Twinks and trolls. Young men and old. One naturally turns into the other, yet in gay life they appear separate and distinct creatures inhabiting different realms of being.
Is there a bridge to this divide between twink and twilight?
Can older and younger men find common ground? Maybe even have a relationship?
I first realized that I’d crossed that magic line when I pointed out to a girlfriend how hot the 20-year-old muscle twink was sitting nearby. She looked shocked and horrified by my observation and blurted out, “Shame on you. Leave that boy alone!”
At first I thought she must be joking, but I quickly figured out otherwise from the contempt written all over her face.
The issue surfaced again when not long after this incident I met a 25-year-old student at the baths. We had sex — great sex — over and over again. Afterward we talked and I discovered that this man was as intelligent as he was beautiful. He was completing his master’s degree in engineering and doing research in nuclear medicine.
Don’t get me wrong — it isn’t often I take a shine to a trick at the baths. But with this young man it was all wedding bells and apple blossoms.
Once again, my dear old friends were there to crap on my honeymoon picnic.
“You’re too bloody old,” one tells me.
“A kid that age doesn’t know what colour socks to wear in the morning let alone what he wants out of life,” says another. “It wouldn’t be fair to him to tie him down in a relationship with someone as old as you and it wouldn’t last if you tried.”
Now you might be thinking at this point that I must be like a hundred years old for these people to be so shocked. Close. I’m a horrific 38.
Too old, according to some people, to deserve to live anymore or to even think about touching those “boys.” Well, screw them. I say they’re wrong and I have proof.
Meet a couple of my friends. Adrian is now 43 years old and his partner François is 31. That may not seem too dramatic at this point, but it probably was more so when they first met. François was 19 and Adrian was 31.
François was working at the local carnival when Adrian spotted him. He was interested and kept coming around bringing François ice cream and treats.
But it was François who turned out to be the aggressive one. He took the first step of inviting Adrian out for a drink. One drink turned into several until he got Adrian drunk enough to come on to him and get him into bed. (Young men can be so predatory — and I’m not kidding.)
This aggressive behavior came despite the fact that François was just coming out and inexperienced in the sex department. He’d only had sex with one other guy, when they were both 16, an experience François describes as “awkward” but not unpleasant.
Likewise, Adrian had not been with a lot of men. He had just ended an 11-year relationship with a man three years his senior. Remarkably, this was the only man he had ever been with since coming out.
Someone had lied and told François that Adrian was only 24 when they met, and Adrian didn’t immediately correct the information. By the time the truth came out, they were well into their relationship and it was no longer an important issue. “But had I known at the time how old he really was, I would have worried about the age difference between us,” François tells me in an interview over coffee while Adrian listens in.
Looking back, François says that having a relationship was the last thing on his mind. “I wasn’t thinking long-term,” he says. “I saw him. I liked him and it happened. I wasn’t thinking any further ahead than that.”
In fact, at the time he found the idea of a gay relationship hard to fathom. “I thought only straight people had serious relationships. I didn’t think it was possible for us.”
They eventually opened the relationship up and began to see other guys as they wished. “We had older friends in open relationships,” says Adrian, “so the concept wasn’t new or weird to us.” At first he thought it meant that he would be the slutty one, but it ended up the opposite with François being more out there.
It was important to Adrian to take this step because he didn’t want François to feel he had missed out on anything because of him. “I didn’t want him to say in 10 years that he lost the best years of his life because I tied him down,” Adrian tells me. “I try to let him experience things for himself, not tell him what to do or be controlling. It’s his life to live and I don’t interfere as much as possible.”
François realized in this process that Adrian wasn’t a fluke: he was mainly attracted to somewhat older guys because, he says, “perfect young guys kind of intimidate me and just want you to do them. I need more than that.” It’s now their policy to talk openly about who they fuck and not to keep secrets from each other.
