HALL PASS TO MANHOOD: Permission to Live Beyond Our Own Gay Stereotypes
As a 37-year old gay man living and working in New York City, I am reminded everyday of who I am “supposed” to be. Every moment I step out onto 19th Street in my gayborhood of Chelsea, I see and feel “it.” I’ve searched for a word or phrase to describe what “it” really is – it’s “High School.” But, I’m going to call “it” HS otherwise known as the biggest form of gay adult BS.
HS is judgment based on the important things in life: clothing, accessories, hairstyles and the crowd you run around with. I thought I left this HS back in Central Dauphin High School (CD) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in 1994. But, oddly enough, I walk down the halls of CD everyday on my way to work, grocery store and as I stroll to church. It’s in the second looks, stares, glares, smiles, winks, turned up noses and heads turned in disgust.
I’m not judging my gay brothers for choosing to dress in the latest styles that are all over the pages of OUT and GQ. First off, I respect a guy who decides to roll up his pants past his ankles to show off his pink and baby blue striped socks. I’m not going to judge my brothers for choosing to have the perfectly coiffed haircut. I can’t hate a guy with perfect Rodrigo Santoro hair. Hell, if I could grow it, I would. I won’t judge my gay bros for hitting the gym hard to have the big biceps and six pack abs. Hell, if you can’t pinch an inch – good for you! You can pinch my two. Finally, my friends are my family here in NYC. So, soar with the eagles boys (you know the whole birds of a feather saying) – gays, we flock together! But, I don’t want to be judged by a fierce pack of label worshipping, hair as high as the heavens meatheads for choosing not to participate in this BS of HS. Quite frankly, I’m too old to live that way.
There has to be something more than living the stereotypes so many of us choose to sport like the latest tote bag from Louis Vuitton. One of my favorite pastors Josh Kimes (and damn this man has style – look him up) recently said, “Living young and free means choosing character over compromise.” Wow, how many of us have compromised our truest character to win the approval of a fierce pack of fashionistos – otherwise known as our “friends” or the gay community? I don’t know about you, but as I age (yes it’s ok to admit we’re getting older), my character is truly what represents me. So, how do I wear my character like a perfectly tailored Italian suit? What’s the inseam of my soul? Time to dig deeper - beyond the Dolce & Gabbana.
I’m choosing to do something that will hopefully change my life. I’m choosing to give myself permission to live beyond the stereotypes that are set up for gay men – sometimes by others and sometimes from our own community. I’m giving myself permission to age gracefully and willingly. I’m finally letting myself be a 31” waist, and not obsess about how it was just 29” two years ago (yes, some of you may hate me for having a 31” waist). I’m giving myself permission to lose my hair and finally buzz it down to peach fuzz (which is more grey than ever). I’m giving myself permission to eat more than two slices of pizza because I love it and weighing over 155 lbs. is okay and normal (I’m probably 163ish). I’m giving myself permission to hang up the tight t-shirts that just don’t look the same on me… damn, my boobs seem to be sagging (who knew this happens to guys). What the hell… I’m giving myself permission to be a man and not an eternal 18-year old boy.
I don’t know what I expect to get out of this hall pass to manhood, but roaming the halls (streets of my life) are sure going to be more satisfying and HS free. You know why, because I’m giving myself permission to live beyond our own gay stereotypes.