(Working) Penis Envy
Sex in the 60’s
With a nod to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte
Gay men have never had it better. Many alive today have survived the apocalypse that was AIDS in the 80’s. We have a broader and wider acceptance than ever before (if we can fend off the growing attacks from the Right) and now we join the ranks of the other aging males in society confronting this, the next Rubicon in the process of moving through our lifespans. We have drugs to keep HIV at bay and us alive, drugs to tamp down the now ubiquitous threats of cholesterol, heart disease, and all other myriad age-related inequities we are presented with.
And we have drugs to raise our flagging, flaccid, formerly prodigious dicks. But at some point, even these potent purveyors of pleasure start to dim in the ever-advancing onslaught of aging and the breakdown of the body-general.
As gay men, we have been attuned to and advanced the proposition that our lives, our very essences, have revolved around the few inches of flesh that for millennia have been trampled and shoved back into our pouches as nasty secrets reserved for the procreating public. We took back our penis-power in the 70’s and hauled them out for public consumption. We claimed the rights to them as our personal pleasure machines and they rose to the adulation of the masses, again and again, without apparent end or limitation.
Sure, we knew “the day” would come. The day (or decade) would arrive when all men succumb to the vagaries of human evolution; the need to procreate ceases or, in our case, the need to fuck with abandon would abandon us. It was a conceptual reality not fully grasped in our prurient-pumped libidos until, alas, it was fully upon us. And then the question becomes.
Who are we without our hardons?
They are still there, just lazy and unpredictable. Our organs now subject us to midnight stumblings to the john (not that John but the other, porcelain one). They take their cues from that other organ of aged-dismay, the prostate. That grumpy glad seems to have the ultimate say in so many male-centric issues; cancer, impotence, over-active urine and under-active utopic release. And so we must all, eventually, ponder who are we without our hardons?
As creatures of culture, specifically our sex-driven, looks-obsessed, gay culture, how do we now fit our limp dicks into a real world that still wants us to define virility and value by the rigidity of our erections? As our beards dust to white and our hair goes the way of the winds who must we imagine ourselves to be as we look into the mirror each day. The sagging wattle that was our neck belies the iron jawed profiles of youth. Our sagging bellies, while actually hiding our dicks from everyday downward viewing, also serve to advertise in full-frontal horror, the fact that we are indeed no longer the rutting male rascals that we all once perceived ourselves to be.
Yet the media, the gym, the bars, the entirety of gay culture seems now determined to advance us into seemingly immediate irrelevance; ghostly, grey images of what once was, destined to live out our remaining years in some semi camera-obscura image of that long ago. How do we deal with the very real feeling of irrelevance? Where do we go to find solace in our aging when the fates, the world, and even some of our friends have moved on to the next generation of hard-bodied he-men? And how soon will those friends that can still “pass” the age test hit the same wall of wanton mis-wisdom?
Our very hard-wiring still makes our heads turn at the sight of a firm butt and youthful, or at least handsomely mature, face and a lithesome body. It’s instinctual after all these years of conditioning. But the reality of what we would/could actually DO with that man-body are here, in our faces, like the dicks we so often shoved in other’s faces and places.
Are we all to become desperate, flaccid, total bottoms; willing to take whatever hard cock comes a’calling, Blanche Dubois-dependent on the kindness of strangers? And if so, what turn of mind must we calculatedly employ to let us have some modicum of self worth and respect and not dive into a pool of self-pitying degradation that is unhealthy at best and terminal in the end should we choose to dwell there for long.
Sure there are Senior Centers, gay rest-homes, but even they, too, require a tacit admission on our part that we are, actually, old.
Ouch. That hurts.
A friend once said to me as I was turning 40 or 50, they all blend together now, something that has resonated within me for years. She said that all of our lives we have lived with an infinite future in front of us, our vision was wide open and the lens of possibilities for our lives appeared endless and time was an issue to be handled ….later. Now, at these self-appointedly crucial benchmark ages, we needed to simply pause. We needed to incorporate the lessons from our now considerable pasts and simply refocus our lenses taking that past into account as we move inevitably forward in the unknowns of our future.
Refocus our lens. As a photographer this appealed to me greatly.
Perhaps the key is to move our lenses and our focus up a few feet and look at other organs for our next phase in life. Heart and Head are two very viable, if not the only, options worth looking into.
If we simply ignore below the belt for a while, let it call to us on occasion if it likes and be thankful when it does, but redirect our intellect (something our dicks do not possess) internally for a while and see what we find. Are we content, happy, satisfied? How could we be if we are not? What does happiness feel like to each of us?
Do we have a hobby?
Besides masturbation and the pursuit of other’s dicks and the tenuous validation that both of those may, perhaps, provide, what occupies our internal time. What thoughts bubble up that might need some attention and expression in our outward lives? What conversations should we be having with our lovers and friends that do NOT revolve around sex, men, and the prurient pursuit thereof?
Are we still learning?
There are a myriad of options available to men in our advancing years but it is up to us to reach out and touch something besides…..well enough about “him”. “He’s” not in the dust bin, yet, simply on a time out and may, occasionally, be of service but for now, let’s look both inward and outward for new frontiers. The possibilities are endless:
Your local hospital is a great place to start. You will come in contact with others, like you, trying to navigate their own health and issues and you are the perfect empathetic ear. You can help guide them, through your own experience, onto an easier path.
There are walking groups of similar guys that serve to create new friendships, conversations, and with that opportunities to learn about what others think and do and maybe some of their experiences will feel right for you. Besides, it’s just simply good for you.
A great place to lend your age-related experience and see how a really well run, senior-focused, volunteer organization works. Look to get on the LGBT local committees that sponsor events like Pride and outreach seminars within your own community. It’s extremely rewards to suddenly understand that a national, D.C.- based lobbying group actually seeks out and coordinates the gay community as well as other under-served groups. We DO have clout but we must participate to use it.
Use your camera. Everywhere.
We all have them now, right in our hands all the time. Document your life, someone else’s cause, pets, nature, clouds, anything your mind wants you to observe. Then, find a class in photography and learn how to organize your images and tell a story; your story, any story, through the lens of your own eyes.
Start writing. Anything.
This, obviously, is a favorite of mine. It requires little more than discipline and a reliance on spell-check. A handy lover or friend to serve as your editor-at-large is also of real value. Write your life. Tell your story. In doing so you will discover that you each have a rich history and not just one but many stories to tell!
When we broaden our perspective, refocus our lens if you will, our obsession with our dicks somehow zips itself back into its proper place in our lives at this time of our lives. As Auntie Mame said;
“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
We are some of the emotionally richest, most experienced, most engaging men on the planet. Our creativity and contributions are only limited by our self-doubt and a willingness to “be” whom others have defined us as.
And so the rest is up to us. It is time to reclaim our dignity and our drive. I leave the final word to, of all people Stephen King;
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Instead of waiting to get IT up, just get up. Go to work. Create yourself. Again.