This is Fifty – pondering one of life’s milestones

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Spending a memorable birthday in luxurious comfort in Marina Martinique, Jeffreys Bay.

by Henry Bantjez (M.Psych.)

Photograph by: Stephan Lewis

There is not much research about what it is like to age as a gay man. This is because homosexuality as a classification of a psychiatric disorder was only removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1973, not exactly giving us a head start. Some studies explore the psychosocial well-being of older gay men, including associations between present life experiences, self-esteem, and subjective wellness. This means that aging is really just a number (for those blessed enough to be healthy). Let me explain. Your birthday is coming up and suddenly you find yourself depressed and worried about the future. You fixate on your finances (or lack thereof), and your relationship (or lack thereof), you start contemplating religion (fear of death) and start re-evaluating your social interactions (friendship circles become smaller as you start to value your time more, unless you feel lonely, where you then will be more likely to draw greater support from newfound friendships and community organisations). And best not to forget to mention health, sex, and your physique (you either intend to eat healthier, have better sex, or go to gym, or you are at peace with who you are). The high-level means that when you experience accomplishment, socially, spiritually, financially, physically, and romantically, you will embrace getting older. You don’t have to tick all the boxes, if there is hope and aspiration toward these five gems of life, then getting older as a gay man does not have to be so terrifying. And remember – there is no reality in life – only perception. This means you choose how you react to your circumstances. If you think of yourself as an aging gay man who will not show his age on Grindr, or even lie about your age, then that is what you will attract – young guys not interested in you, or even put off men in your age bracket, because what you do is you communicate this as low self-esteem. Now take the same situation, add a bit of positive attitude, and confidence and see yourself as, let’s say a “Daddy” and everything changes. Just that tiny bit of perception alteration will inspire you to look after your body, eat healthy, invest in true friendships, and have the best sex of your life. Believing in yourself can emanate enough energy to light up an entire city. Turning Forty. Fifty. Sixty. Whatever. Repeat the cliché when in doubt. Age is just a number.

So here goes. I am turning fifty. December 10th, which is not only the birthdate of the South African Constitution, The Human Rights Organisation, but also the starting day of South Africa’s number one high-end glossy Gay Pages magazine. A date to remember. People say I am lucky because I like getting older (well, much of it, anyway). It has nothing to do with luck. I have been hitting the gym since I was a twink, took care of my pearly whites, still eat healthy foods, went to university for six years, and still work late nights that pay off because I love my job. I meditate, practice intense Buddhism, and try my best to live my life with little ego, judgement, and respect for others. If this sounds like hard work, it is, but it pays off, and you know what, I have even decided (perception) to age backward. Why not? If you focus on getting older you will get older. My life partner is 20 years younger, and he embraces my getting older, what a bonus. Take my advice – move far away from the gay culture that is overtly unforgiving and critical of aging (do they know they will also become Daddies?) to more human connections. Oh, by the way, the first time a guy called me Daddy I could not hide my excitement (perception: I embraced it). You may not like it, but if you own it, wear it like a second skin. Remember, you want to have sex and feel sexually desired just as you are, without fearing being dismissed or rejected. Men appreciate all kinds of body shapes, age, and social standing. See aging as a privilege. Celebrate it. Don’t mourn it. Embrace your newfound wisdom, and don’t take time for granted. Be ruthless about it. It is a precious gift. When I become still, I take deep breaths, I chant, I contemplate, and I appreciate that I am socially, spiritually, financially, physically, and romantically free.

Just when I thought this article had come to an end, I could not resist to add that I spent my birthday week in JBay at Gay Pages editor, Rubin van Niekerk’s presidential suite-like apartment nestled between paradise and Long Island Ice Teas. Enough to make anyone thinking of any birthday celebration trip envious. What a blessing, after watching seagulls colour in the saltwater air and people on boats with dogs passing the apartment’s canalside verandah, I take another sip of my cocktail and wonder what book to choose from the impressive library, surrounded by impeccably modern and comfortable décor by artist and designer Alan Samons. I stretch out on the massive king size bed covered with Egyptian cotton. I close my eyes. I smile and I whisper to the gods “This is fifty.”

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