Parting Glances: You're Only Gay Once, Mary!

BY CHARLES ALEXANDER

"It's a pity that youth is wasted on the young," said George Bernard Shaw, whose play "Pygmalion" was given a fresh start and a heart pacer as a Broadway musical and, later, a movie "My Fair Lady."

Shaw, who married late in life but didn't care tuppence for romantic dalliance, lived to be a feisty and loquacious 94-year-old. He talked and talked and talked himself into old age - and probably a number of his audiences who sat through his many three-act, four-hour marathons as well. (Plays are still frequently presented at Stratford, Ontario.)

In spite of Shaw's misspent youth quip, if a cosmic fairy godmother or heavenly lady tempest zapped me back to my carefree 20s, I'd do my darndest to learn a few more dance steps with an even livelier set of gay Arthur Murray dance partners. Bunny hop, anyone? line dance, leather dudes?

Truth is, I don't remember much about turning 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70...or, 80. (If only I had kept a daily journal instead of my "saint for a day" address book.)

But getting older hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would. At least I don't think it has. ("Nobody wants you when you're old and gay," my mother cautioned me when I entered kindergarten, Little Lulu lunch pail in hand.)

I've never experienced a panic at finding myself over the hill. (Or, taking my turn in the barrel for that matter.) And though I've been around the block so many times it doesn't have any corners to stand on, I've been stoic about losing my hairline in life's turbulent wind tunnel - resigned to experiencing full-body Mach 3 gravitational sag of my gluteus whatevers.

If aging is something that happened only to me (or Queen Elizabeth), I'd have a legitimate gripe, so I counsel myself over morning coffee. "Go not quietly into that good night!" I say at bedtime, snoring soundly in spite of myself.

The truth is, aging -- like taxation -- will chat up anybody who stands in line long enough to chit chat. (Just don't stand naked in front of a full-length, two-way mirror or before a sharp-eyed IRS auditor.)

I do, however remember two birthdays fondly: my 21st at a gay bar and a surprise party for my 50th. In between, I haven't a clue where I blew out my allotted candles or, if in the act of such celebratory ID checking, I got my wish (or, my man).

We all remember our coming of age. "Thank God I'm 21. No more 3.2 Zing Beer for me! It's all disco and LED lights and bubbling champagne from here on in." (Please have three pieces of picture ID handy. Pay the cover charge. And, what are you doing at closing time, big guy?)

And 50! Wow! 600 months. 18,250 days. 43,800 hours. How time unzips flies. ("You took too long to powder your nose, Mary. You were too busy finding out what the backroom boys were having, Charley.") Ah, yes...

At some undesignated point past ages 60 or 70 -- you'll know when you get there, LA Bruce -- one stops counting. And, to quote a famous poem: "They are not long, the days of wine and roses. Out of a misty dream; Our path emerges for a while, then closes. Within a dream." The poet, Englishman Ernest Dowson, died at 32. Short changed. An alcoholic.

Unasked for advice: Enjoy life. It's never later than you think. Or, is it? (To hell with Trump, who's 70 but acts IQ 45.)

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