tiffany's


I think of all the men I know who are in their late thirties and early forties, who think their lives are going to be all over for them shortly. They won't be, not by a long shot. Gay life is just entering a new and unfamiliar phase, a journey with all the old points of navigation missing or long gone. We're each going to have to go it alone. Again.

Getting old in our community these days is even worse than you can imagine.

Discuss.

You're all going to get here sometime.

29 Comments:

Blogger joe said...

Very insightful ranting. I'm surprised at the lack of comments...
I will be 58 in six weeks, and understand your feelings. A nasty shock to discover your no longer a person of interest in the bar as I discovered at least a decade ago. I was fortunate enough to find a man that loves me and I love him in return. I hope everyone gets this lucky. I've seen angry posts from older gay men, as they become invisible to the bar crowd. I hope one of your last comments about doing this alone is wrong. This is one more frontier that we, as a community need to navagate. We have been incredibly creative before.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Since a young child I could never understand blatant nastiness. Especially to make someone else laugh. I'm sorry you had to deal with those complete asses. Shame on those gay boys. I'm sure everyone one of them knows exactly what its like to be treated like they treated you. They should know better.

I'm 42 and have been openly Gay for 16 years now. From the beginning I was always completely irritated by the obsession with youth the gay male culture seems to revolve around. It just seems so base.

Most of my life I have been attracted to men my age or older. It has only been in the past couple years that younger men have appealed to me. There isn't a cut and dry laundry list of characteristics that I find attractive in a man. Some things that help are masculinity, intelligence, humor, kindness and something interesting about them. A different perspective, a different outlook. Whether it is coming from a different culture or a different age. The men I have truly loved have included a deaf man, a Cuban 14 years my senior, a sweet sweet man 16 years older and my partner, a Puerto Rican just 2 years older than me.

I have been accused of being "into latinos", "into older guys" and a "size queen". For the record I am more of a "proportion queen" who likes men who brings something different to the table.

Regardless of attraction and romantic compatibility, friendships between people of different ages are essential to a balanced life. I truly believe this. And who better to learn about life as a gay man than someone who has been there and done that. Gay youth has much to offer the older generations as well, beyond the beauty of youth. And it doesn't include nastiness.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Good post, Mark.
Someday karma will catch up with those hateful brats. It reminded me of the nasty kids in sixth and seventh grade that had to find a someone to pick on. Someday that jerk will feel the wrong guy's chest and get slugged in the jaw.

10:36 AM  
Blogger jeff anderson said...

This is a good post. I'm 41, and although I no longer go to bars I agree that the gay community is WAY over-obsessed with youth. It comes to us from all sides, including advertisers. It's wrong. The worst is when we buy into it. Wish I knew the answer. As far as those bullying punks are concerned -- I try to remember what a therapist once told me: "Someone else being an asshole doesn't make you a schmuck". She was probably more eloquent, but you get the idea.

I appreciated reading your post - this sort of dialogue needs to exist. Rock on.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Mark,

I've read your blog for quite sometime now but haven't commented until now. There is absolutely no excuse for treating anyone the way you've been treated by those nasty queens. I would venture to guess that they have significant issues with their own self esteem and can only feel good when they belittle others. It still hurts but when you realize that they probably live in some roach infested share with 8 other roommates & they pooled their money to be able to come out and drink 2 cocktails it can kinda put it all in perspective. As an aside, every one of my close friends in our gay community here in Des Moines is older than I am. I found them to be the most genuine people who didn't expect anything more than actual friendship. They welcomed me in to their fold, taught me the ways of the community, and protected me when I was new to the whole scene.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

For what it's worth, at 36 I don't feel especially welcomed by the denizens of Therapy either, but I am surprised that your imposing presence itself would not earn you more respect than that. What fools.

11:19 AM  
Blogger OMO said...

I've not felt the need to comment before, although I'm a regular reader, but this sort of thing really pisses me off.

It's always seemed to me that as a race (being humans, not gays) we are staying more youthful and healthy for far longer than we used to. Unfortunately, many gay men don't seem to care about this - it's all about being young and beautiful. But is this not also true in the straight world? Youth being celebrated over intelligence and wisdom.

