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The Fall of Beauty

Room For Squares

Last Friday I treated myself to a ticket to see Rufus Wainwright, of whom Iíve been an avid devotee since seeing his first show at the Fillmore back in 1998. At the time, I didnít know he was gay until they introduced him as the ďman who puts the A in gay.Ē Anyways, there I was last Friday, at the Masonic Auditorium, ready to enjoy the velvet crooning and heartfelt warbling of our generationís greatest songwriter when into the auditorium walked two gentlemen of a certain age, dressed in sleeveless leather vests and each wearing a flashing blue and red earring. Aside from checking whether or not I had unknowingly entered a rave, two other things came to my mind.

The first thing was that I had to chuckle over how I shared interests with people old enough to remember Irving Berlin songs when they were still fresh. But I have no problem with that. For all I know, they could have been thinking the same thing about me. After all, appreciation of the performing arts should require no age restrictions or limits.

The second thing, and this is what took me aback, was how I immediately rolled my eyes. Shame on me, but these questions began spinning in my head. Why do older gay men have to parade around in fetish gear? Why do they insist on baring their chests, legs and arms at any chance they get? And why canít they realize that, after a certain age, form fitting, body hugging attire begins to disgust more than entice? I mean, what do they know that we younger gays donít know that would make them act like this?

Letís be honest with ourselves for once. For many of those who are in the 35 and under age group, the sight of an older couple in denim cutoffs walking down the street is rarely an occasion to gush over how sweet or how cute they look. More probable are reactions that have to do with dread and distaste for turning older than any warm, fuzzy feelings about spending the rest of your life with one person.

I hear it all the time, whether from friends of mine or from strangers in passing. ďGross, I donít want to grow oldĒ or ďI hope I donít look like that when Iím old.Ē As if a missive from above, we gays carry around this aversion to aging everywhere we go. We equate growing old with losing our looks, and we shamefully view being old as if it were synonymous with being ugly. In a way, itís very self defeating.

Our culture is so consumed by the pursuit of beauty that in the end, weíre only dooming ourselves with our youth obsession. Pick up any issue of ďOutĒ or ďAttitudeĒ and what youíll find are pages and pages devoted to fresh faced Adonisís and golden skinned Apolloís. We are a generation defined by our attachment to appearances, and the future implications donít bode well.

No matter how much money we waste, how much time we spend in front of the mirror, under the knife, or on the treadmill, in the end we will never outrun Father Time. Chronos understands what we in our infancy refuse to believe: beauty is nothing but fickle. And as gay men, we canít afford to be fickle. Itís a road that leads only to bitterness and loneliness.

Take it like the final frontier. These generations of gay men before us have tackled external fronts of discrimination and prejudice. Theyíve lived through being branded with purple triangles during WWII, they were there for Stonewall and they came out of the AIDS epidemic still fighting. I think theyíve earned their right to dress how they want to dress and walk how they want to walk. We younger queers need to understand this. For when beauty falls, we better hope that there is somebody there to hold our hands.