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A Little Reflection

Well, it has been about five months now since I’ve moved out on my own after my split with John. I have to say the first few months were very rocky. I felt lonely and without direction. Over time though I’ve begun to feel more grounded. I’m starting to feel at home in my new city and have started dating again. Over the next few weeks I plan to write some of my thoughts about post break-up life and dating again. Today I want to meditate a bit on the break-up and my relationship with my ex.

Throughout the whole ordeal I felt really uneasy about talking about the break-up with anyone but him and our counselor. I kind of feel like there is a trap in the way our culture expects break-ups to happen. They are supposed to be messy with people getting angry at each other, placing blame, and complaining to their respective friends. But, those expectations for how a relationship should end didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to be perceived as either a victim or a bad guy, nor did I want John to be perceived that way either. I was reluctant to tell friends about my dissatisfaction and ultimately reasons for calling it quits. I didn’t want to categorize John as “the bad guy”

This isn’t to say that the break-up wasn’t immensely difficult for both of us. Though I ultimately decided that the relationship wasn’t working and that we should call it quits, I still loved John. I hated to see him hurt, and I know that I was the one causing that. At the same time I didn’t see him capable of making the changes that would allow me to feel fulfilled in the relationship. It wasn’t so much about our actions and words as how we engaged the world on a base level. Fortunately, through it all we remained civil and committed to treating each other with respect.

Now, seven months since the split, John and I are still friends. We took in some of the cultural attractions together last weekend and we maintain pretty frequent communication. I feel pretty lucky.

How about you, what sort of relationship have you maintained with your ex(s)?

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Does the Beard Make the Man?

Jonathan Goldsmith - "The Most Interesting Man in the World" and champion of the sexy beard. (image from wikipedia)

If a beard does make the man, what does it make him?  For a long time now I’ve found men with facial hair very attractive.  I think part of that is that men with facial hair tend to appear more mature and it adds to their masculinity.  Don’t get me wrong, I find plenty of clean shaven men attractive, but from a simple mustache to a full beard someone with facial hair is likely to draw my attention.  However, recently I’ve become much more obsessed with full beards.  I don’t know what it is but men with full, well groomed, beards really get me going.  I even find myself giving men my own age a second look.

Beyond my own experience, it is interesting the significance beards can have on social interaction.  There is certainly a wide spread perception that men with beards are more masculine.  A few years ago a gay friend of mine grew a full one and found that people in the workplace questioned his suggestions less frequently.  He also told me that other gay men perceived that he would take a dominant sexual role more frequently than they did before he grew out his beard.  He also noted that he received fewer snide remarks from straight men regarding his sexuality.  Certainly, this is just one anecdotal account, but from observation it is pretty clear that, in general, society treats men with beards differently.

My partner John has a goatee, and for the past few months I’ve been trying to convince him to grow out the rest of his beard.  At first I was just curious how he’d look.  At times he goes a day with out shaving and I find the extra stubble cute.  But as I’ve become more obsessed with full beards I’ve become more determined to get John to grow his out.  I’ve even dreamed he came home one day with a full beard, and I “really like it”.  Am I falling prey to false stereotypes about men with beards?  Perhaps, but if adds some excitement to our life why not go for it.

How do you feel about facial hair? Do you have a beard?  If so, do you feel it affects the way others treat you?

Getting to Know You: Where in the World

After talking with Rodolfe and reviewing some of the older comments on this site I started to realize that I have quite a few readers from places other than the United States.  My experience with intergenerational gay relationships is definitely an American one.  I imagine many of our experiences around the world are very similar, but I love that through this medium I get to hear different perspectives from around the world.  However, that got me wondering, where exactly are my readers from?

So, tell me, where are you from?

Like a Light Switch: Thoughts on Physical Attraction

Physical attraction is a funny thing.  Everyone can describe characteristics they are attracted to, but can seldom explain why.  In American culture there are “normal” characteristics that make people attractive; whether it’s ample breasts for women or six-pack abs for men.  Oh, and lets not forget that attractive people are inevitably young.  For those attracted to the norm there may not be much attention paid to why.  And, when others are attracted to something other than they norm they are seen as odd or asked to explain their attraction.  Oddly, I think few of us are truly capable of explaining why we hold the attractions we do.

