There was once a time when all the mainstream media (and Broadway, and Hollywood) thought nothing of running heart-rending stories about gay men and the lonely lives they lead destined toward suicide as they got older and less attractive. Thanks to groups such as GLAAD (yes, I said something nice about GLAAD) we’ve now a greater representation of our lives in popular culture.
Every now and then, one of those media outlets falls into their old ways. Such as this week when the New York Times ran a truly pathetic article about a troubled psychotherapist in New York who could have killed himself for any number of reasons, but the Times decided it was just another lonely aging fag who looked in the mirror and offed himself after facing the horror of a few wrinkles and some gray hairs.
Which brings me to my column this week:
Indeed, if you take a look at Bergeron’s web site, the man who appears to have spent much of his adult life catering to the psychotherapy needs of rich gay men, writes about his own mixed experiences being gay: “By my thirties, with close to a decade of experience as an openly gay man, I now had more confidence and comfort in navigating my gay world. Then I turned forty, and with getting older all the rules changed again. By cruel irony, I now again began feeling less secure around men — younger gay men and even many gay men my age or older.”
He continues: “When I learned new ways to relate with gay men, I returned to the confidence of my thirties but with less cockiness and more civility. As a result while quickly approaching the right side of fifty, I can say with deep sincerity: this is the best time of my life!”
And, as we discovered in the shallowly written Times article, this should have been the best time of Bergeron’s life according the metrics he appears to have set forth for himself in his public pronouncements. He had a thriving psychotherapy practice predicated on spreading the relentlessly treacly mantras of the would-be television therapist he hoped to be some day. He had a book was about to be published, (now) tragically titled, The Right Side of Forty: The Complete Guide to Happiness for Gay Men at Midlife and Beyond. He was, as he described himself, still in excellent physical shape and able to turn the heads of men half his age.
The Times article makes it sounds as if Bergeron’s death was the consequence of his not being able to practice what he preached vis-à-vis growing older gracefully.
Wrote Times writer Jacob Bernstein: “In Dancer From the Dance, the seminal 1970s novel about gay life in New York by Andrew Holleran, the protagonist, Anthony Malone, walks into the bay on Fire Island rather than facing getting older and watching his beauty fade.”
Asks Bernstein, “Had Mr. Bergeron made the same decision?”
“We sell this idea that 60 is the new 40, but it’s just lying,” said Dr. Frank Spinelli, an internist in Chelsea, to the Times. “We tell children there’s Santa Claus, and then they get older, and learn better. I can’t even begin to imagine what Bob was going through.”
There are many things to be annoyed about in this article, and in the reaction to it in the gay blogosphere.
What’s even worse, this article was written by a gay man, Jacob Bernstein, the muscle-boy-about-town in Manhattan (and, reportedly, Provincetown), and the son of famed Washington Post writer Carl Bernstein and playwright Nora Ephron.
Shame on him. Really, just shame on him.