I recently returned from a weekend in Cape Town. It was a fantastic trip. I got to see friends I haven’t seen in years, I got to marvel in awe (don’t tell the Capetonians) at just how supernaturally beautiful their city is, and I hypothetically shopped up a storm (I always blow my money on eating out and going for cocktails, so those Diesel jeans were spotted just one sushi platter too late).
And like any obedient gay boy, I dragged myself to the Greenpoint strip on the Friday night to squeak some tekkie and mingle with the famously attractive locals.
My evening at Beulah and Bronx started off much like any other on my previous forays into the Mother City. I met up with friends, arrived already a bit smashed, and discovered to my surprise that I knew quite a few other people who were out that night.
That was to initiate a series of surprises: the next being that one of my friends seemed to know the guy I had been eyeing out at the bar. He came over to chat, and introductions followed.
I would like to claim that I’m an old-enough soul to be drawn to any number of people, but I’m not. I have a very specific type. And he was exactly it: muscular, dark-haired and cocky.
My friends dutifully scattered to other corners of the bar, and left surfer boy and me to exchange life stories, phone numbers and the correct spellings of our surnames for Facebook purposes. The conversation flowed. We bought each other drinks. We moved on to the dance floor. It was all going according to plan.
Until, halfway through what I thought was a particularly witty anecdote of mine, he leant into my ear and said to me, “You know Al, you’re a very attractive guy, don’t get me wrong, but you’re too old for me.” Now can you all please take a moment to put down your mineral waters and let this sink in: I am 24 years old. He was 22.
Had my moment of glory passed before I’d even filed my first tax return?
I was so taken aback by the ridiculousness of the statement that I just laughed, bought myself another drink and made a mental note to ask my therapist why it is that I’m always so attracted to jackasses (It’s your father, she’d say). It wasn’t until I was lying in bed the next morning that the full weight of what had just happened hit me.
Was I really already too old for some people? I had always joked with my brothers that gay years are like dog years – they rack up pretty quickly and you’re over the hill by the time you’re thirty. But it was funny then because it wasn’t so close to the bone. Had my moment of glory passed before I’d even filed my first tax return?
I remember when I was eighteen I had a boyfriend who was twenty-four and I wince now to recall how I thought of him as an “older guy”. I certainly don’t feel like an older guy. I feel exactly the same as when I was eighteen.
And I suppose that is the terrifying thing about ageing – you never really feel any different. You just see your body change around you and notice that in the eyes of the world you are becoming increasingly invisible.
I have witnessed people in middle age go through it, and it is a cruel process. Allegedly it makes you stronger and purer: You can let go of the superficial, let go of other people’s expectations, and find your inner core beauty. But it is a life-lesson for a different phase of my life. It certainly shouldn’t start happening in my early twenties – a time which is all about adventure and beginnings and the sexual virility of ego and ambition and ascent.
I was humbled that night, but I choose not to become old and wise because of it. Instead, I’ll blame it on the unflattering lighting in Bronx, and be truly grateful, for once, that I live in a small town where I’m still cool, still attractive, and, dare I say it, still young enough.