“Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.” “Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won’t ever be back.”
— Less, Andrew Sean Greer
I recently finished reading Less, and wow… the first time in a long time that I felt so connected to a character in a book. There’s a part where a character is taking the protagonist, a writer, to task and he says “You’re a bad gay — It’s our duty to show something beautiful from our world.” After reading so many books filled with queer men who were made to suffer by their authors — Barbie dolls in a tortured melodrama, pain writ large, book award bait — it was startling to see a life I could recognize on the page. I laughed a lot, I was startled by the beauty of the writing, and more than once I cried. The book felt like the last days of summer, like the sun going down and casting long purple palm tree shadows on a wall — inevitable.
I’ve been thinking so much about growing old. Wincing over it. Panicking about it. Paul is in town from Toronto. He’s nearly 5 years my senior, in his early 40s, gray at his temples and beard, fine lines annotating his face. He is handsome, and my friends (younger than me) all say so. We go to El Rio, we go to the Stud. I see myself standing next to him, and wonder if this makes more sense to others. The older guys together. Do they see me standing next to Tyler or Colin, in their perpetual 20 something youth, and think me tragic? My friends as incongruous as cargo shorts and bleached tips would be; a desperate clawing at youth as I slide over the cliff?
I’m 36 and my body is determined to make me look 10 years older. My beard, chest hair, and now even my arms are going gray, quickly. I’ve been bald since 20. I look at my dad’s dad, his brothers — catastrophic heart failures at 65, all. Is it in me? Am I more than half way done? Who knows.
24 years ago, in Clueless, Cher asserts that legs crossed towards another was an unequivocal sex-invite. My 12 year old brain took that as gospel truth, and I spent the next… well, 24 years being careful about how I cross my legs. The statement ensconced itself as a text-book truth. Recently, a friend told me that a 60 year old told him that at 20 you think your 30s are going to be the time of your life, but at 60, you realize it was your 40s. My brain has taken this as a hard fact, and good god, I hope it’s true.