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A Man Twice His Age

People often use the phrase “a man twice his age” when talking about intergenerational dating. Frequently this phrase is used in a hyperbolic fashion to highlight the age difference between two men. Today’s post is going to explore two expressions of that phrase as they apply to my life lately, in both instances I am literally talking about age differences where the double of one equals the other.

Not long ago I woke up early one morning with the realization that in a few short months I will be twice the age I was when I met the first man I fell in love with. This is a professor I had as an undergrad and I’ve written about my experience of him before. In this realization, I also recognized that this man will be turning 80 years old this year. Since I started experiencing sexual attraction, it has always been to older men, particularly those in their fifties and sixties. At the time that I met the professor he was in his mid-sixties.

As I think back to that time in which we first met, I have to consider what it would have been like to partner with someone so much older than myself and what this passage of time, my doubling of age, would bring. While I still find this man handsome and hold a feeling of love inside for me it is difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to be partnered with someone in their eighties. Not so much because there is something inherently negative about men of that age, but simply for the drastically differing realities of experience in these different times of our lives. I am now in my mid-thirties finally feeling like I’m gaining traction in my professional life and working to advance that. He is now well beyond the beginnings of retirement and while still exceptionally vibrant and thoughtful, much of his thoughts turn toward issues of the end of life.

Late last fall I began dating someone new, I’ll call him Don. Like the professor when we first met, Don is in his mid-sixties. He really is twice my age. Since the fall things have been moving in a good way in terms of a relationship. Since my split with John I have been a bit gun shy around moving into a relationship and so have been taking things slower. But, it is irrefutable that we have a strong connection. We now spend most of our free time together, collaborate on projects, and in many ways feed on each other creatively.

That said, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us. When I first met John I took the “love conquers all” approach, that despite the differences we might have or the troubles we might have we’d face them together. In encountering a true relationship a second time around I’m not as idealistic. Though I’m enthralled by Don, I can’t take for granted that everything will work out for the best. Perhaps this line of thinking is a curse, doomed to sabotage a relationship before it starts. Perhaps it is a blessing, helping us to navigate the perils before we reach them.

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Guest Post: Discovering Self and Others

Today’s guest post is from GtD reader Carl of Tucson, AZ. I appreciate him sharing part of his story; it highlights how relationships evolve overtime and how that causes us to evolve over time ourselves.

Tom and I are a good twenty-seven years into our time together. Lovers, buddies, partners, friends, housemates, sharers-of-pets, we’ve come a good way along the path together. You know: house, cars, yardwork, repairs, illnesses, triumphs, successes, failures– we’ve weathered them both individually and as a unit. Heck, our house is nearly paid-for!

A few years ago, Fil entered our lives. Thirty-three years old, he offered a newness to our studied habituations. Way different and more easy-going than we, he was filled with jollity, laughter, copious amounts of wine and off-centeredness. Fil lived up to his name, filling gaps Tom and I hadn’t realized were present in our lives as individuals as well as a pair. Fil came and went. I understood. He’d had his own life to sort out; we, ours. Then, out of the blue, a few months ago, Fil re-emerged, re-connected with us. He’d moved, gone to North Carolina, come back, become a caregiver for his grandparents, continued laughing, imbibing, being loving and caring. He’d come over for dinner, a movie, a night of massages and health tips– whatever. I figured it was cupboard love. I was OK with that. Really, I was.

Not knowing “the rules” of the new landscape, Tom and I both held back, resorting to entertainment rather than home-iness. Just what was going on, anyway? Fil would have none of it. True to his nature, he steamrolled good-naturedly passed the bs, landing fully in the moment. Ah, youth!

Now, after a few months of renewal, Tom and I have made a place for standing dates for movies, “Fringe”, good food and laughter, and continued baby-steps to a triadic comfort zone, where three people, two generations, differing ethnicities and family backgrounds and disparate personal histories begin to mix and gel their three personalities– two of whom love and respond to youthful playfulness, and one of whom self-confesses, to our delight, that he likes “grandfatherly types”, which, I hope, means wisdom, patience, stability, longevity– into a more unified sense of what a relationship means: Trust, sharing, a sense of belonging while exploring individuality. Allowing and encouraging the other partner(s) to grow and blossom is the test of whether we, from our differing perspectives, can and will develop our lives into something greater than what the sum of the parts may be. We have entered another point on the continuum of possibilities in human relationships. I look forward to the exploration.

