I have a big birthday coming up that I’m dreading. Friends and acquaintances ask how old I’ll be. I blush and giggle and say it’s my 25th, knowing they’re aware I’ve remained the same age for the past half-decade.
As you can tell by my juvenile denial, I do not love getting older. Are you surprised by my attitude? Let’s face it, among gay and bi men, youth and masculinity are the two most celebrated attributes. I have no idea how this all came about, but older gay men who don’t fit in the masc daddy tribe are completely invisible in gay culture. Apart from say, George Takei and Sir Ian McKellen, I don’t see many older LGBT role models. It seems young gay men give aging pop-culture female divas more respect and attention than older gay men. I know I’ve been guilty of this dismissive behavior myself.
Aside from the coming physical decay that goes with a new decade of life, birthdays are a reminder that time is flying by and the things I coulda, woulda, shoulda done with my life have not come to pass. I think this hurts the most — the regret.
Recently, I dug up some old photos of me traveling around North America in my early 20s. In a particular picture I was standing next to New York’s Wall Street Bull, and by gosh, I looked gorgeous and thin, so-o-o thin. Frankly, looking at these old pictures fills me with melancholy that I didn't take advantage of my awesome figure — worn better-fitted clothing and pursued indecent proposals that came my way. I wish I had lived a bit and taken the chance to actually express myself instead of being wrapped up in worrying what people thought of me and laboring under my self-inflicted pressures. It’s true what they say, youth is wasted on the young.
This is a common narrative in our community. I see many young gay men beat themselves up for not achieving something in a certain period in their lives — be it the perfect body or the perfect career. There’s a taint of heteronormative behavior to all of this — the thinking that we've absorbed from wider society that happiness follows a certain order and time frame. Getting an education, a job, a partner, a house, birthing kids, and finally retiring in adult nappies must happen at specific intervals, according to this logic. On top of it, as human beings we all have an innate compulsion to make comparisons with one another — which is the most toxic aspect of it all.
As a hopeful, wide-eyed teenager, I had aspirations and goals. I’d envision that before reaching 30, I’d be married to some masc top while living in a Disney-themed castle, driving a Mercedes Cabriolet. I can confirm I haven't got any of these things in my life — yet that's OK. Funny thing is, many of my straight peers have somewhat achieved their familial and career goals, and I initially felt left behind. Now I’ve come to realize these comparisons to heteronormative and materialistic ideals are not healthy for LGBT people.
The truth is, we need to celebrate that our lives won’t necessarily follow a conventional path — we may find love in our 50s or finally drive away in that Cabriolet at 70. That’s OK too, since life is about the journey rather than the destination.
I think my fear of getting older would be eased by the sight of older LGBT people being respected and valued by our youth-obsessed community. After all, none of us can escape old age (if we're lucky enough), but what we can control is that we don’t get bitter by regretting things we coulda, woulda, shoulda done and focus on opportunities that exist now — no matter what our age. Perhaps then, turning 30 — I said it! — or 40 or 50 or 90 won’t be nearly as frightening.
VISH GAIKWAD is a London-living, Britney-loving "gaysian." Follow him on Twitter @vishdelishuk.