I am attracted to older men, usually over fifty.  I can’t really explain why.  Why is it that a perfectly nice man in his forties usually doesn’t raise my pulse rate, but a similar person over fifty might.  I had an interesting experience recently that highlighted that threshold in attraction.  For a few years now I’ve known a friend of John’s whom we’ll call Maurice.  Maurice was one of the first of John’s friends I met when we started dating.  Though John and Maurice have been friends for a long time they don’t socialize a lot; I think in part because of Maurice’s work schedule.  So over the three year’s that I’ve known Maurice I’ve only seen or spent time with him two or three times each year.

Though I’ve always though Maurice was really nice, I never gave him a second though in terms of being attracted to him.  Recently I started going to some workshops for my job and curiously enough Maurice was participating in the same workshops.  It had been several months since I’ve seen him, but not a full year.  Still, I suddenly found myself more attracted to him than I ever had before.  The bit of chest hair peaking out of his shirt, the gray in his hair, his eyes; all of this drew my attention where it never had before.  I kept finding myself glancing at him across the room.  Last year I was not physically attracted to Maurice, less than a year later I am; it was like a light switch had gone on.

Curiously, I found out that Maurice is verging on the fifty mark.  This knowledge isn’t what fueled the attraction, I found out about his age after I recognized the attraction, but it highlight my self professed age range of interest.  I’m not the only one either that sets what are seemingly arbitrary age limits to which they are attracted.  Recently I was talking with a friend and he pretty clearly set his lower limit at forty-two.  For those that are only attracted to younger men they are often characterized as self-centered, or at the least unrealistic.  For those attracted to men over a certain age they are labeled as weird or having daddy issues.  Ultimately though, I think defining why we have the attractions we do is much more difficult when we reflect on it; whether that attraction is outside the norm or not.  And if we become more cognizant of our own attractions we might not be so quick to judge the attractions of others.

Do you have a particular upper limit or lower limit for the age of the people you seem to be attracted to?  Do you have other types of attraction that seems to be outside the norm?  Have you been able to determine the reason for that attraction?

Getting to Know You: pt 3

My last blog entry brings up a great topic of a “getting to know you” poll.  I know lots of gay men that have been married only to come out later.  Perhaps it’s just a characteristic of my part of the country or city.  I’m curious what the experience is of my readership is; have you ever been married?  are you still married?  Remember, all poll responses are anonymous.  For a look at our last poll and links to previous polls check out Getting to Know You pt 2.

What is your marital status?  (For the purpose of this poll, married means to a person of the opposite sex.)

Do Older Men Turn Gay?

I have been writing about intergenerational gay relationships for some time now, and tangentially about men who have come out late in life.  As a blogger on WordPress I can see some of the search terms that bring people to my site.  Curiously one that comes up, in various forms, time and again is the question;  “Why do older men turn gay?”

I suspect that this question comes from siblings, children, and/or spouses of someone that has come out late in life.  These people may be looking for answers during a time when their world has become challenging and confusing.  This makes a lot of sense.  These individuals have viewed this man in traditional heterosexual roles of husband and/or father, but all of a sudden he is, seemingly, claiming to be someone completely different.

However, I think this question “why do older men turn gay?”, is a bit limiting.  In this post I will reflect on my experience, the experiences of others, and the nature of male sexuality to shed some light on this issue.  We’ll start by taking a look at two competing theories about human sexuality and see how those may relate to coming out as an older man.

People are Born Gay

The first theory of human sexuality, and one that I think is embraced by much of the gay male community, is the notion that sexuality is defined early in life (likely childhood) and is unchanging.  In this instance a person coming out late in life did not turn gay, rather they have been gay all along, but for a variety of reasons chose to live a straight lifestyle.  Many gay men recount stories about knowing they were different at a very young age.  For myself I started recognizing attractions to men early in my teens, though I tried to deny it even to myself for years.  Much of my social circle consists of older gay men.  A large percent of them were married at one time, but most if not all recount early attractions or sexual relations with men even before getting married.

