So the young man in Boystown calling me “Grandpa” yesterday as I was waiting for a light to turn green while on a bike ride is still weighing on my mind a little bit. It’s not a detriment to my existence or anything; if anything it’s made me a bit more reflective on the current state of the world.
Let’s face it, being a gay man in the 21st century is a young man’s game. The gays like the youth and like much of the rest of American society, once you’re over a certain age you’re no longer relevant to the scene. This does not dishearten me in any way but I can’t help but reflect that it’s the opposite of how we treat, say, employees at work. Corporations want experience and relatively well-seasoned people to carry out the duties they require. The number of gay men that appreciate the handsome experience of an older man is on the low side of the percentage scale.
I don’t dye (what’s left of) my hair. If I grow my beard out I’m about 50/50 ginger and gray. If I grow out my mustache it’s white. I don’t really care about building muscle or running around shirtless to show off a worked out chest. I’ve never had a six pack. Ever. (Though I’ve polished a few in my time). I no longer have the desire to dress in an edgy manner or in anything that has a label. I consider myself put together when my shirt label isn’t hanging out the back of my neck. It usually says “Fruit of the Loom”.
The truth is, I’m happy with the way I look and the way I feel. My attempts at exercise are merely my way of enjoying life without having to go to the doctor every 10 days. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the FAA requirements around my health to retain my Pilot’s Certificate I probably would be a little more casual than I am today about my health.
When I look back at old television shows and whatnot I can’t help but notice that before the baby boomers and Gen-Xers started getting older people aged more gracefully or purposely. When “Maude” went on the air in 1972, Bea Arthur and Bill Macy were younger than I am today. They both had gray hair and pretty much looked their age; though Bea did get a facelift after the first season. Their attitudes were with the times and they didn’t try to use hip slang of the era to try to sound young. Maude and Arthur using “groovy” would be like me trying to use “rad” or “deets”. Gnarly, dude. Just gnarly.
As my husband and I grow old together I feel as young as I did back when we first met in 1995. He makes me as giddy as a school boy. I hope the young lad that called me “Grandpa” yesterday knows that same feeling if he doesn’t already. Giddy keeps you young.
There’s a lot of history in the gay community that occasionally seems unimportant to the younger generations. The freedom they take for granted: the ability to get married, the relative freedom of holding hands on the street, the presence of gay characters all over entertainment media, these are all things that haven’t really been around that long. Generations before us and we Gen-Xers have done a lot to give us the freedom to be who we are here in 2020.
I guess the cranky grandpa in me wishes these young whipper-snappers would recognize that.