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Guest Post: Rodney and Me pt. 2

Today we have a second installment of Robert Riley’s open letter to the parents of his new significant other. You can read the first installment here.

Seeing my own words in print elsewhere besides my coffee table is gratifying and I appreciate you, the gentle reader… I’ll continue if it pleases you.

 

If your son is anything like Rodney, and his relationship with someone older continues as I am certainly hoping that ours will, at some point you will have a conversation and parts of it are going to sound like this:

“But that’s a whole generation”, “He’s old enough to be…”, “Are you crazy?”, or “Son are you sure you want this?” There’s a few bazillion other things you might say as well, some couched in your own prejudice, assuming human nature is as much a part of your makeup as it is anyone else. Then you’re going to “repair” to your own thoughts, perhaps thinking that if you object you’re going to drive him in a direction you’d prefer he not go. It’s okay to not want your son to be in a relationship with some guy who is twenty five years his senior. You’ve got a right to your feelings. I’d suggest that you really take a bit and experience them. You’re going to think things that will range from “What kind of pervert…?” when you imagine my face to “Well, it’s his life; he needs to make his own mistakes” when thinking about your son. Being frustrated and fearful that your son is making a terrible mistake is part of being a parent, and you’re probably already used to it. The difference is this may be an area in which your input is not going to be so quickly wanted or heeded, you’d better get used that too. Somewhere along the line in this process you’re going to get curious, so go ahead and get that other crap out of the way. After all you’re concerned and rightly so, on a couple of points at least: You don’t want your son hurt, he’s your child – of course you don’t. You don’t want to see him taken advantage of or in a situation where he is operating at a disadvantage. You see the difference in years as something to be worried about. You could easily be thinking that he’s being taken advantage of or just being used sexually. As much as it pains me to say, you could be right, there are some real bad people out there and it’s entirely possible that your son might have stumbled on to one of them. Try to equip your son with the knowledge of what the “red flags” look like and be careful that you don’t over do it.

In the midst of all of the negative you might be thinking (and forgive me if I’m terribly wrong about you) I would like to raise a point here. Have you considered that there might be some advantages too, or are you just stuck on what’s wrong? (That part of me that wants to be supportive is battling with that part that wants you to remind you {loudly and with maximum prejudice} that “no” isn’t the only answer to a question) Parents are used to saying “no” aren’t they? Speaking from my own experience, our kids present us with lots of situations in which we need to “parent”, we establish rules, guidelines and expectations in the hope that they’ll follow all of these instructions and somehow ferret out the right path. We want them to take advantage of our mistakes because we recognize how much pain our errors have caused us and we don’t want them to have to endure what we have endured. When our kids stray from the rules we say “no”, when they’re not following the guidelines we say “do it like this” and when something goes wrong we explain the expectations we had for them… am I correct? Then if that still doesn’t get the point across we follow that up with discipline or worse, punishment. I’m hoping that you don’t go down the punishing path… (oh yes, you can still punish him despite the fact that he’s reached the age of majority) You can isolate him, let him feel that you’re angry because of his choices. I’d like to take moment or two and remind you of something…. Something that gay people over the age of 30 (and a great many younger too) have come to know. Young people that happen to be Gay spend a lot of time being punished, many of them do it to themselves, they really don’t need you to help them to more punishment. Rodney is doing it to himself but I think he’s gaining ground on this. At one point he had convinced himself that you’re going to be so completely disapproving that he’s keeping his seeing someone a complete secret. My guess is that he’s terrified about telling you about this person he’s been seeing once or twice a week.

I don’t want to scare you but this needs to be said because it’s epidemic.

The greatest cause of death among people who are under 25 and identify as GLBT of any variety is Suicide, driven by both real and imagined non acceptance of people they love. Please don’t add to the burden your son already feels, allow him to be who he is without editorial comments, kindly, carefully express your concern but for the time being at least, for his sake keep your judgmental perspective to yourself! If I’m wrong and you are a supportive and affirming parent, don’t pass up the chance to tell him you love him more than life itself, you’ll have my unending gratitude as well as everybody’s from under the rainbow.

