Editors' Note: Guest blogger William Schindler, a.k.a., Brother William, founder and Spiritual Director of Ashram West, obtained a B.A. in Sanskrit from UC Berkeley, where he also studied Hindi and Bengali, and a Master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University.
I saw a photo of a particularly attractive young man on a gay dating site, and I sent him a brief message saying I found his photos attractive and his profile appealing. He responded in a polite, friendly manner, and after some exchanged messages, he agreed to join me for dinner. Before we hung up he informed me that I am "much too old" for him to consider dating me, but he was interested in me for other reasons.
When he arrived we discovered that we share the same alma mater, although he had only just graduated from UC Berkeley, and I graduated in 1975, several years before he was born as it happened, and we also had other common interests. After some polite conversation I felt obligated to inform the youngster that men my age (55) don't consider themselves much too old for anything. He barely remembered the remark he had made on the phone and seemed embarrassed to have it repeated while sitting in my presence, and I gently told him that I was not much offended, and that young men frequently say insensitive things without even realizing they might be giving offense.
For example, I enjoy a compliment as much as anyone, and when a younger man tells me I'm "hot" or "in great shape," I feel a warm glow inside. However, when the young man adds the qualifier, "for your age," I feel somewhat less complimented. For you youngsters out there who want to make your daddy smile, do, indeed, tell him he looks hot or attractive, but never, ever add the qualifier "for your age." A man is either hot or not, so leave it at that.
I personally think I'm more attractive at my present age than I was for most of my previous adult life, so that particular qualifier is especially galling to me. I was one of those younger men who preferred the company of older men myself, and I'm fairly certain I must have said some pretty stupid things to my older lovers at one time or another. Fortunately, age confers the advantage of failing or at least selective memory, so I cannot remember the comments that would surely make me blush with shame now, if I could remember them.
I do think I might be much too old to date men who view age as a liability rather than as an advantage. I have traveled and lived for a time in the Middle East, and one especially enjoyable aspect of socializing with gay men in that part of the world is their greater appreciation for the wisdom and experience older men at their best possess. Middle-eastern men in general seem to treat older men with as much deference and respect as many gay men in the U.S. treat them with disdain and derision, or worse, indifference.
I wish I could say this only applies to very young men, but a brief glance over profiles of men over 50 on DaddyHunt.com will show how many impose an upper age limit of 40 on men they seek to date. I am the first to defend any man's right to seek what he wants, however absurd it may seem to me, but what future is possible for a lover who has the misfortune of turning 41 when partnered with a man who only wants lovers 40 or younger?
I suppose he just gets shuffled into the ranks of the rest of us who are "much too old," at least for some.
I used to have a rule about not dating any man younger than 30, but when a psychic told me my true love would be "much younger" than I am, I decided to relax this rule and keep an open mind. After all, it is maturity that I value rather than mere chronological age. And I do enjoy the exuberance of younger men, their puppy-like playfulness and endearing illusions of an infinite future with limitless possibilities.
I see so many older men who give up on love and settle for a charming pet, a circle of friends, and good video equipment. I never thought I would be one of them. I can't honestly say I no longer believe in love, but I realize I'm mostly content to let it find me, or not, instead of looking for it. In the meantime I'll caress the dog while watching a new movie on the high-definition television with an old friend.