Gay Men and the “Peter Pan Complex”

This month, continuing to focus on aging, we’ll take a look at how we resist the maturing process. It’s called the “Peter Pan Complex”, and it’s about men who want to be boys forever. Let’s look at gay men and the Peter Pan complex, its implications for our culture, and ourselves.

We Hold On to Being Boys

We see our resistance to maturing in the way we address each other. Usually referring to each other as boys. This aligns with the relatively carefree lifestyles that many of us enjoy. I’m not suggesting radical change. Boyishness is a great quality in a man if it’s expressed positively and in the right context.

Some men try to hold on to who they were in their youth. It’s not unique to queer men. But, in a culture created by, and for, men it’s more common. Overly youthful self-expression only makes us seem older and causes a host of other problems.

Acting Young Doesn't Work

When you dress, or act, like someone much younger, you can alienate yourself from your peers. Many younger men will find you inauthentic. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose to appear youthful and vibrant. But, don’t be a slave to another generation’s trends. We aren’t part of the generations that follow us. Staying in tune with them is great. Following trends that make sense for you is too. But, trying to mimic the style of much younger men will make you look older, and seem out of touch with who you are.

The same is true of lifestyle. There are men who believe that they stay young by having almost exclusively younger friends, partying with them, and acting like them. The eye rolls they get from their peers aren’t anything to be concerned with, but there are far more serious implications.

Respect Your Aging Body

Our bodies change as we get older. We can’t tolerate things as well. The price we pay for late nights and partying gets higher. Those poor choices actually make us age more quickly. There are also hidden health costs that shouldn’t be ignored. Are you paying attention to what’s going on in your body? If you don’t know the impact that your lifestyle is having on you, you can’t do anything about it.

There really are times when “acting your age” is the right thing to do. Being realistic about getting older may be the best way to ensure that you stay vibrant and youthful as time passes. Pretending that you’re younger won’t shield you from reality.

Look at What You're Loosing

Immaturity can prevent you from having things you want in life. Material accomplishments can also elude you if you identify as someone much younger. The stability, ease, and wisdom that come with getting older may also be out of your reach. In healthy doses, they bring true happiness to our lives.

Partnership can also prove challenging. May-December romances work best when both men embrace their age difference. Falling in love with a younger man for who he is makes sense. Doing it because he makes you feel younger isn’t good for either of you. I’m dating a significantly younger man right now. As amazing as he is, he also makes me feel older sometimes. That is exactly how it should be.

Time to Grow Up

If you’re looking at your life wondering what went wrong. If you feel like you’ve missed out on life. If you’ve been left behind by your peers. Your issue isn’t really that you’re getting older. It’s simply that you don’t want to grow. up.

It is possible for gay men to let go of the Peter Pan complex.  You can bring your life back into balance while holding on to your youthfulness, and joy. It’s just a matter of taking an honest look at yourself and deciding where more maturity would serve you better.  

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