Even at my age (36) there are certain bars and clubs I daren't venture in for fear of being sneered at by the guys half my age. Or even pushed, kicked, punched or burnt with cigarettes (yes, it really happens). It seems they forget that they will grow old too. They think that once you get to a certain age you should stay home, not realising that mentally you still feel as young as them, albeit with greater wisdom.

I'm sorry that these guys hurt you, but I always feel that people who can be that spiteful will never be truly happy. They'll never have the life you do, Mark.

Whilst I'm here I'd just like to thank you for your writings. They're a beautiful and honest insight into your life. I hope one day to be lucky enough to meet you and thank you in person.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous davidtoronto said...

Mark, what a beautiful and honest post. I really like your blog and your insights into being gay at mid-life. As a 50-year old gay man, I also have heard this so many times from my fellow older gay male friends. Invisible, pushed out of the way, mocked, etc. I personally feel the reason is that the "bar" scene is about youth -- sexuality in its prime -- competition is the order of the day and many gay men who were successful at the game do not notice it is a competitive game until they start to "lose".

You're a handsome, intelligent and interesting man. You are only 53. The younger men treated you like that because they still read you as a "threat", as someone trying to score on their territory and like younger stonger lion's, they lash out at you as an older lion to say "your time's up, grandpa -- it;s our time now." Such is life. Accept it. Find new outlets for your need for attraction and flirting and sexuality -- or examine whether these needs are perhaps outdated and holding you back. We have such a challenge now as aging gay men who lived a life of sexual ease and excitement -- will we be able to transition into a satisfying life without this or will we curl up in a drunken ball and die. A good starting discussion. Thanks for sharing.

1:05 PM  
Blogger palochi said...

Most everything poignant that needed to be said has been said here by the above comments, except for two things IMO:

1) You have no idea how much your wit, intelligence, subtle non-verbal responses to silly situations, warm smiles to sincere ones, and the ability to make anyone feel part of YOUR group give a lot of us chubs, both emotionally and... otherwise. Not to mention the guns still look great from the gym. I'm not sayin' but I'm sayin'. :)

2) Cunts will always be cunts, no matter how young or old they are.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

I HOPE that for every single nasty f*ck that is out there, who treats people like this, that there are 10 times that number that are decent human beings. It's sad that there is this younger generation out there that thinks this sort of behavior is appropriate. I'm kind of wishing that we never had GB:NYC at Therapy. If I had known the crowd there would evern slightly resemble this type of person, I would have planned it back at Barrage.

I know it's futile to tell someone to not let people like this get to you. It's going to happen. Being 41, I find myself going to a bar less and less. If I do, it's with a crowd of people I relate to or know on a personal basis.

Either that or I just go shopping instead.

4:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Oh Mark. I think I know which night at Therapy you were talking about. You should have told me about it. In my state of mind that weekend I would have sought them out for you and re-baptised them.

7:44 PM  
Blogger John said...

Mark,

Like preivous seveal posts, I have been a quiet reader of your blog for a while and do feel to leave a comment for this great post.

Really sorry about what happened to you at that bar. Theose guys were just a bunch of immatured low self-esteem people trying to cover their uncomfortable feeling about themselves in public. No excuse to behave like that at all. But sometimes, some people are just bad seeds no matter what. Forget about them.

You are still a nice superdaddy. It's their loss not to appreciate your internal and external beauty.

By the way, sorry that my account at myspace got hacked and posted some stupid spam on your account there. I have cancelled my account there.

10:53 PM  
Blogger southbeachbum said...

We've all had to deal with idiots (cunts? ahem) our whole life. I'm 47 (and a half) and live in South Beach where no one wants to talk to you unless you're a model or a millionaire. But I have a partner and I try to keep focused on what I do still enjoy. The warm blue water, the eye candy, the good times with my guy. I really don't want to talk to the pretty jerks. I consider it an honor and amazingly good luck to even still be alive right now. Just recently I've been extremely depressed, but you (and I) dishonor our own lives, and those of our friends who are no longer around to deal with these issues, by not appreciating the good things. Just remember what a privilege it is to just be alive and relatively healthy and how many of our friends simply did not have that option. Even on a bad day, I'll take it over the alternative. You either get old or die. The other thing is that our ranks (the ones who really experienced the worst of the plage years) have been so thinned that I think it's harder to locate others who may be experiencing what we are.

