I have an image problem. The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) world is a hard life for anybody and if you don’t have a specific image, you’re screwed. I’m edging up into the category often euphemized as “gentlemen of a certain age” and I am not going gently into that harsh night. We certainly have a plethora of genres in the gay community but somehow I have managed not to fit comfortably into any of them. I’ve never been pretty enough to consider a career in drag nor butch enough to qualify for leather. I’ve always been a nondescript yuppie, content to dwell somewhere in the middle management limbo of the corporate world while living my social life in a completely separate compartment.
Recently, a couple of compliments came my way while out at a local nightclub. Unfortunately, they included the word “Papi” and a reference to my sexy salt-and-pepper hair. For those of you not familiar with slang terms, “Papi” is an affectionate Hispanic title bestowed on older men. Ouch! Could it get any crueler? A quick assessment and some simple math concluded my worst fears. The person or persons making the compliments were young enough to be my theoretical children.
Instead of a midlife crisis involving adopting a 20-something significant other and trying in vain to keep up a nightly schedule involving bars, parties and after-parties, I have to be realistic. Any relationship that requires obtaining a prescription from my physician just isn’t worth the pursuit. I’ve managed to rationalize that since I go to the gym on a regular basis, have a decent time on my 10K and observe a healthy diet, that I owe it to myself to enjoy a good cigar now and then. I figure that in view of the amount of secondhand smoke I inhale during an evening out, a visit to the Tinder Box now and then is a fairly solid lifestyle choice.
Identity and belonging are not new concepts but lately, it’s all about branding. The gay community is a microcosmic study in the validity of evolution. In fact, we have evolved from the gay community to LGB to LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTQIA. Need a playlist? I do. For those of you who can’t tell the players without a scorecard, L=Lesbian, G=Gay, B=Bisexual, T=Transgender, Q=Queer/Questioning, I=Intersex and A=Allies. Once you decide where to place yourself within this alphabet soup, you’re now expected to brand yourself as a subgroup. For some reason, everyone seems have an ongoing reality show playing in their heads and they feel the need to be the star. This requires far too much effort for me.
Lately, I tend to look for more peaceful venues in life. I think that I have collected enough data through the years through personal experience to come to terms with the fact that my ability to keep up with life in the fast lane is coming to an end. I find that a 3 a.m. adventure on the town carries a much higher price than trying to figure out what exactly what happened the night before by piecing together the charges to my MasterCard online the next afternoon. It actually requires a considerably generous recovery period. The math just doesn’t work when I have to sleep three hours for every one hour that I overindulge.
In the world of Facebook and Twitter, there is also another downside to the wilder side of life. It’s known as evidence. Unfortunate fashion choices and bad behavior are no longer simply the sources of fuel for the rumor mill. They are instantly uploaded into the cyber world and they add exponentially to the burden known as the walk of shame the next day. To that end, I have had to remind myself that shopping in the Young Men’s section at Macy’s is no longer a wise choice. While the sales associates are happy to compliment me on any look, skinny jeans do indeed have a cutoff date and that is somewhere around one’s 24th birthday.
Sooner or later, the reality of time comes for us all. I have a few contemporaries who would argue this point on their own behalves. I can’t really dispute their claims; I just sit back and silently judge them. This is a time-honored tradition in the gay community. At the same time, they are judging me for sitting at home watching “Downton Abbey.” I’m not sure where that places me in the world of gay culture but at least it doesn’t require sunglasses in the office the next day. It’s much easier to sit on the porch and enjoy a nice Dominican cigar and a good Irish whiskey.
We have very lively and entertaining nightlife in the Myrtle Beach area that serves the gay community. I think that is something we should support and celebrate. I certainly have done my part since moving here to stimulate that sector of the economy. I also have had to reluctantly admit that I have to balance out my social karma with a trip to Starbucks and the Tinder Box. It may not have the glamor, excitement and pageantry of a night on the town but as far as image and branding go, at least nobody in there calls me Papi.
OUT & ABOUT
Friday, Feb. 1 – The First Friday Happy Hour group will meet at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at The Market Common. Come out for the Happy Hour from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday. Invite a friend to join you and consider staying for dinner afterwards. Gordon Biersch is at 3060 Howard Avenue, Myrtle Beach, on the former Air Force Base. Check out the menu ahead of time at www.gordonbiersch.com
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Drew Levy-Neal an e-mail to Drew.Levy.Neal@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @Drew_Levy_Neal.