Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bitter Gay Men

My birthday is on Sunday and it is hard to hide my irritation. I tried to talk about it on the air the other day and I just don’t have any words for how I feel about my impending birthday. Why is 38 such a flashpoint for me? Perhaps it is the dangerous proximity to forty. I have been joking that 38 is the new 55, and I really am starting to mean it. Because, in the gay community, you can get old, you just can’t get older.

If you go out to an event or a gay bar and you see an eighty year old guy, it’s sweet. The gays will buy him a drink and hear about the time he saw Judy Garland perform live at the Palladium. But if a 42 year old guy walks into that same gay bar, it’s sad. Doesn’t he know when to quit? It’s not a gay sin to be old, but it is downright criminal to grow older. And where are the gay men in their 40s and 50s supposed to go? They can’t all hide out in Palm Springs until the Social Security checks start to arrive. But when I look around, increasingly I am the oldest person in the room and I start to wonder what will happen when the dot on my palm turns red and I need to run.

Hanging out with Terry Goldman and his new squeeze, ten years his junior, we got to talking about gay men who get older and turn bitter. Earlier I had spoken to Lucas Entertainment exclusive Ben Andrews, with his 22 year old skin and 11 inch cock. He had just returned from the Lance Bass book party and saw Debbie (excuse me, Deborah) Gibson there. “I didn’t even know who she was.” he admitted, “Except, you know, what I saw on VH-1.”

No surprises there, except perhaps the idea of someone so young watching Vh-1. He was still in diapers when she danced on the sand with a denim jacket sliding off her shoulders and a scrunchy in her hair. When Reagan died, Sean, who was born at the end of his first term, told me that he didn’t know until that moment watching CNN that Reagan had been an actor. “They never taught us that in history class.” It’s enough to make anyone over the age of 35 contemplate suicide. Or the survivors turn bitter.

Terry started in on the interns at work, who when he told them that there wasn’t internet when he was a kid, looked as surprised as if he had said he didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. He tried to explain what a BBS was and they looked at him like he worked his way through college delivering ice from a horse-drawn wagon. “Don’t tell them you didn’t have your first cell phone until you were almost thirty.” I urged him, and then prompted him to ask his new guy if he had ever been to a Fotomat.

Remember the Fotomat? That was one shit hole of a teen job. I still shudder when I think of those kids with nothing but a transistor radio and some comic books to pass the time inside the familiar A-frame structure. Even before digital, the Fotomat was an arcane dinosaur, with the Polaroid camera coming out of the sky like an earthbound comet to wipe them off the face of the planet. Now even the Polaroid seems quaint. And this is where the bitterness comes in.

I have said many times that you know you are old when you start talking about places that don’t exist anymore. I never appreciated the song “Come Up To My Place” from On The Town until I got older and realized I could also rattle off an old guidebook full of destinations as distant to twenty-something gays as the Hippodrome is to me. No wonder you feel like the party is over, the place where they used to hold the party closed years ago and now it’s a condo complex. I would say internet cafĂ©, but even those are fading into the ever rapid distant past.

My mom has a theory about why it seems that time speeds up as you get older. While waiting for your birthday between the ages of four and five, a quarter of your whole life has to pass to make it to that point. But when you are going from 50 to 51, it’s only 2% of your life. It turns out (in a move that defies the laws of physics) that the more you accumulate over time, the faster you travel. This might explain why so many people retire just so they can sit in one place, not moving, for extended periods of time. The world is just travelling so fast at that point, there is nothing you can do but just hang on. Which leads me finally to the wisdom of Tennessee Williams:

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?” Brick asks Maggie, their empty life together at a crossroads, on the eve of Big Daddy’s final birthday.

“Just staying on it, I guess. Long as she can.”


Sam Page said...

You have nothing to worry about, honey. You don't look a day over 28. Happy (early) birthday.

Anonymous said...

First of all Happy Birthday Blue Eyes (no they r not contacts)

As Sam Page has said you look fabulous! I think when I turned 38, I believed I was still 23 and acted as if I were 23. Scary thought. baby you you are wonderful, knowledgable and insightful. You have way more going for you then most would like to accomplish. 38 was the rough one for me as well, all other prior birthdays were, oh, ok.

Your intelligence and insightfullnes will carry you into the new year. And you will remain FABTASTIC! And that is how we will want to see you become who you are. There are those who rise above and become better than they thought they could ever be.

All will love and want to immulate the person that they see.

Get on with your beautiful self!

Mike of Mike n Fred in AZ

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Derek!
I met you and your roommate, Mike, last night @ XS. You both seem such nice guys. Too bad you didn't stay long though, maybe next time we can have a toast for your birthday or some other reason (just to justify our drinking pattern). Christian

RJ the hetro guy from Winnipeg said...

Your only old, and bitter for that matter, if you choose to be. I'm 40 and starting out on a new chapter in life with a smile on my face. If you want to go out to a bar, let the people see you having fun. If you want to be bitter stay at home and sulk. What fun is that. You can't change your age just your attitude, so like I tell my kids stop being bitter, come and join us when you put a smile on your face.

antonio said...

Happy Birthday from a 75 yr old who is either too dumb or stubborn to be influenced by what people think when it comes to what I passionately want. In my 60's I found the love of my life, a much younger Asian from HOng Kong devoted to family and bristling in character and integrity.We have been together for more than 8 years(Like many of my age, I was married then my wife died and I was left to finish raising my sons.)Maybe I would know bitterness if he were to leave me but I am not, never have been or expect to be bitter.
That's not a virtue, it just came with the package.
Just passing through--- love the colorful banter you keep posting --keep it up i hope.