When my mom and dad turned forty, it seemed like they were Officially Old or maybe at least Old-er. It’s been many years since then, but I still mentally peg them at forty-ish in my head. Because they can’t possibly be older. Because then that would mean that I am older.
‘Older’ seems like something that other people are.
I am as old as Jaws. As old as Wheel of Fortune or the fall of Saigon or the Volkswagen Golf.
Feeling It, Looking It
I feel my age in the morning when I get up. Right ankle feels weaker. Right shoulder rolling forward. The gash above my eyebrow that dad asked “What is that cut?” and it is really just a worry line. The puffy eyelids from a lifetime of allergies. Constant sinus grossness making me terrified I’ll end up as one of those old fogies that talks with phlegm on their vocal cords 24–7 (my one reservation about Sanders running in the primaries). That zit on my nose from two months ago next to that huge pore from high school has left a scar that looks like it’s now going to be a dent in my face for the rest of my life.
I never wake up refreshed like they do in commercials (I still think most people don’t). The grey in the beard grows out a little more. A little more on my head too.
Ron is aging much slower than I am, the gift of his Filipino heritage. He barely has wrinkles on his forehead and his smile eliminates all fatigue from his face. When we are eighty, I will look like a pedophile when I stand next to him.
He’s young at heart.
But I know I’m being too critical of myself and reminds myself I am bathed in a mainstream culture (media) and minority culture (gay) and local culture (San Francisco) that worships appearances, youth, and hedonism.
But then I feel better getting a random compliment like:
I guess I’ve still got it.
I get up and take decongestants and antihistamines and antidepressants and chug some caffeine to assemble myself chemically before going to the gym. My teenage self would be shocked to know I became a gym rat in later life.
I weigh myself and I’m hovering at 176 or so (this is after pushing right up against 200 back in 2010) and I feel like I should be 168 or so but can’t really articulate why or what happens when I reach that magic weight. It’s not like I’m going to get some sort of kewpie doll or gymbunny rewards points. Under my desk at work are boxes of protein shakes and in the file cabinet KIND grain bars (not those bars, these bars I’m sure have their own problems). That doesn’t mean I don’t fall down into a triple taco plate at Iron Cactus though.
I try to resist pouring social media and political news into my brain while I’m at the gym but usually give in and start checking all the usual channels and feeds and email and our Slack channel for work to see if any of the companies I’ve worked at have been bought at a discount or have pivoted so many times they did a 360.
Maybe one day I can be an internet dozen-naire.
I Always Feel Behind
I always get moody as my birthday approaches. I think of all the things I said I would do a year ago that I haven’t done: started a podcast, written another book, put my plays on Kindle, blogged more, completely cleared my credit report, lost more weight, gained more muscle, taken a tap dance class, played piano again, done any yoga or rolfing, slept more, visited Chicago… this whole stack of things that I wished I had done but somehow didn’t make the time to do.
I usually feel about five years behind in my life.
So I’m writing this to also remind myself what I did get done in the last year and what happened — both the good and the bad:
Ron and I Got Engaged
I really can’t tell you why we got engaged when we did. I think that our lives and jobs seemed relatively non-insane for a while, so we might as well get things rolling. I had held out for a long time and insisted that we can’t say we are engaged until we had a wedding date nailed down. I think for two guys that have been together for 14 years and lived together for 7 it is ridiculous to say you are engaged without a wedding date. Otherwise you’re just trolling for Facebook likes.
We had bought the rings already but weren’t sure when to announce but figured might as well do it during the holidays like everybody else. So one night while we were waiting to go out for a holiday party we decided to go right ahead. I guess we didn’t really propose officially. We setup our Facebook status updates and — like a nuclear missile launch — turned our keys at the same time.
So we’re getting married in September. It’ll be a relatively small wedding. My main goal is just have several of the smartest and funniest people I know all in one room, drinking, eating, and having a good time.
Here’s the invitations we made:
I am slightly terrified about a day with everyone focused on us for the entire day and am worried about having panic attacks the entire time.
The Apartment Squeeze
We did get rid of one of our biggest stressors by moving apartments (yet again).
You always feel this constant squeeze trying to find an apartment in San Francisco as the rents keep going up and the housing policies get worse and worse. You know you’re going to pay an obscene amount of rent and you try and justify it by adding up the cost of a car or parking spot or the time spent going back and forth to work. We had tried to make it work in a junior one bedroom on Post & Jones the year before which ended up being a glorified studio. We couldn’t do separate things in the apartment and felt like we were living on top of eachother. Bickering over stupid stuff. We bit the bullet and moved again and we’re staying where we are for at least two years.
