By Jeff Fuller
Face it, Gen X, we’re getting old. The oldest of our generation are well into their 50s, and the youngest are pushing 40. We’re in that strange season of life called “middle age.”
The idea of the “mid-life crisis” goes back to the 1960s and has mostly been defined by the generation before us. Typically, the image of a man in mid-life crisis buys an expensive sports car, dates someone half his age, gets a divorce, gets laid off from his job and decides to go into business for himself. Sometimes it’s inspiring. Other times it’s a mess. The crisis involves conflicting feelings of depression, ennui, self-confidence, frustration at career or relationship goals not met, a stronger sense of the shortness of life and the need to take action in the time that remains.
Gay men of Gen X face their own version of the mid-life crisis, and much of the foregoing manifests itself in various ways. In our younger years, we spent a lot of time worrying about what other people think, trying to do the right thing to advance in one’s career or find the man of our dreams. We grew up in an extremely hostile culture, one in which our sexuality was associated with death and disease. Today, we are able to marry in all 50 states and see ourselves reflected positively in television shows and movies. Once vulnerable and fearful, we can have a stronger sense of who we are and what we can accomplish.
Many of us were awkward and closeted in our younger years. At middle age, this may be the first time that we feel comfortable in our own skin. There’s a reason why daddies are hot. Confidence and experience are sexy. Yet even with all the DILF parties and daddy chasers, some of us may feel that we don’t quite get the attention we did our younger years. Among gay men, our social currency is often only as valuable as how good we look.
Sometimes this leads to taking actions in a futile attempt to reverse or mask the aging process. Alternatively, others accept where they are and focus on building things that may endure longer than a perfect body, a business, a charity, a work of art, or a group of friends that forms a family of choice.
It is also the age when we begin to start facing our own mortality. Often it is at this age when we lose our parents and find ourselves in the oldest generation within our families. It is also more likely that we will lose friends as we get older. With this comes an awareness that we aren’t going to live forever, and that the time to follow our dreams may be now or never. The oldest of us who remember the worst of the AIDS crisis, already know this all too well. We know that life may not give us another 20 years to take that trip to Australia, start a business, switch careers, ask that guy out, write that book, end a toxic relationship, or start a new loving one.
Apart from being a Gay Generation-Xer, Jeff Fuller is an attorney, writer, travel blogger, historian, and military spouse. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff went to college, graduate school and law school in the Southeast. He has called Atlanta home for the last decade but recently moved to DC to follow his husband on his military career. He occasionally blogs at journeyingjeff.com.