The Agony of Aging
Written by Steve Weinstein
An article in the New York Times about the death of a prominent gay therapist in New York has spurred a discussion among gay men of the problem of aging.
What makes the suicide of Bob Bergeron so poignant is that he was an exceptionally beautiful man and was himself a therapist who counseled other gay men. He was even a well-known motivational speaker at gay centers.
Bergeron, who was 49 when he ended his life, was writing a book on how gay men can deal with aging. But the article implies that Bergeron was depressed by what he saw as the attention he got from his looks — at the same as he had always expressed insecurity about not being taken seriously, being dismissed as just another pretty airhead.
The biggest problem is one that every gay man over 40 has experienced at some point or other: that feeling of invisibility. Whether it is in a bar, a nightclub, a gay resort, a cruise or just walking down the street in the local gayborhood, there comes a time when everyone has to face the fact that he’s not going to be immediately attractive to that hot 25-year-old.
It’s true that everyone goes through a midlife crisis. Talk to any straight man older than 40, and he’ll pretty much echo the great opening scene in the film “City Slickers,” when Billy Crystal, an aging mid-level ad salesman, is speaking at a Career’s Day-type event. Instead of extolling his work, he harangues the kiddies with talk of how they can look forward to hair falling out of the top of their heads but growing in unwanted places (like the ears), and the other disappointments of middle age.
You don’t have to be as much of a sad sack as Willie Loman in “Death of a Salesman” (now getting a revival on Broadway) to understand the dark road every man goes through in mid-life. In most cases, we come out of on the other end strengthened by the experience and go on to lead fulfilling lives.
For many gay men, however, not being the center of attention — or getting any attention at all — becomes disheartening. I remember reading about a man in Dallas who was depressed about his 40th birthday, so a friend took him out for a drink. As they were walking into the bar, a young guy walking out saw him and said, “I didn’t know it was Old Folks Night.”
This attitude is unfortunately not unusual. The whole world is youth oriented but the gay world is youth obsessed. “We sell this idea that 60 is the new 40, but it’s just lying,” Dr. Frank Spinelli, a prominent gay physician, told the Times.
There’s no easy answer to the kind of dark night of the soul people like Bergeron go through. The article did mention that he didn’t seem to have many friends in New York. Being surrounded by people who like you for you and not for your looks, your money, your status or your dick size is certainly important. Beyond that, it’s a matter of self-awareness: If you can be self-conscious enough to be realistic about why you might be depressed, you can take steps to overcome it. There are groups like SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment) sprouting up everywhere.
And don’t be afraid to call someone out who’s giving you attitude because of your age. The older guy in Dallas should have snapped back to the younger guy, “I can’t do anything about being old. You can do something about being an asshole.”
I am 46, but never had this issue, People constantly says to me that I look like 30’s. Most importantly, I feel like I am still in the 20’s but I act/behave very appropriately to my current state of mind, emotionally and physically.
My entire life has never been in that situation seeking attention nor wanting to be, I am secure and very content.
By S.C. on 04-05-2012
We should stop thinking about perfect bodies and sex all the time. It’s time to change for gay men. Great article.
By @renancola on 04-05-2012
Great article, especially with the flashing hot young bodies in the ad next to it…...... PUH-LEZZZE!
By Rex on 04-22-2012