Age is so misunderstood, but I’ve got her number.
No. 1: She’s more than just a number.
I knew that for sure when my hairline began a gradual retreat at 29, when my recovery time from hangovers doubled and then tripled in my thirties, when I had to start squinting to read subtitles after 40, and when I had my first prostate exam at 45.
It’s evident in each new crack and creak, and in all 50 shades of gray sprouting head to crotch. I’m a man in the twilight of my forties who occasionally gets mistaken for 28ish in the most flattering lighting, but every time I look in the mirror, time stares back at me.
Despite the physical wear and tear, if the 40-year-old me could see me now (I’ll be 49 on May 7), he’d know exactly who I am. I still look like me.
The biggest–and frankly, the best–changes age has brought aren’t skin deep. They’re underneath the surface where, ultimately, everything matters more. If the 40-year-old me caught a glimpse of the current me there, he might squint and wonder, Is that you, Jeremy?
More than any previous decade, my forties have been an era of inner reinvention. Instead of clinging to the #TBT version of me, I’m embracing the changes of my forties, especially the ones relating to my evolution as a gay man. Here are six of them.
1. I’m now an unapologetic activist.
At 40, I proudly declared myself a non-activist. My work as a journalist revolved around entertainment and travel. I was more interested in seeing the world than changing it.
The shift began when I visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg in 2013 and left in tears. I still enjoy a lively dissection of pop culture, but most of all, I aspire to inspire change and enlightenment by writing about race, sexuality, and humanity. That’s what will get me out of bed tomorrow.
2. I’m cured of Saturday night fever.
I’ll never forget my 40th birthday bash at Rheo, a club in Buenos Aires–even if I can’t remember most of it. Hungover as I was the morning after, I was impressed that I could still party like a twenty-something rock star.
As the decade progressed, my lifestyle went from rock & roll to easy listening. My favorite weekend nights are the ones I spend on the couch watching history documentaries on YouTube. At 40, I still loved the nightlife. These days, nighttime is the right time because it means I get to go to bed.
3. I no longer seek out gay scenes.
When I became a world traveler in the mid-’90s, my favorite new-city ritual was hitting the gay circuit. I’ve covered lots of them, from WeHo in L.A. to The Castro in San Francisco to Boystown in Chicago to Le Marais in Paris to Silom Soi 2 and Soi 4 in Bangkok to De Waterkant in Cape Town to Oxford Street in Sydney.
Now I can barely be bothered to Google “gay bars in [insert city here].” I haven’t done it for any of the 21 destinations I’ve hit in 11 Asian and European countries since last June.
I used to judge a place by its gay ghetto. Now I judge it by how gorgeous it looks when I put on my running shoes and go for a jog at 7am.
4. I’ve never been more comfortable around straight men.
I can exhale around them in a way I hadn’t since I lived in the same house as my dad. At this point, I’m so comfortable in my gay skin that I’m no longer inclined to butch it up in anyone’s presence.
Hetero men are less likely to grill me on my love life or bring up theirs, so around them, I never feel like I’m missing out by not having one. And I know I’m not: I’ve learned to accept that Mr. Right may or may never show up, and I’m fine either way.
5. The guys I want have gotten younger… and older.
Guys under 25 were never into me until I entered my thirties. Now, they make up the bulk of my suitors, both on and off Grindr–and I don’t mind at all. I met Stefan, an 18-year-old Serbian going on 30, a few days after watching Call Me By Your Name in January, and he went on to be my favorite guy in Belgrade.
Meanwhile, no-one turns my head like a silver-fox daddy. I rarely noticed them at 40, but now that I’d qualify as one myself if I let my hair grow, James Brolin, 77, sitting next to Barbra Streisand at the Golden Globes looks yummier than ever.
6. In fact, my taste in men has never been so limitless.
Like many gay men, I used to be a slave to specific looks: Now my lust is all over the place, encompassing pretty much every physical and ethnic “type”: Brolin, Javier Bardem, Cory Booker, Jeff Bridges, Trai Byers, Timothee Chamalet, John Cho, J Cole, Zayn Malik, Skip Marley, Ben Mendelsohn, Dev Patel, Mitt Romney (sorry, fellow Democrats!), etc., etc., etc.
I hated beards at 40, but there’s nothing sexier to the pushing-50 me than a full face of hair. I used to value “straight(ish)-acting,” but my attraction now covers the gamut between masculine and not, with less deference to accepted gender norms. The best sex I had last year was with Zach, a “queer” Australian pastry chef who rejected them entirely
Another “queer” Aussie I dated in 2017 showed up wearing a dress. I would have chosen something without dated peplum, but he still took my breath and my libido away.
I was dying to get him out of it, which had nothing to do with the dress and everything to do with the man wearing it.
Wow. Your article could just as easily been written about me. I wonder how many others our age feel the same way? Kudos for writing this article!
That’s exactly how I feel! There’s a lot of “me” in this article!
Yes… the Sixty- Year- Old Me could say a lot to the Fifty- Year- Old Me!
