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 41. 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 world of internet dating that I found myself in aged 36 (after another happier relationship with a four year age gap had fallen by the wayside) 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 man 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)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ramblings: Funeral Derangements



My friend and I passed a huge rotting of fading flowers in the street the other week. There were the usual mawkish notes and grainy photos pinned on the wall. We both looked away instinctively and didn’t utter a word about it. We weren’t horrified that someone had been killed. We’ve become quite immune to that.

My best friend, work colleagues and Paul have all been given a task to perform should I die. The task to be completed as number one priority by all is to remove any flowers and things from the place where I die. I strongly suspect that I’ll die in some hideous accident due to my innate clumsiness so I don’t want attention drawn to it. I also think that these roadside shrines are kind of tawdry and messy. They get in people’s way and I so hate a wilting flower. If I have flowers in the house they only have to so much as start to look a bit sickly before they’re tossed in the recycling bin. I’m also not too keen on tea lights and soft toys. I like an antique bear but if you’ve gone one of those and leave it on the pavement round here it’ll be gone in no time.

Paul has a special job should I lapse into a coma. He’s in charge of the pubic topiary. If I’m lying on a bed in Intensive Care surrounding by bleeping machines, I want to maintain a nice tidy growth. I want regular nasal hair trimmings, smooth ears and a daintily tended garden of hair. I also want nicely ironed pyjamas and a lot of cologne. A picture on the bedside locker would be nice too so that the nurses have a frame of reference and know what I looked like before and after the juggernaut smash.

It’s a horrible thought, loss of control. The idea of losing control of how you appear to the world horrifies me. More importantly the idea of having choices made which wouldn’t have been yours is even worse. The thought of someone arranging a religious funeral for me fills me with rage. In fact, the thought of a funeral fills me with rage. I don’t want one at all. Not even when I’m dead. I despise them.  All the funerals I’ve attended have felt dull and empty to me. I’ve never gained anything from them. I even found my own father’s funeral really tedious and pointless. He was already dead. I’d known that for three weeks. It certainly didn’t help me to go through a long winded and dull church service. My current plan is that my body goes to medical science or failing that a no frills Tesco Value funeral in a bin liner. Sorry to disappoint but it’s one party I won’t be inviting you to.

I suspect some might think that I’m morbid for even thinking about these things but I call it pragmatic. We all die and we all need plans. We also need to communicate them. It’s kind of tricky when it’s too late. I’ve sorted out a will but some of my requests (e.g. no roadside shrine and a neat parting in my hair) are hard to enforce. Hence I’m telling you lot. Make a note!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

People: Gore Vidal


Gore Vidal, the great American essayist, scriptwriter, novelist, politician and actor died on Wednesday aged 86.

Vidal gained early notoriety in 1948 with the publication of his novel “The City and the Pillar”. The groundbreaking book charted the relationship between two men and was original in that it depicted the gay characters as average, masculine men rather than the more common image of the time of gay men as all being foppish effeminate men. The novel was semi-autobiographical and dedicated to a man he later described as the love of his life. The novel still resonates today and has much to interest 21st Century readers.

Vidal refused to define himself as gay or bi-sexual, in spite of lengthy relationships with both men and women. He went so far as to say: "There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices."
Vidal had a prolific literary output and as well as his political career was also a prominent figure in the media. He once said: "I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television." Now that’s a philosophy which I’m sure most of us can empathise with.

A famous saying of Vidal’s was that: "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."

In today’s climate of eclectic styles that still resounds with wisdom.

R.I.P. Gore Vidal

Ramblings: No One Loves a Fairy When She's Forty


I always dreaded ageing. I cried upon reaching 25, thought hitting 30 would be the end of my life and 40 felt like an impossible milestone.

I was actually pretty certain that like a lot of my A-list celebrity idols, I would have burnt out long before I hit the fourth decade. I tried hard with generous slugs of vodka and copious cigarettes but I’m still here.

The funny thing is that I actually like it. I’ve gained a few scars along the way but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. O.K., so I have a daily running battle with my ear and nasal hair and the hair on my crown grows thinner by the week. At least I don’t have to follow fashion so ardently. I actually don’t have to go through the tricky logistics of wearing trousers that start below my buttocks. I don’t have to wear things that stretch gaping holes in my ears. I can get away without having to squeeze myself into uncomfortable and unflattering fashions now. I can actually wear what suits me. Yes, I am growing old with a little bit of grace.

The most important thing about getting older for me is that I’ve learnt what I like and am no longer willing to waste loads of time on tedious things. I now know that weddings usually bore me senseless and have learnt to decline the invitations. I always say that I’ll go to the next one. If people bore me, I move on. I no longer have that desperate clamouring I once had to have people around me all the time, regardless of what their qualities are.  If an activity doesn’t appeal, I don’t feel the need to indulge. I just say “No thank you” and do something else. It’s the same in relationships. I wouldn’t put up with things in my 40s that I did in my twenties.

There’s a benefit to all my grubby history. I’m not sure I believe in the adage that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. In most cases, traumatic experiences just made me more messed up and more cautious in the future. There is a benefit to heartbreak, mental turmoil and angst though. They make you more useful to other people when they’re in crisis and give you material to write about too. I like that I’ve lost my black and white view of the world. Life is much better in greyscale.

I always thought that being older would make me totally unattractive. I look back on pictures of me in my twenties and see someone who was more gauche and uncomfortable with himself. I might have had less crow’s feet but I wouldn’t have looked you in the eye.  I might not have grown up to be prime older man totty but being happier with who I am definitely makes me feel more attractive. It’s all about the confidence and knowing your style. Naturally my bedroom repertoire is wider now. I just like to do it all a little earlier now and without the need for intoxication.

People surprise me when they say that inside they still feel like teenagers. I definitely don’t. I feel better than I did aged 16 and pity anyone who doesn’t. Being young can be bloody hard.  I say embrace the older version of you. It’s coming at you anyway. You might as well grow to like him or her.

Originally published at: www.thegayuk.com