Comparing dog years against our own ‘human’ age is one of the most common age comparisons we do.
The calculation puts a ‘dog life’ into human years. To take one average (as it depends on who you speak to), one dog year is 15 human years, two years is 24 and three years is 32 etc.
So, is this where the concept of ‘gay years’ came from?
Whilst I haven’t found a mathematical calculation to work it out yet, it’s a phrase I hear often. And it’s got me started on an exploration of our communities obsession with age.
Now I’m 20, and I’ve had people telling me I’m getting old. But on the flipside people tell me I’m so young all the time too.
I’ve also heard that 27 in gay years is considered ‘old’. Does this mean I get to retire in seven years?
I’m in my final year at university, I’m yet to have a career, a family, a life. But I do sit in bed with a cup of tea, I watch the news and I read books – which begs the question, just how old am I?
Am I old?
Old: adjective, ‘Having lived for a long time; no longer young,’ says the Oxford dictionary.
When are you no longer young? – Is it when you get a bus pass, your pension, retirement?
Who decides, is it you or is it me? Is it the government or is it society? You could call age a social construct.
An idea that as society we have enforced on ourselves with the help of the state. The law defines an adult from a child, but was a child still a child before age limits came into effect?
In the UK we have to be 18 to legally vote and buy alcohol, but we can have sex at 16. In America, 21 marks the legal age to drink but in Germany, you can buy wine and beer at 16.
On the train, being 16 means you can no longer purchase a child’s ticket.
So, are you an old child or a young adult – or are you just an adult on the train and return to child status when you step off?
Maybe you are the one that is young
Young: adjective, ‘Having lived or existed for only a short time’.
What is a short time – for me, an hour is a very long time when waiting for food, but an hour waiting for your washing to finish is pretty normal, right?
What I’m trying to make clear is that ‘young’ or ‘old’ is more of an idea. It’s a construction we have in our head – and it varies from place to person.
Our age is engrained in social activities, in what we wear and how we behave. The list can continue. When you are ‘young’ you want to look older, when you are ‘old’ you want to look younger. Are we ever happy where we are?
Whilst I can only offer my personal experience from the London gay scene, its prevalent that age is major issue for gay people. I have friends all of ages, some classify themselves as young, others say they are old.
Those who are the same physical age, say they have a different ‘gay age’. And I’m yet to hear the phrase ‘straight years’.
Age for us isn’t just worked out from our date of birth, it’s also told to us by others.
When do you stop being a ‘twink’? is when you hit a certain age or look a certain way.
Can a 24-year-old be ‘daddy’ or an 18-year-old be a ‘bear’?
Why does age matter so much to us?
Does being gay mean you have to work out your age using a different calculation from a set of classifications?
And whilst I can’t answer how old you are in gay years right now, you can help me understand where this concept came from.
I want to hear your attitudes towards your own age. How do you feel about your age and what makes you feel this way?
I’m currently a third-year student at Goldsmiths, University of London. I study Media and Sociology and am researching Gay Men’s experiences of ageing and growing older for my dissertation.
I want to know why we all want to know how old we are in gay years, and if we really need to work that out.
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