When you grow up but your friends are stuck in a queer culture loop

"I’m not sure when I graduated from innuendo t-shirts, gold booty shorts and Mickey Mouse ears when not at Disney World, but I did."

Q:

I found myself at a big gay outdoor to-do last month. This is an event that I’ve looked forward to for years, but this year, it fell flat. Not the event itself, but the same group of guys that were so fun in years past.

Shuffling through the crowd on my fourth drink and my buddies’ sixth or seventh, I caught a glimpse of us in a nearby window. There we were, three 40-something men and a 30-something. I looked miserable, but they were yucking it up in crop tops and plastic sunglasses like it was a carnival instead of the line to the port-a-potties. 

I’m not sure exactly when I graduated from innuendo t-shirts, gold booty shorts and Mickey Mouse ears when I’m not at Disney World, but I did. Other than the fact we’re all still single, I find myself with increasingly less in common with my friends, but they are my friends after all. They have been there for me and I for them. 

Still, I can’t shake that reflection in the window, and I can’t help feeling that what I saw was what I have to show for the last 15 years. I want more.

Dear Manboy:

So many issues, so little time. Let’s unpack and try to put away one manageable item at a time.

What you may be experiencing is a midlife crisis. Most people look up one day and ask, “Is this all there is?” Also on the table are blaming your buddies for your feelings, as well as a defeatist attitude that keeps you from addressing your real concerns.

First of all, getting older is certainly better than the alternative, and a slew of our queer brethren died before finding that out. Aging is a privilege, and as long as you’re alive, you are in a position to do something about your problems. Stop inventing road blocks to your progress.

Much has been written about the gay Peter Pan Syndrome —the Lost Boys who never grow up, and the corners of queer culture that support and encourage them. Even if your friends are among those who need to work on it, no one appointed you to the Special Victims Unit. 

In short, it’s not them. It’s you. Enjoy your sensible separates from Target, and let them work their own issues in their own time, while you work on your stuff.

Speaking of which, you’ve got enough on your plate. You mention a couple of things in passing that imply issues that may be a real concern for you: Who your friends are, the fact that you’re single and don’t like it, and your number of drinks.

It sounds like your friends share a real, valuable history, not just happen to be there. If they weren’t worth it, you wouldn’t be worried about losing them. You can want more without throwing out the friends with the booty shorts. Growing apart might happen naturally, but without you kicking good people to the curb over their silly choices.

As for the cocktails and relationships, change nothing at first and think about it consciously (and while sober). If you decide it’s necessary, put forth a plan to change. There is no “good number of drinks” or “perfect relationship” to guide everyone. The right answer is the one you feel good about for you, not the one you regret while doing it.

The Q is for entertainment purposes and not professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected].

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the latest issue, enjoy all the past editions of The Q advice column, and look for a new issue of Q each week online and around town.