Dear Father Tony,
I am 22, Columbian and athletic. My English is very good, but sometimes I miss signals and make mistakes. At the gym an old guy was cruising me in the locker room. He followed me everywhere. Then he got angry and came up to me and said "Just so you know. I am not interested in you. You are not my type so you can stop all the attitude." I didn't know what to say and I felt bad and angry for the rest of the day. Did I do something wrong just because I did not talk to him?
Hey there FT,
Got any good advice for a guy who is coming out of his closet at 52?
Two Oddly Related Letters
I have seen this sort of thing happen often. That old coot tried to make you feel bad because he could not get you to return his advances. And, he succeeded in making you feel bad! The fact is that he has the problem, not you. When this first happened to me many years ago, my response was much different from yours. I gave the guy verbal hell in front of everyone. I know that a loud counterattack, although justified, is not something you may want to learn to do. Some young guys don't like getting into altercations about sexual attraction in public places. If you don't strike back, the old coot can cause you great embarrassment and leave those within earshot wondering if you were the one cruising him. What actually happened in his mind was this: your lack of response injured his pride and he lashed out at you unfairly. That kind of loser can rarely be taught a lesson. The most you can hope for is that he will leave you alone and victimize someone else. (The one whose beads I read never came near me again.)
Good luck, and remember, sooner or later, the old coots will be looking at guys much younger than you. Meanwhile, you have to learn the fine art of thanking someone for his attention without encouraging it further. Mastery of this art will serve you well not just in the locker room, but also in the bar and any other social circumstances in which men will chase you. The essential ingredients in your reaction should be "Thank you" and "Not interested" both delivered with a winning smile. If the old coot persists, a very loud "Fuck off" is appropriate.
Dear Double D,
Whatever you do, don't become one of the old coots who desperately harass young guys like Wally. Here are ten rules for men who come out of their closets late in life (and for older men in general):
1) Don't try to make up for lost time by throwing yourself into age-inappropriate clothing, hair color or dance floors. You're going to have to work especially hard to avoid temptations that would make you ridiculous. Ask your gay friends. They will be honest because they don't want to be seen out with a joke.
2) Don't try to hide the fact that you are inexperienced and struggling. Don't be afraid to look clumsy. In a jaded gay world, your "outsider" demeanor will be an attractant.
3) Use all the manners and gentilities you cultivated in your straight world. One of the most frequent things I hear from my friends who come out late in life is that they felt they had to learn entirely new codes of social comportment. My response has always been that they should not abandon the polite manners that will eventually attract someone of substance.
4) Don't be shy. Gay men waste whole decades being shy. You do not have the luxury of those decades, and even if you did, my advice would be the same.
5) Make yourself the healthiest older man you can possibly be. Be physically active if possible, and if the restrictions of your body will not permit that, be active in other areas such as politics and community involvement.
6) Your smile and your laughter will be the sexiest aspect of you. Younger men want to imagine themselves feeling good when they are your age. When they hear your laugh and see your smile, they will be powerfully drawn to you. Ever notice how young guys do not laugh out loud frequently? It's because they are too nervous and preoccupied with the business of being young. A pity.
7) Do not let your pride keep you from walking up to a man and telling him quietly and politely that you find him attractive and would like to become acquainted.
8) Find your center and your balance. Use prayer, meditation, yoga or whatever it takes to compose yourself. This will make you approachable and attractive despite your years. I know this from experience. In the past week, in the sauna of my gym, three men introduced themselves to me while I was simply sitting on the bench focusing my thoughts and practicing some rudimentary Reiki. One was a 60 year old who is taking care of an elderly mother and told me a lot of his life story. Another was a very young Asian swimmer who wanted to cheat on his partner, and the third was a runner and the father of a seven year old daughter. His partner of many years had died and he wanted someone for regular sex but no romance. Why would this diverse crowd of admirers - all in great shape - look my way? Because I was centered and balanced and at peace, not because of my rather ordinary AARPish looks.
9) Do not be desperate to fall in love. There is no controlling when or how that will happen. Relax about love.
10) Enthusiasm is the key to living well. Celebrate yourself and men will come to your party.