The Value and Values of Middle-Aged Men

From gallery "Men Over 50" http://tommyandalan.com/

Despite society’s obsessive worship of youth, there’s still a whole lot of sexiness and desire associated with men of certain age.  Middle-aged men–or my preferred moniker, “daddies”–are arguably one of the most desirable groups in gay taxonomy with entire profile sites and theme nights dedicated to men in their 40s and 50s (see Daddy Hunt and DILF nights at your local bar).  Daddies are strong, loving men who protect and nurture younger lads; their greater life experience results in wisdom and know how about success, relationships, and passion; they are men in their prime in terms of stability and efficacy.  I’m also a known daddy hunter so I’m certain there’s some bias here 😉

My point is: middle-aged men have value and a place in gay society.  BUT, in spite of all this, men still crave youth–both in themselves and in others.  Check out this sad story about an influential and successful middle-aged man in NYC who despite his constant encouragement to others that there is life after 40, he ended up giving up and taking his own life.

I think it’s great for older guys to believe in having a vibrant life past 40, but I don’t think their values and goals should be the same as a twink’s.  You see it in Chelsea and on Fire Island: men in their 50s wearing neon high tops and silver bedazzled t-shirts that are marketed to 20 year olds.  Now, I’m not saying middle-aged men can’t be cool or wear trendy clothes, but with all the fashion and style available, why dress like a twink? (consider the mom who tries getting away with mini skirts and tube tops in an attempt to be hot…)  Older men can be hot and stylish, but they need their own style and should leave the nonsense tight n’ bright t-shirts to the twenty-somethings (and stop lying about your age!).

I mentioned these thoughts to a couple of friends recently (who happen to be middle-aged)  and was like, “Can’t you guys just be happy being your age and not be so concerned with being young again?” and they were like, “Hold on, young grasshopper, easier said than done.  You try being 50 in a society that lusts after 25-year-old.  We’re also sorta pioneers for this demographic.”

Pioneers…?  Ah yes, because we are living in an age today when more men are out than ever before and in a society that is gradually accepting and validating them as homosexuals.  This is compounded by the fact that the generation before them–the generation who would have been trend setters and mentors–has been decimated by loss from HIV/AIDS.  So for the first time there is a group of publicly out middle-aged men who have to figure out who they are and what their values are in society.

My question to you is: What does a successful 45-year-old gay man look like?  What does he value and how does he fit in with the larger community?

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Campy Queens: An Out of Date Stereotype

Learning my gay history has been a process of gathering together bits and pieces from all sorts of sources over the years.  From drag queens, art galleries, hookups, and friends I’ve learned about our struggles and victories in a casual oral traditions sort of way.  Recently through a buddy I was introduced to the amazing and campy 1970 film, The Boys in the Band.

Watch the clip.  If you’ve seen it, then you’ll remember and enjoy the smart, daring treatment of homosexual men from a film that’s over 40 years old.  If you’ve never seen it, then be surprised at how explicit they treat the topic of homosexuality in a time when you* thought all gay men were hidden and persecuted.

When I saw the film I was thrilled that this type of groundbreaking media existed.  Then I started reflecting on the campy behavior of the characters and comparing their terms and tone to the stereotypes of gay today.  Seems like 1970’s portrayal of gay men is alarmingly similar to what we get in 2012.

Before I go any further, obviously I’m making a judgement call here on what gay men should be acting like.  I don’t believe being gay necessarily dictates that you act like a queen with all the limp wrists and lisps and incredibly intuitive knowledge of fashion.  I reckon most of this is learned behavior from media and peers in combination with an assortment of social pressures.  I’m sure campy behavior has roots reaching back eons, but the reality is that being a man attracted to other men doesn’t mean you know how to pick out shoes and be cunningly vicious.  The mainstream is entertained by fabulous fags running around like sassy bitches, but in reality many gay dudes are low-key masculine studs who can be quite dull (see Disappointing Gay Best Friend).

