Age is Only a Number, Just Like Herpes is Only Cold Sore, The Musings of a Gay Man & Middle Age

Getting older can be hard, especially if you celebrating a mile stone birthday. This is my tongue & cheek way of dealing.

Gay Men over 35, raise your hand if you’ve heard this one, “No one over 30,” or “if you’re old enough to be my father I’m not interested,” then there’s the classic “old dudes don’t even try it.” These are just some of the profiles seen on Grindr or Scruff any other gay “dating” app out there. People are attracted to who they’re attracted too, but blatantly dismissing someone just because of age is not only hurtful, it makes you an asshole. Besides ‘old’ is relative, what’s old to someone might not be old to another. 

Playing devils advocate for a minute, yes there are creepy older guys out there that troll younger guys for whatever reason. In a lot of cases if the older guy has money that would be an incentive for younger gentleman to date someone older. Besides, when an older guy is with a younger guy it can help them keep ties to their own youth thus easing their own insecurities about getting older. That older gentleman will then turn into the ever mythical ‘sugar daddy.’ Trust me they are real. Having a sugar daddy was never my thing, but I never judged the guys I knew who had one. In other cases the older guy is just a perv and he’s trying to live out some weird daddy son fantasy to fill the void his emotionless alcoholic father left imprinted on his psyche. But that’s a whole other blog, today I want to talk about agism, gay men and getting older in what some might say is a community that’s obsessed with youth and looks. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a subject that’s easy for me to talk about, I’m just trying to put my best foot forward. I look in the rear view mirror and I see my own mortality catching up to me faster then scared suburban Evangelicals running into the arms of white Jesus or Mike Pence, who I assume are the same person. Kind of like Superman and Clark Kent they’ve never been seen in the same room together. 

My biggest worry about aging? I worry about who’s going to run my Facebook page when I’m gone? Which is a sick thought in the first place. Most people worry about the legacy they are leaving behind, but all I can think about is if the person posting under my name is still sharing edgy borderline offensive posts that will either piss off Republican’s, Evangelicals, or my mom. If you can piss off all three at the same time you get bonus points. 

Apparently, and no one really told me, this aging thing happens to everyone, even aged obsessed gay guys. Some of these “men” don’t emotionally mature past the age of 20 maybe 25, 30 if they are lucky. We’re out at the clubs, at the gym, or on Grindr jumping from bed to bed or in relationships for a very short time. You do the walk of shame exiting the bath house at 7am coming down from molly, coke, weed, or whatever drug your disco pharmacologist prescribed to you the night before. Then without warning it dawns on you that today is your 40th birthday. You think to yourself, “I was only 25 when I checked in last night. What the hell, how long was I in there?” 

Where does the time go? I look in the mirror and I’m lucky I guess, I still recognize myself. I really have no wrinkles. My hair is pretty much the same. I’m not balding, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Bald guys are hot. I keep in pretty good shape and I’ve been told that I look like I’m in my mid-thirties and I should be able to tell people that I’m in my mid-thirties. I mean what’s the point of looking like you’re in your thirties if you can’t lie about your age? Except for the fact that my husband who never seems to age outed me to everyone. Even though he’s as insecure about his age as I am mine, he’s much better at dealing with the reality of age and much more mature about it. Also, our daughter is 27. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above dragging her into my vain and narcissistic illusion that I’m still in my thirties. I’m not proud, I’d totally throw $50 bucks at her to tell people she’s my sister.

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

Would you believe that there are people out there that don’t have a problem admitting how old they really are? These people will proudly tell anyone who asks them, they’re called lesbians. Since the Hubz outed me our lesbian friends along with everyone else we know, knows my real age, so when I try to lie about it they go after me faster then free tickets to an Indigo Girls concert. Thankfully, the lesbians in our group of friends are also environmentalists, so at the point when we are all at the bar together and I’m getting the lecture on how gay men can be so self serving and age obsessed I put a plastic straw in a nearby cocktail and watch all hell break loose. Soon my age is all but forgotten as I watch them berate the guy who suddenly found a plastic straw in his drink. I almost feel sorry for the poor bastard as he’s told that because he’s using a plastic straw he’ll usher in the end of days, but just to make it look good I join in on the berating. I mean what’s my age matter if we’re all gonna die anyway. 

