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Coming Out Intergenerational: a Poll

portalOver the Christmas holiday I returned to the American South to visit my family.  This was the first visit back since I came out to my parents and told them about my relationship with a man more than forty years my senior.  I plan to write a post about my experience of coming out to my parents, but I want to take a little more time to reflect on my most recent visit.

In addition to this visit, John and I recently watched the film Milk.  In it we see Harvey Milk imploring his gay compatriots to come out, that only by being visible will the gay community make any political progress.  In one scene he almost forces one of his campaign aids to call his parents to come out.

Combined, these events have had me thinking about and reflecting on coming out quite a bit lately.  I first started coming out to friends about ten years ago.  The first person I told was a mere acquaintance, a young woman that lived in my freshman dorm.  Over the years I’ve found it easier and easier to come out to people.  But, I remember having a very difficult time coming out to friends from high school that had known me a long time and it took me a long time and a change in personal circumstances to finally come clean with my parents.

For those of us who are attracted to individuals who are significantly older or younger than ourselves, an additional challenge is thrown into the process of coming out.  I had lots of friends to whom I had come out to, but never told them about my attraction to older men.  After I became involved with John, I realized I had to, in a way, come out a second time.  I had the same sort of anxiety telling these friends about my attraction to older men as I did when I first came out.  However, by far I worried most about my parents’ reaction to my intergenerational relationship.

For you, who do you think will be, or was, the most difficult to tell about your attraction to individuals of a much different age? Feel free to leave a comment as well as respond to the poll below.


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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.

Advice for Older Men: On Meeting Younger Men

I apologize for being a little skimpy on the posts this week. John and I have family visiting currently so it has been difficult to find additional time to write. However I am inspired on some new topics related to intergenerational relationships; my writing should pick back up again sometime next week. In the mean time I leave you with has become the second part of a post on meeting me for intergenerational relationships.

Last week one of my posts included suggestions on where a younger man might meet older gay men. This week I take a look at suggestions for older men. Inevitably there is quite a bit of overlap in these suggestions, but I’ve tried to tailor each to the older man. Again, I hope these suggestions will encourage readers to try a variety of strategies when it comes to meeting other men.

1. Find a gay dating site geared toward intergenerational relationships. I think this is a little more imperative for older gay men than it is for the younger guys. Traditional gay dating sites offer a huge pool of hot young guys, but you end up having to wade through all of them to find the few that are legitimately interested in older men. Sites such as Silverdaddies, Caffmos, DaddyHunt, and SeeksOlder take much of the guess work out of contacting younger men. You know they are much more likely to be interested in you so you save time and trouble.

2. Join an organized group geared toward GLBT members. When choosing a group try to find a topic or hobby you’re interested in, but also consider whether younger guys are also likely to be involved. The local gay softball team or cycling group are probably safe bets. The wine tasters and square dance clubs probably are not.

3. Get involved with your local GLBT community center. This is all about knowing what is going on in the community and networking with people. The larger your gay social circle the more likely you are to meet someone interesting. Or to be introduced to someone from someone in your new larger social circle. Through the local community center you’ll know what special events are happening in your area and they can probably help you find some of the GLBT groups mentioned above.

4. If you haven’t already, consider joining a gym. This isn’t about obtaining a gym body; for the most part younger guys that are attracted to older men aren’t looking for the traditional adonis anyway. However fitness is important and young guys like to know that you’re taking care of yourself. Ultimately you’ll look and feel better, but don’t feel like you have to kill yourself during your workouts. The other important aspect of going to the gym is actually meeting people. As the character Jack said on Will and Grace, the gym is gay church. It offers a lot of potential for meeting young, fit guys.

5. Go to the gay bars and clubs. Like with traditional dating sites you may have to wade through a lot of guys that just aren’t interested in older men. We’re a part of gay culture which cherishes youth, don’t let it get you down. Instead grab a friend, go and have fun, and try to chat up some of the younger guys, just don’t try too hard. Going with a friend will help keep you calm and will give you someone to enjoy your experience with, whether you meet someone or not. Ultimately, this will help you meet people; you’ll look fun and confident. When going out try to keep yourself age appropriate. Depending on your age and personal style certain clubs just might not work for you. As I’ve said before, trying too hard will evoke a sense of pity or scorn from your intended target rather than attraction.