So, back to film!  Consider how much the portrayal of women and people of color has changed since the 70s and how shocking it can be to watch the discriminatory and condescending attitudes towards these minority groups in older TV/film.  A lot of progress has been made in the past 40 years so women and people of color are treated more fairly in both media and reality (though we still have a long way to go).  But the gay men in The Boys remind me a lot of men I know in NYC and some of the homos I see on TV.  This seems odd to me and makes me think the progress towards equality for us fags is taking a really long time.

The last decade has been a productive one with marriage equality being realized in some states and a bigger focus on acknowledging homos as real and equal people reverberating throughout society (where before it wasn’t even an acceptable option).  Despite these advancements, there’s still a long way to go.  If I were making a film today portraying gay men, I think I’d lose the catty sass and instead show the incredible bonds that form between men who love each other as partners and friends.  There’s an awesome and powerful connection between men who can mix their friendship with the fun and intimate touches of sexuality.  I don’t want catty nonsense getting in the way of licking my friend 😉

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Jockstrapped

The jockstrap: the simplest and most potently masculine of all garments.  This hot little ass-hugging strap has been supporting men for over a hundred years with only a slight dip in popularity in the 80’s and 90’s when compression shorts became the athletic gear of choice.  Today, locker rooms and gay bars boast jock brands from the classic Bike to high-tech Under Armor to fashionable Calvin Klein with a style and shape for every man.  The jock’s association with sports, male-only exclusivity of use, and revealing design make jocks both strong and sexy–two things we like in men.

Like a lot of guys, getting my first jock was a coming of age moment and made me feel like I was gaining entry into the Man Club (even though I was still on the cute side of puberty).  Ever since then I’ve loved wearing jocks and am always happy to see the distinctive lines of one on another man (ruff!).  In honor of this delicious piece of gear that has enthralled so many men, I’ve collected a few quotes and stories from guys about their thoughts on the jockstrap.  Enjoy 🙂

“I give my husband jocks like a straight man would give his wife lingerie.  He loves them and I love them…also easy access for me.  Some nights the jocks never even comes off him.” — Fashion designer

“I live in a jock; I don’t think I even own a pair of underwear.  Jocks are great and I love wearing them…doesn’t even have to necessarily be clean.  It’s one of the few pieces of clothing that’s better dirty.”  — MMA fighter

“One of my most intense locker room memories is from college when one day after gym class I walked into the showers and found a white jockstrap hanging from a towel rack.  The school issued us shorts, t-shirts, and even jocks for class if we asked and I always loved the idea of my fellow frat boy classmates wearing them.  Anyway, I was about to grab it when I heard someone in a shower stall and realized the jock must be his.  I didn’t care though…I quickly walked past and grabbed that jock and headed right back to my locker to get dressed.  As I was changing the guy from the shower came out and just happened to be using a locker a few down from me.  He was this rugby-playing, dark-haired guy and I panicked cause I just knew he knew I had taken his gear.  No one said anything until just as I was walking past him and out of the locker room he sort of mumbled, “enjoy it” without ever looking up at me.  I froze for a second and then just bolted.  It was intense…and so hot.” — US Army soldier

“I volunteered to be a manager of my high school football team–a really crappy, hard job because of all the work you have to do–just so I could be the one to wash all the team uniforms and gear.  That meant getting to feel and sniff about 40 jockstraps each week.  I was a tremendous pervert.  Still am.” — Chelsea bartender

“My ferret always stole my jock and hid it in his little nest.  Ferrets love stinky things and I guess that was the most glorious item in the house.” — Rugby player

Any of you have a jockstrap thought or story to share?  Please post in the comments.

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Art To Teach And Remind Us (of what has come before)

I was an oblivious child when the AIDS epidemic swept through the gay community like a ravenous angel of death that no one yet understood.  While watching cartoons on a big boxy TV, I remember brief news reports of an evil disease that sinners got because God was mad at them.  Through my conservative Christian lens, AIDS was a part of the forbidden topic of homosexuality that sat well outside my world of understanding.  Gradually, as it happens with little kids, I grew up and learned more about myself and the world and one day I found myself free and conscious and examining a part of history that surely affects me so much, but one that I had never really had any direct knowledge about.

