Recently, in a locker room filled with mirrors, I had the privilege of finally seeing the two bald spots forming on my head. I’d known of their existence, but I’d never had the “pleasure” of seeing the thinning patches so clearly, undeniable proof of my age.
Instantly, I felt upset and then I felt upset about feeling upset as I’d made a deal with myself in my 20s to age “disgracefully”, avoiding tonics and surgeries to keep wrinkles and baldness at bay. All the same, I couldn’t shake my self-preference for a full head of hair, so I called a 55-year-old gay man who I respect very much and asked him for his advice on how to get over it. After a forty-minute conversation, here’s what I left with:
1. Most of it is all in your head
Your feelings about aging are not only near-universal (any insecurity or observation you can think of has probably been thought or felt by someone else), but they’re also only as important as you think they are, at least in terms of attractiveness. Yes, ageism is real in hook-up apps, the gay scene and the job market, but there are other ways to find (a) company, and worrying too much about rejection will only work against you rather than allowing you focus on everything else that makes you so worthwhile.
2. Exercise and dieting aren’t just for vanity
I usually workout and diet just to look good naked. As you age though, your lifelong eating and exercise habits have a direct impact on how well you breathe, pump blood, avoid broken bones and other injuries. In short, while many younger guys think of dieting and working out as a means towards a physically attractive end, the real benefits come as you age. As such, exercising and eating well shouldn’t just be about looking sexy, they should be about respecting and investing in your own long-term well-being. Luckily, it’s never too late to take up good nutrition or physical activity; they continue to provide benefits as long as you respect your limits and practice good form.
3. Younger and older friends keep you sharp
Bitterness is a choice. Yes, we’ve all been hurt (some more than others) and the world can be a shitty, unfair and awful place (quite often, in fact). But dismissing new trends and talking about how yesteryear was soooo much better are just unattractive expressions of fear. Time and life both change, and having young, hip friends and older, experienced ones will ensure that you maintain perspective, avoid stodginess and have your outlooks challenged. Listen to innovative music, get cutting-edge opinions, eat new foods — live, damn you. LIVE!
4. Aging is sexy
You know those perfectly manicured, athletic underwear models you keep drooling over in porn and fitness mags? Some of us dated and slept with them and they weren’t all that. Oh sure, a few of them were great, but after being fed their images as the end-all-be-all of manliness our entire lives, we just realized there’s a lot more to manhood than perpetual youth. Grey hair, wrinkles, baldness and bellies all have serious appeal as trademarks of experience. And some men who couldn’t rely solely on their looks ended up learning a myriad of hot ways to seduce you, both intellectually and physically.
5. It’s all about inhabiting your body at every stage
Rather than trying to cling onto your lost youth/glory days (mid-life crisis, anyone?), accepting our aging helps us realize the impermanent beauty of now and live as our present selves — the very goals of most psychoanalysis and meditation. Considering how many of our elders got wiped out by HIV, there’s a gift to aging and to serving as an example of how wonderful, exuberant and vital one can be in their later years. If you want Botox, minoxidil or any other anti-aging treatments, go ahead — no judgement! You do you, boo! Just remember, your body is merely a shell — what matters most is your spirit within and how humanely you express it.
(featured image via Bruce La Bruce’s 2013 intergenerational romance Gerontophilia — watch online)