 At some point in the last couple of years you might have thought: “We’ve spent all this time and energy trying to teach him how to get from “A” to “B” and then he throws a curve ball” I can almost hear it in the wind. “Mom, Dad… we need to talk” “What’s wrong honey?” His Mother says with a hint of alarm, his Dad sits, quietly. They both look at him as he fidgets a bit. “I have something to tell you”. His pronounced adams apple bobs gently and then he says: “I’m gay”. His Dad exhales sharply, and says “Oh, is that all. I thought you were, um… I mean I thought somebody was pregnant”. His Mother looks at her husband… mouth open wide, “is that all, Tom what’s got into you?” A year later, you’ve still not really dealt with the “Gay” thing and you discover, quite by accident that your son of 20 is in a relationship with someone as old as his Father and you have no idea what to do. Let me make it easy on you: Sit down, relax, let me help you here a little.

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Top Five Anxieties When Entering an Intergenerational Relationship

anxietyFor individuals entering any type of intimate relationship there is going to be some level of anxiety.  One is always concerned if the other party is going to like them.  However, for intergenerational couples these anxieties may come in the form of age or status related concerns.  Often these anxieties can be subliminal, not fully apparent to the individuals involved in the relationship.  By addressing these anxieties consciously, though, an individual can either move beyond them and let the relationship flourish, or identify incompatibilities that are irreconcilable and decide to move on.  Today I present to you five major points of anxiety for gay intergenerational couples.  I hope they serve as a starting point for self reflection for my readership as well as a conversation starter here at GtD.

Perception – Individuals within intergenerational couples are often concerned with the perceptions of others, particularly if they are entering their first age disparate relationship.  As I discussed in many of my early posts here, there are a number of stereotypes surrounding intergenerational couples.  This can lead to a lot of anxiety for those individuals, which can effect how they approach the relationship.  I remember fearing intensely the reactions of family and friends to the news that I had entered a relationship with someone much older than myself not to mention anxieties over the way strangers may treat us as well.  Outside societal pressure can definitely have negative impacts on ones relationship and until I came to the conclusion that I had to make my own decisions, I questioned what future John and I might have.

Opportunism – Both older partners and younger partners my have concerns that they are taken advantage of.  Is the younger partner simply using the older for financial gain?  Is the older with the younger merely for sexual reasons or for status within the gay community.  While the problem of opportunism can be a legitimate concern, and I would never encourage an individual to let themselves be taken advantage of, the charge of opportunism is a serious one and can be quite hurtful if not true.  Fully examine anxieties over opportunism, before acting upon them.

Performance – This is probably an anxiety felt more acutely by older men than younger men.  Incidence of decreased sexual function increases with age.  Some older men fixate on problems they may have with sexual function leading to anxiety about how that will effect the relationship or how the younger man may react.  To a lesser extent younger men may have some anxieties in this area, worried how they may measure up to previous partners in the love making department.

Autonomy – On the other hand anxieties over autonomy are more likely to touch the younger partner.  Older partners in intergenerational relationships are often more established financially and professionally, and may have a leg up in terms of their relationships with friends and family (i.e. how long they have been out and accepted by those groups).  For the younger individual this may pose a challenge to their independence and self authorship.  How do you cultivate a healthy relationship with someone that has already established their identity when you’re still working on yours?  At the same time the older partner may fear hindering their younger partner’s development, concerned they may hold the younger man back.

Rejection – Ultimately the anxiety we all share when we enter a new relationship is the fear of rejection.  The previous anxieties feed the fear of rejection as do other concerns.  The older man may fear that he not in good enough shape.  The younger man may fear that he’s not educated or experienced enough.  And because of these or other anxieties both parties ultimately have anxiety over rejection.  Early on every small argument and disagreement my feel like grounds for rejection.  Fortunately as time goes by, if all these anxieties are confronted and dealt with, that anxiety of rejection begins to fade and a stronger relationship is left in its place.

