May 2001

A birthday between this and my last column: less than a year now left being a teenager. I’ve been acting like an adult for years, so it’s not growing up, exactly, that worries me. I can’t remember I’m 19 most of the time. I miss being young, when time actually meant something. Shame, too, that it starts to speed up right around the “best years.”

A week has all the time of a drop of water from faucet to basin, and not just in retrospect anymore. Time passes quickly no matter what I’m doing.

I have some vaguely defined fear of twenty, like I’ll suddenly have to start taking responsibility. I am responsible now. But I wonder if someone will expect more out of me; get out of the ragged hoodies and cargos, take that metal out of your face, start drinking wine like respectable adults. Any surprise that I declare a major at 20?

In my observations, it seems that the peak of desirability in the country is 16-18, whether girls or boys. In the straight community, they call it pederasty (with their oh-so hypocritical tongues); we queers just accept it as a fact of life. We live in a youth culture because we young people have the free time and the disposable incomes – no wonder, then, that youth should be our peak of sexual appeal. Relationships with large age differences are not judged harshly within the gay community, despite what the outside world might say about “corruption” and “warped values.” Furthermore, let me be honest here, modern living tends to make us jaded, and what is then more attractive than bright-eyed eagerness and even innocence (on a sexually developed body, mind you). Whether my theory on age is valid or not, however, I’m outside my age range, and thus in my own mind I’ve moved into the land of over-the-hill.

Gay Youth have something unique and beautiful, and I feel a great sadness parting from my own youth. I remember, for instance, the sort of response I got as a 13-year-old queer kid in chatrooms (from those folks interested in what I had to say). I was brave, so pioneering – people’s hearts cried out for me, for the pain I would face, for the sheer brilliance of my place in the world. When I occasionally return to my old haunts now, I feel the same way towards the very young kids, just now coming to grips with their sexuality. I want to grasp them to me, and cry, and smile like sunshine, and become overwhelmed by how precious and terrible their lives are.

But I, at the same time, am just one more (mostly) out college kid, living in a big, liberal city. What was once beautiful is now mundane, once naïve now jaded, once heartbreakingly precious now the subject of dry essays like this one. I miss being that rare and shining child, eyes full of wonder and rage.

But somehow, at the back of my mind, I know that my feelings toward younger kids work in reverse too. If I (at 12) met myself today, I would cry and dream of that unimaginable time when I was free. At 12, I harbored dark, secret fantasies about kissing another boy someday, fantasies I knew would never come true – would I believe myself that I kissed three by the age of 19? And how could I ever have believed that I would ever tell my parents that darkest, secretest secret in my heart?

Well, I’ve come out to a lot of friends (I am out at college), and to my immediate family. I’ve held hands with boys in movie theaters, I’ve kissed them under the open sky, I’ve woken up with my arms around them in bed. When I was 12, I would have killed to live the way I live now; time, it seems, did my dirty work for me. I am 19, still with a boyish glint in my eye, and I am free.


Richard is a freshman in college in New York City, originally from the Washington DC area. All comments on his essays or questions can be sent to xMustaphaMondx@hotmail.com.

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