Reflections On 40
Age 39 (Thinking about what's coming)
I began to think about this around age 39
I never thought I'd live to be forty. OK, I didn't expect to be dead by that age but it seemed so far off. Forty is something that will happen tomorrow but yet it got here anyway.
The trouble with the future is; it keeps getting closer and closer and then it's already gone. Only then, do we wonder where the time went.
The hardest thing for me about turning 40 was the loss of the ability to bargain with time. Ever notice how we take cabs, fax documents, nuke our food or send mail priority, but time marches on anyway.
I never feared anything, because if somehow, something failed me, I knew I could start over. Now I wonder if I'll have time. My father died when he was 49. Now every holiday seems like a race, a marker or a guidepost. And for the first time in my life I think about a world without Mark in it.
I don't like to sleep, I always think of it as "little pieces of death." But I find I have to sleep. Even into my early 30s I worked two jobs. I could go to bed at 5am get up at 7am and make it through the day. True each year it got harder but it was possible. Now if I don't get sleep I actually, physically hurt. My bones ache, my heart beats out of kilter and I feel like someone put my mind in a blender. I feel like -- well, death, warmed over, but death nonetheless
And now these feelings seem to be picking up speed and every once in a while, "old man death" does seem to peaking in a window. I don't want to die, but what are my odds of not doing so. I mean if Einstein can't beat death what chance do I have, practically none.
I know everyone has to die but I always thought they'd make an exception for me.
Guess not, hell I may live to be 95. Hmmm, what will I do with all that time. These are my reflections on turning 40 and the decade that follows
Age 39½ (What is old?)
I read in the Chicago Tribune a poll in which they asked at what age "middle age" begins.
Ages 39 and under - 17%
Age 40 - 29%
Age 45 - 22%
Age 50 - 21%
Age 65 - 7%
Non age responses - 4%
The "non age responses" were such responses as "middle age begins when you constantly think about death." Or it begins when you notice your furniture and clothes stay the same but the styles have long since changed." "When you're a male and hair plugs and a sports car replace common sense." Or "When Viagra is no longer a recreational drug." And of course the ever popular, "You're only as young as you feel." Which not only is a lie but doesn't even answer the question
I love the 7% who said middle age begins at age 65, I guess they are planning to live to 130.
Age 39¾ (That Nice Young Man -- No More)
All my life I was "that nice young man." Even when I was 38 years old strangers were still referring to me as "that nice young man." Then shortly after my 38th birthday, it became "excuse me sir," I remember when I went to work at The Whitehall Hotel and my staff called me by my last name. I kept looking around for my father.
I recall the day when it first hit me for real I was old. And it was re-enforced in one day. I had gone to get a haircut and I was offered a senior discount by a young girl, around 20 who was working the cash register. Now at first I was put off but I realized that the girl at the register was like 20 and as a friend of mine said, "When you're twenty anyone over 30 looks ancient." So that didn't bother me; what did is when the older lady, who cut my hair and who looked about my age, came over to the young cashier and failed to correct her.
So I came back to tell my story to my staff and I said that I had this story about a young girl cashier and this little old lady cutting my hair. One of my staff laughed and said "Mark if she is OLD than so are you? You said she was your age."
It was a mind-blowing event. I saw that lady, as being old, even though she was my age. How come when I looked in the mirror I didn't look old? I still looked 25? Right? Well more or less, let's not debate 5 or 10 years.
Age 40 (Best Used By Age 40)
I feel like some of the best years of my life are ahead of me. I am holding my own physically though I know it's a losing battle. But I am much more empathetic than I ever was. I can understand things that puzzled me before. And I have a thirst for knowledge. I am never lonely, though I am alone. The world is too full of things to do to be lonely. I want to know things now. But when I look around seems like every sign, every advertisement is aimed at people under 40.
I recall walking thru a mall and there was a shop aimed at people over 40 years old. They had a t-shirt that said "Help me use it so I don't lose it." Not only is that horribly inappropriate but it's just gross, not to mention a waste of money.
Now people make age jokes on greeting cards they can give you. Well no one gives me cards, but OK I'll admit it, I browse the Hallmark aisle and look at the cards. But I don't cry, usually.
