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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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Moving On: Life After Love

It’s been about two months since I shared with you the end of my nearly five year relationship with John. In that time I’ve moved to another city and have tried to get on with this new stage in my life. To be honest though, I don’t really feel like I’ve pulled it together yet. I think to myself that I should gather my thoughts and makes some meaning out of the ending of our relationship, but I haven’t managed it.

So much of my life was centered around him, my identity was thoroughly wrapped up in my relationship with him. Now that he is no longer here I’m struggling to define myself again. I wish I could seek solace in friends, but all of my close friends live far away. My social circle here was really his social circle. I’m working on making new friends, but as an introvert that isn’t always something that comes easy to me.

I also hope to put more of my energies into creative endeavors. This is something John didn’t really understand, and so looked forward to fostering once again. But, in the anxiety and sadness that’s come with all the uncertainty surrounding these recent changes in my life I find it hard to bring my creative skills to bear.

Fortunately, my job is going pretty well and I’m managing to find things to fill my time on the weekends. But, I miss having social and creative lives that come with ease.

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.

Guest Post: A Poem for Intergenerational Love

On some unearthly plain where souls reside,
two old ones came together light and wise.
They spoke the silent language that souls use.
Their beings merged so that they thought as one.

“Remember that sweet time on sweet earth when
we met to teach each other about love?”
“You were eighteen,” “And you were sixty-two.”
“How did we pull that off?” they thought and laughed.

“Remember when we hiked that buggy path

Aaron and Sam

with bracken on our heads. We looked so dumb”
“Remember the trout lilies and shadbush,
the hemlocks and the mosses and the ferns?”
Each thought how much that precious time was worth,
and with a sigh confessed, “I miss the earth.”

The preceding poem is shared with permission from GtD reader Aaron (27) and his partner Sam (70). Sam wrote this poem on the occasion of their 5th anniversary a few years ago. I’m thankful for such a beautiful tribute to intergenerational love.

Not So Happily Ever After: Relationship Reality Check

Recently I started feeling bad about my relationship with John. We seemed to always be snipping at each other, our goals didn’t seem compatible, and I was finding myself wondering if it was really working. I was feeling like I was at a point in both my career development and in our relationship that I wanted more independence. John on the other hand was expressing the feeling that he needed to depend on me more; he is recognizing that is age is affecting his capacity to do certain things. Together these anxieties started putting a major strain on our relationship.

Eventually it all came out. We had a weekend where we just had to spill the beans; to talk about what our worries, desires, and concerns were. For the first time in a while we started talking about these difficult subjects. It is funny, early on in our relationship we agreed that open communication was optimal, yet we still found ourselves falling into the habit of withholding our feelings.

At one point I decided to look up information about relationship development and found several articles on the stages people go through in relationships. I found this one, 5 Stages of Committed Relationships, particularly enlightening. All relationships start in a romance stage where your partner can do almost no wrong. This is the sort of romance depicted in movies and TV shows. Having been together for more than four and a half years now, John and I have certainly moved past that point. As we looked at the stages it became pretty clear that we had progressed to stage three; the power struggle stage. This is the stage where differences between the individuals become the most exaggerated and difficult to manage. This is also the stage where most couples break up.

Strangely, realizing that we weren’t alone in this sort of tumult in our relationship diffused a lot of the anxiety I was feeling. John and I were both able to acknowledge that there are things in our relationship we are concerned about, but that we value each other and the relationship enough to try to work this out. Now we’re doing better now, but looking at attending some couple’s counseling to take us that extra mile. I’m happy we took the time to step back and reflect on our relationship. How easy it could have been to simply caved to our frustrations and thrown in the towel rather than trying to actually address the problems.

As a postscript; I realize that being a part of a mixed age gay relationship may make this sort of relationship anxiety harder to deal with. I’ve recognized that I find it hard to bring myself to ask friends for relationship advice when it comes to dealing with problems between John and me. I have no sounding board to vent my frustrations or to bounce ideas off of. I worry, because our relationship is unconventional, that friends or family may interpret my frustrations as confirmation that the relationship wasn’t meant to be in the first place. There is a lot of pressure to present our relationship as one of domestic bliss; but that is really an unrealistic fantasy we shouldn’t have to hold ourselves to.

Older Man / Younger Man: A Book Review

Book Cover

Cover: Older Man / Younger Man: a Love Story

Across the country the temperatures are dropping; fall has truly arrived. If you are like me this means you’ll start spending more time inside curled up with a good book. Sadly though there aren’t a lot of books geared toward gay men interested in intergenerational relationships. However, this fall a new one has hit the market that just might scratch that itch; Older Man / Younger Man: A Love Story.

Older Man / Younger Man is a memoir by author, and alternative health/spiritual counselor Joseph Dispenza. It tells the story of the author meeting his partner and the story of their first ten years together. At it’s core this story is an honest and revealing narrative about an older man and his partner; thirty years his younger. Dispenza’s book is deeply reflective and offers insight into both the joys and insecurities of sharing a love with someone so different in age. For myself, as a younger partner, it was interesting to have such an intimate look inside the head of an older man in such a similar type of relationship to my own. At the same time so many of his thoughts and feelings were chillingly familiar.

The story is told achronologically; jumping back and forth from the near past, to the distant past, and occasional to fanciful past lives. For the most part the narrative structure keeps the story lively and interesting to read; on several occasions I found myself not able to put the book down for the night (I tend to read before bed). However, in a few rare instances the changes in time-line felt forced; included only to artificially build tension in the story. But, these few stumbles are easy to forgive in an otherwise well conceived book.

Infused within the story is Dispenza’s philosophies on spirituality and personal healing. I don’t consider myself exceptionally spiritual, so for the most part these elements were not particularly compelling. However, there were a few times where the authors thoughts on spirituality and religion were very refreshing. For so many gay men the notion of spirituality is compelling, but due to their experiences with organized religion they have become conflicted and at times even bitter toward that world. Dispenza writes of his own history with Catholicism and later explorations of alternative spiritualities with openness and grace. Within this book there is a sense of reconciliation with spirituality that I think a lot of gay men may find very attractive.

Overall Older Man / Younger Man was a pleasurable read. It is infused with authenticity and intelligence. For those unfamiliar with intergenerational gay relationships it offers much welcomed insight. For those of us in intergenerational gay relationships it offers us a mirror through which we can reflect on our own experiences, values, and aspirations.

More information about this book can be found on the official website or it can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other retailers.

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?