By Todd Craig
As of April 29, 2013, I am 42 years old.
For as long as I’ve lived, being gay has been a young man’s game made up mostly of drinking, dancing, and sleeping around. At yes, at 42, I’ve discovered that age has its trappings.
My hair is thinning, and what hair I have left is graying. I work out like crazy - not to get swoll, bruh - but to keep from being swollen from that one carb that I ate last week. To wit: a few weeks ago, after a ridiculously tough workout, I slumped over in the steam room afterwards, exhausted and frustrated at my lack of progress. There protruding from the middle of my unchiseled pecs was a bright white chest hair. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
There are other indicators that time is beginning to have its way with me, and they’re not all physical. I can’t think of a single movie in the theater that I want to go see right now. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know any of the titles, what any of them are about, nor even know who’s in them. I really only want to see movies with Meryl Streep, and I’ll wait until they come out on DVD so I don’t have to wait in line for an overpriced ticket, thank you very much.
I can’t even pretend to be young either. I look better in a button-down and slacks than I do in a designer t-shirt and jeans. I drink vodka, not beer. Taco Bell doesn’t sound good anymore, and besides I’d need three days to work it off again at the gym. Saving for retirement is more important than driving a new car. I buy shoes on clearance. At Kohl’s.
At some point in the last ten years, I turned… middle aged.
And as hellish as it sounds, I don’t think I’d trade it for anything.
First of all, I’m married. I have been with the same man for almost a decade now, and we make a pretty impressive team. The whole dating scene is long since gone, and I don’t miss it in the slightest. Being young and single has its perks, but not one of them is equal to waking up with my husband draped around my body, snuggled up all warm and cozy as he does every morning. When we change the sheets, we’ve worn ruts in the mattress where we sleep. After eight years we laugh at the same jokes, and we know how one another thinks. We exchange glances so nuanced that we have entire conversations without using words. Long gone are the days of wondering what he’s thinking about.
We also have a family in a little six year old boy who is full of energy, love, hugs, and farts – not necessarily in that order. He bounds out of bed at 7 on Saturday mornings excited for breakfast and cartoons and the new day and his Star Wars Legos. Sure, when I was single, I could sleep in until noon, but now I stumble out of bed, pull on some jammy pants, and start making pancakes. It’s what we dads do.
Who needs sleep when you have blueberry pancakes?
And now, instead of weekends of drinking and dancing, I mow the lawn. Sometimes, I sneak out of bed early to watch CBS Sunday Morning and read the paper in the quiet of the morning. That’s about as exciting or sexy as my life gets anymore.
What my life is though is fulfilling. Together with my husband, we’ve built a nice home, a beautiful family, and with apologies to Jimmy Stewart, a wonderful life.
The generations before me weren’t so lucky. AIDS killed too many before they even reached 42; being gay was a young man’s game because very few lived to see middle age. Before that, an unhealthy mix of discrimination, fear, hatred, and societal expectations forced others into trying to live straight lives based in deceit and dishonesty.
So here I am, a gay man age 42: husband, father, career man. I live a rich, beautiful, life rooted in openness and love in a way that weren’t really possible for those generations before me. For that, I’m grateful.
Certain aspects of gay life are best left to the young, I suppose. The dancefloor is a place for twenty-something hardbodies. I’ll let their plates be full with looking good, expensive fashions, and trying to get laid.
My plate is full enough already with these blueberry pancakes for my son.
And shhhh… don’t tell anyone, but I kinda prefer it that way.