I went to Jewel (a grocery store in Chicago) and looked before I wrote this. Here is what you get in the over 40 bin.
Make sure you put 911 on the speed dial
No need to panic, you can fit your fat ass in the mirror.
Keep your Polygrip handy so you teeth don't end up on her "stuff" Stuff?
When you're ten years old, Frosted Flakes are your cereal, when you're 40 years old; they're a group of your best friends. (I'll admit I don't get that one)
And to make matters worse I some one slipped this into the "over 40 section." It's of Lucy and Linus (of the comic strip Peanuts talking)
Lucy) Happy 29th Birthday
Linus) Oh come on, no one lives to be THAT old.
So I guess the message is now you're over the hill when you're 30.
But then let's face it, if life were TV, teenagers would be 25, mom and dad would be 33, and grandma would be a horny 85 year old with an incredibly active sex life BUT portrayed by a 50 year old.
And no one has done drugs and everyone was at Woodstock.
Life is not TV, but it's funny how TV is full of reality shows.
Age 41 (Fabulous At Forty NOT )
The gay community seems to have a youth obsession and that is OK to a degree and I can't disagree with the fact when I was young I never would have went out with a 40 year old no matter how hot. But the gay community seems to have a lack of respect for older people, and I will give the young 'uns the argument, the older folk can come off as pushy and frankly scary
Gay or straight, male or female, I hate all those "it's fabulous to be fifty " or "sixty is the new forty", slogans. Yeah right. I mean I don't see anyone my age jumping for joy over the "liver spots," that now start appearing in weird areas. Or cheering for the skin that can be slimy in one spot and rough as an alligator two inches away. Or those "man breasts" that seem to be all the rage now.
As if all we have to do is drink 7up or Sprite to restore our youth. Where are the toothless grins, the paunchy bellies, and the balding heads?
Let's face it being forty basically amounts to bending over to tie your shoe and then asking yourself, "What else can I do since I'm already down here?" It means getting up hearing old man noises when you stand and looking for your father, who isn't there of course. Now just how IS the cat making that noise?
But it's not a total loss you do get perspective. And that is amazing. For instance when I was young I never could understand why people cheat on each other. I still don't approve of this but I really understand now WHY people cheat. I also learned to understand something doesn't mean you condone it.
I understand how a boy can be a rapist, or even a killer and still be a good person. Yes it's possible. I also see that life is precious and not everyone deserves it.
Age 42 (Madison Avenue Speaks)
Keeping up the body is hard, and for me it's ridiculous because as much as I try I'm always competing against the young kids and losing. Of course I am going to lose. Running 60 minutes on a treadmill is good but even an out of shape of 25 year old that smokes will beat me. Why? His body hasn't deteriorated yet.
I will give Madison Avenue a bit of credit; they at least TRY to make youth of today serious. I mean you see all these sexual spicy ads of men and women, one step away from soft porn, but they are always doing things like "having a bull session," or something otherwise to detract from their body. But we all know if we bought those pants we could have cool conversations too. I know I have a pair of those pants and I am talking to you via the Internet now. Well sort of.
I recall the days when flight attendants were all women called stewardesses. The media sure made them fun. They were all female, young, perky, single, under 25 and all had names like Jackie. "Hi, I'm Jackie come fly me," and you just know they were only working for "fun" or till they got married. Surely not for a career or self-realization. And this isn't far from the truth. Did you know at one time a stewardess wasn't allowed any physical abnormalities? Even wearing glasses was out.
But every time I get on a plane I bemoan the wrinkled up old hags, and the one effiminate homosexual that seems to be constantly tittering and flitting about. Those "flight attendants," as they are now called, are serving me coffee while acting like I barely have right to exist, much less fly on their precious plane. For some reason these women think they're GOD because they fly up there around him. Still would you rather have this older experienced woman or a young goofy girl in case of an emergency? You tell me.
Age 43 (Acting your age)
I try to be 42, though I must admit it's kind of hard. There are so many things you can't do at age 42 that you can do when you're younger; such as ride the racecar or the merry-go-round in front of the K-Mart.
But if I ever feel the need to run with the shopping cart and jump on it for a ride, I now have the dignity to wait till the night and do it in the grocery store parking lot where no one can see me.