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?

Jealousy: The Specter of Former Lovers

When relationships are new there tends to be a lot of uncertainty and insecurity.  One of the number one things that can spur on that insecurity are the former lovers of your partner.  This can be especially true for the younger partner in interegenerational relationships and for older men who have recently come out of the closet.  When these sorts of individuals enter a relationship it can mean there is a large differential between the number of lovers each person in the relationship has had.  Compounding this challenge is the fact that gay communities can often be small meaning that former lovers are still within your partner’s social scene or network; sometimes even remaining close friends.

When John and I first got together I found this sort of thing particularly challenging.  John was very open and honest about his past dating and sexual experiences.  While this was great in the sense that we could have a trusting, well communicated relationship, at times I felt like he was constantly revealing people he had dated or slept with. I had only had one previous lover while he had many.

One individual, Oscar, was especially challenging.  Oscar is a very attractive Latino man, a bit older than me, and very successful in his career.  Shortly after I met Oscar and his partner, John revealed to me that they had dated for a while some years before.  He even recounted an evening during which he gave Oscar a blow job while he lounged in John’s whirlpool tub.  This painted an indelible mental picture that still sticks in my mind today, and at the time I wasn’t sure how to process.  It was clear John was still attracted to Oscar. I couldn’t help but feel as though I was being compared to Oscar (and others) and I worried that I could lose him to one of these other men.

As I recount this story, I wish I could give easy solutions for getting over this sort of insecurity and anxiety, but I can’t.  John and I have now been together for over three years and those fears from the first year no longer nag at the back of my mind.  How did we stick through it?  I’m not completely sure.

To a certain extent I think it simply took time.  It took time for us to become fully comfortable with one another, to fully trust one another.  I think it also took coming to a point where we accepted the fact that we might be attracted to other people, but this didn’t mean we weren’t committed to one another.  And ultimately it took good communication and a willingness to talk about our pasts, our attractions, and our love for each other.  While that early level of openness on John’s part was a bit unnerving at the time, I think it helped me grow.  It helped me come to terms with my own sexuality and eventually helped me love John for exactly who he is, complicated past and all.

What have your experiences been with your partner’s former lovers?  Have you had bad experiences with these former lovers?  Good experiences?

Previous thoughts on anxieties in intergenerational  relationships.

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?

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.

The Joy of Seasonal Change

leavesFall has pretty much embraced the whole of the United States by now.  The leaves have turned and where I live we’ve even had our first snowfall already.  For many this may signal the dreaded march into winter, but I embrace the change of the seasons.

Sure, I like the Fall colors, the crisp air, and the upcoming holidays, but as the seasons change I also observe a secret celebration.  The change from warm weather to cool signals a change of wardrobe for everyone.  And I confess it gives me hidden pleasure.  As cool weather approaches all those ill fitting t-shirts and tired khaki shorts go back in their drawers.

Soon I’m noticing that handsome older man at the grocery store is wearing a coal grey sweater that perfectly accents his blue eyes and silver hair, and my blood boils.  Winter wardrobes bring a bit of formality back to fashion that I find really sexy.  Somehow the mass change in clothing renews my sexual attraction to men.  Even John benefits from the seasonal make-over;  I find myself staring at his ass the first few times he dons his cords and he looks exceptionally handsome in his long-sleeve oxfords.

Of course this heightened sense of attraction is temporary and cyclical.  By the end of winter I’ll be bemoaning all the baggy sweatshirts and concealing coats.  As Spring comes I’ll celebrate seeing a little skin as those older men around town start to roll up their sleeves and unbutton their top button.  But until the novelty wears off I’ll take pleasure in all you handsome older men out there as you break out the fashionable winter duds.

What do you think about the change of seasons, do you take new notice of people due to the change in wardrobe?  Is their some other secret pleasure you derive from the coming of Fall?