Next week, I’ll be turning 52. (If you’d like to celebrate with me, why not pick out a gift from my Amazon wish list?) And you know what? I’m still lookin’ mighty foxy.
Right off the bat, this particular blog post might seem as if it's being sponsored by the National Institute for Rampant Narcissism, but bear with me. I have a genuine point here. It’s this: I’ve only spent about maybe ten years of my life accepting, and even appreciating and enjoying, the way I look. As a proportion of my overall span, it’s much too slim.
I hated during my teens how gangly I turned out, and how I towered over my classmates by a good foot or more. As a result, I hunched my shoulders, I hid in the shadows as much as possible, I effaced myself whenever I could. In my twenties I had a baby face; I looked like a twink of sixteen until the time I was thirty. I couldn’t bear to pass a mirror lest I see the horror that was my reflection. I passed my thirties feeling old and invisible, with an impending sense that my sex and social life would be done by the time I hit forty.
Now, I was indulging in my mental beatdown despite all kinds of evidence to the contrary. I was chased, pursued, and stalked by guys during my teens and twenties. My sex life continued unabated throughout my thirties—and the guys who wanted me weren’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination. When I hit 40, if anything, the number of offers and come-ons I received skyrocketed.
I’m not ever going to be one of those men that describes himself in an online profile as a sex bomb, or who is likely to self-assess as ‘hot, hot, HOT!’ on Scruff. My ego might be monstrous, but it’s not quite all that all-devouring. (Yet.) I know my appeal is actually quite modest. If a guy finds me attractive, that’s fine by me. It’s another entirely to attempt to convince others I’m the VGL guy of their dreams.
But hey. During those moments I’m fond of my modest good looks and express that happiness on occasion (or even relentlessly), nobody minds. When I’m on my personal Facebook account and toss up a photo or two that I like of myself and comment, “Looking foxy!”, most people take the self-assessment in the good-hearted spirit in which it was intended. And you know why? It’s because the majority of people have so much god-damned negativity about their own appearances that it’s probably refreshing to see a damned fool grinning and enjoying himself.
But as one old geezer speaking to, well, you, I’d just like to say this: it’s a lot more pleasant to live appreciating yourself, and appreciating the way you look, than it is to whine and moan and scowl at your reflection whenever you’re in the vicinity of a mirror. You’ll be happier, letting go of all that negative shit you’ve believed about yourself all your life. You’ll be confident. Other people will find you confident as well, and admire you for it. Truth.
So here are a few precepts that might just help you navigate that road to positivity. Am I a mental health expert? Nah. Just a guy who spent too much time loathing himself when he was pretty all right, all along.
1. No one regards your lack of self-esteem as a virtue. Neither should you. So many people invoke their low self-esteem to protect themselves from the outside world and all the terrors it contains. When poked or disturbed, they exclaim “But I have low self-esteem!” as if that answer will explain their general inaction in any aspect of their life. They have self-esteem issues thanks to their bad childhoods, their bad relationships, their sexuality, their other-ness.
Whatever. Nobody really cares. Stop announcing to all and sundry that you have problems with self-esteem. It’s unbecoming, and solves nothing. Nobody’s going to tiptoe around you or love you more because you’re clutching that low self-esteem to your chest like your great-granny clutches her shawl.
Are you fortunate enough to be alive, healthy, have most of your limbs intact? Do you have a comfortable home instead of shuffling from war zone to war zone as a refugee? Are you Ebola-free? Then you’re pretty damned lucky that low self-esteem is the biggest of your problems.
2. The one surefire cure to low self-esteem is to esteem the fuck out of yourself. Seeking a remedy from the outside isn’t going to work; other people have probably held you in high regard all along, right? Have their pep talks and reassurances worked, in the long run? Nope.
The only thing that’s going to turn around that negative attitude of yours is a determination to be—and stay—positive. Find the shit you like about yourself and like it a hell of a lot more. If you’ve got changes to make, change them—then instead of focusing on how much more there is to go, celebrate each and every victory. Stop avoiding the mirror. Look it full on and revel in the small details you actually enjoy about yourself. Do it today, do it tomorrow, and most importantly, keep doing it day after day. Every time.
3. Cultivate and advertise your strengths. Rather than gripe about and apologize for your thousands of flaws, focus on the good stuff. Make it gooder . . . er, better. Don’t write a sex profile that reads Age is only a number and even though I’m 52 I still feel like a 29-year old on the inside or Hey, my body’s not the best, I know, but I’m going to join a gym this year I swear. These ads are out there in abundance, and the kick-me desperation they reek will put off anybody and everybody. Fuck that.
