Friday, July 02, 2010

A Seat on the Bus

Returning home one evening last week, I boarded a crowded bus and was just standing there, wedged in among the other standing passengers, when a young lady seated in front of me got up and offered me her seat. I was at once touched by her totally gratuitous kindness, and at the same time heartsick and humiliated to think how I must appear to other people. I thanked her sincerely, but declined her offer, explaining that I am only old on the outside. That I could even speak the word "old" in any sentence referring to myself was a milestone in my life, and not a pleasant one.

But, thanks to increasing evidence presented by young ladies on busses, I am, to my horror, turning into J. Alfred Prufrock. I am also increasingly and painfully aware of how aging changes not so much the way I look at the world, but the way the world looks at me. I am no longer indistinguishable from those around me, and those who have not yet reached that stage of existence cannot comprehend how devastating that knowledge is. In any given group of people, I am increasingly the oldest; sometimes by far, and am subtly but definitely being pushed to the outside of the circle.

In the gay community, of which I have been a card-carrying member for literally all my life, if you are a gay male, once you pass 40 you are less and less welcome as a player in that comforting and exhilarating game of sexual tag you’ve been part of for so long. By the time you are 50, the pool of potential partners has all but dried up. By the time you are 60, you are invisible to anyone under 30-or at best only a shadowy presence easily ignored. Your circle of gay friends tends to narrow to others your same age or older: no one younger wishes to join the circle.

And the terrible irony is that the young simply cannot comprehend that those invisible old men sitting in a coffee shop were once exactly like them, and that if they are very very lucky to live long enough, they too will one day sitting with their peers at a similar table.

Some time ago, I wrote a short poem on this subject:

Whenever I hear a young gay man
scorning an older man,
I hear the future laughing.


Although I use the gay community as an example only because I have absolutely no knowledge of how it is for older heterosexuals, I suspect it’s pretty much the same for older, unmarried straights. We are all human, after all (and please, do write that down somewhere to remember when you have doubts).

Age is the price we must pay for the gift of living long enough. It very often is not pleasant, especially for those like myself who cling so tightly to the past and to memories of who we always were until now. So, much as I hate not being who I was, and resent being made to feel unwanted and unworthy, I’ll readily take it over the only viable alternative.

My one word of advice to you, no matter what your age: truly appreciate and be grateful for everything and whatever you have this very moment. I may not always show it myself, but I assure you I am.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend. Your comments are always welcome. And you're invited to stop by my website at http://www.doriengrey.com, or drop me a note at doriengrey@att.net.

2 comments:

Rainbow said...

I never was have been very attractive, but I'm gay, nonetheless, and a committed one, too. which is motre that can be said of some young sauna muscled airhead

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks for the note, Angelo. It's a matter of "'Ya gotta be there before you can understand." The young haven't been there yet.