As one of the few older men writing regular commentary for the gay press, I feel almost uniquely positioned to discuss the problems and pleasures of aging. My comments are based on my own experience and that of other men 60 and older I have discussed this with. But other older readers are welcome to write and tell me how their experience does or does not accord with mine.
There is no doubt that the gay community, like our whole American culture, is youth-oriented. Accordingly, too many young people view the prospects of aging with aversion. But I think they are wrong to think that way. So let me list a few of what seem to me are the advantages of growing older. Here are five. There are others.
You accumulate more experience. With any luck this coagulates into better judgment and greater wisdom. I have talked to several men who said they wished they were younger but on cross-examination none ever said they would be willing to give up the knowledge and judgment they had gained in the intervening years. "On no!" was the usual reaction. There is little use in trying to explain this to younger gays. They will just have to find it out for themselves.
Closely related to this is seldom being surprised by the phenomena of the social world. Older people have, well, not "seen it all before" but often seen similar events and responses in the past. It is not that nothing surprises you: stupidity, rudeness, mendacity and irrationality will continue to do that. But you develop coping mechanisms that make it easier to dismiss such things as part of the background noise of living in multicultural urban environment.
You get more respect from people-young and old both. When I was a gawky youth, I don't recall being treated with any particular respect. But nowadays not only do people call you "Sir"-and not just at leather bars-but they are more likely to hold doors open for you. This is not universally true, but happens frequently enough to be a noticeable change. Your opinions are taken more seriously because they are presumably based on greater experience. As one of my friends put it, "Older people have more gravitas."
The intensity of your sexual desire somewhat diminishes. Cephalus in Plato's Republic remarks that he is finally free of "the tyranny of Venus." I understand what he means. This does not mean that sexual desire completely vanishes but that its claims seem less urgent and more under control. Most older men will understand this intuitively. Younger people who may evaluate themselves by the strength of their libido will just have to learn it-and they will come to realize it is a blessing.
If you take care of yourself, with age you can get better looking, losing that patina of twinkiness that some young gays seem to have. You may remember that 1970s football star Joe Namath commented "I can't wait for tomorrow 'cause I get better looking every day." It was a bit of self-promotional hype, of course, but there is often something to it. This fact was made clear to me not long ago when I saw a recent picture of 1970s porn actor Bruno (real name: Hermes Forteza) in Bear magazine. He is still visibly the same good-looking man, but he has a kind of relaxed maturity about him now 30 years later that is more attractive than his earlier self. I can even share a personal anecdote. I have never been a wildly handsome man, but age has probably improved me. Just a few years ago a young man approached me in a bar and asked, "Can I be your little boy?" Well, maybe.