In her book “How to Grow Old Disgracefully”, the actress Hermione Gingold remarked: “There’s nothing so ageing as the past – especially when it catches up with you. I like to live in the present”. How gay was Hermione? Well for starters her sister Angela Baddeley played iconic Mrs Bridges in the 70’s TV drama Upstairs Downstairs (? ask yer mum), Hermoine sang Sondheim on Broadway in A Little Night Music and if that wasn’t camp enough, she also found herself a lover when she was age 84. He was 21.
She called him Little Big Boy and said it was the best relationship in all her life. She continued, “He moved into my apartment and we lived together for five happy years, which was longer than I lived with either of my husbands. In many ways, we were perfectly suited. In spite of the age difference, we enjoyed the same things, he was independently wealthy, and we made each other laugh. We had a marvelous sex life too. Although I must confess that after I turned 85, I found sex wasn’t as important to me as it had been when I was 80″. She wrote, “This confession surprises even me, because up till then, I had always been a sex maniac”. Gay man trapped in a female body?
LIVING IN THE PRESENT is the key to harmonious living, at any age, and a perfect antidote to fear based projection. Plan ahead but don’t live in it. Because what you focus on expands, it’s best if you focus only on the footwork, not the destination. In my view; goals trainings, resolutions are only visions if you are not interested in the journey and it’s the journey that provides the lessons, intrigue and growth. I found that my own solution to ageing resided with where I had come from, and where I was going and in order to look at one I needed to discover the other. Approaching 50 I began to travel extensively and found that I had nothing in common with the hetero ” Young At Heart ” Saga type packages overflowing with couples who didn’t speak to each other, other than when they were flashing pics of grandchildren before my eyes. I thought at the time – is that all they live for? So once again in my life I didn’t fit in, but then again this is my key to ageing – don’t fit in to ageist philosophy.
There is a validated heterosexual vision of growing older, although this is changing rapidly with divorce figures between 50 & 60 the highest in any age band. Gayers have an open field with hardly any child dependent responsibilities but no clear vision of what the alternative is, we are experimenting, not quite as boldly as Hermoine did but quite close. So in order to look forward, I looked back to gay history for the answer. I picked up Rictor Norton’s Mother Clapps Molly House in ‘93 at a time of chronic homophobia, a long term Conservative government still hell bent on Clause 28 and no solution for AIDS. No one thought we would reach old age but here we are living la vida loca.
By connecting to the past, the present became validated including political struggle and it’s solutions. My story will become someone else’s intrigue. In order to eradicate the fear of ageing I needed to connect with older gayers and their own personal history plus examining at close hand what being older meant. A few streets away from where I live is a senior gay of 84 and unlike Hermoine he has SEVERAL lovers, and all without using the internet, cruising grounds or cottages. He is like a man magnet. He has a vitality and sprint in his step that knocks out the vision of faded gayers living alone with the gas fire on. He is my hero. He knocks on my door sometimes with a bag of porn DVDs or VHS Tapes in case “I could use them” LOL.
I suggest that you find a gay dad/grandad to nurture, learn from, and eradicate the fear of ageing. When I have delivered lectures on Gay Ageing to Seniors I always say “drop the notion of sex with young guys within this context”. There are plenty of sites for young/mature, for those that seek it, sometimes we are our own worst enemy when it comes to uninvited attention – the old queen touch-up. With the rise of Daddies on-scene in Barcode or XXL, a valuable resource lies untapped in your own neighbourhood. Find out like I did about Gay History and where you play your role in it.
Last year upstairs at The Horse & Groom, Shoreditch I was invited by djhistory.com to contribute (as Marmite Madge) to a discussion panel on Gay Clubland 1960’s – 1980’s with Gareth Marshall, Patrick Lilley & Steve Swindells, compered by Bill Brewster. The room was jam packed with a majority of under 30 indie twinks transfixed by our memories for an hour and a quarter with hardly anyone moving to the bar. The olds were in command.
So there you have it, we are not all pissing ourselves waiting for meals on wheels, some of us are still connected to the creative energy of clubland, fashion and diversity. Can you imagine getting old? Well, find a role model and realise that one day the young will be asking you “at what age do you stop having sex?”. Print this out and hand it to them or better than that – share your own experience – I promise you there is a waiting hunger.