Golden Men: The Power of Gay Midlife.
There is no doubt in my mind that Harold Kooden, a clinical psychologist, is eminently qualified to write a book detailing a plan for successful aging for gay men: He's a founding member of both the Association of Gay Psychologists and the National Gay and Lesbian Health Foundation. Now he has set his sights on a new task: helping gay men achieve a well-adjusted transition into their later years. As Kooden writes, "Aging is inevitable. But thriving is a choice."
In Golden Men--part memoir and part self-help guide--Kooden outlines his belief that in coming out as gay men, we acquire the tools we need to age well; we just have to tap into this inner strength. To guide us on our journey, the author gives us exercises, often in the form of questions. Some may sound obvious and mundane ("What kind of picture do you have of yourself ten years from now?"), but others certainly get you thinking ("What would you have to do to forgive your family for the negative aspects of your life?").
Kooden peppers his text with many examples from both his personal life and the lives of his patients. On occasion, emotions reach out and grab us: Kooden vividly details his lover's death, and when he's writing from his heart, we share his pain. But this kind of moment is all too rare. Most of the illustrations fall flat. Even when he describes his own gay bashing, Kooden's text feels like little more than a paragraph taken off a news wire.
While the author is clearly insightful, Golden Men needs strong editing. Some seemingly basic information is omitted: Although the image of AIDS hangs heavy on these pages, Kooden never addresses the issue of how men who were disabled before protease inhibitors and are now healthy can find the strength to cross that emotional and physical barrier and return to work at middle age. At the same time, the book is overly long and repetitive, and its pearls (and there are many) get lost in the verbiage.
Psychologists like Kooden know that successful therapy takes years of repetition. But what works in me doctor's office doesn't necessarily work on the page.
Goldstone, a New York City-based physician, is a columnist for advocate.com and author of The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex.