When you’re 18 years old and you tell people you’re gay, it’s an exciting time for everyone concerned. For me, coming out in 1998 was considered brave by some and repugnant by others. Once out of the closet, I was plunged into a world where every straight girl and some of the ‘less macho’ men wanted be my friend,- the token ‘funny gay guy’, with many fish lining up to be the one to immediately take on the unique crown of ‘fag hag’.
The ‘fag hag’ is a fair-weather, lady friend (hetty), with a multitude of responsibilities, acting as designated driver, personal courier for your phone number in a club, and companion at the salon while you are having your quarterly highlights and eyebrow wax. They also double up as a bodyguard to clear a safe route , however convoluted, in any gay bar avoiding all lesbians, and any ‘old’ gays trying to be cool and current, squeezing their middle -aged spread into skinny jeans and a tight white vest top and boasting a carefully manufactured side -parting to disguise their receding hairline. In return, the fag-hag receives bitchy comments, evenings out without the chance of bagging a guy, and a cab home alone. Its very much a two-way relationship.
At 18 years old, I gave little thought to the possibility that In 2016, I would be one of these ‘old gays’. Although at 37 years old (95 in gay years), I don’t feel over the hill, I am now constantly reminded by my stepdaughters that I no longer hold the ‘street cred’ I once did…..So when did I lose it? Where did it go? As I get ready to invoke ‘article 40’ (the political term for leaving the comfort of my thirties) , I reflect back on this transformation and point out some warning signs that indicate you have finally said goodbye to your youth…and have morphed into a ‘Friend of Dorothy’.
Strictly does it
1998 – The excitement of the forthcoming weekend used to start by about Wednesday, when I would start to plan my outfit, arrange the pre-going ‘out-out’drinks and have a sun-bed or three. The evening would get going with a friendly greeting from Sue the door-‘woman’ (Dave the builder during the week), and culminate in me demonstrating the latest steps routine, losing the shirt I spent hours selecting earlier that day from River Island’s sale rail (fag hag in-tow), and coming home stinking of B&H, masked with copious servings of Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier- thoughtfully packed into my diesel man-bag. In some cases, not coming home at all. Getting up on Sunday to start drinking again was a given.
2016– Going out? What? Saturday- Oh no I can’t – I’ll miss Strictly Come dancing! We can do something on Tuesday if you like after Eastenders? Maybe the Harvester and a bottle of wine? We’ve had a busy week!…Yes the appeal of masquerading in designer clothes with accessories to match coupled with a careful splattering of foundation and bronzer, is replaced in 2016 with a much preferred evening on the sofa, wearing joggers, a baggy hoody and a scatter cushion strategically placed on my belly so that I can breathe out. An evening body-popping to S Club 7 and a sing along to Alice Deejay is suddenly replaced with the dulcet tones of a ‘scorned’ Tess Daley, retired black swan- Darcy Bussell, a cabaret singer churning out sub-standard versions of some great tunes, while a group of lesser known celebrities dance the Viennese Waltz…..keep dancing!
1998– I saved up all my hard earned money to buy a BT Cellnet pay as you go mobile phone, (house-brick) as they’ve just invented text messaging. After splashing out on all the accessories (you know…the obligatory case with belt clip and the bling to hang off the extendible ariel), I found that you could only send text messages to people on your network- and all the fashionable gays were on Mercury 121…..dammit! Who needs text messages anyway? Whats wrong with picking up the phone. Who knew that your mobile phone doubled up as a ‘phonebook’ , thats just genius! – I won’t need to take my ‘little black book’ with me any longer, nor borrow a pen from ‘Tall Paul’ the uber camp, scantily clad bar…person.