Back in vaudeville there was a woman called Sophie Tucker. For 50 years she was billed as "the last of the red hot mamas." The first time I heard this, my first thought was, "that is a long time to be a red hot mama." My second thought was "That's a long time to be the last of anything as well."
But Sophie was cool, she knew if she was to be a success she had to age with her act. Though she was never a slender glamour girl, she used to sing a song called If You Can't See Mama Every Night (You Can't See Mama At All) this was fine when she was still young and curvaceous. You just looked at her and knew she had the "stuff" and that she didn't have to put up with anything from a man who didn't see her side. To her credit the song worked.
Decades later she was still "the last of the red hot mamas," but old, wrinkled and to put it charitably, fat. BUT and here's the great thing, she now sang the same song but with a pistol in each hand. And it worked; of course now we knew what would happen if didn't see your mama every night one of those pistols just might go off.
Age 44 (Success)
At lot of us our poor and unhappy till we turn 40. By then we are used to it. The funny thing is; measured in terms of a human being, I'd say I was very successful, but in real life term, you know the bucks I am not.
And I don't know why I am not more successful. Even complete strangers don't know. Many times I see people point to me and say "My God! What in the world is holding that man up?"
Ironically I was probably better off at 22 financially, then I am now. For some reason my financial reverses came late in life, just when I discovered the necessity of having cash to get a date. Not that the kids ask, that would be in poor taste, but wherever there is a 20 or 30 something male and his 40 something partner there is more than an exchange of mutual love and admiration going on.
I had my own experience with this. He was 22 years old from Montana. He arrived in Chicago, and I was more interested in the fact that he got his network TV on cable from the Denver Designated Market Area rather than his cuteness.
Of course there are all kinds of cute, though he was certainly attractive enough and I could see his sexuality. Still about 98% of me wanted to ruffle up his hair, pat him on the head and buy him an ice cream cone. That is about the limit of my parental feelings.
For almost a year on Manhunt.net he kept asking me to go out. I said "no," But after a year I said "OK," after all no one else in that year would go out with me, and I was 40 (at the time). I made arrangements to meet him at Borders in Streeterville. I was very excited; I could get there early and read the books for free. I passed a youth smoking out in front, and went in. I got my coffee, and book, of which I had no intention of buying. I mean a book on birds? Get real who pays $112.00 for a book about birds. They're pretty but when all is said and done, they are just birds.
My date came over to me and introduced himself. He was the one smoking the cigarette. OK this is a good thing. First he smokes and second he looked so little like his photo I walked right by him when I walked into the store. Probably because he had that stupid haircut where guys comb it to a point. I have nothing against that haircut but if you want a Mohawk be a MAN and get real Mohawk.
Well now we're 15 minutes into the date and this ain't working. He keeps looking at his watch. He's going to meet his friend at Sidetracks, a local gay establishment in one hour. I can take a hint so I suggest that since he seems preoccupied with his watch, perhaps we should just call it a night.
He says "OK," but assures me we'll "talk" online. Like that's supposed to be "some big thrill" for me. I then expect him to get up be he isn't going anywhere. I offer up the fact that I'm going to stay and finish my coffee and look around.
He says "well you know, it's just me and my friends, on Manhunt, you know, ah we, well ah, when we keep company with you older gentleman, we find you guys like to compensate us for our time. I was taken a bit aback. Now I'd talk to him over a year online and he never ONCE mentioned money. "People pay you?" I asked. "Yes," he said rather proudly, "in my EXPERIENCE the USUAL amount is fifty dollars." I reached in my pocket, took out two quarters, gave them to him and said "Here's fifty cents, now you can go back and tell all your friends on Manhunt you just had an UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE.
And I have found this pretty much to be the angle of every young guy since I turned 40. They think 40 = success, and they deserve part of your success. Of course not all young guys want money, one wanted a bed. I guess if you take $300 for sex it makes you a whore, but if you get a $300 bed you are a "receiver of gifts."
Age 45 (Don't Look Back)
I hate people who say they have no regrets. If you're 40 years old and don't regret anything, honestly you have never lived. I regret just about everything, after all I should be much more than I am and it's got to be someone's fault, other than mine of course.