I’d say something like.. “what the fuck are you thinking”
I’d say something like.. “what the f*ck are you thinking”
Wonderful article Jeremy. I’m the same age and feel much the same way. There’s a certain amount of peace that comes with all of this… contrary to what we always feared. Thanks for sharing!
How refreshing to see an article written by an older gay guy who I can relate this experience. Just letting you know that being in my mid sixties this feeling you have Jeremy does not go away, it only gets better! Kudos to you!
Love this. I’m in the twilight of my 30’s and I can relate to most of this article already. What I don’t currently relate to, I’m sure I will somewhere in the 40’s I’m looking forward to entering.
Aires the Ram
Good article! I could’ve written the same thing about myself. I’ve been out since 20, and I just turned 60 last month. In good health as well, albeit some aches & pains…..The only question that haunts me though, is ‘How did I get to this age so fast?’.
Yes it’s so refreshing to hear the thoughts of somebody past the age of 30 every once in awhile.
I will say this. He looks good for 49. He does Justice to that saying “black don’t crack”. Probably could pass for a lot younger. Me too. When it’s dark out anyways. Lol
So true as i enter my early 60’s i found the same thing when i got close to 50 it turned out not so much about partying & being in with the crowd but just being myself a out & proud gay guy who likes guys of all ages & can do & go places & enjoy things without it being gay focused if you know ahat i mean
This felt comforting. It was a satisfying read. I could easily imagine my own life like this as 33 year old me is a lot more sure of himself than 23 year old me ever was. More of this style of writing, please.
I just turned 31, but I feel like my outlook has changed so much over the past few years. I used to have so much anxiety in general but particularly around men (which is partly why I dated women until 23). I used to be so self-conscious and paranoid. I was scared to for-real speak my mind (which must come as a suprise to many here). And even though I’m happily married I don’t feel as if I need to lean on anyone to maintain my morale or to feel good about myself. Life is a journey for everyone. But for “queer” people in particular it’s often a longwinded journey, full of self-discovery and getting to a place of legitimate self-comfort and self-respect and unfortunately subduing past trauma.
I hope I still have this level of being alright when I hit middle age, if of course I’m lucky enough to get there.
And yes, more hopeful, practical talking articles like this and less hyper focus on sex would be nice.
Wow…so many similarities. As someone who just turned 40 and am the happiest I have ever been physically and emotionally, this was such a great article. I’m glad I was never one of those who thought it was gonna be over at 30. I lived it up in my 20s…and I mean LIVED!!! My 30s were more about career and building a foundation of true friendships and wanting stability. At 40, I feel like everything has come together personally and professionally and I am more willing to celebrate being gay, which is something I never really did before. I’m going to Barcelona Gay Pride next month and plan to go to a few others this summer. I never really did any of the the Pride events before so I’m really looking forward to it. So this decade I honestly expect to be the best yet to enjoy it all. Can’t wait to see what my 50s holds.
So happy to hear you say that!
Very good article.+
Amen. I see so much of me in this article.
54-55 was hard. I was still in deep denial about my age, but my body had other things in mind. That was when I just let all that anxiety go and accepted that I am just getting old – deal with it. And as I turn into a potato, my husband is only with getting hotter with age.
I’m 69 and I still enjoy nights out in gay bars and even, very occasionally, night clubs.
43 and it’s been very different. Came out at age 14 and didn’t find much in the way of acceptance or support within the gay community. Found out at an early age that other gay men would not end up being the community I needed, and would have loved being a part of. My family has supported me from day one. The gay community only cares if you have money, look a certain way, are under a certain age, or have achieved a high level of education or success.
Unlike a lot of these comments, life didn’t pan out the way I had hoped. Never found much in the way of a great job or degree, never found a boyfriend; travelled all over North America and was disappointed at these ‘gay ghettos’ were unaffordable, overpriced and didn’t have anything I wanted. I hate getting dressed up and I don’t like expensive restaurants. Did the gay pride thing from age 15-20 until I discovered these people don’t represent who I am at all, they’re not very nice, and I had nothing in common with them. Around 25 I questioned whether I wanted to end my life: it was looking like being gay would guarantee a life by myself as I had been to all these place and seen most of the gay men were the same: rude, narcissistic and cowardly. If I was going to continue my life I was going to have to be fine with being gay, but also be fine with being alone and not physically part of a community of people I became so disappointed in.
Life does go on. Being gay you must have a thick skin because these other men will not be of much support or even care about what happens to you. Since we only make up 2-4% of the male population it’s highly unlikely most of us are going to find who we are looking for, so you’ve got to be okay with the reality that finding anyone may never happen.
If its any comfort, Windsor, I found the love of my life at 57. He’s much younger than me but we’re still together after 12 years. You have to be open to the possibility of a relationship and, perhaps, keep looking but be patient. Could I respectfully suggest that you also need to ditch the negativity that comes through in your post.
Reading this article meant a lot to me! As a freshly 31 y.o., I kinda feel older than I am. Always have. Even with that being said, I’m enjoying things a bit more than before. Going out, experiencing different things and trying my best to discover who I really am as a person, not just a gay man. Im much more satisfied and happy with my sexuality, and being around different walks of life. Hoping to do and experience more as I get older. Can’t wait for my 40s!!
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