We are lucky to have jobs that allow us to remain in the city for now in a mostly safe area (except for the suitcase of bodyparts). I did have a guy call me a faggot as I walked to work the other day but I take comfort knowing he probably called everybody else that passed him a faggot as well. If we do the kids/adoption route (gotta make that decision soon!) we definitely have to leave the city. Oakland sounds nice but it’d be better for us to be between the city where I work and SFO for Ron’s job. But as I tell Ron, most everybody commutes in every day or drives in for the weekend, there’s no reason we can’t do it too.
Saying Goodbye to Downy
Downy was a super-fluffy, super-affectionate cat. Part Maine Coon with that ‘boxy’ frame and long bushy tail. He loved a tummy rub or a vigorous brushing:
He had lived with Ron’s mom for a while in Milwaukee and then I took him while were still in Chicago and he came with us to San Francisco when we moved here (and moved in together). He had to be at least 20 years old.
He had a kidney function scare the year before and we were able to bring him back with meds and hydrating him with a saline drip and injection. This time around we took him to the vet and it was more of the same. The uric acid was building up and he couldn’t hydrate himself enough. He was just an old kitty. We kept him going as long as we could and he’d patiently sit in a chair while we put a needle in the scruff of his neck and give him a saline drip with electrolytes. Eventually, he stopped being peppy and was not eating much and stopped grooming. He would sleep in the back corner of the closet on Ron’s luggage and just sit and stare all day. He stopped being social and couldn’t walk with all the uric acid build up in his joints. He stopped purring when we’d pet him or groom him.
Eventually we knew that it was time to say goodbye . The best description I read of the process of putting a pet to sleep was from a feline vet:
“The choice to break our own hearts to save another from suffering is true compassion.”
The day before we put Downy to sleep we took him downstairs to the courtyard and let him play in the flowers and get some fresh air and sun. He was so frail.
The next morning we took him to the SFSPCA. They handled the whole thing really well.
We held him as the vet gave him the injection that stopped his heart. I cried so much, but I know we did the right thing. We came home and held on to Astro.
For a few weeks later, Astro would walk around the apartment meowing. He knew something was missing but couldn’t quite figure out what. We have a little more room on the bed now but I miss him all the time.
Ron’s Trip Home
Ron’s father passed away. He and his dad had a complicated relationship as any gay son and father can have. I’m happy that he was able to go home for the funeral. Filipino funerals are a huge deal with over a week of open-casket visitation at the house and hundreds of people you have to feed and entertain for days on end.
Hearing someone you love in pain on the other side of the world is unbearable.
Ron was able to deliver a eulogy and the elders took him and the other siblings through a few traditional ceremonies that are crucial to the culture there that I’m glad he was able to participate in. It’s always good to connect back to home.
As always happens, Ron came home and reminded how much we have here where we live and how little others get by on every single day.
After the funeral, Ron’s dad’s best friend took him aside and told him that his dad talked about him every single day and was proud of all he had accomplished. That’s when I started bawling.
A college friend passed away as well this year after a long battle with cancer. I feel terrible I wasn’t able to get home to visit him. He fought cancer for a long time. I can’t believe he’s gone.
I really am not surprised by cancer that much anymore. It just seems like it comes up all the time and anyone can have it at any time. It’s awful, terrible, and inevitable.
Some friendships have not survived the past year and that has been very, very painful. For a long time we had managed to avoid the typical petty gay catty bullshit. But we fell into it this year.
I don’t think if I’ll ever know what happened that was so terrible that two friends would need to cut us out of their lives. Many attempts at reconciliation have idled into a polite civility.
It makes me very sad. Like something has been lost forever.
It’s a damn fucking shame and I will always hold hope against hope that things can be mended.
When someone isn’t excited for your fucking wedding, what other acid test is there?
It’s such a waste and I’ll always be a little heartbroken.
The Anxiety of Others
I’ve also felt a sense of emotional claustrophobia in the past year. Feeling the problems of others crowd my brain. Staying up all night because I can’t sleep because I’m worried about someone else’s problems. Mentally rehearsing advice I’ll never say. Things that I can’t do anything about but try and be supportive. In the next year I want to have more of a circle of protection around Ron and myself. Get some mental space for other things to take root and grow. Always being supportive but trying not to get too invested in the plight of others.
After years upon years of hemming and hawing, I took the plunge and got some new ink. I’ve long admired the various Polynesian styles and finally found an artist that could execute the type of design that I wanted.
So on that one really, really rainy day we had in December, Ron and I went to the studio of artist Micah Perry and I sat for a five hour session that got coverage down half the arm and worked around my existing sun icon.