Some people live in their past, even if their past ain't that great. I still don't understand this.
I won't say I never look back. If there is a hot guy, walking the other way, I'll look back. Hell I'd get whiplash. I was always proud of the fact that I wasn't one of those old people who constantly talked about the past, until I realized it's because basically I haven't got one. And then I realized that this entire website is a way of recollecting things. But unlike those other old people I'm interesting.
One of the nicest and most influential people in my life once said to me he couldn't be my friend, because he had too much "baggage." I told him "so what? I have a luggage cart." I mean after 40 years on earth I'm not a kid any more and I have figured out my share of things. One thing is, if you have baggage, get a luggage cart. Makes sense doesn't it.
Age 46 (Hair)
I have never been a hairy guy. In fact I can shave at 8am on Monday and by 5pm on Tuesday more than 24 hours later, I can almost get away without looking like I need a shave. Since I turned 40 hairs have been turning up everywhere. I don't understand how I can look at my ear and have no hairs and 24 hours later have one long hair 6 inches protruding from my ear. I mean you try to keep up with things like ear hair, but it still sneaks up on you.
Then there is the hair on the back. What is this about? Where did it come from? I never had hair on my back or shoulders. I didn't even know anyone had it on their shoulders till one day I saw Homer Simpson shaving his shoulders. I don't have a lot; probably no more than 10 hairs but it bugs me. Where did it come from?
I thought about waxing or sugaring. I've tried sugaring and it does work but not as good, like waxing. I can deal with the pain of waxing after all the hair's gone for weeks instead of 8 hours with Nair or shaving.
Fortunately I have had decades to deal with my gray hair. I first found a gray hair on my 27th birthday. I can't tell if I was prematurely gray or if it was because I was living in my car at the time. Maybe the stress made me gray.
I know have gray hair in my eyebrows. I tried plucking it out, and found out I had two holes in my eyebrows. Now if I don't want to look stupid I have to spend $7 on hair dye to dye 2 inches of gray eyebrow hair
Age 47 (Life is a worry)
The one thing I truly miss as I age is the ability to see things as an adventure. I remember when I was young, I lived in my car, I hitchhiked, I took stupid chances and I didn't care.
I mean as strange as it seems when you're 23 and sleeping in a brand new city in your car, it's an adventure. Now I'm afraid to walk off the subway at 1am. After all those roving gangs of females can not only beat me up but they can out run me as well.
If you can believe this, because I can't believe I did this but I did. One time I decided to move to Washington DC. On the afternoon I was going to leave, my oil light came on in my car. The mechanic said, "it's gonna cause you issues so you need to get it taken care of soon. You'll notice as soon as you go over 25 mph the light goes off, because the engine gets enough pressure. So there is no immediate danger, but get it fixed soon."
I said "Well I'll be traveling 700 miles to Washington DC and it's expressway all the way. I'll be going over 25 mph all the way, so I'll be fine," and I left. I don't know if this is guts or the stupidity of youth. But I kind of miss that feeling and the adventure of it.
I once saw my life as an adventure. Now it seems to be a worry. It's always about planning. Especially when you're gay. Most of us don't have children to take care of us. Some of us with older partners worry about taking care of them should they get sick. Those with younger partners wonder if they are going to leave them for someone younger or healthier.
Ages 48 (May I help you?)
I never needed help, in reality I look like a skinny guy, but I am very strong. I remember last year I started to get asked by the checkout clerks in grocery stores if I needed help carrying my groceries out. Then one day after coming up from the subway I had a "kid" of about 25 come over to me and asked me if I needed help carrying my groceries. He explained he didn't want an old guy like me to strain myself.
Last year I also got the bus drivers that are now automatically lowering the bus, you know making it kneel, so we "old folks" can get on it easier. Every time a bus driver does this for me, I want to cuss him out, except it actually does help.
Age 49 (When is someone gonna love me who isn't a cat?)
I'm now past 40 and everyone thinks by now I should've had a boyfriend. Isn't that too much of a generalization? That's like going up to a 78 year old guy and saying "When are you gonna break your hip. All your friends have broken their hip, what are you waiting for?"
