Being a gentleman of a certain age means being aware (and sometimes being all-too-aware) of time and decay. It means being someone who does hear the phrase bare, ruin'd choirs in his head like the calls of the Wild Hunt growing closer and closer. There's no way around that. You're aware of time and age and decay.
Bare, ruin'd choirs--- I've seen annotations and explanations that say it really only means losing one's hair, Shakespeare's own fear of his own encroaching baldness. But we all know what it means, don't we? The image of abandoned buildings in a wintery landscape, the image of silenced voices. It's often taken to be about impotence, of course, about the failures time imposes. I can understand those things. Though I think that there's something more here.
Baldness and impotence are taken as the two key male fears once you reach a certain age. I won't try to pinpoint the number. It's a moving target after all. The best one could do is say that it's a number higher than the age where the arbitrary social rules no longer allow you to dance at clubs. Those two things, though, aren't the worst fears that age brings.
There are deeper fears, and ones that will paralyze you more than the fear of impotence or of going bald. After all, the Blue Pill exists, and current fashion allows men to shave their heads. The body's decay leads to things that far more terrifying.
I'm not talking just about the unsightliness that age brings. Flesh itself is a failure, and all the inner ills the body is heir to. Decay isn't just about looks or less frequent erections. Everything inside the body decays as well, and none of those things can be discussed or seen or acknowledged. The risks of that are too great, the social penalties too devastating. There are things that one could never risk having happen around a sexual partner, things too humiliating and degrading ever to be forgotten.
It's always a risk, revealing the body, trusting the body. And the risk of having the body fail in ways that evoke disgust is just too great. Flesh is and always has been a failure, something that makes any kind of sex a risk for seeing revulsion or disgust in a lover's eyes.
One has to just accept it. The body itself cannot be trusted, and being embodied, being inside flesh, is a clear avenue to being mocked or treated with derision. Flesh is a failure. We need to know this.