It was early afternoon on a surprisingly mild, spring day in northern New Jersey. I was deciding whether to get a gym workout in, or stay at home plotting my world domination. Okay maybe that last part was a bit dramatic because it was more like I pulled a muscle while dancing to Miss Jackson scrambling eggs in my kitchen. I now however, had an excuse to binge watch tv and have that third cup of coffee with my breakfast. Don’t you love how the universe responds at the right time?
As I searched through On Demand tv shows and movies, I came across an old series on Logotv called The A- List New York. It was an ill-fated reality series which premiered on the once gay themed network in 2010. The show featured the lives of six gay men attempting to convince viewers they were the creme de la creme of the Big Apple’s Gay elite.
The patriarch (and only A-List member)of the group if you will, was none other than famed celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz. Mike, a confident and handsome man of a certain age, rounded out the motley crew with sincerity and finesse. Not to mention he’s the only one with brown skin. During the reunion show hosted by faux friend of the gay community Wendy Williams, Mike mentioned something that I absolutely fell in love with being openly gay, a man of color, and of a certain age. When asked by Wendy why he was even on the show due to his lack of drama, he replied by saying, he wanted to be an example of the arc of gay men.
I thought that was a brilliant response that spoke to many same gender loving men such as myself. Like it or not, those of us who are fortunate enough to reach our mid thirties, forties, and beyond, are examples of what’s possible! For many young gay men and I too can attest, you can’t imagine what life will be like when you’ve left your twenties behind. At that time, you’re reveling in the moment of youth and all the magic, and opportunities it attracts.
You view older men, particularly those you don’t deem attractive as being desperate and pathetic. To the men who have taken great care of themselves to live an optimum life inside and out, they may get Daddy status but even then, some young men can’t visualize themselves past living four to an apartment, and carelessly spending money on club admissions as if your sole gay existence depends on it.
I won’t go as far as implying that all gay men over 35, are stellar examples of whom to be, but many of us exude a level of confidence and self awareness that can only come with age. I remember my gay role models when I was in my twenties. They were a beautiful, black, couple both over the age of forty. They were my friends and I spent many a Saturday evenings in their home admiring and watching their every move. I took mental notes of the beautiful home they’ve created, and the close circle of friends they entertained whom all seem to fit the mold they cast.
I learned such important lessons from them such as financial responsibility, not being a permanent fixture in the often brutal, and superficial world of the gay nightclub. I learned to save my hard earned money for vacations, and that some occasions called for jackets and shoes rather than fitted caps, timberlands, and Air Force 1’s.
I knew I was lucky to have them in my life at a time I was very much closeted and making one terrible decision after the next. They were living legends, and examples of what I could be but couldn’t see for myself just yet. I saw what was possible and made it my mission to be around them as much as possible.
They showed me what true friendship within the black, gay community could be like while being as authentic as possible. I was taught that success is hard work, and is sweeter when you have someone to love and a great circle of like minded friends to support you. Their examples of manhood in world often very harsh to men like us, is forever etched in my brain.
After a certain age when you’ve lived through some challenging, often unimaginable circumstances, you can still see what is possible for yourself and for those who come up behind you. Don’t be afraid to show the reach, and sheer magnificence of your arc. Although someone younger may not appreciate it now, they do however, see you!