eventually, you’ll think about your ass

tumblr_mdm66xNgHD1rrajnno1_1280.jpgEventually, you’ll think about your ass. And by think about “ass”  I don’t mean, ass in general, like “ass” as a greater entity. As in getting yourself some or a piece of. And I am also not talking about thinking about someone being an ass. If you are awake and reading this, you’ve already done that 40 times today. Nor do I mean you’ll think about someone else’s ass which again has probably already happened today. No, I mean “ass” as in the one attached to you. Eventually, you’ll think about your own and wonder where it all went wrong.

Someday soon or maybe it’s already happened, you will walk by your ass in a full length mirror and say, “Well, fuck.” You’ll give it a double take, questioning your first glance. Surely, that whatever that is can’t belong to you. Or you’ll wonder if there’s a lightbulb burnt out in your bathroom. Or perhaps it’s the angle you’re staring at it which it makes it look so depressed. Maybe it has dimples where it didn’t before. Maybe weight changes have left tiny tracks across it. Maybe it was happy and now looks sad. Maybe it used to be solid and now jiggles. Or maybe if you’re like me, you’ll notice that what was once high, tight and smooth is now a flattened, saddened shell of its former self. Like if 2016 was an ass, it would be yours.

In an act of aging gay male rebellion, I do not however spend a lot of timing romancing my younger self. When your younger self is glitter and cocaine covered coke whore and not a male model this is easy to do. Nevertheless, I don’t spend hours looking at myself and wondering if there was a twink wandering around nearby whose youth and life-force I could suck dry in between spray tanning sessions. I’m okay with my impish, Moby-ish looking self and know what my physical strengths. I have nice blue eyes. I have dreamy dimples. I have soft and attractive hands that proudly tell a life story free of physical labor. I have good skin, nice legs and calves, thanks to walking everywhere and I have a great ass. Or I used to, anyway. In fact a random drunk guy at a beer bust at a leather bar in Los Angeles once said I had “the best ass in the city.” Which me even remembering is remarkable for lots of reasons primarily of all the compliments I’ve ever been given this is the one I’ve cherished? Sigh. So much for not being a vapid, shallow gay man. Anyway, the point is my backside was my magical power in the gay world. Sure, I didn’t have abs or massive biceps but none of that mattered when you got a glimpse of ” the best in the city” ass. So imagine my surprise when I noticed at age 44 it didn’t exactly look like it would win any awards.

What it is about tragedies that happen in the bathroom that make them harder to deal with? Is it the lighting? The intimacy of the setting? Or the fact that you went in there to do one thing and discovered something awful instead? Whatever the case may be, it happened last year as I stepped out of the shower. The old mirror with the shitty brass frame that lived in the linen closet broke the bad news: my ass had flopped down. Gone was the “you could bounce a quarter off of it!” posterior of the past and here was this butt that looked like it gave up. Like it just decided to quit. Suddenly, I had the “I can’t even” of asses. I went to bed and woke up with middle-aged white man ass and I was not happy about it. Like what the hell? Didn’t the goddess of great body parts owe me a few more years of great butt-ness? I didn’t know it would just vanish at midnight like Cinderella’s coach and horses. I thought we’d have another decade or so together. Just to make sure, I put on my glasses and checked out the situation in two different mirrors. Son of a bitch. After, failing the three mirror test the writing was on the wall, or on my ass rather, I was getting older. Despite having multiple people (all of whom I promise I do not pay) tell me regularly that they thought I was in my thirties, my ass knew the truth. I was a forty-four year-old gay man who’s last free pass in the hot to trot gay world had literally gone south.

But really why did I care? I’m married and not out there shaking my stuff five nights a week trying to land a man. So who gives a crap if my butt had seen better days? The answer lies, as it often does, in a Google search.  In preparation for this piece, I Googled, “How a butt ages.” The search results are as hysterical as they are depressing. “My Butt Keeps Going South As I Age-Help!” an article from Prevention was my favorite. Titled with the same urgency as say, “My Husband is Cheating on Me-Help!” or “My Teen is Addicted to Crack-Help!” it says everything it needs to about how we feel when we find out our ass has fallen into a deep sleep and probably won’t wake up. Other results like, “Ways Your Butt Changes, By Decade” from Cosmopolitan and “Spending All Day On Your Butt Ages You By 8 Years” from Men’s Health are so damn sad sounding that I considered just buying big, billowy men’s caftans and riding my days out left on this planet with my ass in hiding. This little search tapped into the bigger reality: aging is hard and unavoidable.

