Father Tony

He's in love with a GRAMP! (Gay, Rich, Alone, Middle-aged, Positive)

Filed By Father Tony | August 06, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay sex, HIV positive, older gay men

Dear FT,

How can I convince an older man that he should take a chance on me?

Him: 56. HIV positive. Hot. Healthy as can be expected. Rich.
Me: 24. Cute. Negative. Hard working.

He says things to me like "Run the other way. You have your whole life ahead of you. Find someone who you can build a life with." He is the man I love. The one I always knew I would meet. I know he feels strongly for me but won't let himself go with it. He tells his friends and they tell me that he thinks he loves me but would not wish himself on me or anyone else like me. He won't have sex with anyone who is negative. I'm not winning this battle. My friends tell me to give up on him but I can't. How do I win him over?

Stubborn.

Dear Stubborn,

You are in love with a G.R.A.M.P. (Gay, Rich, Alone, Middle-aged, Positive). GRAMPs are a recent phenomenon due to the longer-term success of anti-HIV drugs. GRAMPs are a prickly lot for a number of reasons and it is not surprising that you are having difficulty with yours.

GRAMPs never expected to live as long as they have, and many of them are mystified by the fact that they are still here while their friends and lovers have died. Many GRAMPs claim to have given up on the possibility of love and say they would actually be rather relieved if their sex drives went away entirely. Some of them can be very bitter about life in general but at the same time be very warm-hearted with men like you. They feel like displaced persons. Not belonging anywhere.

GRAMPs have spent many years just managing to survive, and no one has given them the skills needed to be a high quality older man. They are making their way through it without guidance and with great difficulty. The fact that your GRAMP does not want to share his virus with you is admirable and typical and probably increases your desire for him.

Like all older men, GRAMPs get set in their ways and develop habits that are hard to invade let alone break. You are asking a great deal of such a man when you want to enter his life in such a significant and world-altering way. When a GRAMP tells you to "get lost" because you should form a relationship with someone who is not "broken" or "used", he really means it, despite wanting nothing more in this world than to share his bed with you to the end of his days.

As you'd expect, I have several GRAMP friends. I have tried to talk sense into them with little success. They give me that "You don't know what I have been through" look, and maybe they are right about that, but I do know something about how to redirect and rebuild your life to attain some measure of happiness, so I continue to argue with them and I continue to introduce them to men I think would make suitable partners.

When your GRAMP says he can never have sex with you because you are negative and he is positive, he is a liar and he knows it, and you should confront him with that fact. There are a zillion ways to have safer sex and to make erotic expression without putting you in harm's way. He is really saying that he is sexually insecure because of his age and his virus. He is really expressing his doubts about his worth as a sexual partner. This is one instance in which I would counsel carefully planned seduction on your part. Get the two of you into as compromised a situation as possible and knock him off balance. Be sure that the sex that ensues is extremely safe. Build his confidence little by little with repeated seductions. GRAMPs are like Rapunzels in their towers. They don't make it easy for you to reach them.

Also, with a GRAMP, you should not be afraid of spelling out your objective in clear words because, like all older men, they develop suspicions and fears that are often irrational. You should not hesitate to say "I love you. I love your gray hair, your body in its natural shape, your grumpy personality, your experience, your humor, your strength and your money. I love it all and I love you more than anyone else I will ever meet. If you really mean it when you say you love me, I'm not going to back out of your life and you won't get rid of me unless you get a restraining order." (Also, you can offer to sign a pre-nup, if the money is considerable.)

Just remember that a GRAMP is his own worst enemy. If you can win one over, he is yours for life, so you better be reasonably sure that you do in fact love him very much and to the exclusion of all other options. Toying with such a man would be cruel.


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 6, 2009 10:42 AM

I believe what Fr. Tony is also saying is beware of what you wish for as you may get it. Stubborn, I am exactly 56 and the 24 year age spread between myself and my partner is sometimes a burden. By the way, I was 23 when I met him and he is now 80. While neither of us are HIV positive I am dealing as best I can with my partner's decline in quality of life.

In that I know what the end stages of HIV-Aids are like (as you may) another possibility is dementia. Tony is very right, be certain before you proceed because the loss of you later could devastate him.

Also, prepare to find yourself alone when he dies earlier than you. You'll probably be in your 40's by then, very hard time to find a long-term partner in the perilous gay world.

