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Gay Men, Growing Up & Finding Neverland

Exploring the gay male-Finding Neverland connection, as the popular musical version of the popular movie hits Atlanta

By Mike Fleming, David Atlanta Editorial Director

THERE ARE CERTAIN SHOWS that just scream gay, even if it’s entirely unintentional on the part of the storytellers. How many LGBT people feel a personal affinity with the outsiders in The Wizard of Oz? Who is or knows someone that epitomizes the witches in Wicked? Exactly.

And that’s just to name two. Here’s a third: Finding Neverland. The musical version of the Johnny Depp movie, which whisks kids and gay men alike into a world of escapism during rough times, is running now at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

Not only do some gay men make an art form out of never growing up like Peter Pan, the titular character in Victorian dandy J.M. Barrie’s most famous work, but we also know a thing or two about fantasy as medicine for hurt feelings.

Did someone say pushing to realize our dreams and to be ourselves despite everyone around us saying we can’t or shouldn’t? That’s got us written all over it.

THE LESSON IN NEVERLAND is that your dreams are worth chasing, and that staying in touch with your inner child is paramount to a healthy psyche. But there’s a rub after you’ve sung the songs and felt the feels at the theater: Life in the real world.

It’s OK, sad sack. Let’s walk through it. You can still channel that little boy inside you who’s special to make your dreams come true, just do it with the measure of parenting that he deserves. You owe it to him, and to yourself.

There’s a balance that some gay guys just haven’t learned to strike yet that would make us better at work, at play, in love and in life.

Whatever the reasons, being Gay Peter Pan can actually be enjoyable for a while – until it really, really isn’t.

TOO MANY OF US FOUGHT against rejection just for being who we are, in society and within our own families and communities. At some point, gay life swooped in like a hero and made us feel accepted.

Then regardless of how age appropriate that gay life remains, we stay stuck out of fear. The Neverland fantasy is appealing on its surface. We don’t want to let that comfort go, even if it creates a life of self-sabotage trying to keep it up.

To compound the matter, gay men love a rebellious bad boy who can’t grow up. Young free spirits who are all play and no work are rewarded for that kind of behavior. They can extend the façade with varying degrees of success, even into their 40s or longer, but when it finally catches up to them, the long, hard fall out of favor can be devastating.

Everyone who’s dated or crushed on one of these guys knows: Peter Pan can be fun, but he can’t be The One.

You deserve to be The One – for yourself, as much as for potential husbands, partners, boyfriends and lovers.

YOU’RE GETTING OLDER, GUYS. And there are a legion of our people who died to prove that growing old is better than the alternative: Not growing old. Buck up, deal with it, and embrace it – or let it turn you bitter while you fight it fruitlessly.

When growing older is the enemy, it’s a losing battle. The elusive Neverland gets further, not closer, as the quest for it marches on. When the scared little gay boy is still trapped inside a 35, 45, 55, or 65-year-old body, the problem can reach critical mass if he doesn’t have the tools to fix it.

NOW THE GOOD NEWS. There’s a more fulfilling, less tragic life that respects your inner child more than Peter Pan ever could. And gay men are primed to take advantage of it. Peter Pan Syndrome stems from a desire for someone to take care of you, but when we learn to take care of ourselves, we’re not just happier, but more desirable.

Yes, really. What’s sexier than confidence that comes when we man up and get it together? Other guys want the gay grownup you can actually be, not the one who pretends to be the young man you used to be, or never were.

Scary? Maybe. Growing pains suck at any age, but especially if it means “losing our youth.” Think of it this way: Youth is going away with or without our consent. Our best selves come when we embrace our experience, become reliable and responsible, and reap the rewards that come with it.

More good news: It’s never too late, and an increasing number of gay men are figuring out how to make it happen. The ironic part is, the little gay kid inside can come out and play with more security, because for the first time, he is truly protected.

Sources: Science Daily, Psychology Today, Your Tango

Escaping Neverland

Steps to putting your inner Peter Pan to rest for good without sacrificing your inner child.

Fashion passion
Nothing says, “I’m out of touch with my reality,” than clothes that don’t fit the man. Usually, clothes that made you look hot in your 20s make you look “not” later. Even if you can rock it, don’t be afraid to ask for the honest truth from someone outside your own circle of “you look fab (but not really).”

Be honest
Scruffing, Grinding or Growling? There’s no place for a pic of you that’s 10 years old. Man up and post pics personally and professionally that say, ‘This is me!’ It’s liberating.

Party primer
It’s not cute to talk about how messy you were at the club. Enjoy your cocktails, but send a different message to potential friends, boyfriends, partners, hook-ups, even current friends, by stepping into full management and ownership of your recreational activities.

Reign it in
Everyone is guilty of spontaneous splurges. Without freaking out and looking too far ahead, the hardest “grow-up” conversation you can have comes when you realize you have no money for the future. It’s never to late! For starters, one less Starbucks per week puts $260 in the bank.

Sexy is as sexy does
Retrain your sex drive to enjoy other forms of pleasure. It’s time to explore intimacy and let sex and orgasms be the icing on the cake.

Give yourself a break
Life’s a pressure tank. Don’t add more stress trying to keep up with the gay Joneses and their killer bodies, fab houses, extravagant vacations and 2.5 kids. It may sound cheesy, but you’re beautiful and unique with a contribution to make. Don’t check out early because your heart couldn’t take it.

Slow down time
Funny enough, amidst all this bemoaning the passage of time, there is one tip that actually allows you to battle its rapid progression. Scientists studying how time passes faster as we get older found that having new experiences slow it down. So for kids, every experience is new. Adults have to make it happen. Go skydiving, learn a language, take a cooking class, join the neighborhood association. It’s the only way to make yourself younger, all while learning, growing and improving in the process.

Adapted and expanded from the writings gay Life Coach Rick Clemons, author of ‘Frankly My Dear I’m Gay, A Late Bloomers Guide To Coming Out’

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