It's a syndrome, not documented in any medical book, yet thrives among gay men, like an STD.
Peter Pan. That wonderful, free-spirited, never grow up, Disney monetized character, who's inspired many a young, and young at heart to keep their youth alive. Ironically, there's another side to Peter Pan that's eating away at gay men's confidence, and driving them deeper into a closet that can be more painful than their first coming out and admitting their gay.
Welcome to the Peter Pan Syndrome—and it's going to take more than Tinkerbell's pixie dust to heal the sickness! It's a disease where a gay man never grows up, yet continues to grow older as we all do, and then wakes up one day to find himself a tired old "queen," alone, incapable of getting it up, and grasping at every straw possible to keep the gay boy/man of their youth alive.
Hello! None of us wants to get older or let go of our youth, but come on guys, "What might be different, more fulfilling, and less regrettable about your life if you grew up and started really filling out those big boy pump boxers your so fond of wearing, by being a mature man accepting and acting his age?"
Admittedly, most men have a mid-life crisis at some point, in one form or another. Compound that with the little gay boy who doesn't want to grow up trapped inside a 40, 50, 60-year-old gay man's body and you have the perfect recipe for "Bitchy, party of one, your tables ready next to the garbage dumpster of your life!"
Call me crass and judgmental. That's OK, I'm a big gay man/boy, who came out late in life, lived quickly through my gay youth, and am still growing into my own version of being a gay man. I'm not hurling judgments, just pointing out what I observe in my community and in my coaching practice: That there's a lot of self-inflicted misery amongst gay men because growing up is painful, especially when it means losing your "youth."
Truth is, out of our fight for acceptance, and to avoid of rejection, when we land in the warm bubble bath of gay life that makes us feel wanted, regardless of how age appropriate that gay life it may or may not be, we tend to go wallow in it for all it's worth.
Why not? We've been called sissy, fag, bottom suckers, fudge packers, sinners, even less masculine for being gay men. It's no wonder, at times, maybe even for an extended vacation, we choose to live in a fantasy world, overcompensating for what we believe we don't have or why we aren't good enough!
All that's about to change if you're truly willing to allow yourself to grow up and be the gay adult, or gay elder you truly are rather than pretending to be the young man you were.
- Have a passion for fashion but don't abuse it. Nothing says, "I'm out of touch with my reality," than clothes that don't fit the man. Tight muscles shirts that made you look hot in your 20s make you look "not" in your 40s, as a general rule. Even for you guys that can rock it, don't be afraid to ask for the honest truth from someone outside your own circle of "you look fab (but not really)" fans, to get the low down.
- What you see is what you get. Hello, online dating, scruffing, grinding, or growling it out, has no place for a pic of you that's 10 years old. Seriously? Accept your age, bask in it, rock it, and man up to posting pics personally and professionally that says, this is me! Same goes from crotch, chest, and a** shots too.
- Party like a rock star...or act like a mature adult. If I hear one more gay man refer to some friend of theirs that got "all messy, and wasn't pretty at the club," I think I'll puke and be really messy myself. Nothing wrong with enjoying your cocktails. Lord knows I enjoy my wine. I'm just curious about what kind of signal you think you send to potential friends, boyfriends, partners, hook-ups, even current friends, if you're always "messy and not pretty." Stepping into a grown-up state of handling your alcohol doesn't make you a loser, it makes you a mature winner!
- You learned the alphabet, used it, now move on. I admit I smoked pot. I even did cocaine once. We all have our ways to numb our realities. Young or older, and young at heart, doesn't mean that partaking in the alphabet drug of choice makes life easier. It may seem like it in the moment. In fact, and I know I sound preachy, but the older you get, the longer the recovery. Our bodies were only conditioned to handle so much and that didn't mean consuming all 26 letters of the alphabet in one handful. If nothing else, those crows feet and that double chin didn't just come from putting on weight...enough said!
- No more money moment living. All right. I admit, as a parent, my money priorities have shifted and it's about getting two teens through college, and spoiling them rotten. I'm also as guilty as the next guy of some spontaneous splurges from time-to-time. Without freaking out and looking to far towards the future, the hardest "grow-up little man conversations" I have with gay men that come through the doors to work with me is the, "I have no money for my future!"
While it may seem to late, it's never to late! One less $5 Starbucks per week puts $260 in the bank. Friday night cocktails at home vs. being at the latest 'A' list hang out could rack up anywhere from $20-$100 in your pocket on a weekly basis. And, God bless ya for still having a bubble butt, abs of steel, and biceps you could launch a fighter jet from, but if you can't afford the gym, yoga, Crossfit, or weekly boot camp classes, it's time to re-evaluate and find simpler, non-costly ways to keep that physique in tip, top shape.
- Heart attacks don't discriminate. Life's a pressure tank. Admit it! Work, relationships, managing finances, juggling family, it's all part of our lives in different ways. For us gay men, the question becomes, "How much of this stress is self-induced because we have to be (BLANK)?" Killer bodies, sexual conquests, fab houses, extravagant travel, adopting or surrogating children, rapid career advancement, all contribute to how much our body can really endure.
Honestly, were not that different than our heterosexual brothers, except when we let the sex, drugs, and competitive wins dominate our existence. You're a beautiful gay guy, unique in the world, with a cool contribution to make. Don't blow it by being taken out to early because your heart couldn't take it.
- Sexy is a sexy does. Admit it. The plumbing's not going to work quite the way we've trained it to, the older we get. The sooner this reality is accepted, the sooner you can adapt your waning sex drive and retrain it to enjoy other forms of pleasure. If you can't rock your roost like a rabbit any more, then maybe it's time to explore intimacy and let sex and orgasms be the icing on the cake!
I truly love my community and my gay brothers, and my greatest hope is happiness, health, and a solid spiritual connection with your inner self so that you can experience true peace and joy. Growing gay and gray doesn't mean reconfiguring what's dropping, not working, or acting as if it means accepting, loving, and embracing you've still got a lot to give and receive because of your beautiful Gay DNA!
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