Questions on Infidelity

Recently the blog DoWhatYouLike had a post that posed several questions about infidelity and how we defined it.  You can see their original post here.  In responding to the post I ended up writing a comment that could almost stand alone.  I decided to repost that comment here and see what other people thought about the topic.

I think this question is a lot harder to answer than you might first think, and really depends on the couple. I recently read Dan Savage’s book The Commitment and then a few other writings on the topic of monogamy, fidelity, non-monogamy, and infidelity. Gay male couples (and some straight couples) don’t necessarily define fidelity by sexual exclusivity. It is the emotional commitment to their partner that they find the most compelling. However I think some are comforted by monogamy, finding that sexual exclusivity is the bellwether for a healthy relationship. However that might not be the case and it is a facade for problems that lie beneath the relationship. My point here is that there are different understandings about fidelity between different people and among different couples, and what works or is appropriate for one couple might not work for another. The most important part of broaching the touchy subject of fidelity is good communication. An individual in a couple needs to let their partner know where they feel comfortable placing the boundary of the relationship. If a husband is getting too emotionally close to a female coworker then that needs to be addressed. It’s not necessarily that the relationship needs to change, but that discussing the relationship can enhance the level of trust and understanding within the couple. Fear and recriminations are one of the greatest threats to the health of a couple.

Tell me. What are your thoughts on fidelity?  How do you/you and your partner define fidelity?  Is it fair or even possible to place the same criteria of fidelity on different couples, gay or straight? Also consider participating in the poll below.

Homeland: Perhaps We Can Go Back Again, Pt. 1

I have mentioned before that I thought that telling people that I was interested in older men was like coming out a second time and that the age difference between my partner and I was where I felt I would encounter the most resistance about our relationship.  I visited my parents over the holidays and really confronted the consequences of coming out to them face-to-face for the first time; thankfully without much anguish.  It is also now coming upon one year of being out to them and, in a way, that means one year of really, truly being fully out to the world.  It feels like a good time to reflect on the past year and this final, monumental step of coming out.

During November and December of 2007 I began seriously considering coming out to my parents.  For the first time in my life I was in a committed relationship, and the idea of coming out started to feel less like a lie of omission and more like a bold faced lie.  I began reading a number of books about coming out; I found Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward’s Now That You Know exceptionally helpful.  The idea of coming out to my parents filled me with anxiety.  We were always the sort of family that never talked about controversial topics, so sex and religion were generally off the table.  I had no concrete idea of how my parents felt about homosexuality.

When I went home for the holidays that year I intended to come out, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  There was another sort of family crisis happening at the time that was already affecting the mood back home, and so I decided not to add to the stress of the season.  However, the visit was incredibly stressful for me;  having to make secretive phone calls to John, being unable to talk to my brother about the relationship for fear of being overheard, and the general dis-ease created by denying my relationship.

Upon returning home I decided that I needed to come out sooner rather than later.  In late January I mailed a coming out letter to my parents.  This isn’t a method I’d necessarily recommend to everyone, but I decided for my parents and I it was the best option at the time.  In my letter I discussed how I came to identify myself as gay, my personal journey with that identity, and how I now felt happy and successful in my life.  However I did not state that I was in a relationship or discuss John;  I decided I’d let them acclimate themselves to the idea that I was gay for a bit before jumping into the relationship side of it.

I waited about two weeks after mailing the letter before I contacted them.  I had hoped that they would call me first, but after giving them some time for the letter to reach them and for them to process what they read I called.  I spoke to my father first and was buoyed by his reception of my letter.  He told me that the thought that I might be gay had crossed his mind in the past and said that “people are they way they are, you can’t try to change them”.  He also related a story about someone he had gone to school with that had gotten married and had kids, but later came out and now lived with a partner.  I was elated at my father’s willingness to try to relate with me.