In any case, I always look forward to your posts. I frequently feel the same way. I think I mentioned before that you help keep me sane, so please keep on posting.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I AM that age. This may sound psycho, but I've learned to be threatening to the young stallions. It intrigues them that an old guy might rip their throat out, if provoked.
Mygawd, I'm a little shocked reading my words, but it's a survival tactic, adapted for life in the tribe.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous rangergeek said...

1. If my partner and I were so lucky as to touch your chest, that wouldn't be our reaction at all. More like, "Why can't we have chests like that?"

2. People do not touch those they find truly creepy. Clearly the guy wanted to touch you and couldn't deal with it. Thus the hurtful comment---to mask their own uncomfortable desire. (Daddy issues, anyone?)

3. The reason I prefer radical faerie gatherings over bars is that there is a place for people of all ages. And yes, even the guys in their late 70s get laid. I've seen it.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Texas Smurf said...

Well, I have to say, as a 31 year old man, I found you very attractive and an interesting man to be around when I met you at GBNYC. I felt comfortable around you and enjoyed spending time with you.
I'm not surprised about Therapy. I was very uncomfortable there. It just had a very arrogant, bitchy attitude overall - customers and bartenders. I heard a lot of rude comments by the kids there toward people of all ages and types.
I know it looks entirely different from your perspective, because you have those insecurities already, but that kind of shit happens to me on a somewhat regular basis which is one reason I just don't go to bars much anymore. So the fact that you made it to 53 before being treated like that - that's great! I made it to about 30 (then again, it is Dallas.)

8:37 PM  
Blogger Flip X said...

palochi said..."Cunts will always be cunts, no matter how young or old they are."

Amen.

I don't think it's just an age issue; the mainstream gay scene is flooded with Abercrombie imagery - anything else is inferior.

The mindless consumer aspects of the adolescent and gay cultures often mirror each other, with similarly disappointing by-products.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Rey D said...

Interesting. I seem to be constantly looking for ways not to let this sort of thing affect me without becoming too aloof; or better yet, trying to become less aloof without letting those kind of situations affect me.

I think that the key to dealing with that level of pettiness is to take the nasty behavior as a compliment. After all, they noticed you and perhaps they resented the fact that you didn't notice them? It could be that they know you as a blogger and they know that you enjoy a certain amount of popularity among friends, or that you are in a long term relationship that they would not be dream of having? Maybe they have financial problems or a drug problem, and it makes them feel just a tad better to unload their poison on someone who they know will not beat them up? Of course, it is easier said than done, I may not have handled the situation as well as you did.

Cheers

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Stash said...

This is one reason among many why I don't go to bars.

That said, people gravitate towards truly beautiful people. A pity those brats couldn't recognize it. [And I'm not just talking about physical beauty either, though there's no question about that in your case.]

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

This post really hit home with me. At 47, I've noticed for a while a difference in the way people react to me now than when I was even ten years younger.

All along the way I've found that a big factor in adapting to growing older was to redefine myself, to change my mental self-image.

That works in terms of my own self-acceptance as I get older, but it's startling to see the unpleasant reactions from other people. I don't think that I ever reacted that way to people older than me, and it makes little sense since, as you pointed out, everyone is going to hit middle age someday barring some unforeseen tragedy.

And how boring to socialize only within your own age group. My friends range from early twenties up through their eighties; life is much richer that way.

The whole aging issue is why I'm looking forward to reading Edmund White's new book and Michael Tolliver Lives - it'll be interesting to see how White and Maupin portray their characters as they age.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Jake718 said...

OK - I am going to sound like an asshole here, so let me just preface my comments by saying I don't mean to come off like I'm about to (if that makes sense) - but I find it so ironic that this is an ongoing motif/issue for you when your bearblog posse comes off as pretty unfriendly and way way cliquey.

Over the few years I've been going to the Dugout, I have occasionally made slight overtures of conversation with you guys...and while you haven't been offensive or overtly hostile, there was always a definite air of not being interested in talking at all. which is fine. I mean, I've done the same thing to guys who've approached me before too. however, before you go down that road of feeling so rejected, you may want to ask yourself are there any vibes you put out there that may turn people off. and I'm not referring to the assholes you mentioned in this particular piece. their condition is congenital.

