I’ve gotten old.
As a gay man, I am supposed to dread getting older, and I have had plenty of people tell me as much along the way. When I turned 30, one acquaintance informed me he had “cried for an entire year” when he turned 30. At the time, he was 32. I assumed I was missing something. Actually, I still think I missed something.
I turned 40 and had one of maybe three birthday parties I’ve ever had in my entire life. No one was there to question why I wasn’t in a fetal position in the corner, screaming like Nancy Kerrigan. We were busy doing shots of tequila and eating birthday cake and my boyfriend (who would become my husband) was planning to propose to me (side note: I fucking hate surprises like that, but there we were).
When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher was 32 years old, and we all thought she was just ancient, and as know-it-all kids, we teased her mercilessly about being so old and decrepit and feeble. Like, how did she make it through her day? Did she take Geritol? Eventually she snapped and challenged the worst of her persecutors to a race, which she won. None of us were convinced, though: she was still old.
At that age, I couldn’t imagine being 32 years old. Like, how would it feel? Would it be painful, being so old?
Then I actually turned 30 and I was like, “Oh.” Because it didn’t hurt, and it wasn’t so bad, and I totally understood why my sixth grade teacher got so pissed off about us calling her “old.” Because my life didn’t really start happening until I turned 30, and by the end of my 30s, it was the best it had ever been, and I kind of felt like a putz for being so mean to my teacher.
Then I turned 40 and that wasn’t bad, either. I got married when I was 42, and now I’m 47, and I don’t get the whole problem with getting older in the gay community and on top of that, I really don’t understand how, if we’re supposed to hate getting older so much, why we (and by “we,” I mean gay men in general) do this whole “Daddy” thing where they lose all romantic interest in anyone over the age of 22. Does that not work at cross purposes? It’s like they’ve been miserable since they turned 30, so to feed their misery on a daily basis, they surround themselves with guys in their 20s. Or is it supposed to assuage the misery? Like I said, I don’t get it.
I don’t get it because I am not a “Daddy” and I don’t want to be one, and I know that breaks with hundreds of years of gay tradition, but I don’t care.
When I was in my early 20s, I lived with a man who was 14 years older than I was at the time. We had nothing in common and basically spent 5 years trying to convince one another why the things we liked, that our respective generations thought were important, mattered more. It was exhausting. To this day, I don’t understand the allure of Marilyn Monroe, and I am perfectly fine with that.
In my early 30s, I lived with someone who was 10 years younger than I was and it was pretty much just a rerun of the 5 years I’d spent with the older guy, only worse because this guy wasn’t just young, he was also immature. Yes, there is a distinction, and I could go into it, but I’ll save you, dear reader, the whole geshikte.
The man I married is eight months younger than I am. We are growing old together. We have the same pop culture landmarks, so when I ask if he remembers that movie or that TV show, he does; and when he asks if I liked that band or that song, I probably did. We are polar opposites, but we share many of the same memories of things, and that saves a lot of energy because I don’t have to explain who Jody Watley was, and he doesn’t have to proselytize on the merits of The Goonies (there are none, by the way, but that’s another blog post entirely).
Neither of us are “Daddies,” either. We don’t lust after scrawny boys in their late teens and early 20s in an attempt to make ourselves feel younger. We’re old, and we’re okay with being old, because we have earned it. A lot of gay men from our generation didn’t make it, so I’ll gladly take it over the alternative. When you’ve buried more people than you can remember, being a “Daddy” just doesn’t seem to matter that much. You’re just glad to be alive with something to show for it all. At least, I am.