I’m part of a coven of catty gay men, we tease each other incessantly. The teasing is out of fun and camaraderie, we laugh at ourselves as much as each other, never taking it so far that it’s insulting or hurtful. Among various other things we tease each other about our ages. Most of us are in our thirties and forties, some of our friends are in their twenties and sixties, so our group isn’t agist or anything else. Basically, if you want to be our friend just don’t be an asshole and know how to take a joke. Some gay men are so superficial, to be part of their lives you need a great body, money, nice things, and an attitude that’s a combination of bitchy queen and vacant cheerleader. These are the guys that have the hardest time realizing the party is coming to an end and not knowing who they are because that is how they’ve defined themselves since their twenties. All the sudden they are on the other side of Grindr reading the profile that says if you’re over 30 don’t even try it. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo Facebook

Staying relevant in an ever changing social media and technological landscape can be a challenge, it’s easy to feel old when you remember when refrigerators didn’t have TVs on the door and you know how to dial a rotary phone. When I was a kid I promised myself that technology would never be a stranger to me. I also promised myself I would know the difference between getting old and getting older and the difference between being alone and being lonely. Sadly some of us are so busy being superficial, living out the never ending party, always being careful to never get to close to anyone and looking for that next good time, we wake up one day realizing that our lives have suddenly passed us by. Middle age has set in and lot of gay men find themselves old and very lonely. I used to work with this older gay gentleman when I was a bartender in fine dining. His name was Walter and he was about three days older than God and so incredibly bitter that he hated just about everyone, especially other gay men who were happy. Years later my husband and I went to that particular restaurant for a cocktail. I had put my arm around my him, nothing lewd I mean it’s not like I shoved my tongue in his mouth, just my arm around his shoulder. I could hear Walter snarl from behind the waiters station, “hummmph, this IS NOT San Francisco.” I think Walter is dead now, I know for a fact he’s been dead on the inside for years. 

So, Monday November 4th is my birthday and instead of celebrating my 38th birthday for the 10th year in a row I’m going to celebrate my 50th. I was born at the tail end of 1969, the same year as the Stonewall Riots, the moon landing, and Sean Hayes (Jack) from “Will & Grace” was born. For some reason that makes me feel kind of empowered. I’m a proud part of Generation X. We’re Right in the middle of Boomers and Millennials. We’re the generation with a sense of humor and a sense of irony. We take things just seriously enough but have no issue telling the over sensitive or the over reactive to get over themselves and sarcasm is our weapon of choice. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

My secret to staying young? I keep laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my heart broken so bad I never thought I’d laugh again and family disfunction so messed up it makes the Manson Family look like the Brady’s. The dysfunctional family dynamic and toxic people that used to be in my life should have made me feel ‘old’ years ago, but that’s not who I am. I don’t let the hurtful things that life can throw at a person or my sexuality define me, so I’m sure as hell not going to let my age do that. Just like those other things, my age is only a small part of who I am. So, if you’re a gay man or anyone for that matter and you’re feeling your mortality here’s what I do. I laugh a lot and I find humor in the absurdity of life. I also find humor in myself, don’t ever be afraid to laugh at yourself, no one is perfect and sometimes we do dumb shit that’s funny. Surround yourself with good friends, but make it friends that will tell you like it is, not what you want to hear. Embrace your sexuality. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t sneak off when you’re at a boring dinner party and shag your husband or a guy you just met at said dinner party in Phyllis’ walk in closet. So you got a little cum on her Louis Vuitton Call Back Pumps. Phyllis has always been kind of a bitch anyway and besides she throws boring dinner parties. Remember to always embrace your youth because just like your inner child it will aways be there.

Stay young my friends and let me leave you with a parting piece of advice from someone far wiser than myself.

“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D.

Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.