"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.
You're all going to get here sometime.