Again, I'm not saying this out of bitterness or anger. I really like your blog and your writing. Just wanted to throw a different opinion out there.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I love seeing you at the Dugout. I've seen you there over the years and maybe only said hi in passing. My code name for you has always been the jukebox guard, since that's where you usually are. I wouldn't want you to be anywhere else. Next time I see you there, likely this Sunday of course, I'll say hello.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous TedBear said...

Angertwinks will be angertwinks. There is always that self-loathing subset in the bars saying ugly things to people to make themselves feel better.

The rib shot was hilarious. I have used the rib shot and other social niceties with great success.

In my wilding days, you are the kind of man I entered a bar looking for. I tried my damnedest to leave with a handsome, well spoken man like you as soon as I could. I still would.

1:16 AM  
Blogger sandy said...

I've just stumbled upon this blog, so I'm commenting rather after the fact. (Story of my life.) At any rate, as a baby-faced, mid-40s fella, I'm already experiencing similar reactions. Fortunately, the small circle of friends I can scurry to for solace is close and loving. They make me feel young sometimes. But I am taking out all those full-length mirrors in the house.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Pierre said...

I am not of the same generation at all, and yet I think I get much of the same stupidness when I go out. To be honest, and I know this isn't particularly creative or helpful, I suspect all those idiots were attracted to you and afraid of it. They're scared little creatures with a host of issues, and although they have a certain power through being horrible, one shouldn't give them the satisfaction.

4:40 PM  
Blogger RJ March said...

Every now and then I wonder what I'm missing, not going out to the bars like I used to-- thanks for the reminder of what made me make that decision.

As an aging gay, I have felt that opaqueness you mentioned. It was this that made me return to the gym and whip myself back into shape, but while my body looks like it belongs to a younger man, the face is still 45-- no exercise at the gym for THAT.

I look forward to reading your blog for the happier confrontations (and cunts) you encounter.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

Back in March, I was visiting Palm Springs, a place I'm quite enamored with. On Sunday evening at the Barracks, I took to interviewing the locals about why they moved to Palm Springs and how it was working out.

The most memorable answer was, "Look around! It's just grown-ups here. No kids."

I didn't get what he meant at first, so he elaborated. He said, the great thing about Palm Springs is that everybody is in their 40s, 50s, 60s... There are none of those yung'ns here. And so you don't have to worry about what's the cool restaurant or club or bar to go to or if what you're wearing is hip or if you have anything to contribute. It was such a relief, he said, to discover that when he moved there.

And I'll probably follow him just as soon as I can.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous brad said...

Wow. It's just like my ex used to say: "The cocainne makes me mean."

While this isn't true 100% of the time, after reading this I'm glad to be planted in backward li'l ole SF.

You've called yourself shallow in the past, and , I don't know you but I don't think it's true.

I'm ten years from being renamed La Ancienne Regime, so that makes me 44. The Answer to this and similar age related silliness is money. Gobs. I mean it's no consolation but those little twerps haven't got any, they can't. Rent, the clothes (shoes and underppants being subsets,) the COSMETICS, the drugs, the iPhone and the accompanying ATT bill to make the iPhone work. They're working free drinks and the only thing solid they've got is their abs and their dealer. And despite how they might feel about it, the modeling agency is not any more terra firma than the (suspected) monthly trust fund checks.

But really, yuck. Both ways. I know how you feel about getting kicked off the playground. It's absurd how many times queers have to face down self-esteem junk, positively masochistic in fact.

The image thing rolls back to the Athenian empire; all of that was the very first CK underwear campaign, so, there's no use blaming it entirely on the media, BUT the media focuses almost exclusively on the mechanics and formula of cause celeb which we all know puts personality before work.

That said I frreely admit to being blindsided and still, on occasion, withering under the powerful jealousy generated by some shiny 20 something skin stretched taut over all that erotic power.

Until he opens his mouth...

2:44 PM  
Anonymous durban bud said...

For the record, I'm a big fan of anchovies.

7:10 PM  

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