Ah, Youth: To Envy... But Not
Ah, Youth: To Envy... But Not
I went to a high school graduation party last night.
It’s always the same. The guest of honor is a kid and could really care less whether you show up or not. You go for the parents, who are busy the entire evening greeting and briefly chatting up guests while dealing with logistics, so you end up sitting down at a table full of strangers who are pleasant enough, but with whom you have little in common.
The small talk becomes brittle and eventually you’re standing in a corner by yourself looking at your watch, plotting your escape.
These are the kind of social obligations that I find burdensome. But they are obligations that need to be honored, none the less, especially if you really value the friendship of the hosts.
That was the case last night. I’ve known this couple since 1986. Through the years, we’ve done theatre together, they’ve witnessed the cacophony that passes as my life, and I’ve watched as they married, created a life together, and raised children. They are ‘good people’.
After I first arrived, the husband chatted me up as I sipped on a glass of wine. Out of the blue he tells me, “Boy, if you want some eye candy, just head out to the patio. Some of those boys are worth turning gay for.”
This simply struck me as wrong.
I explained to him how that would not interest me, as I am only attracted to adults of a certain age. My friend had enough wine in him to not take offense and said something about one of the boys being absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful. I changed the subject and soon the conversation ended so he could attend to a couple of new arrivals.
A couple things bother me about this little exchange:
First off, the whole gay men as predators of youth angle; which I am absolutely sure was not my friend’s intention in the slightest, otherwise he would not be my friend. He’s very well-educated, worldly, with an intellectual bent and an enlightened mind. Quite frankly, he knows better.
We’ll let him off the hook for that.
Secondly, that this was coming out of my friend’s mouth – a straight man with two kids and a wife. We’ve never really discussed his sexuality, but, unless he’s a closeted bi-male, or contemplating exploring new horizons once the nest empties out, I am not sure what to make of his comments. They felt rather out of left field.
Eventually, I found myself out on the patio, relegated to the ‘old’ person’s table, where we talked about the various museum exhibits currently featured in the Twin Cities. As an older woman rhapsodized about the intricacies of Hopper’s drawings, my eyes drifted over the battalion of youth populating the carefully manicured gardens.
Yes, there is a simple beauty to be found in the faces of the very young; those on the verge of heading off to college and unknown waters. They all appear so clean and unmarred by life, their pristine skin free of sun damage and wrinkles, their bodies fresh and vital.
But they’re kids. Children, really. Other than appreciating that they possess qualities that I, myself, once possessed; well, that is where the romance ends for me.
At this point in my life, you have to be of a certain mature age to be on my sexual radar – as in, over the age of 35. The boyfriend is ten years younger than me, and some of my friends still give me shit about robbing the cradle, ludicrous, as he is hardly a ‘youth’. What attracts me to him is the fact that his body has been lived in and his mind has been filled with experience, facts, thoughts and feelings. That is what I’m drawn to.
There’s nothing about a blank slate that appeals to me in the slightest, no matter how ‘beautiful’. This whole appreciation of youth? Rather lost on me. I envy them, but, ultimately, I do not.
At some point, given our friendship, I will probably have to pull my friend over like the sex police and coax out an explanation for his strange comments. We will need to be well into our second martini before that conversation can take place, but… it will take place.
The human condition?
I understand so much about it, yet so much of it remains inexplicable and uncomprehensible. Who knows what I’ll uncover. But I will ‘go there’. It’s in my nature to play psyche detective, leaving no id unturned, no ego unruffled, no super ego unexposed…
…especially when it comes to my friends.
Isn’t that what friends for?