An entire generation of gay men has been wiped out and a horrible scar left on the collective psyche of those who remain.  Living in NYC has allowed me to meet men who lived through those harsh times and hearing their stories of lost friends and life in a society violently waking up to the emerging queer community is powerful.  Their stories also makes me realize how easy my life has been in some ways.  The history of gay men is a vibrant tale that has spent most of its time in shadows and learning about the men before me has been largely a person-by-person survey.  I’m eager for a wider perspective of where we’ve come from so as to better direct where we go from here.

Recently I went to see an art exhibit called, “HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture“, that presents a hundred years of queer themes in art.    Below is a small selection of the work that had an impact on me…all three pieces from the late 20th century and dealing with the AIDS epidemic and the loss caused to the community.  There are powerful lessons in these works so take a moment to look and read and pause to remember.  The description below each image was taken from the exhibit writeup online.
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"Unfinished Painting" by Keith Haring (American, 1958–1990). 1989. Acrylic on canvas.

In the midst of the AIDS crisis, the poet Thom Gunn said he never thought there was a “‘gay community’ until the thing was vanishing.” In 1990, 18,447 Americans died of AIDS. The artist Keith Haring would be one of them, passing away on February 16, 1990, at the age of thirty-one. Haring had vaulted to public prominence as a graffiti artist whose comical and mysterious cartoons started appearing randomly in New York City’s subway system and led him to mainstream fame in the art world. The sketchy, skittering nature of his drawing is worked into this painting, but the structure of the unfinished work gives it a formal weight. The hanging strings of the unfinished painting suggest not just incompletion but unraveling.
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"Felix, June 5, 1994" by AA Bronson (Canadian, b. 1946). 1994 (printed 1999). Lacquer on vinyl, 84 x 168 in.

“I made this photograph of Felix a few hours after his death. He is arranged to receive visitors, and his favorite objects are gathered about him: his television remote control, his tape-recorder, and his cigarettes. Felix suffered from extreme wasting, and at the time of his death his eyes could not be closed: there was not enough flesh left on the bone. Felix and Jorge and I lived and worked together from 1969 until 1994. During that time we became one organism, one group mind, one nervous system; one set of habits, mannerisms, and preferences. We presented ourselves as a “group” called General Idea, and we pictured ourselves in doctored photographs as the ultimate artwork of our own design: we transformed our borrowed bodies into props, significations manipulated to create an image, a reality. ”
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"Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Félix González-Torres (American, 1957–1996). 1991. Candies individually wrapped in multicolored cellophane, endless supply. Overall dimensions vary with installation, ideal weight: 175 lb.

Even as a minimalist, Félix González-Torres also had a whimsical, humanistic side that showed the influence of pop art on his installations. In this “portrait” of his deceased partner, Ross Laycock, González-Torres created a spill of candies that approximated Ross’s weight (175 lbs.) when he was healthy. Viewers are invited to take away a candy until the mound gradually disappears; it is then replenished, and the cycle of life and death continues. While González-Torres wanted the viewer/participant to partake of the sweetness of his own relationship with Ross, the candy spill also works as an act of communion. More darkly, the steadily diminishing pile of cheerfully wrapped candies shows the dissolution of the gay community, as society ignored the AIDS epidemic. In the moment that the candy dissolves in the viewer’s mouth, the participant also receives a shock of recognition at his or her complicity in Ross’s demise.

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The Man Behind the Screen

Who is the Man Behind the Leather?