During the first call my mother hadn’t been at home, so I called back a couple days later.  She was clearly much more uncomfortable talking about the subject than my father was.  She asked some questions and didn’t seem too upset, but overall she seemed to want to avoid the topic.  She did ask me if I was in a relationship with the man I was living with and I admitted yes, but said I’d prefer to discuss him more later after they’d become more comfortable with the idea of me being gay.  I did convince my mother and father to check a copy of Now That You Know out of their local library.  I think it helped them innumerably as well.

Over the proceeding months I began to reveal additional information about John.  Eventually I wrote them a second letter.  Through both the letter and phone conversations I explained that I had always been attracted to older men, that John was exceptionally important to me, and that I considered him my partner.  I also sent them some photos of John.

By the time it came time for me to return home for Christmas of 2008 they were getting a pretty full picture of John.  They knew he was much older than me, though I still have yet to give a precise age, they learned he has adult children, and I often spoke to them about our life together.  However they seldom asked about John or even alluded to him in conversation unless I brought him up first.  I was anxious to see my parents face-to-face, to see if they would be more willing to discuss my homosexuality in person, and what questions they might ask about John.

Coming up:  My visit home during Christmas 2008.

Five Tips for Introducing Your Age-Different Lover to Friends

During the course of our relationship, John and I have introduced each other to a wide range of friends.  From gay friends to straight friends, close friends to mere acquaintances, we have navigated a wide range of introductions.  These experiences have ranged from pleasant to painfully awkward.  The following are a handful of recommendations I’ve gleaned from our experience on introducing your age-different lover to friends.

1.  Make the commitment that you are going to introduce your significant other to your friends. There are two reasons to do this.  First, if you are remotely serious about the relationship or if you are consistently attracted to people of a vastly different age than yourself your friends will have to know some time.  Such a relationship is doomed to failure if you try to maintain separate lives; you’d be building the relationship on a foundation of insecurities.  Second, your friends are likely to find out about your relationship at some point anyway.  By taking the initiative to tell them yourself you can prevent misunderstandings and introduce your boyfriend/lover/partner on your own terms.

2.  For those that you think may find an intergenerational relationship a challenge, you should front-load the first meeting. Let your friends know up front about the age difference prior to the first meeting, but frame this discussion as a positive or at least neutral aspect of your relationship.  Also let them know what drew you to your significant other.  It’s easy to try to ignore the age issue, especially of you don’t find it a challenge yourself.  However I’ve found that it is better to address this head on so that friends and acquaintances don’t feel blindsided by this minor detail.

3.  Make the status of your relationship clear. Lots of confusion can arise if the nature of your relationship is ambiguous amongst friends and acquaintances.  I remember uncomfortable instances of flirtation from other men at some of the first parties John and I attended together.  Without a clear message about our dating status, that I wasn’t just a little fun, others felt free to make overtures.  In another instance an acquaintance, though she knew we lived together, assumed we weren’t romantically involved.  It made for a slightly uncomfortable conversation; I was embarrassed I hadn’t made our relationship clear in the first place.  Clarifying your relationship with others can also help you avoid some of the assumptions made about intergenerational gay relationships.

4.  If you think your friend may find your intergenerational relationship challenging, make the introduction on neutral ground. Inviting them to your place, especially if you share your home with your partner could be intimidating and could put your friend on the defensive.  Instead, find a mutually agreed upon neutral location such as a restaurant or coffee shop to make your introductions.

5.  Use tact and respect the boundaries of both your friend and your significant other. While I have advocated for frankness with your friends when it comes to introducing them to your lover, this must also be balanced with decorum.  There is such a thing as “too much information”.  Though you want your friends to know how much you like your partner and how into him you really are, you don’t have to share intimate details.

Do you have any other suggestions for introducing an age different partner to friends?  Any outstanding memories of making such introductions? Please share them with us in the comments section of this post.