One of the things we people who’ve stopped killing ourselves with drugs and alcohol do  is practice “accepting the things we cannot change.” Aging, despite what Men’s Health and science might tell you, certainly falls into that category. Despite having the interests of a 13 year-old girl and the mental focus of a 22-year-old, I have to accept that I’m aging. Granted, I know I’m only 44 and not 87 but time is marching on, and to paraphrase Dolly Parton’s line from Steel Magnolia’s eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your ass. For me, accepting this is easier than say, getting butt implants or-gasp- doing lots of exercises to reverse the aging of my ass. I am trying, as a whole, to be a person of quality. A person who has rolled with the tides of adversity and come out the other side. Therefore, my state of my rapidly sagging butt can’t be something I freak out too much about. Now that the shock has worn off, I do know that when I die and people get up and say nice things about me (again totally uncompensated to do so) the guy who said I had the best ass in LA won’t be there. Instead, or at least, I hope, people will talk about how I wasn’t awful and that I tried to do nice things or that I at least made them laugh.

So yeah, eventually you’ll think about your ass. Or maybe it’ll be your arms. Or the skin around your eyes.  You’ll wonder where it all went wrong. But then you’ll move on. I promise you will. You’ll wonder about important things like what you’re having for dinner or when’s the next time you’ll get to lie down.

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Hey Ninety

Old people. Everywhere. All over my life. For like the last three years. I am not kidding. I live in the world’s longest screening of the movie Cocoon. This not me being unkind. It is just a fact.

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My 89 year-old grandmother lives one block away. The 102 year-old man and his 90-something year old wife life across the street. My blue bathrobe rocking, loud talking, Bronco fan landlord in his 90’s lives next door. My sponsor? In his sixties. Every person who volunteers at or visits and a lot who work at my non-profits arts organization day job? Most of them are 60+. Lord knows why I’m now participating in this real-time version of On Golden Pond but I am. And I love it. Beyond all of the cliché things were supposed to get out of old people (The wisdom! The in-depth stories of the past! The accidental racism!) I kind of just like hanging out with them. Listen, I have found people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s(which sounds like an amazing oldies station, btw) are just a lot cooler than most people. People in their 20’s are essentially babies. They need our love and support. We should have a telethon for them and hold them close to our collective bosom as we read them Lena Dunham stories and rock them to sleep and pray they don’t wake up until they’re 30. People in their 30’s are freaked the fuck out. We need to get out the way and let them go thru it, honey. While people like me, in our 40’s, are starting to change our minds. The things we cried over. The things we thought would end us. The people we invested a lot of stock in. All mean nothing and it’s a freeing and mildly fucked up place to be. People in that kick ass mixed tape age bracket, however, kind of don’t give a fuck.

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Their company is relaxed because, and I am guessing here, they’re expectations are lower and they’re not tied up in all of the shit I get twisted about. I also like hanging out with them because they tend to have a more developed sense of humor. In their twilight years, the lucky ones, have moved onto a Jedi-level of smart assery that I find truly aspirational. My grandmother, although certainly more frail and slowing down, drops one-liners and blue jokes with the casualness of the guy who delivers her paper. (Yes, she still gets a newspaper and reads the whole thing everyday even though she can barely see.) Laughing with her and making her laugh is a delight so satisfying I can barely put it into words. It’s deeper than laughing with friends. It’s like the soul food version of laughing. It’s like the Nietzsche version of laughing. The shit lifts all the clouds and I feel like I’ve reconnected to this person who’s been here my whole life. Plus, being around all sorts of examples of aging on a daily basis gives me a crystal ball into what it could look like for me, how I could choose to live and that happiness doesn’t have to expire. There’s also a level of acceptance and one-day-at-a-timeness relationships with older people require that I as a person in recovery can totally get down with. They are who they are. They ain’t gonna change at 90 years old so you can love and enjoy them as is for however long or you can struggle and fight. What’s it gonna be? I choose the former (or at least try to) and spiritually it teaches me a shit ton about unconditional love and expectations and letting go. Also, when you regularly chill with old people, you get over this “OMG you guys I’m so great because I helped the elderly” bullshit we tend to tack onto these kind of relationships. The way I see it, THEY’RE doing me a favor by putting up with my confused ass, not the other way around.

But really all of these relationships are a gift. My grandmother, who by the way, is not the easiest person to get along with, has always been in my corner. She not only came to my first play which was basically 90 minutes of dick jokes and Internet humor but loved it and brought all of her friends. She has poems of mine I wrote in the 5 grade. She’s in love with my husband and cried when he sang the “Sound Of Music” (her favorite movie, natch) a few years ago at Thanksgiving. She has told me to keep writing and keep helping people, no matter what. She has also recently decided to stop seeing her doctors or take meds and just ride this thing until it ends. Which I totally get and respect while selfishly feel terribly sad about. After 15 years in Los Angeles, the universe plopped me block from the house I was born in, down the street from my grandmother and smack dab into an ongoing Golden Girls episode. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I get to read emails to my grandmother. I don’t know why I routinely get to wait for an old lady to find the exact change in her purse while I’m at work (which she almost always has but it takes a minute and sometimes things that are pennies are actually buttons or bus tokens). I don’t know why but I do know that it’s exactly where I need to be right now.