Preference, Prejudice, Perversion – Or Common Failing?

An answer to all those who complain of their ill-treatment by the gay world because of their age or plainness – and a few thoughts about why.

Take a look at the personal ads page. Read the ads there. It’s clear that words like ‘young’, ‘dolly’, etc are used frequently. ‘Same age or younger’ is a common turn of phrase employed. Yet many times I hear complaints that the younger guys are only interested in one another, and not in their older gay brothers. Lots of people see this as something wrong in the gay scene — as though this rejection were something one had to suffer if you’re a gay man. A part of our ‘difference’.

Well, it isn’t. It’s a normal reaction that one finds in every situation, gay, straight or twisted. Its power, however, is increased greatly by the myth-machine which produces adverts, films, books, plays.

How the wig-makers, cosmetic firms, car manufacturers, boutiques must laugh sometimes – all the way to the bank with your money! After all, a gay man, by the time he’s thirty-five or so, can reasonably expect to be earning a reasonable wage – he can also reasonably be expected to be spending a large proportion of that income on trying to convince himself and others that he’s younger than he is. Clothes, toiletries, cars, furnishings – the middle-class, middle-aged gay must be an ad-man’s idea of a perfect consumer. Put a pretty boy in a pair of coloured underpants in the Y-front ads and watch sales figures soar in Kensington and Earls Court!

But … it doesn’t make you any younger, or prettier, really, You’ll still look the same when you drop ’em.

But … the biggest but of all . . . take a look around and you’ll see that we aren’t the only ones to fall for it. Look at the ads for ‘body-belts’ (one firm has renamed them sexi-belts), wigs, bronzers. The straight male buys just as much of this sort of thing as some of us do – he’ll buy a sporty looking car, bronze his skin, adjust his toupee, and drive off up West to try to ‘pull’ a dolly bird.

His wife will have an even more comprehensive range of creams, powders, clothes and sprays to appeal to her desire to look and be young again. And when she’s put it all on she will invite that nice young milkman in for a cuppa. Honestly, everyone admires and chases young and pretty sex-objects.

And if you’re young but not very pretty – Johnny can sit all night in a. club – whether it’s Bumpers or the Masquerade doesn’t matter, but unless he’s traded in his hornrims for contacts, his pimples for ‘bronzer’, and his grey flannels for tight jeans, he’s quite likely to go home alone.

Vera can sit there all night, but unless she’s either nude or in heavy clogs, striped tights, peek-a-boo pop eye make-up, teenform bra, Tampax, Femfresh, Mum Rolette (etc) gaucho pants and a smock, sit is all she’ll do.

Both of them will quite likely get talking to some nice girl/boy (perm any two from four) at work, or on the tube, or anywhere, and eventually settle into a relationship. But they won’t hit it off with anybody in the sort of situation where you have to be a sex-object all the time – like a gay pub or club.

If we were all known as who and what we are at all times in all places, the same might happen to all of us — in fact I’m sure it would.

But most of us are only able to openly be gay in the hothouse atmosphere of a pub – and if you aren’t young and/or beautiful, that sort of thing doesn’t really suit you. You’re looking for HIM – while all we youngsters are looking for IT. Undue emphasis gets placed on this young-and-lovely because it looms large when you don’t come out and you don’t know who is and who isn’t. Try it and see.

It’s hiding away like this that makes this natural phenomenon look much more cruel and unnatural than it really is.

Right – having established that the youth and beauty cult isn’t a special ‘hang-up for gays’, where does it come from?

It is forced on your attention all the time in the form of ads – posters, telecommercials, on the sides of buses, shop windows – the message is the same everywhere. Buy this and you’ll be irresistably sexy.

‘Things happen after a Badedas bath’ croons the dripping young lady with a towel almost making her decent.

‘We’ll make you blush whatever kind of cheek you’ve got’ says the Woolworth lady peeping from behind her lace curtains.

‘You too, can have a Morley like mine’ grimaces the straining hulk in a tight blue tee shirt.

But you don’t judge a book by its cover – so why should you judge what degree of sexual stimulation/satisfaction you’re going to get (if you must look at people that way) by who’s teeshirt, bra or aftershave he/she’s wearing?

Face it, you lifelong bachelor uncles of this world, he might not be the bang of the century but your old school chum is a lot more likely to be able to talk on your level about things that interest you both/has spent as many years as you have collecting hints and tips for use around the bedroom and kitchen, and is probably as well off as you are. He won’t deafen you with the stereo, won’t cost you nearly as much in nights at the club, and he won’t perpetually be calling you grandpa when you’re cross. Not, like our little chickens, however, pretty.

Don’t get too conned by the adman and his sexopohstic world – they even try and sell fire extinguishers on sex appeal now. It’s lying there, on fancy-wrapping and ribbon, with a romantic lovey-dovey message on a card – and what does the slogan say?

‘TAKE ONE HOME TONIGHT – ITS MUCH MORE THOUGHTFUL THAN FLOWERS’. How romantic – he/she will fall into your arms in rapture and you’ll have the world’s foamiest bed that night. Oh yes, I can see it now. Soft lights, sweet music and a quick squirt on the sofa!

And where else in the world do you find rose-tinted youths skipping into impossible sunsets with demure young blossoms draped in their arms? That one is perpetuated by the Barbara Cartland School of Smarm and others. Think of the unreal way ‘love’ is presented in all the kids books you ever read – no sex, white weddings, and intense conversations on the library sofa. No wonder everybody chases the common idea of beauty (which is just another sort of fashion) and supposedly carefree youth. Everyone, mind you, gay and straight. Like other pressures, we feel it more in our isolation.

Of course some people are more attractive than others – but that’s a matter of personal taste and preference. Of course it’s nice yo taste a little youth, both literally and vicariously, by the company of young people. But, I’m afraid there’s nothing odd about youngsters prefering their own company in the bedroom.

Just remember that it’s much nicer to grow old gracefully than to try and look, act and be younger than you are. After all, age ought to have its pleasures too. It makes a lot more sense to pursue them than to try to regain what has gone, I’m atraid, for ever.

Doug Pollard

ED: Doug’s article on ageing can only cover a single aspect of one of the most important subjects in gayness. So, if you agree with him or disagree with him, write to Gay News and tell us what you think. We want to give all points of view an outlet, that’s the policy of independent GN.