It happens all the time.  I ask my friend if knows some guy from the community.  I give a description, a first name, a few unique traits and get a, “uuuhhh, not sure…” response.  I provide a screen name and suddenly my friend lights up and acknowledges, “Oh yeah, he’s great!  Known him for years.”

dominationNYC
versguy8
alphadogCHAMP
phillybondagebud

Screen names–identities in the virtual world that provide a succinct description of who the men are and what they do.  A carryover from days when most gay men had to shield themselves behind anonymity and pseudonyms, the screen name started gathering importance with the rise of AOL and the communities their chat rooms provided.  Here men considered who they were and what they wanted to convey to others and thus their horny little labels took shape.

Today, to some these are quickly made labels to fulfill a profile site requirement.  But to many the screen name is a calculated idea that serves as their brief introduction in a digital forest of hunters and prey.  A screen name is your identity and like it or not it’s an important component of creating an online brand for yourself.

There’s an art to coming up with a screen name and the results range from accurately enticing to humorously repulsive (and sometimes just confusing).  Words like “jock, top, bttm, hung, hairy, masc, muscle, and boy” are combined with any number of other words, numbers (all too often ’69’), and locations to represent the individual.  From my experience it’s good to be clear, okay to be clever, and a waste of everyone’s time to be deceitful (don’t say you’re “DomTopMilitarySir” and turn out to be “SubSillySissyFace”).

But this branding process has gone way beyond screen names now.  As the virtual world of the Internet continues to expand and link us all in countless spiraling ways, the importance and power of an online presence/identity is clear.  With each picture, profile, and post uploaded to the net we are creating a brand for ourselves that has the potential to reach thousands (if not more) and shape who we are in the collective consciousness of the community.  Real world reputation building and networking are still potent forces, of course, but it’s the online identity that is a beast with its own blind momentum.

So what happens when JockstrapStallion and CuriousRugby_79 get off the internet and connect with one another in real life?  Do their online personas download effectively into the physical world?  Did their brief-to-extensive written correspondences truly capture the essences of the men?  Do they sudden realize that 5 minutes of voice-to-voice conversation has way more insightful value than 50 text messages?

For any of us who have done this dance from online to real world we know that the results vary greatly.  Sometimes the transition is grand with expectations holding up and even being exceeded.  And sometimes the transition is rough and the person is shorter, wider, more feminine, or horrible socially awkward (but he wrote such articulate and masculine things!).  There’s even an added component to the leather community in that a lot of what we do delves into fantasy and provides spaces for men to explore things that extend beyond the normal day-to-day.  So even if MasterArgos thrills you for an evening in his dungeon, you might find him surprisingly human and kind at brunch.  A big part of my journey has been figuring out how to navigate these personas and also being able to present myself in a way that feel good and true to myself.

Online reputation, persona projection, fantasy vs. reality.  I feel like there are multiple blog posts I could write about all of this, but for today I’ll end with what I know best–genuineness.  Whether it’s your screen name, your profile description, or how you flag at the bar, I feel at the end of the day being yourself is what will bring you the most success and happiness.  And no matter how hard we try to create other personas for ourselves, we will still always remain vulnerable human beings who need community and support.

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Mid-Atlantic Leather: RECAP

Get your Gggrrrr face on for MAL

The first night I walk in out of the cold into the Hyatt and am instantly hit by warm air and the roaring mumble of many men talking and laughing at once in a large open space.  A few more steps in and I peer down into the lobby and see a continuous sea of leather-clad homos standing around catching up and flirting.  It’s at once overwhelming and wonderful, intimidating and comforting.  As I descend into the fray, I hungrily scan the crowd and look for friends–both old and soon to be 🙂

A typical moment during MAL

MAL: a weekend where men and women from all over the US and the world come together to have fun, socialize, play, buy/sell all kinds of fun products, and put on a leather title contest.  My Mid-Atlantic Leather  2012 was a success.

Following my guide from last year’s experiences I managed to:

  • Eat consistently and sleep pretty regularly (though 4am bedtimes were a bit rough by the end).
  • Only pack a handful of gear I didn’t use (I knew my second neoprene outfit was just a backup).
  • Stay away from creeper man who creepily creeped me last year.
  • Successfully engage with a singlet-encased muscle stud who still breaths heavily in my dreams.
  • Fall utterly in pup-love with some new buds (*wagz wagz wagz*).

