As a psychotherapist to San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community, I frequently hear some version of the following:
I’m 27 (or 35 or 42) years old and I’m afraid to get older. I’m afraid to become invisible, afraid to not be “hot” anymore. I dread the day when I no longer turn heads when I walk into Flicks or Rich’s. I see younger guys and feel that I’m on my way out. Who’s going to want me in 10 or 20 years?
Terrified to Get Older
What would you say to that?
This issue is devoted to a fresh and healthy 2021. Being afraid to get older is very unhealthy. In fact, it’s a set-up to failure. If we live long enough, we’ll become Queer elders. How do we want to handle our aging?
I’ve had clients in their 30s who got Botox regularly, “It’s preventative,” one young man told me. My question to him was, “Why are you so afraid to have wrinkles? What about being/looking older terrifies you?”
Dear Reader: Can you learn to love yourself at every age? If you can’t, you’re likely to be fighting every physical change tooth-and-nail.
Who’s going to want you in 10 or 20 years? Look around at your peers. Hopefully, when you’re 40, 50 or more, you’ll still find each other attractive. It helps a lot to like yourself and enjoy your own company.
How do I feel as a 67-year-old Queer elder? Most of the time, I’m grateful for my health, home, friends I love and work that I truly enjoy. That said, this body is definitely changing. On a good day, the changes are OK with me. On a rough day, the changes make me sigh and remember how I used to be, longing for the flat stomach, thick hair and smooth skin I once had.
And yet, the truth is that our lives can become richer and more rewarding as we grow older, wiser and more true to ourselves. Getting older can be really wonderful, if you’re willing to enjoy each step on the path.
As a psychotherapist for San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community for about 20 years now, I’ve seen so many of us afraid to age. And not just Gay men! Growing up in a consumer-oriented society, many industries make billions of dollars by trying their hardest to make us — men, women, Queer, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual — feel insecure.
We’re told, “Buy this product/service/clothing/gym membership and you’ll look younger and more attractive.” And, we do. Do not underestimate the power of advertising — it drives all media. You have to sell advertising to make money from any media, regardless of its form. And advertisers want us to buy their products. So, we do. And, if we feel better, it’s only temporary: we have to buy them again and again and again if we’re going to try and stay “youthful” forever.
What’s the alternative? To make peace with the changes that come from age: wisdom, patience and a great sense of humor and perspective are just some of the good stuff. How do we do that? How do we embrace the joys of aging — the power, love and presence — and accept the challenges, releasing our attachment to looking youthful?
Over the years, I’ve given these questions a great deal of thought. I have assisted clients — men and women, Queer and hetero — with the challenges of finding the pleasures and benefits of getting older. In fact, I am in the middle of writing a book about it.
After clients repeatedly asked me to do a workshop on this topic, I finally gave in and put one together. So, I am pleased to let you know that, on Saturday, Jan. 16, from 1-3 p.m., I am offering a workshop called “Power, Love & Presence: The Joys of Getting Older.” The workshop is based on my upcoming book, “The Gay Man’s Guide to Aging Well.”
Although the workshop will be on Zoom, it will be an interactive experience; participants will be talking with different men individually (through the use of breakout rooms) as well as discussing topics with the entire group of men.
To keep it easy and fun to participate, the workshop is limited to a maximum of 20 men. The workshop will run for two hours with a 15-minute break midway. The fee for the workshop is $25.
During the workshop, we’ll discuss questions like:
- What do you like best about getting older?
- What scares you the most about it?
- Where is the power in aging?
- What from your past is still haunting you?
- Are you experiencing more love (or less) as you get older?
- What brings you peace?
- If you left good about your aging, how would that change your life?
- Who have you found it hard to forgive?
- What have you longed to try but haven’t (yet)?
Due to the size limitation, this workshop will fill up fast. For more information, feel free to contact me at 619-955-3311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you attend the workshop or not, I encourage you to question your old, stale ideas about aging and be willing to experience your midlife and elder years in a new way. We can fight aging every step of the way (and be miserable) or make peace with it and have a wonderful future. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.