Sunday, 12 August 2012

Ramblings: Mind the Gap


What is it with gay couples and the age gap thing? It seems to be so much more prominent in gay life but that could be my perspective as I have a mildly jaundiced view.

A friend of mine is in his mid forties yet wouldn’t consider entering a relationship (sexual or otherwise) with any man over the age of thirty. His ideal is twenty-five. He constantly trawls the internet, bars and Grindr looking for attractive younger men who he can bed and or develop a relationship with. Oddly, these relationships don’t seem to go well. They tend to be messy and short lived. I can’t imagine dating someone a lot younger than myself. If they haven’t heard of The Clangers, vinyl records or can’t remember when the pound was a note, then I don’t want to know. What could we possibly have in common apart from sex and you can do that so many hours of the day?

Maybe my view is skewed through past experience. My first boyfriend was older (by one year). It was a full on teenage infatuation. I loved him madly to the point where I couldn’t eat or sleep. Two weeks later I realised he was actually a bit dull and had a funny whiff about him. I then upped the ante. My next boyfriend was a lot older. I met him aged almost seventeen in a gay bar (I was precocious and illegal, O.K.?). He was 39. He wooed me, by telling me I was beautiful and buying me books and gin, which was a sure fire way to my heart.

The power balance was skewed from the outset and by the time we were living together a year later he was definitely assuming the role of the older and wiser one. I didn’t know how to manage money, pay bills and shop. I was still a teenager.  I could cook and clean but not much else. I was pretty useless with a power tool too. This felt fine and him keeping my bank account card seemed a positive and sensible thing.

I think I made a fundamental mistake though. I fell in love with an older man rather than pursuing one for his money. My older man was penniless with terrible career prospects and a deep love for alcohol.

Fast forward twelve years: I was now 29, still without my own bank account and believing I was unable to function at the most basic level without him supervising everything practical for me. He chose the holiday destinations, the TV we watched and where we went out. The basic problem was that he wanted me to stay a teenager, naive and vulnerable. Unfortunately for him, in the intervening years I’d gained a career, friends and confidence. The balance of power shifted and along with this I gained the characteristics of someone hurtling towards thirty (ear hair, the beginnings of crow’s feet and general grumpiness). It didn’t bode well.

When I finally left him it was a revelation that paying bills, changing light-bulbs and making choices in life wasn’t that taxing for me. I’m also pretty good with managing my own money. I vowed to myself that never again would I enter a relationship where the age gap was more than the amount of time Eastenders has been on the BBC for.

The next relationship was with a man who loved young fair haired men who were slim. He was a more sensible choice at four years older but his adoration of youth came to become a stressor. My hair grew darker, I grew older and less toned and frisky and we disintegrated, going our separate ways after six years.

The world of internet dating that I found myself in aged 36 was at times frustrating. I’d read through a profile for a hot looking man of my own age only to come to the crunch line: No one over the age of 25 need apply. This happened time and time again. It seemed bizarre to me. It seemed to be a recurring theme that the older you get the younger you want your take out or take home to be. I’m not bitter, I met some decent men and of course a few cads. It was fun at times, demoralising at others.

Then there was the withholding of truth. A hunky thirty five year old young would turn up on a date and you’d quickly realise that he was actually ten years older and twenty pounds heavier. Maybe the grainy Polaroid picture with the Wham posters in the background should have been a clue. The Eighties mullet should have told me those photos weren’t recent. Liars are really not my thing.

Eventually, I met my current partner. I know that’s a lot of long relationships but serial monogamy is so my thing. We didn’t meet in a bar, on the internet or Grindr but in actual real life. How odd is that? Here’s where I reveal my hypocrisy. He’s a fair bit older than me. The balance of power is fine. We’re both equally powerless. It’s pretty good so far. I go with the flow and am happy with that.

I know some of you will be shouting at your screens: “But I’ve been with my boyfriend who’s twenty years older/younger for ten years and we’re blissfully happy.”

Good luck to you, if that’s the case. Maybe I was just unlucky and it was just the wrong man. I just hope you can cope with those awkward restaurant moments well. It’s never nice when people address him as your dad or son. Unless that’s your thing of course but that’s a whole other topic.
(originally published at: www.thegayuk.com)

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