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When I turned 21
I thought my life was over.
I was supposed to be a man,
No longer a boy.
I was paralyzed with the fear
Of future obligations
And the absence of play.
It took a while
But after a few years
I learned how to play
And not be overwhelmed by obligations.
With each succeeding year
I get a little younger inside.
I learned how to play
But a particular terror remains:
Will I grow up to be
A creepy old man?
I go to parties.
And meet people much older than me.
They seem very interested in me.
But not so interested in each other.
It makes me uncomfortable.
I came out of The Closet
About four years too late.
The gay boys in college
Who most attracted me
Were busily schtooping each other
And never really
Noticed my existence.
I feared I was a creepy old man at 23.
It wasn't till I turned 34
That someone would call me boyfriend
For my very first time.
He was 24.
Five years passed before a second would.
He was 22.
I'm living in a time warp.
Always feeling like
I've fallen behind in my life.
Now I'm turning 40.
Feeling 23 inside.
I do not yet look my age
But I still fear becoming
A creepy old man.
I go to parties.
I am very friendly.
To people younger than me.
I get uncomfortable from the advances
Of people older than me.
But I don't want younger people
To get uncomfortable if I do the same thing.
I'm not being fair.
Just truthful.
Or maybe just too fearful.
I clutch the memory
Of elder gay men I have met
With their adoring boys.
They're not creepy,
And they never apologize
For who they are
And what they feel.
Can I be my real age
And have my real desires?
Can I follow my heart
Wherever it may lead?
To true love
        without shame
        without fear
        without illusion
        or triumphalism?
I have my doubts.

14 February 2000
revised 13 March 2000

by Bill Cattey