The weekend is FULL of potential and excitement with so many hot, friendly, fun men in one place, but this all-access buzz can turn around and smack you in the face if you don’t manage your expectations well.  With all the gear, all the teasing and enticing, all the parties and places, your masculine mind is ready to explode by midday Saturday.  Thank goodness there are so many great guys around to provide comfort and support.  The socializing at these weekends is ultimately what you walk away smiling about and knowing that I have dear friends scattered around the country who I’ll see again soon is what sustains me when I have to say goodbye and return to the real world.

I think brotherly love–the need for and acquisition of genuine affection and care from other men–and the desire to explore the Leather world are the reasons I go to MAL.  I’m so happy this world exists and I have found a place in it to grow and become a better man.  Being able to wear singlets and football uniforms around in public and be praised for it is also pretty awesome.  To all my brothers, thanks for a great weekend!

This was new gear exploring for me...next time I want tighter pants 🙂

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MID-ATLANTIC LEATHER: A few lessons from last year

Key phrase at Mid-Atlantic Leather: "yes Sir"

In just two days I’ll be boarding a train to Washington, D.C. laden with my bags of gear and full of excitement for the much anticipated MID-ATLANTIC LEATHER weekend! *fireworks and howling*

This will be my second year attending MAL and I’m returning a much wiser and more seasoned pup *tail wags*.  Last year was a blast, but overwhelming at times and I made a few rookie mistakes along the way.  Here is a quick list of lessons learned to help YOU in your MAL experience…

First, don’t eat or sleep–just have as much fun as possible every moment of the day.
Siiiiiiiike.  While meals and sleep somehow end up taking a backseat to other opportunities during the weekend, you should definitely make an effort to keep yourself well fueled and rested.  PACE YOURSELF.  Seriously.

Pack EVERY piece of gear you own cause you never know what you might need/want.
LORD, come on, you don’t really need every piece of gear.  While the weekend is a GREAT time to showcase your favorite neoprene and leather and make use of your favorite restraints and whips, remember that at the end of the day it aint about the gear.  Be selective to a certain degree cause you’re probably not going to accomplish every fantasy in the limited 3 days (and just some leather pants, a singlet, and a modest length of rope goes a long way).

Don’t use any discretion when selecting men to follow up to their hotel rooms.
Trust your gut!  A creeper feels like a creeper.  There are lots of wonderful, hot, fun men at MAL–don’t just settle on the first one who locks your hand in an iron-grip handshake and implores you to come with him.

Resign yourself to not talking to that really hot muscle bear cause you’re sure he’s totally not interested in you.
Take a chance!  Most people underestimate their attractiveness and value and you never know when an insanely hot man will be into you.  Go say hello…at the very least you’ll get to see him up close and may even get a whiff of his pits.

Have fun, make new friends, get to know your existing friends better.
Seriously, it’s a weekend of stimulating brotherhood and indulgence so invest in yourself and those around you.  You’ll come away with great memories and a slew of new Facebook buds to flirt with through the winter.

Full report next week.  See ya in DC!

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2011: By the Numbers

Another year has past on Becoming Mr. Eagle and I’m pretty thrilled with the modest audience I’ve gathered over the months. Like any blogger who gets off on having readers, I thank everyone for their continued support. Whether you’re a leather man, a curious searcher, or a perv who is just looking for dirty content (some of the most common search terms are filthy!) I hope to keep inspiring and sharing with you in fabulous 2012.

How many hits did this blog get in 2011?  To put it in the context of opera (as I’m so fond of doing):

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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2011: Rear End Review

Meeting the Boss was a big highlight of 2011

2011 Retrospective, selected memories that shaped my year:

It’s January, MAL, and I’m sitting in a hotel room with two muscular men in jockstraps talking about bondage.  Their handsome faces smile atop thick torsos while gesturing with tattooed arms.  I feel like a child compared to their physiques, confidence, and knowledge and I freeze up when asked if I’d like to help tie up one of the men.  I leave feeling confused.  My hair is long and I don’t have a beard.