Has my body ever been the best, at any point in my life? Nope. (This confession might come as news to those of you who send me photos of super-buff porn actors and inquire if that’s what I look like.) Does it limit my sex life? Also nope. I nail super-hot guys and actual porn actors with enviable frequency because I don’t try to hide my physique and because I advertise my other strengths instead: big dick, experience, skill at what I do. I’m never going to post shirtless shots of my physique. My sexual confidence and expertise, however, is more than going to make up for it.
Are you a good performer in bed? Advertise that. Do you have above-average oral skills? Advertise those. (But please avoid that phrase, Guys tell me I can suck the chrome off a bumper! For one thing, advertising that you remember the days bumpers were made of chrome dates you. For another, it sounds painful. I really don’t want the dermis stripped off my dick.) Do you really know what you’re doing when you give a gum job? Someone out there’s going to want to try. Do you give the best foot service in town? Make people aware (and send me your number). Are the times you’re available attractive to the lunchtime married man crowd? Let them know. Have you got a great sense of humor? Let it shine in your profile. Those are the things that are going to get you attention—not lame apologies.
4. That gay you think you’re supposed to be? You don’t have to be that. Not ever. Substitute the word ‘straight’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘bi’ for the word gay in that sentence, if it applies to you. The point is that you don’t have to conform to any stereotypes. You don’t have to do it to get laid. You don’t have to do it in order to find someone. Nor do you have to do it to live a happy life.
If the pursuit of a summer bod in the middle of January is making you miserable and guilty because you’re preferring to stay at home and watch old Gilmore Girls episodes on Netflix, go spend an evening with the residents of Star’s Hollow. If you’re a twenty-five-year-old guy who’s hiding his attraction to older men because your friends think it’s disgusting to be seeing someone older, get up, get out, and go hunting for your perfect daddy. If you’re miserable being out at the bar drinking and yelling “YASSSSS” to anything and everything, leave the table and go somewhere more congenial to you, whether it’s to a Gay Geeks meeting, a karaoke dive, or to the movies. You don’t to be the bear who says WOOF! the most, who decorates his apartment with paws and claws and the bear pride flag.
You don’t have to remain unhappy and closeted, just so you don’t make waves. Likewise, you don’t have to be straight person who marries his or her high school sweetheart and works in the family business, just to please your mom and dad. You don’t have to follow the paths they followed, or tread unwelcoming roads simply because everyone else in your college class did.
But do yourself this favor. If you find yourself feeling you have to live a certain way—whether it’s saying things you don’t want to say, professing beliefs you don’t believe, doing things you don’t want to do, or publicly shunning sexual acts you secretly crave—take ten minutes, a half hour, a week, and really think about the reasons you’re going through with that shit. I’m willing to bet that under scrutiny, you’ll realize that attempting to live up to the expectations of others at the expense of your own desires is making you miserable.
Your life is too short to spend it in misery.
5. Attempt the Handsomeness Experiment. Several years ago I wrote about the Handsomeness Experiment in one of my blog entries. A good friend and former lover of mine had a very difficult time accepting the fact that I found him desirable. Extremely handsome, even. In a post-coital moment, he murmured that I made him feel like an entirely different person.
I suggested that he give himself to be an entirely different person. Just for a day.
Much to my surprise, my friend decided to give it a shot. He got up the next morning and wrestled with the decision for a few minutes, but ultimately decided to spend one day—just twenty-four hours—walking through his life while pretending he was a handsome and desirable fellow, instead of the freakish gargoyle he apparently liked to fancy himself. He looked cute guys in the eye when they talked to him. He walked like a handsome man. He interacted with others not in a way designed to hide from them, or to efface himself, but in the way he believed a handsome man might.
Improbable as it might sound, the experiment really tickled and amazed him. Strangers responded to him differently. A barista gave him a free cookie. A free cookie. In my universe, a free cookie is like a direct tap on the shoulder from God, giving the thumbs-up. For the first time in thirty years, my friend actually felt handsome.
So this is my advice to those of you who need a little foxiness in your lives: give yourself permission to be handsome. Give yourself permission to be desirable. Give yourself permission to be lovable, and hot, and a sexual superstar. Maybe you won’t feel it at first, but get out of your home and, with the world as your stage, act all those things. Act the hell out of it, even just for one day. Then maybe another. Then maybe some more after that.
And if you can’t give yourself the permission? Take mine. I grant it willingly. You deserve to feel good about yourself—at any age.