As a birthday nears, everything old is new again

Looking back on the battles we’ve fought, and forward to the battles yet to come, as another year is marked off the calendar

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

Last week I stumbled across a picture of myself from the 1980s. Now that doesn’t seem so long ago to me — until I talk to friends who were born during that decade! And then I start to feel really old.

The photos pretty much sealed the deal. Who was that slender — or at least average-sized — guy with dark brown hair who looked like such a child? What’s worse, I was already in my 30s back then, already no spring chicken.

Age has its advantages. There is the whole “older and wiser” thing, and being older does give you a sense of perspective on minor problems that used to seem like life-altering crises when I was younger.

Today, I really don’t worry about missing a night out at the bar or making sure I am not wearing last season’s fashion. That just isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things.

What is important is something I paid little attention to as a young man: Quality of life.

That doesn’t mean much to someone in their 30s, since most have few problems aside from sports injuries or the occasional hangover. But to a gay man creeping into his 60s “quality of life” is very much “top of mind.”

First of all, I never expected to live this long. After all, many of my gay friends from the 1980s died during the first wave of AIDS. Watching all those men prematurely age and pass away really can put a damper on your expectations for the future.

Amazingly, I have survived and remain HIV-negative. Now what do I do?

If you are younger than me, here’s what you may have to look forward to: Aches. Muscles, bones and especially joints just don’t feel the same as they did. I don’t bound up stairs anymore, and the idea of dancing the night away seems almost ludicrous to me now.

First of all, my legs just don’t have the pep they used to have. Secondly, 61-year-old guys dancing to Lady Gaga just look like a cry for help.

Aside from dancing, I don’t have the desire to do as much as I used to. Part of that comes from being settled down with a loving partner for more than 16 years, and part is just from the whole age thing. The idea of a nice dinner at home and an evening of TV and conversation with my guy is much more appealing than hanging out in a bar or an evening of retail therapy.

Yet, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Though we’ve had 30 years of education and research into AIDS/HIV, it is still with us and once again a growing problem for gay men. You’d think we would have gotten the message, but the younger generation has recklessly embraced barebacking and the older generation has forgotten that AIDS does not discriminate because of age.

It’s time to haul out the safer sex information that was squelched in the name of “abstinence only” and start educating again.

As the election cycle approaches, the same-sex marriage issue will continue to be on the forefront, while the real issue of full civil rights for LGBT citizens is pushed aside. I guess it’s not sexy enough to get media attention.

So I guess I will have to keep pounding away at the real equality issue until our politicians can get some kind of focus on the big picture.

And the whole idea of an aging generation of LGBT seniors has yet to hit the activists’ radar. Oh, there is a lot of talk about it, but who is going to assure that when I get old enough to need assisted care, my sexuality and my partner will not be ignored?

Guess there is still a lot to do. Time to get up off the couch and start getting busy.

Perhaps that will keep me from just being an old curmudgeon — like a kinky, gay Andy Rooney.

So time to get busy. If 60 is the new 40, then I fully intend to have an action-packed middle age.

Hardy Haberman, who will celebrate his 61st birthday on July 27, is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright