It’s time for me to become a middle-aged man. Queer culture is so relatively new, that most of the movement and community’s members are young. I have old lesbian and old gay male friends, but I don’t have more than a slim smattering of older Queer role models. My aging and development is very akin to the growing up and maturing process that humanity has seen during the eons of our existence, but my social life, if I can be said to have one, is now split into two, or more. I don’t have a solid core of daily people with whom to have coffee, phone calls and early dinner conversation about both my wild, homo self and my cozy, homebody parenting activities.
I have a streak of local parent friends and neighbors with kids of similar ages to mine. I appreciate their waves from across the street, social media posting about diapers and the fact that we can all discuss poop and boogers in a serious tone of voice. We can share birth and adoption stories. We can trade equipment tips and used baby gear. We have the same concerns over baby food ingredients, the fit of tiny socks that constantly fall off and sleep pattern disturbances.
But none of my local parent friends have the same Queer roots and identity that I have. If I want to casually make a U-haul, strap-on or fisting hanky code joke about trannies and queens, I would have to explain every minute detail of the punchline. If we had a dinner party and then put our babies to bed, there would be no following raucous wine discussion of recent drag, marriage laws and open relationships. I have no idea what it is that straight people talk about, which makes me a little bit of a xenophobic jerk in addition to making me pine to get back with my fellow Queers.
I’ve got eyes, fingers and the Internet, so I can look up the Queer dance parties that happen in my city and attend one on a rare night off from my little one. But even my co-parenting partner – who sees me after a tough night of nursing and tending – has a hard time recognizing how hard it would be for me to function at a late-night, physically demanding party zone. How I would be torn between home and the bar. If my daily witness doesn’t really get it, imagine how hard it would be for me and the other party-goers to relate.
I haven’t had a decent haircut in months. No matter how cool the cut of my pants, they still ride over my damaged abs and midriff like mom jeans. I try to hydrate and nap during the day with my infant, but I am exhausted, hungry and cranky even before the alcohol hits my system. I have no idea what the best dance songs are right now. Do you know how much longer it takes to Google popular music than to just walk into the familiar tunes in the bar that you are able to frequent?
So, I will undoubtedly get a babysitter some evening, stay up late, pump and dump my boozy breast milk and have the worst hangover of my life in order to shake my booty and sparkle my eyeballs at my Queer peers, but parenting has changed me. I’m awkward at young, energized events that don’t really get thumping until well after my normal, necessary bedtime.
The abundant joys of parenting mostly make my lack of perfectly suited conversation partners worth it, but I mourn the half friendships that I have with both average parents and my crazy, low-responsibility Queers. At some point I am going to have to have the balls to stop shielding my identity from the Normals and also admit that a draining night of dancing and debauchery with the Queers no longer holds the same appeal. I will occasionally muster for a fun night out, but leering at twenty-five year-olds just isn’t what it used to be. And it shouldn’t be.
How gross would it be to never recognize that I am becoming the gray-haired and pudgy, calm one in the middle of an otherwise sweating and altered dance floor? Everyone reaches many points in their lives where they must decide to be a rare human specimen of balance and growth or remain forever a child trapped in the dramatic throws of pop and self-obsessed youth culture. I am jealous of my friends who still have the time and stamina to party into the night, but how long are they themselves going to enjoy it? If the answer for the childless is “Forever!” I don’t even want to know.
I’m going to have to forge my own way into middle age and find spaces where I can both enjoy myself and be myself. What will provide me with enough enjoyment that, when Partner still wants to go out and party on his night off, I won’t feel left out and resentful of his joy? What can possibly fill the void left gaping by social, emotional, physical and economic exuberance?
I think I will begin with sleeping. I can’t enjoy a meal, outfit or TV show without sleep. In the midst of waking every few hours to nurse, what I need more than anything is some undisturbed rapid eye movement. Every once in a while, when the baby is napping or I have time off duty while Partner is on, I choose food or a shower over dozing, but the biggest luxury I have in life is to close my eyes and let the world go blissfully dark for a while.
When, eventually, I am well-rested enough to function for more than a few hours in a row, my next priority will be my own damned career. Some glorious day, I will feel like writing instead of dreaming about it. I will carve out time for myself for more than simple physical recovery from exhaustion. And, then, even further down the road, after I have spent long hours grinding and hacking on my professional hobby, I will muster the energy and courage to pull on some un-barfed-upon jeans, a tight-fitting tee from a box in the basement and head out into the night to once again observe the spectacle of a sticky, stale beer floor with flashing lights and a DJ who doesn’t have to wake up until afternoon of the next day.
I’m going to get myself a Groupon for cheapest massage that can be found, and a fancy jogging stroller for when I manage to tie my shoes onto the right feet. I’m going to spend just enough time on myself so that when Partner goes out to shake his booty, I can enjoy the quiet house full of delicious baby cheeks. I’m going to strive to balance myself with others well enough that I can have the peaceful family life that I long for and the spine of a feminist that I am supposed to be. I want my beer and my baby’s diapers too.
I want to be so damned happy with my scenario that I don’t give a shit that Partner hasn’t noticed that his gray hairs and out-dated shoes may make picking up 20-somethings a bit embarrassing. I am gonna nap, write and take enough long stroller hikes that everybody in my neighborhood notices that big lesbian dad with the little boy dressed in pink. I am going to beg beg beg and plead with all of my Queer friends to just have kids already, because it’s not much fun being middle-aged without them.