6. Keep you eyes and mind open during your day to day life. As a group gay people are pretty bad at keeping to ourselves; we think that gay bars and dating sites are our only options. Instead, remain open to opportunities to meet people all the time. Your hobbies and everyday activities may present opportunities for potential mates to approach you. Just walking your dog, reading a book at the coffee shop, or what you pick up at the grocery store may draw a potential mate’s attention. Also, look for ways to start conversations with those men you find handsome or interesting. I’m not saying you should flirt shamelessly, but test the waters with attractive younger men when you can. Even if they don’t happen to be gay learning to approach and talk with younger men will be good practice for when you do meet an younger gay man.

For those older guys out there that have dated younger men, what strategies have worked best for you? At what sort of places is it easiest to meet younger men?

Advice For Younger Men: On Meeting Older Men

When I was on the market I generally limited myself to dating websites. They worked out for me pretty well, but I can understand that others may shy away from that method for meeting men. Since meeting someone, I’ve become a lot more socially active, and in doing so have come to realize there are other approaches to meeting men. The following are six strategies for younger men seeking an older partner. They might not all seem right for you, but hopefully the will provide you a broader set of strategies for meeting the right guy.

1. Find a gay online dating site that meets your needs. It is probably less imperative for younger guys than older guys, but you might consider dating sites geared toward intergenerational relationships. Sites such as Silverdaddies and SeeksOlder offer great search tools for finding compatible matches. While these sites still provide opportunities for casual dating they also present a sizable pool interested in serious relationships. I met my partner online and several men that I still consider my friends.

2. Join an organized social group tailored to an GLBT audience. Many communities have gay groups geared toward a variety of interests. If you’re just coming out you may consider joining a coming out support group. They offer a great opportunity to build a network of people going through a similar experience and the opportunity to meet interesting individuals. Or, you may want to choose a group that relates to your hobbies or interests. Organizations such as gay book clubs, political organizations, and outdoor/environmentalist groups are common and likely to attract an older crowd. If there is a pass-time you like, there are probably other gay people already organized and doing it together (the pass-time that is). If you meet someone at one of these groups you already know there’s at least one thing you have in common.

3. Go to art events. While the audience for art events aren’t necessarily all gay, a large number of older gay men are likely to turn out. While I think events in the visual arts are best, the performing arts such as plays and concerts provide intermissions in which you might mingle with people you’re interested in. The gallery districts of many cities hold first Friday events or other sorts of festivals. I think theses are excellent opportunities for meeting people; the art on exhibit offer excellent conversations starters.

4. Attend fundraising events; older men tend to be more politically involved. Whether it is a fundraiser for your local HIV/AIDS charity or a local Democratic candidate, fundraisers can provide an opportunity to meet smart and socially engaged people. It doesn’t hurt that potential mates will also see you as a caring socially conscious person.

5. Get involved with your local GLBT resource center. By staying involved in the community you’ll stay abreast of special events and you can build a network of friends. Who knows they just might introduce you to Mr. Right. My local community center regularly holds a GLBT “happy hour” at a local bar. Your resource center may also get you connected to those social groups I mentioned earlier.

6. Keep you eyes and mind open during your day to day life. As a group gay people are pretty bad at self ghettoizing; we think that gay bars and dating sites are our only options. Instead, remain open to opportunities to meet people all the time. Your hobbies and everyday activities may present opportunities for potential mates to approach you. Just walking your dog, riding your motorcycle, or going to the gym may draw a potential mate’s attention. Also, look for ways to start conversations with those men you find handsome or interesting. I’m not saying you should start by putting on the charm full force, but test the waters with attractive older men when you can. Even if they don’t happen to be gay learning to approach and talk with older men will be good practice for when you do meet an older gay man.

For those younger guys out there that have dated older men, what strategies have worked best for you? What sorts of places do you find older gay men?