Then later on I came back and went three-quarters down the arm.
I’m still deciding if I’ll go for the full sleeve ink. I guess it depends on how my mid-life crisis is going.
Ron also booked sessions and his design compliments mine and they share some common elements. But hopefully enough that we don’t look too much like twinsies.
Ron and I went home for dad’s big birthday. My sister had organized a huge open house party which ended up as a greatest hits version of the various families and friends that have orbited our family all these years. It’s this kind of connection to my family and past that I miss living so far away from home.
Mom had her big birthday this past year, too, so we postponed going home for the holidays for mom’s birthday in January. A smaller affair, but notable to have Ron home with me twice in one year and seeing all my aunts and uncles.
Being back home always grounds me.
I Don’t Complain About My Job
I left a great job with an innovation software company over near Levi’s and started a new job with as director of marketing at a search technology company that I’m not going to name since it will probably send everyone a Google Alert and they’ll all come here to read this post. This is my third company with my fantastic boss who is also a fantastic friend.
And I am grateful to work with very smart and skilled and funny people every day. And after 8 startups, I know how rare that can be.
The way that I know my job is going well is I don’t come home and bitch about my job to Ron. He has no idea what we’re doing since things are going so well. And that is a blessing.
I got to go to SXSW in Austin for the first time and ended up on the RVIP Lounge — a RV with a full bar and karaoke party inside. I completely crashed and burned with a rendition of ‘Material’ Girl.’ I started an octave too low.
One of the wildest ‘out of the blue’ moments of the past year was a contact form from work routed to me from a high school theatre teacher in Ohio. Her husband had adjudicated my undergrad thesis stage production back in 1997, an ultra-violent, mass media, mass hysteria adaptaion of Sophocles’s Antigone (the third part of the Oedipus cycle). I was offered a small honorarium but was really just happy that the play is still floating around out there and people are enjoying it. The teacher said her students had studied it and the original Ancient Greek text and they really felt the characters their age spoke to them directly. That is endlessly rewarding to hear.
I swear to God I’ll have it available in the Kindle store by next April along with my other old plays just sitting on my hard drive somewhere.
And We Danced A Lot. Usually Shirtless.
And in the completely stereotypically gay department, we did a lot of drinking and dancing and partying.
And sometimes we do wear clothes.
And even hang out with straight people: (Note to self: Take more photos with straight friends in the next year. I’m missing several of you.)
Part of me feels like it is completely ridiculous for a forty-year-old man to engage in such frivolous shallow activities. Part of me says I’ll wish I had done more of this when the day comes that I can’t anymore.
[Editor’s Note: See aren’t you glad I made you take all those selfies? — Ron]
Advice to All My Friends in Their Twenties
Learn how to eat well while your metabolism is still high. Once it crashes in your early thirties it’s hard to cultivate those new habits. You’ll thank me in ten years.
Advice to Young Gay Guys in San Francisco
I think a lot of gay guys are seduced by what they see online or on television about what it is to be gay (usually a young, middle/upper class, urban, mostly-white ideal).
Not everything is always a party. I’ve tried to include both the fun and the bullshit of the past year in this post.
We all move here with the San Francisco fantasy of how we think things are going to turn out. And then the city systematically beats it out of you.
We’re not all a bunch of under-employed homosexuals having too much fun (or cultivating our social media selves to project that image).
The only reason people people can party all weekend and go to work and drink on school nights is because they are 22. Or cocaine.
Nothing Lasts (Always Laugh)
Okay well I let this post simmer overnight and I can’t tell if I feel better after writing this or if it just comes off as a bunch of whining. I’m not the first person to have these experiences or these problems or these victories. But I was Here at This Time and it happened to Me and I wrote about it.
One of my friends and co-workers asked me what I’d say I learned during my first 40 years. I blurted out:
I don’t want that to sound too cynical or nihilistic. It is just a daily reminder to enjoy where things are right fucking now — the imperfect present. So much of my daily white noise is wishing I could go back to The Way Things Were or hoping for A Better Future. Oh and Money Panic, I forgot to even talk about Money Panic. That’s probably a whole post by itself.
Life is always a rolling crisis. Stability is an illusion.
Stability is just when things were non-shitty enough that you didn’t see the small shifts happening leading to the next seismic wave. You can flail and gnash your teeth, but the world is pretty much indifferent to your struggle. Life can be such an unrelenting piece of shit that we have to hold on to eachother to get through it. Have a good cry. Be mad for a bit. Make a list of what to do next. But then laugh.
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