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COMMENTARY: The New 60 is one year old. My next column will mark both my actual 60th birthday and the beginning of the column's second year. Thank you, readers, for making this venture a reality. It has been quite a year.
That the premise of this column -- being 60, gay, and HIV-positive could be a wonderful place in a life -- might be at all controversial was truly a surprise. I love that it pissed off a good many, even as it delighted others. I was taught not to brag, but not acknowledging one's good fortune can be a false humility. I speak my truth, amplified by my experience as a psychotherapeutic clinician. That I am basically content, that HIV hasn't stopped me from having a rich, full life, that I feel at the top of my game, and that I have a very active sex life infuriated those who are organized around the suffering of the aging gay man with HIV.
Of course, not everyone with HIV is thriving. This is my personal experience. I am writing for my generation -- hoping to challenge us to live fully at any age -- but I am really out to reach the young gay men (and women) who might not have role models for aging. I did: The men in my family have been active and vibrant into their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Gay men, as a generalization, often see themselves as having a "shelf life," believing that their life will diminish as they age. Yes, we lose things along the way: I am now parentless; my knees ache on very damp days; I will never have taut skin again. However, the gains in perspective and information are extraordinary.
Those of you who have been along for the ride may have noticed that my noisy life provides ample material to fuel my writing: What I hadn't known was that I would reveal so much about myself and feel as vulnerable as I have along the way.
I have written of deep sorrow at the sudden death of a beloved in-law. I have become single and experienced the challenge of solitude and singularity. I have had the disappointment of being turned down by a co-op board and not moving into my dream loft. I have wrestled with my commitment to truth in the context of my family history of prevarication. On the other hand, I have traveled to Brazil and the Caribbean and spent exquisite hours enjoying the changing light on Long Island Sound. I have had the extreme privilege of being of service as a counselor and group/workshop facilitator at Friends in Deed, of being invited into the lives of the suffering and the brave. I have begun new projects, such as a men's group in my private practice. I am dating and enjoying the everyday pleasures of the most vibrant city in the world. I am alive!
One of the ways I know I must have lived 60 years is that I hold pieces of my tribe's collective history. Much of my generation didn't make it. AIDS ravaged the downtown art world in the 80s and early 90s. I consider it an honor and an obligation to share and preserve pieces of this unique time in whatever small way I might.
One reader commented, acutely, that I had more issues about aging than I was letting on. That I would write a column on the subject surely states that as obvious. What I didn't know was that I would have 25 columns in me and want to write more. I am thrilled to continue my exploration of The New 60. Thank you again for your readership. I look to you for guidance, feedback, and inspiration. Luck and love!