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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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Dating Again #1: Mr. Rebound

When I met John I had been in the dating world only for a short time. After our relationship ended I found myself back in the dating pool. Since, I have found it a bit daunting to try dating again. I certainly know a lot more now than when I first really started dating older men six years ago, but I’m finding that I’m encountering more unusual and challenging experiences than I expected. This is the first post of a series reflecting on my experiences now that I’m dating again.

Shortly after the split I started frequenting one of the more popular intergenerational gay dating sites. Having just come out of a relationship I wasn’t looking for anything serious and even if I were I wouldn’t know what I was looking for. I just wanted to get out, try dating again, and hopefully have some fun times. On this website I started trading a few messages with the man I’m going to call Mr. Rebound.

Mr. Rebound was friendly, thoughtful, and a little bit shy. My own introverted nature led to some of the problems I had with John and it was refreshing to encounter someone that seemed to understand that part of my personality. After a couple of weeks of correspondences and chatting we agreed to meet for coffee one afternoon. The first meeting was rather uneventful. Mr. Rebound was unassuming and easy to be around. We sipped coffee and had rather general conversation. At that first meeting I found him attractive and was excited at the prospect of potentially being with him.

Mr. Rebound and I continued to have our online conversations, and early on he was well aware that I had just come out of a relationship. We commiserated together at how much of the world just doesn’t get the way introverts like us operate. A week or two after the first coffee date we met again for dinner.

To be honest, I don’t remember the dinner much. Afterwards he invited me to his place. We chatted more, listened to music, sat on his couch together and eventually began to make out. Mr. Rebound respected, or at least tried to respect, the fact that we really hadn’t known each other long and that I was fresh out of a relationship. I kept the momentum going however and we ended up in his bed. Again, he tried to slow things down but I thought I was ready to go for it. I threw caution to the wind and we ended up hot, sweaty, naked, and sticky.

I don’t think it was too long after that that I realized that I had made a mistake. I continued to see Mr. Rebound but we didn’t have sex again. It wasn’t that there was anything particularly wrong with him. But, while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was trying to fulfill competing desires with my relationship with Mr. Rebound. On one hand I wanted a friend to talk to, to decompress with, and to get thing off of my chest that had built up as my relationship with John fell apart. I hadn’t felt comfortable doing that with any of my existing friends. On the other hand, I wanted to fulfill sexual desires that weren’t being met. I discovered those two roles shouldn’t be fulfilled by one person, especially not during the emotionally stressful period I was experiencing at the time.

With Mr. Rebound I realized I wanted a friend more than I wanted a lover. Eventually, I was able to tell him this and to my surprise he wasn’t angry nor did he simply disappear after I made it clear I no longer wished to have a romantic relationship with him. We have continued to be friends, and though not terribly close we see each other fairly frequently to have walks, chats, coffee, etc.

Since then I think I’m still trying to learn lessons from this first post-John relationship. First, one must make a distinction between those they really wish to date and those they simply want something physical with. I should have learned that when dating someone that I may want to have a meaningful relationship with that I need to take it slow on the sexual front. I’m not sure I have fully learned that lesson, but that’s a story for a future blog post. By meaningful relationship I mean either long-term dating or simply friendship. To move quickly into sex complicates the getting to know you process and if you do determine you just want to be friends the sex could be deadly to the future of the friendship. I feel that I was pretty lucky to come away with a new friend in Mr. Rebound.

Guest Post: Rodney and Me

Today’s guest post comes from a GtD reader. Written in the form of an open letter to the parents of his new significant other, it addresses the concerns of outsiders looking in at a may-to-december relationship.

I’d bet you’re here for a reason… there was a reason for me too. When I discovered this site I had only had a need of it for just a few days… I was rapidly becoming emotionally involved with someone in excess of twenty five years my junior. Not only is he significantly younger, he’s significantly young. This is of course going to trouble a great many people, being a responsible and moral person I’m one of them, the first I expect. This collection of people may have just recently grown by a few, could be you and your spouse – Rodney’s parents, are a bit troubled too.

I’m glad you’re here; I hope you can find the answers you’re looking for. Please know that this site is about supporting people who are in, could be in or are otherwise somehow related to someone in an intergenerational gay relationship. It’s a fair assumption that you might feel the need for some support, if nothing else you’re concerned for your son or other family member, probably worried that he is being taken advantage of. As we might have someone in common that we care about I’d like to offer you some support. You’re possibly wondering why I’m here offering this to you; I’m thinking that its possible that you’re seeing me as the “enemy”. While I’m certain that you are mistaken on this count, nothing will change that impression if I am not willing to step forward and extend my hand, taking ownership for my part in this situation.

