People have been calling me Daddy longer than it was proper to do so. If I truly could claim an adult son at the age I was first described as a father figure, it would have pointed to a youth even more misspent than the one I had.
People started calling me Daddy when I was in my early 30s. It’s true I’ve always looked old for my age. Now that I am ‘of a certain age’, frankly I’d prefer this would plateau. But when I was in my teens, I looked like an adult. When I was in my 20s, I looked like I was in my 30s, and I’m sure when I was in my early 30s, I looked like I was marching into middle age.
I certainly didn’t put up a fight. I helped things along by wearing a long, flowing beard that made me look even older than I was and somewhat sage-like, I suspect. The effect was immediate. Overnight I came to be called Daddy, and it stuck. Well it certainly lasted longer than the beard, that’s for sure.
My young adult life had not been particularly gracious, so I was hoping that the advancing years would be more my style. It was the '90s, bears were in and I wasn’t going to let something as trivial as lack of body hair prevent me from taking my place among my brethren. So I grew a beard, to somewhere around my already spreading stomach. I say I grew a beard when what I mean is I affected an over-compensatory tuft of ginger splendour sprouting forth fabulously from my otherwise undistinguished chin.
It was the perfect disguise, an elaborate mask that immediately attracted attention though feeling like a shield, perfect for a shy exhibitionist like myself. It was quite a look, commanded respect, and guaranteed that nobody sat next to me on buses. It carried with it heraldic accounts of Norse gods, and bands of bushrangers, and gangs of bikies. While I was unlikely ever to gain admittance to any of those legendary ranks, it should at least get me in good with a bunch of bears. Most importantly it made me stand out in this crowd of hairy men. I was different from every other fag with facial hair. I was Kerry of the long red beard.
Back when bears began it was a bit like waking up one day and finding your tribe, and discovering you were one of the elders. For someone who never thought he fit, who had by then come to revel in his outsider status, being in the bears felt like suddenly I was one of the cool kids. I had somehow become the ideal without doing anything more than surrendering to the passage of time, the ravages of diet and all the forces that would one day ensure that I would do a fair enough facsimile of my own father.
Being a bear has been a brilliant thing in my life. It was like I won the biological bingo. I decided to be an average bloke precisely at the time it would become popular in gay culture. I’d spent my life preparing for this moment. I had never much surrendered to fashion and always looked bloody silly when I tried, so I still retained the bogan wardrobe with which I began. I had always retained a strenuous objection to exercise and here was a group that fully endorsed me as an endomorph. I could be portly, poorly shaven, and be impoverished in my dress and still be treated like a god. Bonus.
By creating the bear, something any bloke could be, gay men made it possible for generations to grow old gracefully while acting completely disgracefully. Only gay men could devise a pension plan based on one’s appearance. And given that being a Daddy ensures admirers well into your dotage, it’s kind of like a sexual superannuation. And I’m hoping to draw dividends well into my decrepitude.