I hope you have taken the age gap into consideration. One of the women I took some cake-decoration courses with would note her unhappiness when a man 30 years older than her would always want to sleep and rest while she still felt energetic and wanted to go out and have vacations. She admitted the man was very good to her (an angel), but she felt completely neutered.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 6, 2009 11:23 AM

Lucrece, I do hope we will be past ageism by the time this 24 year old is 40. And who knows, at 72, he could likely still be very alive. If one is fortunate enough to have a partner who is perfect the younger person becomes mature and the elder person becomes enlivened, even juvenile. I would not consider a relationship with a 24 year old, but would have to settle for someone 40 or older. It could well reflect his interests in that he could still be looking at someone 60 or older by that time.

And so will many others and money will have no part of it.

Shit, you guys. In any relationship things happen. Cheating, cancer, sudden death. What the heck?

Good lucking finding the perfect guy near your same age and growing old together. It does happen but to base your decisions on getting there is a set up.

I've had two relationships with big age differences. One when I was young and one when I was older. My 1st partner died of HIV 4 years into the relationship. Damn that was hard. I am not the same person I was and I am grateful. Now I live the truth of life and don't spend my time pining for a fantasy.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 7, 2009 4:23 AM

I expect to be in my 60's when my partner dies and I will not have regretted a day.

A week here or there, but not a day. :)

Gramps? The nerve! Perhaps everyone should take note that maybe, just maybe, the man is NOT interested. No offense but the 24 year old is essentially an aging twink who will be off on another mission like changing from a rum and coke to a screwdriver. Signing his letter "Stubborn" says it all and is very telling.

I agree with Ewe. It may be that he just isn't interested and is taking the "It's not you, it's me" approach to spare the feelings of the young man.

Also, a wise therapist once told me, if someone tells you something negative about themselves when you start dating, believe them. Usually, in the early parts of the courtship dance, one tries to put their best foot forward. If he is warning he's a mess, it's likely true and may/may not have anything to do with his age or serostatus.

Dear Gavin, ewe, Dan, Robert, Lucrece,
I would caution against too much caution in matters of love which is very much like bungee jumping. I say do it, but check the equipment throughly before you jump. Never to jump is never to be thrilled.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 7, 2009 4:27 AM

Hey Fr. Tony. I am the one who was 23 and found a 47 year old. Granted I had no idea what his age was and it was months before I found out. His mother told me. I never asked his age because the man was so interesting on all levels. I bungee jumped 33 years ago.

A. J. Lopp | August 6, 2009 2:13 PM

Forgive me for doing some (meaning, a lot!) of arm-chair psychology, but this post is aimed largely at discussing GRAMP, but I think we might do well to also put the focus on Stubborn as well.

I want to ask Stubborn the obvious question that no one has brought up yet: Stubborn, are you looking for an equal partner, or are you looking for a surrogate father? This situation sounds like a romantic obsession to me, and fits the pattern of someone who, as an infant or young child, had a lousy relationship with his father, and who may spend the first half of his adult life, if not all of it, looking for a "father" that will supposedly heal that infant emotional wound of wanting to be loved by a larger-than-life male figure.

What was your father-son bond like when you were an infant, toddler, and pre-schooler? Also, you are now 24: Do you have a pattern of developing obsessions on another guy who is somehow symbolically "superior" to you (for example, the GRAMP here is older and richer), and who is emotionally unavailable, and then you deciding that you must get him to love you? If so, that is the sub-conscious image of your father and the pain of his rejection at work.

If I am correct, since you are attracted to men who are emotionally unavailable, you set your fate not to find the love you are looking for, but to re-create the rejection over and over with man after man after man. And if, by chance, one of these men does decide to have a relationship with you, you will quickly find that the relationship does not have magical healing power that you expect it to have --- or else, you will suffocate your man until he is forced to drop you.

Obviously, dealing with an issue like this can't be done in a blog column. If you decide this is you, then you need to find a competent therapist that is expert at treating stalkers, romantic obsessions, and sexual addiction (even though, of course, you personally do not fit all these categories).

But then, I could be wrong --- and for your sake, I hope I am.

FT? Are you linking "love" and "thrills" together? Do tell more. lol

He says things to me like "Run the other way. You have your whole life ahead of you. Find someone who you can build a life with." He is the man I love. The one I always knew I would meet. I know he feels strongly for me but won't let himself go with it.