It’s February and I’m 29 years old today.  I’m pouring sake bombs down my throat while laughing with dear friends in a loud and wild sushi restaurant in downtown Manhattan.  We are all wearing gear and attract the attention of the frat boys celebrating a birthday at the table next to us.  A challenge is issued to the birthday boys: swap clothes!  We do and for the first time in my life I’m wearing a backwards cap with a button down shirt 2 sizes too big.  The night ends with lots of kissing.

It’s March and I’m zipping up the gown of Donna Sachet at the Mr. SF Leather Contest while my Sir puts the final touches on his new leather cop uniform.  In a moment they will return to the stage to announce the winner of the title to an audience of Leather men and women.  I’m wearing a collar and my favorite leather cap–an outfit I choose only after debating the merits of leather vs. wrestling singlets with my close friends.  I brought the singlet to change into for the after party.

It’s June and hot and I’m wearing a sufficiently slutty tank top with my nipples popping out as I push my way through the Pride parade crowd in the West Village  I marvel at all the men in drag and the number of rainbow flags swirling in the air.  Someone shoots me with a water gun from the balcony of second floor apartment and I stop to shout up at the asshole.  He gives me a sly smile as if to say, “I’m up here and you’re down there and you can’t get me” so I charm my way past the doorman and head up to the apartment of the gunman.  A large party is going on inside.  My tank top doesn’t stay on for long.

It’s August and I have been searching for the entrance to the meat rack for at least half an hour.  Fire Island is dark at night and I stumble through pitch black woods in vain with the distant sounds of Lady Gaga and shrieking coming from the illuminated boardwalk.  I’m sweating in my singlet and feel ready to give up this silly endeavor when  I hear someone behind me walking over sticks and kicking up sand.  I smell him before I see him…and it’s a nice smell.  His hand touches my shoulder in a gesture that’s friendly and intimate.  I notice the stars overhead for the first time.

It’s September and the sun is setting over Folsom Street in San Fransisco.  I’m kissing a man with green eyes amongst the crowd of fetish folk and feel him shutter with desire.  He smells like leather and man and the warm sunlight ignites his eyes as they look into mine.  I don’t know him, but in this moment we are bounded on a deeper level where men go to safely share their vulnerabilities.  My whole weekend climaxes at this point.

It’s October and I’m dancing in my harness boots at Katie’s wedding in Asheville, NC.  A slow song comes on and I feel utterly compelled to dance with my boyfriend despite being one of only two gay couples at the event in the conservative south.  We flow together on the dance floor and I briefly debate where to put my hands and arms.  I opt for over his shoulders as I close my eyes and smile.  This is the first time I’ve ever lovingly danced with another man before.

It’s December and I’ve just learned how to properly shape my beard from the advice of a Barber.  I marvel at how a few careful strokes of the a razor can create a stronger jaw and a more masculine face.  My hair is short the way I like it and I notice the mix of boy and man in the mirror in front of me.  Outside a dog howls, I howl back.

2011 has been a great year for me and involved a lot of learning and growing as a man.  I’m thankful for my relationships with friends, brothers, and my boyfriend and look forward to all that awaits and all I’ll create in the new year.

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Images from STUFF IT!

Last week’s fundraiser STUFF IT held at the NYC Eagle by Mr Eagle 2012, A.C. Demidont, was a bulging success!  Selling raffle tickets was surprisingly easy since many Leathermen are so willing and accustomed to donating to charitable events.  I barely had to be dirty at all!  We raised over $1,000 dollars in cash, gift cards, and donations for the Ali Forney Center and several lucky folks went home with some HOT new gear 🙂

Check out the star-studded event in the slideshow below.

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