In The Media: The Advocate’s Silverfoxes

I was excited when I received this month’s issue of The Advocate in the male. On the cover it declared “Silverfoxes: The rise of the mature man”. It also featured a picture of Anderson Cooper with little text blurbs highlighting the attractive features of older men such as gray hair, soulful eyes, and laugh lines. I normally read The Advocate from cover to cover, but this month I couldn’t resist flipping directly to the feature article “The Age of the Silverfox” by Sean Kennedy.

I naively believed that for once, when it comes to sex appeal, The Advocate would briefly set aside the cult of youth. That they might truly examine the appeal of mature men. Unfortunately that is not what Mr. Kennedy did, and I came away from the article with a very mixed impression.

The Good:

1. The article encourages men with gray hair to avoid the temptation to dye it. It makes the case that natural gray hair can express confidence and be sexy. Oh, they are so right.

2. The article also makes a unique observation about the expression of masculinity. That gray hair offers an alternative to bear culture or ultra gym bodies in the race to express manliness. (Of course we all know women gray too, but it is more acceptable for men, got to love double standards.)

3. By focusing on what some might call “prematurely gray” men the article raises awareness about failing follicles. I hope it has helped younger men stop obsessing over the possibility of going gray.

The Bad:

1. The article really only focuses on gray haired men in the under 45 crowd. Despite its pleas that getting gray hair doesn’t mean you’re past it, the article still manages to marginalize older gay men. We are treated to copy about being silver and still having toned and tanned bodies and photos of baby faced men with gray hair. However older men are excluded from the silverfox category and dismissed as the “daddy type”. (I don’t want to get into exactly what that means, but the connotations aren’t always good.)

2. Gray hair is equated to maturity and sophistication, but the article doesn’t feature any older men from whom that association presumably comes. It seems to me that Mr. Kennedy is presenting gray hair as just another fashion option for trendy young men. The article only recognizes the value of gray hair on the heads of the young. On the other hand I must give the men that were featured credit for being self confident and for bucking the status quo.

Ultimately, I had hoped the article would have explored nuances in attraction in the gay community. Perhaps I should have known better when Anderson Cooper was the cover model rather than some older man, but to my defense the cover copy was a bit misleading. My hopes were raised and then dashed by an article that, in some ways, supports stereotypes and avoids addressing the truly complicated nature of male/male attraction.

Have you read this month’s issue of The Advocate? What did you think of the article “The Age of the Silverfox”? Did anything else from this issue jump out at you?

Older Lust: Reflections on Attraction to Older Men

Now that I find myself in a stable, rewarding intergenerational relationship , it is interesting to look back at how I got here. To examine how I came to recognize my attraction to older men and how I finally came to act on those feelings. In a strange way, coming to terms with age disparate attraction was a parallel journey to coming to terms with my own homosexuality. They are so closely related I’m not sure how I kept them separate, but I did.

I think I first started noticing men when I was in the seventh grade. In P.E. it wasn’t the other boys in the locker room that got me excited, it was the coach. Throughout high school my attraction was always focused on the teachers, not my fellow students. I tried to rationalize or pray away my homosexuality, but it didn’t work. By my senior year I finally admitted it to myself, accepting that I’d never be attracted to women.

I first started coming out to friends when I went to college. But I feared acknowledging my attraction to older men and I never really considered them a possibility when it came to relationships. I went on a few quasi-dates with guys my own age, but they never came to much. Privately I explored my attraction to older men on the internet; college was the first time I really had access. I also entertained what was probably an unhealthy obsession with Anthony Hopkins, watching just about any film of his I could get my hands on and collecting photos of him I could find on the internet.

Like in high school my older male teachers became the objects of my attention. Fortunately it was not impolite to stare during lecture and I could examine their every physical feature. But, for the first time I became emotionally caught up on one of those men as well.

When I first met the professor he was in his mid-sixties. I immediately gravitated toward him; he was smart, handsome, and highly engaged with his students. Over the years I managed to get closer to him, first working in his department’s office, then working for him privately. I enjoyed being around him both emotionally and intellectually.

For me, my relationship with him was quite complicated. It took a long time for me to parse out all my feelings about him. I was attracted to him both physically and emotionally, but because I valued him so much as a teacher and a mentor I never risked compromising that. In fact, I never even allowed myself to fantasize about him. I did become highly emotionally invested in him though, obsessed with seeing him and concerned with his well being.

