Approaching 30 can be intimidating for a gay man, and 40 has been described to me as good as “dead” in the gay community. What are these cultural issues about? Many gay men struggle with feeling lonely, scared, and depressed as early as in their 30s, and they attribute this to their age. Are you one these men? I write this article to help create some clarity in the haze that makes it so troublesome for so many gay males who continue to get older within a culture that idolizes young adulthood.
I find that many people romanticize their early 20s, but how good were they? I can remember my early 20s as a lonely and uncomfortable time. I was not sure what I wanted to do for a career and I didn’t know what to look for in a partner. It was a confusing time, and I know that this is not abnormal for a young, gay man. Yet when you remember your early 20s, it can be easy to remember the “fun” that you had. In describing “fun”, many people are describing those specific things that they were doing to distract, procrastinate and cope with those same confused feelings that left them feeling uncomfortable and insecure. Fun as a distraction is far from desirable. The problems are still there when you done with the distraction. In fact, because procrastination has prevented them from coming up with a solution, the problem is often much larger than it was when it started.
Another issue is that as you move into your 30s and 40s, you remember how you viewed and maybe even treated those men who were this age back then. It’s inevitable to wonder if young, gay men are now doing the same to you. This perpetuates the desire to be younger than you are. Because people can’t change their actual age, they often revert back to the same distractive tactics that they used to use. The problem with this is that it yields the same result as procrastinating did before. Old habits die hard, and it is easy to use what used to seem to work when you romanticize a period of time in your life.
Aging is inevitable. There are two options here: fight it or embrace it. By embracing it, you will have to start by attacking the fear, loneliness, shame, and insecurity that you have been distracting yourself from up to this point. No more trying to overcoming feelings of loneliness or fear of aging with sex with young males, drinking, or isolating yourself. If you are lonely, know what it is that you want. If it is companionship, find a friend, not a lover. This could turn into something more if you give it time, but don’t mistake sex for companionship. They are not the same thing. Also, understand the virtues that come with age. You do not have to make the same mistakes that you would if you did not know what you know now. The reason you know better is because of your experiences and knowledge, which can only come with time and living.
Finally, remember that age is largely subjective. There is the number that is associated with how long you have been on this earth, but there is something more significant that you might not be considering. If you learn to continue to grow as a human, build on your interpersonal relationships with others, and use your knowledge as power, there is not much of a need to be younger in years. This is because you not as likely going to feel “old”, because you know what that actually means now. Being old isn’t what you look like, it’s what you feel like, which is something that you have control over. If you can recognize that, then it doesn’t matter what the culture says. You are in control here, not the calendar.