That's pretty creepy. I've known a few guys who acted like that to my sister (I know you like me, so I'll never give up, little girl), when she was definitely not interested. But they just couldn't comprehend the fact that a woman wouldn't be into them, or that she's anything more than a sex object so it's not like she'd

There are gay guys like that. I remember one in college who, when he couldn't get the guy he was convinced would be eternally happy with him, started showing up at his work without calling. He ended up in prison for unrelated reasons, but he did at one point write an elaborate soap opera where his unrequited love was presented as having a small and marked-up penis.

Some gay boys don't know how to take rejection well, but this letter doesn't really give enough info to decide one or the other. I'm not sure if I'm willing to believe this guy's "His friends said..." line.

I was 23 when I hooked up with my partner, she was 48 - we have been together for 13 years and have loved every minute of it.
I hope GRAMP will open his heart to love. I know my partner was worried at first that I was too young for her and afraid I would leave for somone younger... love is love, it isn't about age in my opinion.

One positive to age: I get to understand the whole red tape process of social security and all that comes with it for when I need it for later. :)

Hmmm.. I agree with Alex. I'm all for attractions across age boundaries, and we need to be more open about such relationships, but Stubborn, on the face of it, seems to be indulging in some wishful thinking here. He reminds me of slightly obsessive teenagers who'd like to believe that the person they're currently obsessed with is secretly in love/obession with them too. Ah, correction - teenagers are hardly the only people to behave in this way. Lots of us "adults" (note the use of "us") do the same thing.

I like Fr. Tony's suggestion about not exercising too much caution in matters of attraction. Still, in this case, I don't think that enticing GRAMP into a sexually compromising position is particularly respectful of what he might want.

Perhaps GRAMP smells the strong scent of greed that permeates even Stubborn's brief description, and is trying to politely distance himself from what looks like a gold digger? Fr. Tony's suggestion that he acknowledge his love for the money is an honest one, but I don't think that S. is quite as upfront; he seems to want to bury his attraction to the money under a lot of rhetoric about love.

And maybe GRAMP's just perfectly happy being "alone." Not every one needs a partner to feel fulfilled, and the man, it seems, is having sex with other people. It also sounds like he has a group of friends around him, and that's an indication that he's not, in fact, alone. Why do we think of people as being alone and/or unhappy just because they don't have partners?

Stubborn might consider backing off from this one and dropping the act. I suspect that GRAMP, with far more experience, has seen through him.

I wish I could find my own Gramp...I'm just a Gamp myself, and not really interested (wary of) in the young ones.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 7, 2009 4:40 AM

I hear you and I know I am a lucky man. I knew one fellow who kept complaining that he wanted a rooster and kept finding chickens. All due respect to younger readers, but some people like their eggs fully hard boiled. We like competition rather than compliance, reason rather than worry.

John Shields John Shields | August 7, 2009 2:54 AM

Clear and concise communication works. This passive-aggressive crap doesn't.

Can FT make it more clear? Probably not, as "Momma always said - stupid is as stupid does."

I would say Stubborn and GRAMPS need to take a walk, and talk. And go from there. Age and HIV-status are just two parts of this relationship.

Proximity does not equal distance.

Jerry McGuire | August 7, 2009 6:43 AM

Dear Stubborm,
I'm 61, & only 10 years older then my partner. We've been together 32 years. At my age I'm satisfied just staying home & going out occasionally, he on the other hand is more active, which I have accepted.
ANYHOW: all of the advice above is quite good, but I would recommend A.J. Lopp's above the rest.
THINK IT THOUGH.

tobyhannabill | August 7, 2009 11:54 AM

I'm 50 and have returned to college. I have been in a LTR with someone who is 10 years younger than me. But even if I wasn't I am not sure that, although they are fun to look at, I would want a sexual relationship with a 20 something year old. Their lack of life experience leaves a lot to be desired.

tom.brown@bilerico.com | August 8, 2009 8:53 AM

I hope Stubborn's romantic feelings are genuine and simon-pure, but it might be that Gramps fears a gold-digger. Money is frequently an issue in even the best of relationships, especially those that are lopsided in age and/or wealth. Your suggestion of a pre-nup is wise.
Gramps also may fear the prospect of being dumped in 10-20 years when he would be old and infirm and Stubborn would still be relatively young and have his looks.