In hindsight I think my relationship with the professor impeded my emotional growth, at least in terms of romantic relationships. Though I wouldn’t fully admit it to myself until eight years after I first met him, when I moved out west, I had fallen in love with the man. My unrequited infatuation with him offered a safe holding pattern in which I didn’t have to confront the complicated issues of meeting or dating older men.

I think I did begin to deviate from that comfortable position of unrealized love as my impending move to the West became more likely. I finally began going on full fledged dates with someone from a neighboring city. He was about my age, only a few years older. I was still very afraid to break the social expectations of who a young gay man should be attracted to. But, I also started frequenting an online dating site dedicated to older men and their admirers, and began corresponding with a few older men. The probability of the move meant the possibility that I could start over, it freed me to explore avenues for finding a true romantic relationship.

It wasn’t until I did move that I was able to get some distance to reflect on my infatuation with the professor, to admit that I had fallen in love with him, and that in some ways that had held me back. But, in that admission it also helped me recognize what I really wanted. That yes I was truly interested in older men and that they weren’t just the objects of fetishistic arousal, but that they could be pursued as legitimate, authentic partners. Like admitting to myself that I was gay, there was an epiphany where I realized I really could pursue an age disparate relationship. Eventually I began dating and building relationships with older gay men. As those relationships increased I was able to reconcile those two aspects of my character, being gay and being attracted to older men, into a single aspect of my identity. While I may still have a ways to go in educating and informing those around me, I certainly now feel at ease with myself.

Advice for Older Men: Personal Presentation

When it comes to attracting a romantic partner a lot of factors can come into play, but the first one to be noticed is usually physical appearance. As I’ve gotten to know more older gay men I’ve come to notice a number of common mistakes when it comes to personal presentation. In this post I’ll share some of the mistakes I’ve observed and examine what makes them an appearance no-no. Keep in mind, whether you’re just interested in a partner for pelvic pinochle or you’re in it for the long haul, proper personal presentation can start you off on the right foot.

The following are seven aspects of your appearance you should consider. The fashion considerations here don’t necessarily need to be applied to all aspects of your life, but should be applied when going out on a date or to functions where you’re likely to meet other available men. (or when you’re taking photos for that dating site you just joined). I have listed them, roughly, in order of increasing importance. If your having real trouble getting that cute young guy to pay any attention to you, perhaps you should skip to the bottom.

Accessories:

1. Glasses don’t have to be a detriment to your looks; they can even work to your advantage. Let’s face it, after we turn 40 our eyesight begins to go downhill. So, if you’re an older guy you’re probably sporting a pair of spectacles. This in and of itself shouldn’t be a concern, younger guys interested in the older crowd are going to expect this and will likely find glasses attractive anyway. That said, try to let the glasses you choose work for you. As a general rule smaller frames are better and choose a shape that contrasts slightly with the shape of your face; this can make you look smart and progressive. I’ve seen too many men with huge round frames that overwhelm their face.

2. Hat’s haven’t been a fashion necessity since the 1950s, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t different hats for different jobs. Do not use baseball caps as all purpose head wear. I know they’re easy, and they’re fine for outdoor activities or informal situations. However, I’ve seen men wear them while wearing a suit. If you’re going anywhere remotely nicely dressed, consider a more formal style of hat or none at all. It is understandable that many older men use hats to protect bald or balding heads, but do not rely on a hat to cover up the fact that your hair is thinning. More on that subject later. Finally, it is still polite to remove you’re hat while indoors, especially when eating or visiting someone’s home.

3. Men’s jewelry should be pretty innocuous, limited to a small number of understated pieces. Older gay men that abuse the use of jewelry seemingly fall into one of two groups: the pompous show-off playboy wannabe or the oblivious camp queen. If you’re wealthy you don’t have to show it off by draping yourself in jewelry. One or two choice items can express both your status and your good taste. On the other hand, if your tastes trend toward the eccentric and you’re on the look out for a younger guys I’d recommend tempering some of those tendencies. Limit yourself to a single unique piece, you’ll still express your personality but potential mates will be more likely to perceive you as quirky and fun rather than over the top.