Sexuality is Fluid

A second interpretation of human sexuality is that orientation is fluid and can shift over time.  This view recognizes that human sex orientation is a continuum from having solely attraction to the same sex on one end and solely heterosexual attraction on the other end, with individuals in between that have varying levels of attraction to both genders.  One may be mostly attracted to the same sex, but hold slight attractions to the opposite sex or vice-versa.  Under the fluidity model, throughout life people shift along this continuum, though often not shifting great distances.  In the case of men who come out late this may mean they fell somewhere in the middle of the continuum, but closer to the heterosexual end, earlier in life.  However, later in life their attractions shifted more towards men.  Likely, all along there was an attraction to men, but because of social pressures and familial expectation these bisexual men tended toward heterosexual relationships.  That said, scientific studies of the subject tend to recognize this sort of fluidity in women more often than in men.

Motivations for Playing it Straight

It should be understood that men who come out late and have been married, and perhaps even had children, were often under a lot of social and familial pressure to do so.  Even more striking compared to contemporary gay experience, many coming of age prior to the 1970s met institutional condemnation of homosexuality in the field of psychology.  Seeking the aid of a psychologist meant being told that getting married and having kids, denial of one’s feelings and attractions, was the cure.  Once established in such a relationship, especially after having kids, the pressure to stay straight is even stronger.  Coming out can have repercussions on social status, employment, and last but not least a fear of hurting their loved ones.  Understandably, the wives and children of gay men that come out late may feel betrayed or unwanted.  But, as I speak with gay men that have transitioned from straight life, I usually hear nothing but love and respect for those family members.

Why Come Out Now?

The timing and reasons for coming out, young or old, married or not, are ultimately very personal for every gay man.  But, for those that have been married I’ve noticed some common experiences.  First, for some men, leading a double life becomes unbearable.  While not all married gay men cheat on their wives with other men, some do.  This way of life carries it’s own stresses and ultimately the man is discovered, or decides it would be better if he outs himself before he is discovered. For others, I think coming out late may often coincides with a midlife crisis.  After living so long the way they are expected to live, middle aged men begin to realized they are running out of time to live they way they want to live.  Also, during this time their children are getting older and becoming more independent.  The timing for coming out may coincide with feeling that their family is capable of coping with the stress, with the sense of loss.

I am pleased to say though that I’ve seen a number of families that have weathered such a storm.  It takes time, but after the hurt feelings and tumultuous time of change, families of gay fathers often return to a place of love, caring, and mutual respect, only now in a new form.

Maintaining a PG World

For the first time in quite some time I’m going to have to be cognizant of how my sexuality is expressed at home.  John and I have visitors coming, grandchildren.  The kids of John’s youngest son are coming to visit for several days without the supervision of their parents.  Some of them are quite young still and we all agreed that John and I would de-gay the house.  Only the oldest has been told directly about the nature of our relationship.  Of course John and I will still share the same bed, but with the convenient excuse that the other beds will be occupied by our visitors.  Ultimately, this isn’t a really big deal.  We’re putting away some books and movies that might raise questions and placing some security features on the computers to prevent prying eyes.  But really most of what we’ve hidden is pretty mild, and most likely would have been overlooked by children in the first place.  The thing that will be most challenging is curbing overt displays of affection.  John and I hug and kiss and cuddle frequently.

I wonder if John’s son would have been as concerned about his kids seeing their grandfather in a homosexual relationship if his partner was closer to his age.  I understand, parents like to shield their kids from ideas that they might find confusing or frightening.  On the other hand, I think kids have a much greater capacity for accepting things outside the social norm than a lot of parents do.  Kids also seem to be a lot more perceptive than adults give them credit.  Perhaps our relationship isn’t going to be as hidden from them as we might think.  I guess time will tell.

Have you ever had to de-gay your home?  For what reason?