Love and the Little Blue Pill: On Sex and the Older Man

The one topic I think most people are curious about when it comes to age disparate relationships yet are too afraid or too polite to ask about is the issue of sex. I can almost watch the question cross through people’s minds when they see my septuagenarian partner and I together; they wonder how or if we have a satisfying sex life together. Well, it’s clear through both personal experience and through the results of scientific studies that men can have active and satisfying sex lives late in their lives. That said, there are unique considerations when it comes to sex with an older man. The following is a list of 10 things every gay man should know about having sex with an older man.

1. Older men still like having sex, a lot. This is a topic discussed on this site quite a bit, but I’ll reiterate. It is a myth that men become dead below the waist after they reach age 50. Older men still desire sexual intimacy.

2. Many older men do suffer from erectile dysfunction and may need the aid of E.D. medication. Of course this probably isn’t news. However, younger men interested in mature men should keep this fact in mind and be prepared to be flexible and supportive when it comes to problems E.D. sometimes presents.

3. Erectile dysfunction makes it more difficult to perform penetrative anal sex than vaginal sex. The fact that the anal sphincter is much tighter and less lubricated than the vagina means that, for gay men, maintaining a strong erection is more important. This leads older gay men to rely on E.D. medications earlier and more often than their straight counterparts. It also results in many men that originally considered themselves tops to reorient their role to that of the bottom.

4. Erectile dysfunction doesn’t always present itself to the same degree each time one has sex. Changing emotional and physiological conditions can effect the rigidity of a man’s erection. Intense instances of arousal may make an erection easier to maintain while fatigue or depression may cause an erection more difficult to maintain than usual.

5. Erectile dysfunction treatments are not always effective to the same degree with each use. Again, even if an individual suffering from E.D is taking medication emotional and physiological conditions can effect the strength of an erection. Also other factors can alter the effectiveness of E.D. medications. For instance large meals or meals heavy in fat can greatly diminish the effectiveness of treatments. You may consider having sex as an appetizer rather than dessert.

6. For the person with E.D., medication isn’t always necessary to have a pleasurable sexual experience. Though a man may not be able to achieve a sufficient erection to perform penetrative anal sex they can often get hard enough to make rubbing, mutual masturbation, or oral sex thoroughly satisfying.

7. Older men are not necessarily less sexually adventurous than younger men. I think that in general there is a perception that older men are more conservative than younger men, and this translates into perceptions about sex with older men. However, because we so seldom talk about sex openly in our society I would make no assumptions in this respect. On more than one occasion I’ve been surprised by the adventurousness and flexibility of older partners. I also recognize that my current partner has influenced my own views on sex and sexuality, making me less conservative than I once was.

8. Older men often take longer than younger men to reach orgasm. For the younger man this could be both a benefit or a frustration. This fact means that the sexual experience may be extended, lasting longer and being more pleasurable. However if the younger partner feels that getting their partner to climax is too difficult or that it may never come can be highly frustrating, this can be particularly true if the younger partner climaxes well before the older man.

9. Older men often hide the fact that they have erectile dysfunction. There is a stigma about sexual impotence that leads older men to hide their E.D. My current partner came forward about his E.D. quite early in our relationship. On the other hand I found out much later that a man I had dated earlier was effected by erectile dysfunction and that he covertly took his medication; at times even in my presence.

10. Erectile dysfunction effects younger men than you might expect. I think a lot of people don’t really expect others to use E.D. treatments until they are in their 50s or 60s. I haven’t seen statistics on E.D. treatment usage, but I know of more than one person that started using them before they reached 50. After contemplating the issue, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were many more people I know using E.D. treatments

What I’ve brought away from my experience with men with erectile dysfunction is that it benefits the younger man not to be judgmental. Keep in mind that erectile dysfunction is often a fact of life as we age, and we may well suffer the same disorder. If one is truly attracted to and/or truly loves an older man then patience and understanding should be a given. Despite the potential problems that may present themselves during sex with older men those pale in comparison with the benefits; older men can be sexy, adventurous, imaginative, and experienced.