2016– My stepdaughters cuss me because I haven’t collected enough credits on Snapchat, Ive only got 200 friends on Instagram and they can’t believe I have never ‘vlogged’. As much as I try to stay ‘on trend’, I just don’t get the fascination of watching ‘teeny boppers’ and make-up demonstrations on youtube and the pointlessness of video messaging. Or maybe I am just belligerent that these 15 year old entrepreneurs are making more money with every click than I do in a day! I reminisce the ‘good old days’, when the only way of communicating was to talk to real friends on the phone- or go and see them at their house, and admire how their collection of “Smash hits” posters was marginally more impressive than yours.
Rented Music- sorry ..what?
1998– Its pay day (I took home £240 this month….how will I spend all that?). Oh wait!…The Corrs have just released their TinTin out remix album and Steps have just released Steptacular and If I don’t get the moves down to ‘Tragedy’ before Warren (the smarmy Queen-Bitch turd-burglar), I may aswell never show my face in Spritzers again! I must get straight down to the Virgin Megastore and have a spend up (now that Our Price has closed).
2016– The last time I bought a CD was in 2009- and that was only because my ‘hairdresser’s car’didn’t come with MP3 and I needed some drive -time sing-along classics. Difficult to pinpoint when people stopped buying CDs, but the other day someone said to me- have you got Spotify?…You pay a monthly fee and can listen to all the music you want!. Great I thought…but where will I store all this downloaded music? .. Oh no….you don’t download it!! The music is not yours to own…..erm what? What happens if Spotify ceases to exist? I can’t cope with this idea of rented music. No No No.
Give in to the back fat
1998 – My daily diet consists of McDonalds breakfast, Burger King for lunch and Harvester for dinner…..Still 10 stone, toned, and could run the marathon (should I want to)
2016– Daily diet is ..nothing for breakfast, sushi for lunch and a salad for dinner. Still 14 stone….cant shift any weight, I look at a cake and put on 2 pounds, and running from the house to the car makes me sweat like a fat slag at a pie bake-off!
Befriend a Lesbian
1998– Every gay-boys worst nightmare…walking into a drinking establishment filled with overweight old Doris’s propping up the bar with their pints of Cider like they are waiting for the next demolition job to begin. Most of these creatures could take down a concrete wall just by leaning against it. Seriously…. the man-hating lesbians of the 90s were scary….soley responsible for the demise of double-denim, and a constant snail trail on the dance floor whenever the beat dropped into a KD Lang number.
2016– You can’t spot a lesbian these days…disguised as beautiful women- they no longer hate us gay-boys and we don’t hate them. They have names like Chantelle and Amber and are no longer referred to as Pam or Lynne. We holiday together, and sometimes make babies….who’d have thought?
1998– The annual event we have all been waiting for, we get to march and be fabulously different from everyone else- united in pink and dancing in a field that reeks of amyl nitrate and stereotype. We lip-sync to a medley of Spice Girls, S Club 7 and Backstreet Boys until the break of dawn…(assuming that Dawn was one of those ‘new money’ lezzers off her tits on smack)…man down.
2016– Gay Pride…who dear? me dear? pride dear? NO DEAR. Im washing my hair! I am no longer proud to march around a field and adorn my person with a lavish boa, camel-toe shorts and the latest levi-strauss sleeveless top ,or my personal triumph…the sailor outfit. Nowadays I am proud to be gay, but being a ‘scene queen’ is exhausting and thankless (so many flag bearers). What I am most proud of is that I can marry the man I love and be the person I am in a society that now accepts me without the need to set myself apart by prancing around a field.
So as I get ready for my 40s- I will say that I have no regrets about my life choices and happy to be a ‘friend of Dorothy’- age is just a number, but with age brings experience of what is important in life and what is superficial. I may reflect on earlier years with fondness and how many things have changed beyond the imaginable, but I know I would rather be living in 2016 than in 1998. Some people my age still live the same life they did 18 years ago and who am I to judge?.. Suffice to say, these people are still looking for love and happiness, while their fag-hags have retired and had 5 kids. I have found my ‘why’, and it lies with my husband and my step-children, something that I never dreamt possible in 1998, when marriage equality was unthinkable , as was a ‘blog’.