Once you're over 40 you find yourself going to bed slightly earlier each year. I know some young people who tell me they are in bed everyday by 8pm. This made me feel better, of course that is, till I stopped to think they are probably not ALONE in their bed.
I am 42 years old. I am single. I am ready to have a boyfriend. But I am as far from that goal now as when I was teenager. In fact part of the reason I'm not more success with the big bucks is that I wasted so much time trying to get a date.
I am never lonely but I'm always alone. And some people thinks that's an age thing but it's not, I've always been alone, it's just being alone after 40 is scarier.
I make a lot of effort to meeting men. I go to bars, join clubs, professional organizations, hell I joined the Gay Rodeo. Half the people tell me I try too hard and the other half tell me I should be doing more. For four years I didn't try I concentrated on my career, not only didn't I get a date, I got laid off.
Last year one of my staff told me I could have a boyfriend in 30 days if I really tried.
But she was wrong, it's simple, there are NO men. Period. End of story. ANYTHING but it's not my fault.
I scare men. That's right; my body is too kickass; I'm too talented; my 155 IQ, is too high; men are afraid of me.
At least that's the explanation all the single women my age use. They, like me, are too fabulous. There is something flattering about knowing that I'm too intimidating that is also a great comfort. If I weren't so fabulous I'd find love.
It's bull and I know it.
Even prisoners get married in prison. Ted Bundy was getting marriage proposals on death row. I saw a homeless man and a homeless woman walking alone hand and hand to the Salvation Army. Ugly fat women get married. Don't believe me? Go to city hall and check out the people getting wedding licenses. Talk about f-ulgy. Even Hitler had a girlfriend that loved him enough to kill herself over him. Now that I think of it she married him first before killing herself. But that's another chapter.
I'm 42 and never had a boyfriend. I've only dated two people and the longest of that was 3 weeks. So there it is. There must be something horribly wrong with me. And no one in the entire world will tell me what it is. They all want to be mean to me just because I'm so fabulous. That just the way it is.
Of course you know I love the personal ads. I've learned a lot. I love the reply I got today saying, "You seem so nice, too bad you're so old." I guess he told me; it was nice of him to say so, I didn't even have to ask.
I like the one from a 28 year old who told me "Please do not write me I would have no interest in you. " Now I never contacted him at all, that was his initial contact with me.
Since when did being over 40 mean an automatic rejection? I felt like showing him a mirror.
But I damn it! I want a boyfriend so I go on.
And I want someone who wants me, not someone who just feels sorry for me. I remember when my sister was 28 she married a man. I didn't think much of him but it was her life. She told me the reason she was getting married was she was 28 and tired of looking and wanted to married and he was willing. What an awful thing I thought. I mean I didn't think much of the man, but still, I think one of the worst feelings in the world would be to find out 25 years after you married someone, the only reason she married you was because she couldn't do any better.
Online love is supposed to be the hot thing. But the few replies I get are usually lists of things, or by people so jaded they tell me off before the second sentence. One guy told me he hated the whole concept of dating, he despised it. His ad said he didn't want sex. However I don't do instant boyfriend. Why'd he even bother writing?
I get a lot of hostile faceless guys. I don't get this concept. I mean not showing your face to me is like going to a bar and putting a bag over your head and trying to talk to someone. As if I see a picture of someone's penis and would run to go out with him without seeing what it's attached to. And I know I am not a handsome man but I don't care to go out with someone with a hot body that's attached to a mess of ugly either.
The bars are no better. I don't drink so I wind up spending $2.50 on diet coke and easily consume $50 worth of diet coke in a bar. I don't smoke, and in 21 years of being able of going to a bar, I have never ONCE went up to a guy in a bar and had him like me back.
When I was 21 I went to a bar in Chicago called Sidetracks. It was a bunch of people standing around waiting for something better to come along. Twenty years later I went back and found a bunch of people standing around waiting for something better to come along.
I am use to the rejection, but I can't stand the look I get when I walk over to some guy and you can see the look on his face like, "Oh God please don't let that guy come over here. I'll go to church every Sunday for a year if you just make him keep walking past me."
On my 41st birthday I had an interesting concept. I wanted sex; after all it was my birthday. I put on my tank top and jeans and headed to the bar, thus Mark the slut wanted some BAD.