I’d like to offer up a few things for you to consider. First, you’re probably not here by accident. Your Son or another family member gave you a link to this website on purpose or you were looking for information on your adult child’s intergenerational relationship. Somebody has something that they’re trying to tell you. It’s in the spirit of openness and consideration for your feelings that you’ve been sent here, if you arrived by accident you’re curious because of someone you know. Please keep that in mind and if you are upset, scared, worried or otherwise feel that your family member is being victimized take a moment to relax and have faith in your son, while I bring you up to speed on a couple of things. While I can’t speak for everyone in this situation, I can present my feelings to you and offer you the possibility that I may not be the only older half of an intergenerational gay relationship that is willing to be open and forward. It’s not easy as I’m thinking that you may see me as an enemy, though I am far from it. I believe in Rodney, truly want the best for him and am willing to open myself up to scrutiny.

When I discovered my attraction for (and we are going to call him Rodney) Rodney I was more than surprised that things might take this kind of turn. We had communicated online a month before we met, most of that was about when are we going to get together, my schedule, his schedule etc. Once we finally got together, had opportunity to spend some time together we found that like other people we just enjoyed being together. It did not take long for me to realize that this young man was not cut from the same cloth as others his age. He has a deep sense of compassion with still waters running very strong and deep, nor given to childish pursuits. One would quickly call him an old soul without hesitation. I will confess that by the end of our first date I had long forgotten his age as he seemed much older. Our third date was a disaster, but as parents you could not have been happier with his bravery and willingness to deal with a crisis.

We had arranged nearly a week ahead of time to have brunch on New Year’s Day. I expected that we would eat and then catch a movie; my absent mindedness would change our plans. While cooking I had turned on the wrong burner on the stove and there was a frying pan handle over the burner, when I noticed this I corrected the situation and put some oil in the pan and then was distracted. It didn’t take long before the pan had gotten too hot and was smoking. I reached out to move the pan without thinking and burned the inside of my fingers on the frying pan handle, dropping the frying pan on the stove, the oil splashed out burning the outside of three of my fingers. Standing next to the sink I immediately went for cold water but that wasn’t enough. I was rapidly going into shock and were it not for Rod I might’ve have collapsed or worse. Most people would have politely excused themselves and ran out as quickly as possible, but not your son. It didn’t enter into his mind, not for an instant. He just saw that I needed someone to help then ran out and got snow to cool the water even more, then helped me make it to the couch and eventually the bathroom. An hour later after I was no longer in shock he drove me to the hospital, staying with me until the emergency room people were done with me. Afterward that evening we had dinner and came back to the scene of the injury for a movie.

I’d like you to know that whatever you taught Rodney, it was all worth it. You look at him and see your barely adult (chronologically) son, of course. It is clear to anyone that while Rodney may be young when it comes to the calendar, he handles himself and crises like an old pro. He was there for me when I needed help and possesses a maturity well beyond his years. I look forward to being there for him should it be necessary at any time in the future.

Best Regards,

Robert Riley

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.

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.

Beginners: A Young Man, His Gay Father, and a Dog

When I first heard about Beginners a few months ago I knew I wanted to see it when it hit theaters.  The film stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer as father and son.  The former is coming to terms with the ins and outs of making relationships and love work, the latter is coming out late in life and embracing life anew.  The film was written and directed by Mike Mills and loosely based on experiences with his own father.

The core of the story is McGregor as Oliver, the dower but likeable son trying to make a new relationship work.  However his own love life is tinted by the relationship his father had with his mother and his father’s subsequent coming out after his mother’s death. Oliver is an illustrator and graphic designer, and that sensibility is carried through the film. The main story of Oliver’s burgeoning relationship is punctuated by iconic/photographic depictions of the world and ideas Oliver is struggling with.  Also interwoven with the primary story are flashbacks to Oliver’s childhood experiences with his mother and his experiences with his father during the final months of his life.

Plummer takes a wonderful turn as McGregor’s out-late father, Hal. His enthusiasm for his new gay life as well as his struggle with the cancer that, revealed very early in the film, kills him, provide emotional resonance that propels and haunts McGregor’s character throughout the film.

Rounding out the cast are the lovely Mélanie Laurent as Oliver’s love interest and Goran Visnjic as Hal’s much younger boyfriend.  The chemistry in both onscreen couples works well.  I particularly enjoy that Visnjic’s Andy is just strange enough to feel earnest and like a real person.  Last, but not least is Cosmo, the ever present Jack Russell Terrier in the film.  Part security blanket, part sounding board for Oliver’s neurosis; the dog adds some lightness to what is often a very heavy film.

I highly recommend Beginners for those in gay intergenerational relationships; seldom do we see our own stories depicted so sensitively. However, I wouldn’t say this is a stereotypical “gay” film.  There is a lot there to appeal to individuals of diverse backgrounds and experiences.   It is now showing  in select theaters.

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.