I am glad to say I fare pretty well in terms of maintaining a positive attitude about my body. Does this mean I am totally OK with this bag of meat that I lug around? Not entirely, but I am pretty much “on par” with most in that respect. Of course, there are things I would like to change. I handle it in stride, though, and take the necessary steps to make facilitate change.
Currently, my body consciousness does not center much around my paradigms of “masculinity.” By virtue of my Y-chromosomes, I am male, as are the specific parts of my body that support that fact. Regardless, there still are certain socio-cultural expectations, regarding my body and its presentation, that I have to deal with. I am more than familiar with popular notions of how the male physique should be. Male bodies are muscular, athletic, and powerful, much like the action figures I played with, as a child. They all looked the same, reinforcing an ideal that I was supposed to strive for, as I got older. That being all well and good, my genetics had other things in mind.
I have always been tall and skinny, reaching 6’ 2” by the seventh grade. My arms and legs were long and scrawny, lending to annoying monikers like “Mosquito” and “Pencil.” I do not know which irritated me more, the incessant teasing or my peers’ lack of originality. I was always a “last choice” for teams. My build was not athletic, nor did I possess anything that remotely resembled coordination. I was a “late-bloomer,” despite my towering height, and always felt a step or two behind the other boys in my class.
Puberty was a temporary affliction, luckily. My gonads finally decided to “kick-in” and my body changed. My shoulders broadened, and my features became more chiseled. I sculpted my body with years of jogging and weight-training. Overall, I was content with how I looked, but it was a far cry from the stereotypical expectations we see in men’s magazines and other media. I was not settling for less in terms of my own personal expectations of my physicality, mind you. I had come to rely on other things to define me, as a person and a man, such as my intellect, ambition, and drive. We, late-bloomers, tend to do that.
Does this mean I have never bought into the hyper-masculine stereotype? No. Of course, I did.
Being male is one thing, but being a gay male is quite another. Gay culture obsesses over youth and endorses physical and sexual ideals that, ultimately, demand their due. Big muscles were a must and the younger I looked the better. I constantly wore form-fitting clothes that left just-enough to the imagination to incite others to want to get me drunk and take them off. My life became a perpetual state of three-hour gym times, calorie-restriction, and constant preening. Reflecting, I amaze myself that I was able to keep-up that madness for over two decades. Sure, I looked good, but—ironically—my height and natural aloofness scared off untold numbers of potential boyfriends and hook-ups. I just could not win!
Even though I am older, now, my issues with body preoccupation have not fully resolved. Things are better, however. My obsession with being buff and physically dazzling is over. I do not kill myself, working-out, nor do I feel the need to buy into that facet of the “gay narrative.” Growing old is not a fate worse than death and–in fact–has taken a lot of the pressure off to be perfect.
Middle-age has put many things in to perspective, plus it is hard to live in a constant state of “hotness” when you cannot get up from a seated position without making noise. My hair has thinned and gone grayer than anticipated. Everything seems to hang an inch lower than it used to—at least the things that I wish would not. I have wrinkles. Interestingly, all these changes have not rocked me to my core. Getting older is a part of life and dreading it is an awful waste of time and energy. No amount of vanity can erase that fact. So, I deal with and accept it, as best as I can. Sure, I wish my body still could do some of the things it used to. I have gained, however, so much more, intellectually and emotionally, over the years: a trade-off that is more than fair.
A fatalistic perspective of aging, while helpful, is not enough to maintain a healthy outlook, however. What helped me during my transition into middle-adulthood is the belief that my “masculinity” was separate from my physicality. After all, masculinity is a social construct. Who I am, as a man, is, actually, a mental construct that has nothing to do with bulging biceps or six-percent body fat. My passion for writing, protectiveness of friends, and sense of responsibility are but a few of the things that make me the man that I am, today. That is pretty damn sexy if I do say so, myself.
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