I decided since 21 was my lucky number and 21 was my birthday I'd go and see about that sex. I went up to 21 guys and got shot down 21 times. I wasn't there an hour.
One guy came up to me and seemed nice, till I told him I was 41 today, he said "Oh I didn't know you were THAT old," and got up and left.
Another guy came up to me and told me I had nice abs. I thanked him. He said that he didn't do it with anyone who didn't have washboard abs, and since I only had six-pack abs and not washboard abs he wasn't interested. I guess he told me. I didn't ask but he told me. All throughout his tirade I kept thinking, "Do you EVER get any?" I mean it's hard enough to get a six pack now I'm supposed to have washboard abs?
But I didn't give up. Days later for my birthday I had bought a book that tells the gay man how to "cruise" for guys in everyday situations. You know talk to them, feel them out, maybe get them to have coffee. I took notes. I went to the gym. I tried every technique. I struck out.
But on a positive note, I heard a song I liked playing in the health club. I asked the two girls at the front desk if they knew the name of the song but they didn't. Then one of them asked me "Hey we noticed you following those guys around." "Yeah," I said. The girl looked at me and quietly said, "Are you Narc?" <Sigh> I was so proud. I thought that would work. Oh well.
My dating pool has dwindled down right now to young kids looking for cash and older guys over 60. I guess to them I look like a young kid. It's no compliment when young people feel just because you're old you should be grateful that they would even look at you. I don't want someone who's never heard of Sheena Easton and I'm not looking for someone in the grandpa pool, yet anyway. Thus Mark stands convicted of agism as well as the young folk.
I love responses I get from 22 year olds, they ask "am I cute?" Of course you are; you're 22, at that age even if you're ugly, you're still cute.
People see my pic from when I was in my 30s and I say "I wish I looked that good now." They look at me now and say, "You still look good."
In some subtle way, this compliment doesn't bring me peace. Sure I may STILL look good but I don't look as good as I did and it's not going to get any better from this point on. Already I'm getting the "you look good for 42," which translates to "you look good but if I found out that you were really 35, then you'd not look so good after all."
OK well if I get to my fifties I wonder what it will be then. Hi ya daddy, I have a fetish, for old guys and you're it? This is what I have to look forward to? Young guys with a fetish? Crushes on TV hunks?
I also get "you have a smoking body," which translates to "your face sucks but your body is OK. Time for the old plastic surgery huh? I'd rather have a hot face then a hot body. You can always where oversized clothes and such to cover your body, what can you do with a face, put a bag over your head?
I guess I could have some plastic surgery and remove the pox marks or do something with my gray hair, or get my teeth whitened." But that takes money and truthfully when you add in the law of returns, it's kind of hard to justify a few thousand bucks at age 42, when I could realistically be dead in ten years. A few thousand bucks is a down payment on a new car. It isn't worth it, especially since I don't know if it'll help.
All things considered I don't mind being over 40. Ok now you all knew I was going to say this at the end, but it's true. It's also true that I'd rather be 25. But that ain't going to happen.
Learning to accept what you can't change is hard, and for me it's still a process. Like finding love, would you believe I don't really care if I do. You probably think I'm lying but here's what I mean.
If you told me "Mark, you will live to be 65 years old. You will never find love or even come close." Now I wouldn't like that but I certainly could LIVE with it.
Believe it or not, I like life. There is so much to do. Places I've never seen, people to look at, to talk with, to help and things to cry over. I could be happy with just that. But I want love, and what bugs me is the "not knowing." If I knew I'd never find it, at least I wouldn't have to waste that time trying. Time is precious to me.
I hit my 42nd birthday still sexless and dateless, but I go on. I don't intend to quit trying for a date, for sex, or for a boyfriend. After all love is everywhere and the next ad I open could be the one.
Age 50 (The Choice is yours)
You can choose to get old or choose to get older.
I think I'll choose older. After all getting old is a destination, while getting older is a process. And really I don't mind aging.
Think about it, even before you are born, while you're in the womb, your cells divide, die off, and you age. So even before you're born you age, so that is why I don't really mind aging, after when you consider the alternative to aging, that is "not aging," it's not such a bad thing after all.
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