Tuesday, July 16, 2024

I shouldn’t hate saying my age, I shouldn’t have to say it at all

If age is just a number why do we have to tell everybody what it is? Who really needs to know my age, and why does it matter?

Visiting L.A. a few weeks back I met a guy via Tinder (yeah, sometimes it actually works), we met for lunch, had more chemistry than Walter White in season three of Breaking Bad, and kissed each other goodbye with such sweet aplomb it was like the first time for both of us—flushed cheeks, natch. I’m seeing him again when I’m there next month.

While many topics came up during our date—HIV status, dreams and hobbies, open vs. monogamous relationships, thoughts on marriage and children, even our mutual love of dogs and favorite Netflix shows—age wasn’t one of them. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I’m 57 and Tim is 36. 

Courtesy of the author

Age wasn’t an issue because Tim, who’s young enough to be my son, couldn’t give a damn that I was a generation above him. No, he didn’t call me Daddy, a label I enjoy on a surface level but not when it involves anything remotely serious. We were attracted to each other, period, despite a gay society that tells us Tim is ripe and I’m “middle-aged”—which, by the way, is never a compliment—“over the hill,” “past my prime,” and, were this Logan’s Run, or half the bars in West Hollywood or Hell’s Kitchen, dead for about 25 years. Thank goodness I had OurTime.com to find my real match. Let me go check AARP for the latest updates on fun fellas for old farts!  

This is the part of the essay where I should repeat the cliche that age is only a number, but that’s not quite true—although most of the time the number is as moot as Suzanne Somers’ opinion on anything. My age matters to my physician, and it reflects my views on life, my cultural bearings, my body’s metabolism rate, and a lot of other things I might have forgotten because my memory’s not what it once was—kidding! 

What it shouldn’t affect, and why I’m fighting to live in a world where our age does not define us, is my attractiveness, employment aspirations and opportunities, and fun fucking factor—read that whatever way you wish. I don’t get up each morning thinking about where I’m going, I get up and think about where I am. I probably have an extra dose of not giving a damn what I’m supposed to be doing because my twenties involved a lot of personal mental health issues and public deaths by disease—fun! Time still is on my side, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, because I’m smack dab in the middle of it. 

As far as men are concerned, I’ve met 25-year-olds who were more mature than some of our Presidents and 70-year-olds who shouldn’t be trusted with keeping a goldfish alive. It’s all relative, this thing they call age. The only man in this world I’ve ever truly wanted to marry was 16 years old than me—55 to my 39 when we met. He’s no longer alive, but, in the 15 wonderful years we were acquainted, I don’t ever once remember talking about our age difference. 

Courtesy of the author

The trick about aging and ageism is that I can’t write about how unimportant my age is without mentioning my age, which is all the more reason we need to get rid of the category in general. My “older” age puts me in a sub-category, and not a particularly pleasant one, just like “gay” has for my entire career life. After my writing first started getting noticed, a reporter asked me if I hoped to see my future work in the Gay section of Barnes and Noble. My reply? “No, I want to see my work in the “Good Writers” section of every bookstore.”

To a certain extent, being queer has always kept me one step away from the mainstream world. Now I’m expected to remain on the sidelines for the simple fact that I’m still alive. Enough with the labels, enough with the “rules,” enough of the “age appropriate” nonsense forced on us by, who, straight people? I don’t recall getting my “How To Be Old and Queer Handbook” after my high school graduation ceremony. I do recall being forced to hide my crush on the most popular guy in school because, had it leaked out, I’d most likely have been beaten to a pulp by the other happy-go-lucky jocks. Yeah, I’m not getting my old-age vibes from a patriarchal, hetero-normal society. 

Incidentally, half those high school hotties who titillated me in the locker room showers and in P.E. shorts and swim trunks took a nose-dive to beer bellies, babies, and bibles within five years of being the best of the new power generation. We were instructed to get old and get old quick in the town where I grew up. College and careers were for freaks and geeks.

My first book was a gay and lesbian wedding guide, published in 2004. One of the thrills of putting that work together was the realization that, as gay men getting married in a world that had rejected our unions for all time, we were in a position to make our own rules in regards to weddings, honeymoons, and life beyond. We had no obligations to anyone but ourselves. I feel the same way about aging gay. You don’t need to worry about following the directions when they were never given to you in the first place. 

Ageism affects all of us, gay and straight, and every color of the rainbow.

I’m an ally of anyone defying doctrine, but I can only speak from my own experiences. Gay culture is youth-obsessed, always has been, and, here’s the tragic part: a lot of queers indulge—relentless Madonna old-age jokes, everyone? While I’m fully supportive of men who choose cosmetic procedures to defy gravity, permanent solutions have to come from inside. 

I want to rewrite the book on aging, I plan to do whatever I damn well please, career-wise, sex-wise, fun-wise, and to experience no guilt in the process. If age is an issue, it’s yours. I’m tired of putting my age in front of everything I do, like an apology or a handicap, and I’m sick of the “happiness is linear” platitude that’s been thrown at us like those Hallmark birthday cards that remind us how much more tragic each year has become. “Gee, sorry if your twenties sucked, dude, because now that you’re fifty we expect you to roll over and die.” My dead friends would expect better of us. 

In the meantime, I’ll state my age because it’s all part of branding and making my case. But I long for the day where the number is as irrelevant as my eye color. My 57 years on the planet have given me knowledge, experience, smarts, and self-assurance. You can’t put a price tag on that and you certainly can’t give it an expiration date. Because the moment we’re living in now never grows old.

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David Toussaint

David Toussaint is the writer of five screenplays (with six film festival awards between them) and four best-selling non-fiction books. A professional journalist since the age of 15, he’s written for such publications as Huffington Post, Queerty, and Conde Nast Traveler. Toussaint is also a professional playwright and actor.

David Toussaint has 24 posts and counting. See all posts by David Toussaint

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