I told them about the barbs I’d received about “preying” on younger men. Then I asked Adrian if he had ever been criticized early in his relationship for dating a 19-year-old when he was just past 30. Adrian just shook his head and dismissed such critics and said: “It’s sad that some people just don’t understand love.”
Bob, 64, is a professor emeritus of drama and enjoying his retirement with his younger partner, Paul, who is now 47 and teaches high school.
Bob and Paul were 22 and 38 when they met under interesting circumstances. They first tricked together at a bathhouse and parted ways without exchanging numbers. Not long afterwards they were on the same subway car together. Bob recognized Paul, but Paul did not remember Bob.
They ended up chatting and going home together for sex again. This time they exchanged phone numbers, but Paul used it for the first time to tell Bob something difficult.
“He called to tell me that he had gonorrhea,” Bob tells me in an interview with the two of them over the telephone. “I didn’t care at all about the STD, I was just glad to hear from him.” He says that Paul demonstrated real maturity and class by calling him to tell him that and it made him even more interested.
Bob found he was interested, but at the same time thought that maybe Paul was too young for him. He wasn’t really into young men all that much.
On the flipside, Paul was interested but wondered if Bob was too old — he wasn’t really into older men.
Paul says he was enjoying being young and free and sleeping with whomever he wanted and was hesitant to tie himself down. Bob on the other hand, wondered if it wouldn’t be a mistake to turn Paul away just because of the age difference.
It turns out that on a lot of things they were of similar minds. “We are both gay men of a certain era and we have a philosophical objection to monogamy,” says Bob. They both agreed that it would be okay to see other people.
In the beginning Bob says the age difference between them was more pronounced. At the time Paul had less life experience, little formal education, and not much money.
“Paul couldn’t afford to travel in the beginning and it was something that I wanted and we were both aware of the difference in incomes,” says Bob.
Later, as Paul grew older those factors changed. He earned a degree, started making more cash, and had a few turns around the block. “Eventually things started to level out and we became more equal in many ways. Now we don’t even think about the age difference,” says Bob.
But the difference shows in other ways. Bob is older, in poor health and less interested in sex. In fact, they don’t have sex together at all anymore.
“But Bob is not worried I’m going to leave him for someone else,” says Paul. “He knows it’s just sex with these other guys and doesn’t worry about it. Bob says he’s not a jealous person by nature and that’s he’s actually happy that Paul can have quality friendships with other people to bring a richness to his life.
The thing that worries both of them the most these days is Bob’s failing health. Paul says he dreads the idea of losing him to death or debilitating illness, and Bob is concerned about leaving Paul behind.
It’s something that is very much on both of their minds, but as Paul says, “The fear pales in comparison to the quality of the relationship we have.” They say that they are happier and more in love today after 25 years together than they ever were.
They both agree that the key to a good relationship is communication. “By all means talk to each other, fight if you want to, but make sure you always communicate,” says Bob. “It’s the key to success and happiness in my experience.
Their final word of advice to anyone contemplating getting involved in a mixed-age relationship is this: “I had a relationship with Bob,” says Paul. “Not an older man per se, but just Bob. He was who I was attracted to. It’s about the person, not the age.”
That’s one of the two important lessons I learned from talking to these guys: it’s about the person and not the age. You can meet a 20-year-old who is very mature, and a 50-year-old about as smart and responsible as a teenaged delinquent. No two people are the same and neither are any two relationships.
The second thing that I learned was about sex. I was afraid that any younger man I might get involved with would either get bored of the sex with an older man, or get stolen away by some young hottie. For a moment I thought the solution was to lock them up and never let them out of the house. But the opposite proves wiser. Let them fuck whomever they want and make friendship the basis of your relationship.
On second thought, the biggest lesson that I learned was not to let narrow-minded people tell me who I can or cannot love based on their overly simplistic views of age.
People think it’s only old men chasing after younger guys, but the truth is some of them not only want to get caught, they’re plotting and scheming to catch you. And that’s perfectly all right.