“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind.”
- Samuel Ullman, “Youth”
Mary Tyler. Elizabeth Taylor. Susan Sarandon. Cher. Roseanne. And even the divine Sir Elton John.
All these celebrities have a lot more in common than fame and fortune. They all chose younger men as their love interests.
As more gay men broaden their dating spectrum to include people way out of their age demographics, they soon realize that there are no longer set rules to guide them in navigating the ups-and-downs of a relationship with someone much younger or older.
While no statistics are available, older man-younger man couplings have long existed and may be becoming more prevalent and more socially common. The fashionable users of the English language have labeled this phenomenon as “cradle snatching”, conjuring up images of perverted adults raiding babies’ cribs for sex.
Of course there are those amongst the gay population who consciously look for older/younger men for reasons other than LTR – the sugar daddies and gold diggers. In fact, it is commonplace in the gay community to witness a scene straight out of Discovery Channel where older men prey on younger men with money and status as bait or the reverse case of younger gay men shamelessly leeching onto older victims in the hopes of being kept.
Sugar daddies and gold diggers aside, couples with an age disparity often find themselves unwitting victims of social stigma, more so within the conservative Asian context. In a world populated by people who fancy themselves to be the next Cruella de Vil, it is inevitable that such older man-younger man couples would be subjected to cruel barbs such as
“Oh, how cute! Is that your son/nephew?”
“Ummph, does he have life insurance?”
“He must be paying him.”
And while some gay couples may find ways and means of overcoming societal pressures, their families and friends may not prove to be very accommodating. The situation is even more pimple-inducing if your partner is almost the same age as your parents. How should they even address each other on their first meeting?
Societal and familial pressures aside, it should also be noted that the unique challenges of spending one’s life with someone who is much older/younger should never be swept under the carpet. An age difference of 15 or 30 years early in life may appear to most as being insignificant. But over time, the age gap can mean that the younger man would inevitably end up playing Florence Nightingale and spend his time nursing an ailing or dying partner just when he’s in the prime of his life.
Perhaps the most difficult problem facing gay couples with a stark age difference would lie at the differing expectations of relational intimacy. Generally, as a man ages, his sexual libido tends to wither and droop. Says Charles D. Hill, a professor of psychology at Whittier College: “In lieu of verbal intimacy, sex may be a couple’s bond, but with age and illness, the man’s sexual performance may suffer.” Consequently, when the older partner begin to lose interest in sex, the younger partner may find himself in the unenviable position of being sexually-starved and this may, in turn, lead to infidelity.
But despite the problems the age difference can bring, older man/younger man pairings does have its perks. While older men may not be as toned as they once were and they might not be quite as “perky”, it’s amazing what years of experience (sexual or otherwise) can do. Young and inexperienced partners often find that they can learn a lot from and experience more much when dating an older lover.
Older men are also more established in their careers and more matured in their thoughts and outlook, and this for the younger partner would entail financial stability and emotional maturity. Hence, the relationship may have begun with premise that an older, more financially successful man will not only have valuable life lessons to impart but also be able to provide a comfortable nest of status, safety and security.
According to Chris (age: 21) who’s dating a man in his late 40s, the age difference has its real benefits relationship-wise: “If we were the same age, it’d be more of a tug of war. We’d be concerned about who looks better, who’s getting more attention. In other words, we’ll be in competition all the time.”
As for dating younger men, many older gay men have said that in addition to being a good ego-booster, the experience itself can be akin to a wonderful aphrodisiac. In fact, dating a younger man with a high sex drive can sometimes revive a comatose libido and inject a renewed sense of vitality into one’s life. And there is also the added assurance, for the older partner, of having someone to look after him during his twilight years.
In fact, older man/younger man relationships can sometimes be strengthened by the very trials and tribulations they face. Some couples rise to the challenge and experience new intimacy. “Life brings its ups and downs,” says Ian Alger at Cornell University, “Many people shoulder this burden and are partners for better or worse.”
Hence, while there are pros and cons to such relationships, it is undeniable that when two people of different generations come together, they can each bring something unique to the relationship. Different experiences can often enrich the time spent together. And in most cases, relationships that last belong to couples who accept that part of the deal of having a long-term relationship with someone belonging to a completely different generation is caring for each other “come what may” (in the words of Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman).
So if you see or know of someone who is dating a much younger/older man, don’t be too quick to jump on the bandwagon of naysayers. Live and let live. And if you find yourself in similar straits, don’t sell yourself short. Love knows no boundaries and most of the time, it’s never heard of age discrimination. Focus instead on the positives in the relationship and why you got together in the first place.
Trust your instincts or as clinical sexologist Sandra Reishus would say: “Never let age stop you from finding your real mate … (t)he age someone feels is more important than the age he or she really is.”
I thought this might pertain to those who like the Laguna/Squall pairing. Makes some sense, eh?