May 24, 2006
Nothing Lasts Forever
Men grow cold as girls grow old
And we all lose our charms in the end.
But square cut or pear shaped
These rocks don't lose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend. — Jules Styne & Leo Robin
Here are the choices: you either die young or you grow older. When you look at it with simple reality, putting on a few years isn't so bad, is it? In fact, it's a genuine blessing. I'm not saying we should look forward to becoming decrepit with unbridled joy. But reaching a well turned-out maturity is a good thing.
I've been polling the gay men in boyztown to get a sense of what our thoughts and feelings are on this surprisingly touchy topic. In my attempt to be truly inclusive, I've quizzed guys of my age, those who are older, and the young sprouts just coming up. I've discovered the emotionality you attach to age is something you do to yourself. Granted, society bombards us with images of the young and beautiful. There's a certain psychology to that, too. The profit line is so fundamental: they just sell more toothpaste or cars or toilet paper if those portrayed in the act of brushing, driving, or wiping are graced with the blush of youth. But you don't have to buy into it hook, line, and sinker.
It has to do with what shrinks call "projection." We all like to think of ourselves as being at our peak. If you envision yourself as being "all that," you get a little rush. Even a sense of temporal security. The models paid big bucks by Madison Avenue help us do exactly that: we jump into their glamorous skins as we scan through magazine ads and absorb television commercials. The reverse of this mental shell game is called "denial." It's the reason reality TV works for so many people: it's not us eating bugs on a cruddy island in a subhuman scramble for money. That's what "lesser" people do. We play similar tricks on ourselves when it comes to age. We identify immediately with the studly 20-something on his bike, glistening in the sun and peddling up hill with calves of steel. ("I could be him!") Meanwhile, the old geezer inching his way down the street with a walker is an alien species. ("I'm not like him!") You see, we all have a life story, but we tend to go with the script that "works."
The gays of my age group in my little poll are just plain glad to be alive. We've reached middle age having survived a long, dysfunctional relationship with death. From car crashes in high school, to drug overdoses in college. From the Vietnam War to the AIDS crisis, we've buried far too many of our friends and loved ones. Older gays vacillate from pillar to post: they're grateful to have known a more stylish and dynamic world, yet bitter it's all gone so damned quickly. (Hey, guys! Always remember that time flies when you're having f-u-n! You'll actually live to collect your Social Security!) The young, now and always, adopt a sense of immortality. But today's kids, who've cut their teeth on 9/11, ascribe to a fatalism that makes them seem older than their years. They may appear detached at first, but they're tough. It takes a lot to unsettle them. They accept better than most men my age basic truths like "what will be, will be" and "when you're time is up, it's up." Many of us remember our early years as being kinder, more happily naÔve, and we declare today's youth to be cynical, even jaded.
He's your guy when stocks are high
But beware when they start to descend.
It's then that those louses go back to spouses.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
GayView says this: young or old, we've all enjoyed making fun of the hard times. We've all been a bit shallow in the face of diversity. And humor, my dears, will keep you young.