Getting involved with a man 25 years younger than me was never in my game plan. Colin and I met on a gay dating site, lying about our ages in opposite directions: He had said he was "26" (he was 24) and I said I was "42" (I was 49). I normally avoided younger men, except when we both understood that the goal was just casual fun, hopefully occurring in under forty-five minutes. A lot of guys, gay and straight, dream about dating someone younger. But I'm a daddy loving daddy. I find crows feet and a "lived-in" body sexy. I admire a man loaded with a lifetime of stories.
But there I was, on my way to 24-year-old Colin's apartment. Opening the door was a tall, skinny, blond kid, Brooklyn-grungy but sexy. His apartment, shared with a straight roommate, was the sort of place only someone in his 20s could stomach -- a filthy, fluorescent-lit shoebox in the last un-cool part of Bushwick. We sat on cold metal chairs that stuck to the sticky, cracked-linoleum-floors in his kitchen. I couldn't figure out whether he was going to tell me "It's not a match" or "get undressed."
He wanted "to talk first." Oy. Colin told me how he played on straight soccer teams around the city and only started having sex with men two years before. He still wasn't out to his parents or friends. In other words, it wasn't only his youth and disgusting apartment that told me, "Leave ASAP."
Colin, like me, studied philosophy at university He liked to argue in that Ivy-league, chess club kind of way -- "tropes"-this, "individuate"-that, "Derrida ...blah blah blah." But he managed to do it in a sexy, masculine way ... which made it refreshing. He cut his own hair (badly) and his fashion consisted of sweaty soccer t-shirts and fraying pants.
After an hour of getting to know each other I finally asked directly, "Will I be seeing you naked at any point?"
"What's the hurry, Trapper Joe?" he said.
Which somehow led to another 30 minutes of verbally sparring with him about Emmanuel Kant and how to pronounce "stichomythia." He finally led me to his "section" of the apartment, an alcove with a slab of rotting cotton and wire that stood in for his bed.
When it comes to casual sex, I have my go-to activities, all which can be accomplished nicely within 20 minutes or less, but with Colin sex was slow, sweet, with lots of touching, laughter and commentary about what he liked and didn't like. It felt like that kind of sex I had when I was just starting out as a gay man: tender, specific, filled with meaning and oddly exciting. I remember thinking to myself, as we lay there post-everything: "I wish I were younger. If I were younger I could fall in love with a smart-ass like this." I suddenly felt so sad at the impossibility of it.
"You wanna hang out again?" he asked.
Over the next several months, I saw Colin once or twice a week. "Yes, we had sex, but more importantly we were becoming best friends. Around the same time, I was meeting and dating several age-appropriate guys. None worked out. Seems a lot of single guys my age have laundry lists of "non-negotiable" requirements (age, salary, career, location, etc.) which is probably a big reason many of us find ourselves alone.
It was nice to have Colin to take away the sting of failing to find "The Perfect Boyfriend." But I also started realizing what I liked about Colin compared with men my age: he was constantly curious about the world and open to new experiences, rather than being routinized by an extra quarter century of knowing what he already liked.
Colin and I started spending more and more time with each other in romantic situations. Even though we weren't officially "boyfriends" we were certainly acting like it.
During this time I found myself waking up in the morning or the middle of the night and hoping Colin had miraculously aged faster than I had, morphing into a respectable age -- say, 33. But no time travel took place. While people that knew us accepted us as a couple, people who heard about Colin's age, but hadn't yet met him, clearly were skeptical of both of our motives. "What's he really after?" a straight friend asked.
I'm a freelance writer, a poor target for a gold digger. But I hated that people would think stuff like that. Worse, I was also having new doubts about the age thing, especially when Colin would say typical 20-something bullshit, like "Money isn't important" or "it doesn't matter how you dress" or "cops won't stop you if everyone is speeding." It all seemed like a warning that I was going to be forced to live through my youthful mistakes a second time. But even though he could behave his age, Colin was usually a million times more sensible than me. He would also edit my writing, organize my closets and plan adventurous weekends at outer-borough museums and trips to Hindu temples. He was, in short, my dream man. So could a real committed relationship work? I knew of other intergenerational relationships (IGRs) that had worked, including the 40-year one between writer Christopher Isherwood and his 30-years-younger-lover the artist Don Bachardy. Despite this, I just wasn't sure if I was cut out for loving a man who would potentially need to change my Depends. Or worse, wait until I'd past my "hot daddy" period then leave me for a younger "older man." This was the real fear under my hesitation. My next partner had to be the one, since my sell-by date was fast approaching. Could I handle the lack of a guarantee?
I wanted to be brave. I wanted to cuddle, spend long hours talking about which organisms qualified as sentient beings and then wake up in the morning to find he had written me a poem on a napkin. However, the age-thing weighed on me too heavily, and I finally ended the romantic component of our relationship. Both of us were heartbroken, but it was for the best.
Flash forward three months ...
I was the one who initiated romantic sex during Christmas (hey, it's a holiday), and Hurricane Sandy (hey, we could die. why not?) and suddenly we were back to being boyfriends. He wasn't what I officially wanted, but I still wanted him. And unlike many of my peers, he still believed in love.
So, I've (mostly) surrendered to this idea of "no guarantees" when it comes to relationships. I figured I'd better have a "real relationship" with Colin now or spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I had stayed. So I'm trapped for the moment (or longer) in a fairly terrific relationship with an awkwardly young, amazing guy, who often expresses astonishment at my immaturity. We've been together close to four years. He'll be (thank god) 28 in July.
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