Can we talk here? I feel the need to channel the legendary Joan Rivers right about now. Although I’m not sure why, her voice popped into my head as I thought about the level of enthusiasm, gratitude, and pride I feel when I talk about the friends in my life, our collective journeys, and how we ended up where we are. A slew of sophisticated, passionate, educated, successful melanin kings on the planet that all just happen to be in our 40’s.
I recently spent a little over two weeks in the Caribbean with some of my favorite fellas. I needed this break from reality for a plethora of reasons that I won’t divulge at the moment (still processing). It didn’t take me returning home to realize whom I had in my life and how much they have held me up during the darkest of days. I knew then, right there in a hotel in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic just how lucky I was, how lucky we all were, to be here, in this moment. We were smiling, laughing, sipping, dancing, and experiencing each other’s energy. We were fly, sexy, happy, and some of us going through some pretty major drama. There was something that stood out to me though. It wasn’t obvious, but subtle and under the radar. A presence of energy that followed us throughout the trip. It was an inarguable fact that we were all survivors!
“Don’t ask don’t tell was ingrained in our psyche, and we remember what it felt like to be acknowledged by a sitting US President (Yeah you Obama).”
I won’t go too deep here but stick with me for a moment. While being immersed in the gay culture of the Colonial zone, I started thinking, how did we, men of a certain age that four years ago, didn’t even knew each other existed get here? Ok, a collection of JetBlue, and Delta flights (first class for some as a few are a tad boughee) got us physically here but why were we able to be in this moment with each other when so many men we all knew at some point in our lives are not?
I was conscious of it all. All that we were, and all the possibilities that were still waiting for us to embrace. We were survivors of an oppressive and suffocating culture that often looked down upon us for not just the color of our skin, but also whom we loved. We have seen the passing of pay phones turn into cellular, Blockbuster video bending the knee to Netflix, and new pop divas replace Nippy, Ms. Jackson, and Mimi, on heavy rotation at Z100. We grew up becoming aware of HIV/AIDS and watched it become the boogieman, take away friends, and then it no longer a death sentence once improved treatment became available.
“The battle has been won against the bitterness of life that often finds brown faced, same gender loving men of a certain age.”
We sported high top fades and Hammer pants long before their resurgence in the past few years. We went from mattresses pulled out of dumpsters used as our first piece of furniture in our 20’s, to attending the housewarming parties and praying that our gift of a Keurig machine was not something that would be duplicated by someone else. Don’t ask don’t tell was ingrained in our psyche, and we remember what it felt like to be acknowledged by a sitting US President (Yeah you Obama).
All of us have lived a lifetime. We could reminisce about what it was like to be struggling financially and laugh about those days that weren’t so funny at the time. Tears nearly fought for position on my cheeks as I laughed so hard with them in the bar decorated with beautiful brown Dominican men with a hint of Mint flavored hookah in the air. I thought to myself, we are DOPE, we are AMAZING, we are INSPIRING, and WE have every right to be proud of that. We’ve earned it after all. The battle has been won against the bitterness of life that often cripples brown faced, same gender loving men of a certain age.
Life will always just be that. It will always throw you a curve ball. Our reaction however, is paramount in shaping the men that ultimately; we all have to choose to be! I’m grateful that I get to go through this life of mine with men whose lives aren’t always cupcakes and glitter, but are hardwired to shift when needed and adapt to the most unimaginable of circumstances. Life is hard, but it’s also pretty damn good! As I go through the photos on my phone of my time spent with some of my favorite fellas, I chuckle, blush, and I’m thankful we can still be living, loving, and overcoming obstacles courageously in our 40’s.