Clothing:

4. Choose your wardrobe carefully, carelessness or apathy in choosing cloths can do a lot to diminish your physical appearance. We all like to throw on a comfy pair of jeans and an old polo shirt, but that just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to attract someone. When shopping for new clothes make sure to only purchase things that fit properly; make sure the shoulders are the right width, shirts conform but aren’t too tight around the torso, pant waists are the right measurement, etc. Baggy or ill fitted clothes make you look as though you’re either sloppy or you’re trying to hide physical flaws. However, well fitted clothes, through the structure they provide, will enhance your better features but generally diminish flaws. When in doubt find a clothing retailer with knowledgeable clerks, they can help you find a fit that is right for your body and you can then apply what you learn when you shop at other establishments. It may also help to look at men’s fashion magazines, you don’t necessarily need to go for the high end clothes they’re modeling, but you can often find great hints on what’s in style and how to find a better fit.

5. Dress in age appropriate clothing. If their’s anything worse than someone who is oblivious to fashion, it is the older gay man that tries too hard to be fashionable. It is one thing to appear youthful for your age but some older gay men take this too far. I knew one gentleman in his 70s that wore tight printed t-shirts and heavily distressed jeans. This was an outfit expected out of a 30-something and may have been pulled off successfully by a fit 50-something but for this septuagenarian this trendy look really wasn’t working. He was a pleasant guy, in good shape, but such an attempt at youthful fashion wreaked of desperation. Dress nicely, find a style that complements your features and personality, but take care not to over reach toward being overly trendy.

Grooming:

6. Gray hair is sexy, please leave it just the way it is. Many men desperately attempt to hang on to youth as they age. One of the quickest, easiest, and most obvious ways they do this is by dying their hair. Unfortunately, dying one’s hair is also one of the quickest and easiest ways to reveal one’s own vanity and/or insecurity in their looks. Both of which are big turn-offs. Accept your graying hair, wear it with confidence, and you just might be rewarded with a young man running his fingers through them. If you do insist on dying your hair, keep in mind that course facial hair requires stronger dyes and so dyes more evenly and thus less natural looking than the hair on top of your head. You may want to lose the beard or mustache if you decide to keep your “natural” color on top of your head.

7. That hair piece isn’t fooling anyone. Much like the graying older man, the balding older man often wishes to deny the reality that, gasp, male pattern baldness is common in our species. Bald heads, like gray hair, can also be very sexy. Sean Connery anyone? Unfortunately, compensating for baldness through toupees or hair plugs is generally even less convincing than dyed hair. The fact that bald men cling on to their pieces though their friends, family, neighbors, dental hygienists, and anyone else that may happen to meet them that isn’t blind knows that they are bald illustrates the state of delusional self-denial some of these men can be in. If you are a bald or balding man it is ultimately best that you come to terms with that fact, accept it, and be honest to the rest of the world. Ultimately others will respect you more for it.

Closing Thoughts:

As I reflect on this post I have noticed that my list of common mistakes reflect two major themes. First, young men looking at potential older partners aren’t necessarily looking for physical perfection, at least not as it is commonly defined in our culture. But, they are more likely to me attracted to a man that attends to their looks. In part, self cultivation creates a more attractive package, but it also expresses a certain level of self assurance which in itself can be sexy. That leads us into the second theme. Older men often employ certain strategies to maintain their youthfulness that can be excessive or superficial. These strategies reveal insecurity and express a sense of desperation. Confidence and self-acceptance are really what men are looking for. We may desire certain physical traits, but they’re even more sexy when someone is comfortable in their own body.

I want to leave you with one final anecdote. My partner told me that he once confided in his son that he was considering getting hair plugs. (Yes, my partner is a sexy bald man.) His son responded “Oh dad, don’t do that you’ll be just like all those other tired old queens. Spend that money on a personal trainer.” Fortunately, my partner took his son’s advice. He started eating better, taking care of his skin, getting more physically active, and at times uses a personal trainer to focus his workout routine. Rather than taking the quick fix he took pride in himself and his body. When I look at old photos of him and compare that with how he is now, it’s not just the physical changes that are obvious but also that change in attitude. I respect my partner’s strong sense of self and it is one of the things that first made me so attracted to him.