Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Opportunity of Aging

For all the effort I put into seeming knowledgeable and secure and insightful here on my blog--in the posts I continue to write encouraging gay and lesbian people everywhere to accept and love themselves--the truth is, as I've recently discovered, life is a continuous journey of learning to accept and love ourselves, in all our incarnations.  Just when we think we have the gay thing down, it turns out we need to employ the same skills we used to keep the acceptance and love going, as we age and look more and more like our parents, even our grandparents.  

I hate to admit aging scares me and makes me feel insecure all over again, but it's no surprise many people in the gay community--from what I understand, men and women--have an enormous issue with getting older.  Not a few gay relationships end because one partner was turned off by signs of age in the other's face and body (possibly because he was reminded of his own aging and, ultimately, mortality).   When the emphasis is so unrealistically on beauty, and vitality, and sexuality, all the domain of youth, then those of us no longer youthful can't help but feel insecure, especially if our partners are younger, much younger, than we are.  

So I fish for the answers I need.  "What will you do when I'm too old for you?" I ask Chris, as he stands before the kitchen sink, washing dishes.  "Will you exchange me for a younger model?" "Are you sure you'll still want me around when I'm old and ugly?"  "I can't compete with (fill in the name of a twenty-something young hunk both of us find attractive), you know."  And Chris's response is always reassuringly the same:  "Whatever," he says, outright dismissing the utter nonsense coming from my mouth.  "I'm getting older, too," he tells me.  "Who will want me when I'm old?"  He turns to look at me as I wipe the tea towel over a stainless steel pot, and he knows the answer.

Inside, I'm the same as I was nearly twenty years ago when I first met Chris; I don't feel a day older.  No, that's not true at all.  Chronologically, I'm older and usually don't feel it, but, internally, I'm better, much better, because I know myself in a way I didn't then.  Not only that, I like and accept myself, as a gay man, including all my shortcomings and weaknesses, more than I ever did.  Despite everything I erroneously accepted about being gay for so long, I've even learned to love myself.  I've grown a lot as everyone does, if they're conscious and aware and focused on evolving and improving and being who they were meant to be.  So what I have to offer Chris now, as opposed to in 1992, is richer.  And, thankfully, more of what he saw in me from the beginning.      

Without question, young people have much going for them.  Who can compete with youth and beauty and vitality?  On the other hand, who wants to, because that's only the package, the surface, not the substance, which, as we all know, is infinitely more important.  There comes a point when we need to see that and embrace the natural aging process, because it will happen whether we like it or not.  The challenge is not to look at aging as diminishment.  Rather, aging is becoming a different version of ourselves.  And, if we remain alert and do the work, each version at every stage of our lives will be richer, in one way or another, than all those before it. 


  1. "Wistful" is the way I'd describe my feelings about being on the far side of 40...but really, the only option to aging is not aging (no longer living), right? And although you can certainly be proactive (wear sunscreen, eat healthy food, exercise--ew), there's something very sad about people who are taking the more aggressive routes. I see women who have injected, pulled, and otherwise "done stuff" to their faces, and although technically they have smooth skin, the overall effect is one of oddness, and certainly not youth. I feel the same way when I see men who dye their hair chocolate brown...really, who are you fooling? I look at people like Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren and think, "that's what I'll aim for," minus the million dollar salary, of course...women who are happy, secure, and know that wrinkles are simply part of who they are now, not something to be hidden.
    Besides, Rick, you should count your blessings: You *could* be dealing with the search for ever more hydraulically minded bras...

  2. So Rick, your latest thoughts remind me of a question I have asked myself and my friends, as we all get older...say, over 50. It is this: If you could trade all the wisdom and experience you have now at this stage of life to turn the clock back 30 years and do it over, would you? And why, or why not?

    Alison in Victoria

  3. Love your blog, Rick. Love. It. Thanks for sharing this with the world. You are constantly opening my mind and making me think about my own life. Thank you.

    Did you know that is advertising on your blog? I find this odd because while your blog is open for everyone to read and learn, is a dating website for heterosexuals....only. I checked it out and it definitely doesn't allow gays to register. Just find it weird that their ad is on your blog.

    Keep up the great writing. You are a great writer who speaks truth.

  4. @Sarah: You raise some great points about aging in general. Yes, I'd rather age than not be here at all. Yes, many people who use extraordinary measures to try to remain youthful (read older Hollywood actors, among others) come off looking like plasticized versions of themselves, particularly in the mouth area. And, yes, Streep and Mirren are two wonderful (and dare I say beautiful) examples of older women, who have aged well naturally (I think they have, anyway), and set a terrific example to others.

    But, somehow, I'd like us to change the conversation from one of diminishing physically due to aging to simply accepting and loving the different (and undeniably smarter, more self-aware, and more complete) versions of ourselves. That's where the real opportunity of aging is.

    And when I read your comment about seeking more powerful bras to accommodate the girls heading south, I laughed like hell. Great observation. (And, yes, I'm grateful I don't have need of these, although some men do.)

    Thanks for your comment and ongoing support of my blog.

    @Alison: Great to hear from you and to know you found my blog.

    Your question is a good one, that's for sure. It got me thinking: Had I been more physically attractive thirty years ago, comfortably out as a gay man, and accepting and loving of myself (which I wasn't at all), I might make a deal with the devil to turn back the clock. But, of course, with the exception of becoming more physically appealing (which is merely superficial, anyway), I'm far better off now than I've ever been.

    And nothing makes me happier than to share my older self and my fifty years of wisdom and experience with my readers in the hope I write something that truly makes a difference for them.

    Again, great question. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to hear from you again.

    @Nick: What a thrill to hear from you and to know you appreciate what I have to say. Believe me, you made my day with your kind words.

    As you can see, I've removed all ads from my blog. I thought I'd give ads a try, but if they're inappropriate or inconsistent with what I'm trying to do, then they have no business here. I do not want them in any way to conflict with or to take away from my message. Your feedback in letting me know about is appreciated.

    I hope you'll continue to stop by to see what's going on at my blog, and that I'll hear from you often.

    Thanks again.