Online Dating Profiles: Make Them Work For You

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I found online dating sites useful tools for meeting older men. Sites dedicated to older men and their admirers certainly narrow the field and can make meeting people with similar goals easier. But, whether you decide to use more general sites like Yahoo personals, an intergenerationally focused site like Silverdaddies, or something in between; how you present your profile will have the ultimate bearing on your success. Over the years of web assisted dating I have seen well written profiles and profiles that look like train wrecks. Based on my experience and conversations with others I’ve collected the following list of 10 criteria for creating a better online dating profile.

1. Determine what you want out of your profile. Are you searching for love or just lust? Perhaps you’re open to either. What ever your goals are, keep that in mind as you develop your profile and tailor it accordingly.

2. Post a profile photo. A major part of attraction is the physical element. Photos add personality and entice readers to respond to your profile. A profile without a photo seems very anonymous and abstract. That makes it difficult for people to feel like they can approach you. Also, because most dating sites allow users to search for only profiles with photos, your profile is far less likely to attract attention if you don’t include one. If you’re weary of posting pictures publicly, many sites offer private galleries or other means for you to share your photos with other users; I recommend you use these systems.

3. Choose your profile photos wisely. Depending on your goals for the profile you may want to present different types of photos. Choose photos that are flattering and present you honestly. If you’re honestly looking for a long term relationship then you may want to avoid using too many erotic photos. Instead choose photos that show off your personality or interests.

4. Be honest about your physical attributes. Most online dating profiles have areas in which you fill in your physical statistics. We all get a little self conscious about ourselves at times, but resist the temptation to lie about your stats. In the long run who ever you meet from the dating site will eventually find out your true age, weight, and height. Can you imagine anything worse than meeting “the one” and having to admit you initially lied to them?

5. Describe yourself and your interests using specifics. I have seen so many men describe themselves in generalities such as “a fun loving guy with a good sense of humor”. But what does that really tell you about the man, we would like to all think of ourselves that way. Instead focus on the specifics that might attract a mate. What hobbies do you have, where do you like to travel,what is your profession, what is your unique philosophy on life? Use details rather than generalities when writing your profile.

6. Clearly describe what you’re looking for in a mate. What is it you expect out of a mate? Do you want someone to grow old with or are you just looking for a casual date to go out with on the weekends? What interests do you hope they will share with you? Elaborate on a few things you hope to find in a potential partner, but try not to appear that you’re limiting people of other interests from contacting you.

7. Insert at least one “hook” in your profile. Try to find at least one thing to really make stand out in your profile. For instance this could be an attention grabbing photo in your gallery such as you on your last trip abroad, participating in your favorite hobby, etc. Or you may want to describe in your profile text something really unique about yourself or something interesting. Try to think of something that might make a good conversation starter, something that makes people want to ask you questions or introduce themselves because they have a shared interest.

8. Stay positive. When searching for potential mates it is easy to become frustrated. You may encounter lots of people that rub you the wrong way or that your just not interested in. However, avoid the tendency to make your profile a laundry list of dislikes. A profile with a negative attitude can be a real turn-off even to those you’re not targeting. State what you’re looking for rather than what you wish to avoid.

9. Proofread for grammar, clarity, and length. We’re not all English majors, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to make our profiles as accurate as we can. But, perhaps more importantly, make sure your profile is concise. At most it really should only be a few paragraphs in length, any longer and you run the risk of your reader getting bored. Besides you want to save something for the conversation on your first date.

10. Update your profile regularly. If you use an online profile over a long period of time you should review it every four to six months and make sure everything is up to date. This will help keep your profile honest and accurate. I also recommend changing your profile photos every few months. If you weren’t having luck with your old photos, new ones make spark renewed interest in your profile.