North of 40 and Still Not a Samantha

Gay men have never had an easy time getting older, but is it any easier now?

A close friend from high school with whom I’ve had a text/online chat relationship since college has taken to randomly sending me revelations about how old we are in relation to TV and movie actors when we first saw them in certain roles.

Bruce Willis, for instance, was 33 when he filmed Die Hard. And last week, I got a text: “We are now older than all of the Sex and the City women when they started the show. Even Samantha.” I argued back, “Wasn’t Kim Cattrall pushing 50 even when that show started?” and she replies, “No. She was 42 in 1998.”

In 1998, when Carrie Bradshaw sat down with her bulky Apple laptop to type out her first “I couldn’t help but wonder,” my friend and I were both 22. I was just finishing college in New York, and 42 sounded impossibly old. By 42, we would be settled, at least moderately satisfied and successful. We would have dogs or husbands or both, we would have shed our bad habits and adolescent insecurities, and our future would be golden-hued.

Now as I’m forced to reveal my age to every new boy I encounter in a bar, I am constantly flashing to the impertinent, younger me who made private jokes with friends about all the “40-year-old dentists in harnesses who go to circuit parties” and referring to a certain former gay dance party in the Lower Haight that attracted a mixed-age crowd as “Drunk and Forty.” I am now that guy who, for no real reason, I once disdained — perhaps only because, at the time, it was confidence-boosting to know that I was still one of the young ones.

I could lie about how old I am, as some friends do with randoms in bars, but it just seems so dumb and clichéd. Forty is the new 30, according to some article 10 years ago. I should own it, because with age comes experience and gravitas and that’s just as attractive as youth, right? I myself am still not so sure. With youth there’s enthusiasm, and unearned confidence, and both of those things are categorically attractive.

I hate, with every fiber of my being and every recollection of my once idealistic soul, that I find myself having the jaded thoughts that movie and TV clichés associate with people my age. But it is all too true that once you’ve been there and done that for a decade or more, and you watch the kids having their first devastating breakup or first unexpected layoff or  first splash of poppers in their eye, it’s hard not to hear an internal voice that’s constantly saying, “Oh, honey” in their direction.

Sexually, I’d say younger guys now seem way more into “daddies” than I or any of my friends ever were, but maybe that says more about me and my friends and I should just be grateful. I’m not sure they know, though, that people my age don’t go until 4 a.m. every Saturday anymore because we’re tired, we want to enjoy our Sunday, and because we’ve learned well the old adage that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. (Or 1 a.m., really.) And also, no matter how fun it was, I promise you that by next year you won’t remember it.

If I did more hooking up on apps and less introducing myself in person, I’d probably be less self-conscious about the age conversation, because the stats are all right there and don’t need to be said out loud, and if anybody’s got an age hang-up they can just ignore or block you.

A friend who’s five years older than me really enjoyed hammering it home that “40 hurts” for about a year before and after my 40th birthday, and psychologically, he was totally right. Even though no one ever seems to know how old I am, it has messed with my head to no end that I am now Kim Cattrall’s age when she first started playing Samantha, and almost a full decade older than SJP when she first wore that fucking tutu. You don’t realize when you’re 30 that there’s going to come a point when almost everyone in certain social spaces will be five or 10 years younger than you, and that no one in the room will be as conscious of that fact as you are. I just can’t help but wonder, now that I’m north of that marker that always loomed large for my 25- and 30-year-old self, how many more first times for anything will I get? But I guess that’s 90 percent of the reason that some kinks even exist, and why Samantha never stopped trying to outdo herself. Time to get fitted for a harness, I guess.

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