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TalonRider

Put A Fork In It

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A man and woman walk hand-in-hand through the lunch time crowd of a major city. Her unlined face, as well as the length of her hair (long) and skirt (short) suggest she’s in her late 20's or early 30's. Her gray haired companion appears to be in his 50s. They could be father and daughter, but, remember, they’re holding hands.

Two teenage girls pass the couple, giggle, and offer a suggestion:

"Put a fork in him! He’s done!"

The couple in a May-December romance don’t need to hear rude comments to know they’re considered a mismatch. They’ve heard the clichés. The older lover is a "cradle robber." The younger one is a "gold digger." Gay couples are used to society’s finger wagging and even those who give society the finger right back are reluctant to hold hands in public for fear of queer bashing. Those that do may be motivated by defiance as much as affection, and more power to them. But the major obstacles to a May-December romance are the same in a gay coupling as they are in a heterosexual one.

The advantages are clear to see. The older man is turned-on by his lover’s youthful body and sexual energy, and inspired by his enthusiasm. His ego gets a boost by playing the teacher, passing on his knowledge and experience to an attentive student. The younger partner may feel secure in his older lover’s arms and equate his maturity with stability. After all, a man is less likely to come home at 4 a.m., drunk, and still in the mood to party when he’s nearing or over forty. The young man may enjoy learning the ways of the world from someone for whom "been there, done that" is a statement of fact, not an egotistical boast.

Once the relationship settles into something more complacent, however, the gap may expand to a gulf, and become a source of conflict. The older lover gets tired of feeling like the daddy. The younger lover resents that his age puts him in a subordinate position. Is he a son or a lover? Then there’s culture shock. For the older man, Paul Newman is a movie star. To the younger one, he’s just a face on a bottle in the fridge. The older man wants to slow dance and hold his lover close, but his honey is gyrating all over the floor, and receiving approving glances from other younger men, each one a potential rival.

Your shared sexuality could also be a source of disagreement. The older man insists he’s comfortable with his gayness, but he grew up in an era when homosexuality was a private matter that shouldn’t be discussed. His younger partner came out in his teens. He wears a rainbow pin, speaks freely about the man in his life, and looks forward to Pride as much as his more mature partner dreads his next birthday.

But are such differences insurmountable? And is age really the problem?

Conflicts arise in every relationship regardless of the age of the partners. Age differences are often a red herring, the most obvious excuse for difficulties we lack the patience to deal with. When two people come together as lovers, there are always adjustments to make, but we’ve been conditioned by our fast-food culture to expect instant results, as well as instant gratification. And when two lovers are from different generations, sometimes it’s too easy to think that the age of the partners is the problem. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

Some young men, being shy or introverted, avoid not only the bar scene but any place where large groups of people gather. They prefer a quiet life that may make them seem older than their years, at least to someone more extroverted. Some older gay men spent their teens and 20's in the closet and may make up for lost time by being out and proud in ways that make them seem younger. The closet often steals a gay man’s youth. He reclaims it by coming out.

If your lover is younger or older than you are, be patient. Give your relationship time to settle into something that’s comfortable for both of you. Most differences can be worked out with time and love, especially love.

The major problems originate on the outside. Society dictates, then enforces, its narrow standards on the rest of us. The belief that lovers should be of comparable ages is as widespread as the one that says lovers should be of the opposite sex. But if you love someone, you love them. Love is all that counts.

Do you love each other?

If the answer is yes, the differences won’t matter in the long run. You’ll find ways to accommodate each other’s needs without sacrificing your own. But there’s always society to deal with. If the world tries to disrupt your love nest with its stares and rude suggestions, make a suggestion of your own. Tell them to "Put a fork in it." Let them figure out what you mean by "it."

by Brian W. Fairbanks

For DateInfo, a webzine for date.com

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