I had one of those birthdays last week. It wasn’t a milestone birthday in the traditional sense—that is, the year didn’t end with a zero. But it was one of those birthdays that’s ominous to gay men in general, because it’s a number at which time suddenly stands still and past which, mysteriously no gay man ever ages.
No, not 25. I can see your confusion, though. That’s the age that gay men ape in their dress habits, especially the fifty-somethings who stuff themselves into a Hollister T-shirt under the hope that the brand name will do a David Copperfield on their age and shave off twenty-five years before everyone’s marveling eyes. So no, not 25. The other number.
No, not 29. Yes, I know that’s the age that all women over 30 claim to be. That’s more of a female thing, though. Men over thirty claim they’re 32, all the way up until they’re my age. It doesn’t matter if they’re 39, or 42, or 46. If you look at their profile, or ask them in a bar late at night when the lights are low, they’re going to tell you they’re 32. But not either of those numbers.
And no, it’s not 43. Where’d that come from?
Look, I’ll just tell you. I turned 49. For-ty-niiiiine. It’s the last number to which gay men will admit. Men born in the year I was born—1964—are 49. Men born in the nineteen-fifties are 49. Guys who popped out of a Great Gatsby-era flapper wearing a shingled skirt and shouting twenty-three skiddoo! claim to be 49. Gay men hit 49 and then remain there until their deaths, thirty-five years later. It doesn’t matter that they’re hunched over and clutching a cane and looking like Young Mr. Grace on Are You Being Served?, who doddered around barely able to say his one line of the entire show. He’s 49, dammit, and 49 he’ll stay.
I had an argument with my own brother about the age of 49 a couple of years ago. My brother has been 49 for almost a dozen years now, both in his online profiles and with new guys he meets. It made me more and more anxious about approaching the age myself—not because I feared the number itself. I don’t give a rip. It’s because I had this vision of my age matching his, then surpassing him. Then I’d be the older brother. And that’s a crime against nature. I’m too foxy to be the older brother.
So I nagged. And I pleaded. Finally he changed his age to 99, which in online profile land is basically a big fuck you to anyone who wants to get a general idea of how old someone is.
But it’s still older than 49.
I’d like to proclaim up front that my age will continue to change from year to year. Next February I will be 50. In 2015, I will be 51. Just you wait and see. Check in with in a decade and I’ll be 59. Still foxy, and 59.
I don’t like to let a number dictate how I feel about myself, see. I spent way too much of my early life doing that. It started the week I lost my virginity at 12, in my earliest encounter getting cruised in a men’s room toilet. The guy next to me, after peering through a gloryhole and looking at my smooth and hairless body, passed me a note written on toilet paper and wrapped around a Bic pen that read, How old are you???
Right away, I lied. 14, I wrote back. Because in my naive mind, there was a vast world of experiential difference between a callow youth of 12 and a seasoned sexual professional of 14, and I didn’t want to seem like a young newbie.
God, was I dumb. Not that the guy cared. He had his dick in me less than thirty seconds later.
I was always lying about my age to men in my teens. I added on three, four, five years to make men comfortable about fucking me. In college, because I’d skipped a year of high school and entered early, I added on a couple of years so that my classmates didn’t think I was contemptibly young. I had a baby face in grad school, where I the only 20-year-old surrounded by students in their late twenties, thirties, and forties—so I told everyone I was 25. I added on years until I reached 30, when I decided I’d had enough about apologizing for something as silly as how old I was.
And yes, at 49 I’ve had my share of rejection based on my age. Or more accurately, I’ve run across the guys to whom I’m invisible because I’m not 25 (or wearing that Hollister T to pretend I am). I’ve seen plenty of profiles of guys who absolutely positively will never ever meet anyone over 45 ever! You know what? Screw that. It’s easy to see the scores of those profiles and feel slighted. I don’t intend to waste my time bemoaning them. It seems to me the men who are missing out are those who sit on the sidelines and simply don’t try, because they’re too sensitive to rejection.
In the end, I’d rather be rejected arbitrarily so that I know someone’s a close-minded asshole, than magically accepted because I gave out a fictional number as my age. And that’s, as Edith Ann used to say (see, I’m dating myself), the truth.
So in this Monday’s open forum, I’m curious. Who out there has lied about his or her age in order to land a guy? For what reasons? Are you fibbing about your age now? Are you going older or, more likely, younger? How young do you dare to go—that is, how many years is it safe to shave off in the service of preserving one’s youth? And is there life after 49? I’d love to hear from you guys.