Here is a little secret about me. Before I even turned 30, I had my first Botox injection. Living in Dallas, a city consumed by a plastic-perfect aesthetic, it seemed like a harmless rite of passage into my life as a gay man. Little did I know, it was also the first step into the ocean of aging, where the tide keeps rising and it becomes harder and harder to keep your head above water.
You may be asking yourself why a 36-year-old man is writing about the difficulty of aging. I admit I am surprised to find myself doing it. But this year, I moved back to the city where I gave the first piece of my soul to the plastic surgery devil, and I quickly learned that I am in a little bit of debt.
Maybe it’s a regional thing. I had spent the last three years in a liberal hippie bubble where “healthy” wasn’t tied to how few wrinkles you had or the circumference of your biceps. It was just long enough for me to let my forehead unfreeze, cut out the creatine powder, and allow my face and body to (gasp!) return to a more human form.
As much as I hate to admit it, it only took three months after my return to the land of plastic surgery to book an appointment with the needle. After joining a few social groups of men my own age, I found myself surrounded by men whose biceps were bulging, whose pecs were exploding, whose waists were microscopic, and who were all on some pretty serious steroids. As you can imagine, my healthy body image quickly morphed into a house of a thousand horrors.
This column isn’t about how steroids are bad. If you aren’t hurting anyone else, you are free to do with your body what you will. The temptation of steroids for me might be the pressure to get liposuction or breast implants for others. It is simply the pressure to conform or contort yourself to stay valuable. I know I am not the only person who continuously battles with whether to resist what my insecurities would have me do or give in and chase the dragon. It is a struggle of many, and it will only get harder with age.
No matter how much I want to strive to stay relevant in a culture that worships youth, my one absolute is that I also want to live — and live well — for as long as I possibly can. For me, a person who is living with HIV, doing things like taking steroids is in absolute contrast with the one thing I never waiver on: my health. Not how close I look to a Men’s Health magazine cover — but my actual health, which is more important than my insecurities would have me believe.
This has become something I have to constantly remind myself of. Now it is also something I try to bring up in conversation with the wonderful, thoughtful, and amazing people whom I have met this year in the city where I had my first injection. We are all struggling with the pressures of Insta-society, so sometimes the best therapy we can do is to laugh about it and take the air out of the room as much as possible.
Regardless of the pressures you may face, aging is inevitable and the alternative is a literal buzzkill. Hopefully, we can do it while damaging ourselves as little as possible.