Aging isn’t difficult, it just happens. The stage I’m currently in is relatively painless so I’m able to just relax and go with the flow. Acting my age, however, is an entirely different story.
The concept of acting my age is one that I just don’t seem to be able to wrap my head around. What does it mean? What does it look like? And will I be the person I want to be if I have to act my age?
I have a pretty good sense of what mainstream culture’s views are on what it means to act one’s age.
It generally involves assuming a variety of specific responsibilities including getting serious and settling down. If I were straight, the concept would be closely tied to what it means to be a man. As a gay man, I don’t have a very clear idea of what it means to be a man in gay culture or a gay man in mainstream culture.
It probably doesn’t help that I have very few older gay men in my personal life. As a result, I’m left to figure out on my own what a 35-year-old gay man is supposed to act like.
I grew up in a culture heavily influenced by AIDS where the values of sexual liberation were being played out but where there wasn’t much open dialogue about what it all meant.
Hidden in the silence was so much of the liberating discourse on gender and masculinity that might have helped create new, intentional models of how to be a man.
It also doesn’t help that the generation of men before me, the ones who might have been my role models, were the ones most impacted by the early days of AIDS.
Many were dead or dying. Others were doing the best they could to hold things together while reeling from the trauma of surviving in a community ravaged by HIV. Some simply went into isolation to deal with the immense grief caused by the loss of so many friends, lovers and partners. Mentoring wasn’t high on the list of things to do.
Today, nestled between my 20s, where much of my time was spent building my community through sex and love and other gorgeous indulgences, and middle age, where I expect to have a stronger sense of who I am and what I want, I feel the pressure to figure out how to age in age-appropriate ways.
Are my days of dating younger guys over? Should I be spending more time cultivating more mature relationships? What are the consequences of not figuring out what it means to act my age?