Now that I find myself in a stable, rewarding intergenerational relationship , it is interesting to look back at how I got here. To examine how I came to recognize my attraction to older men and how I finally came to act on those feelings. In a strange way, coming to terms with age disparate attraction was a parallel journey to coming to terms with my own homosexuality. They are so closely related I’m not sure how I kept them separate, but I did.
I think I first started noticing men when I was in the seventh grade. In P.E. it wasn’t the other boys in the locker room that got me excited, it was the coach. Throughout high school my attraction was always focused on the teachers, not my fellow students. I tried to rationalize or pray away my homosexuality, but it didn’t work. By my senior year I finally admitted it to myself, accepting that I’d never be attracted to women.
I first started coming out to friends when I went to college. But I feared acknowledging my attraction to older men and I never really considered them a possibility when it came to relationships. I went on a few quasi-dates with guys my own age, but they never came to much. Privately I explored my attraction to older men on the internet; college was the first time I really had access. I also entertained what was probably an unhealthy obsession with Anthony Hopkins, watching just about any film of his I could get my hands on and collecting photos of him I could find on the internet.
Like in high school my older male teachers became the objects of my attention. Fortunately it was not impolite to stare during lecture and I could examine their every physical feature. But, for the first time I became emotionally caught up on one of those men as well.
When I first met the professor he was in his mid-sixties. I immediately gravitated toward him; he was smart, handsome, and highly engaged with his students. Over the years I managed to get closer to him, first working in his department’s office, then working for him privately. I enjoyed being around him both emotionally and intellectually.
For me, my relationship with him was quite complicated. It took a long time for me to parse out all my feelings about him. I was attracted to him both physically and emotionally, but because I valued him so much as a teacher and a mentor I never risked compromising that. In fact, I never even allowed myself to fantasize about him. I did become highly emotionally invested in him though, obsessed with seeing him and concerned with his well being.
In hindsight I think my relationship with the professor impeded my emotional growth, at least in terms of romantic relationships. Though I wouldn’t fully admit it to myself until eight years after I first met him, when I moved out west, I had fallen in love with the man. My unrequited infatuation with him offered a safe holding pattern in which I didn’t have to confront the complicated issues of meeting or dating older men.
I think I did begin to deviate from that comfortable position of unrealized love as my impending move to the West became more likely. I finally began going on full fledged dates with someone from a neighboring city. He was about my age, only a few years older. I was still very afraid to break the social expectations of who a young gay man should be attracted to. But, I also started frequenting an online dating site dedicated to older men and their admirers, and began corresponding with a few older men. The probability of the move meant the possibility that I could start over, it freed me to explore avenues for finding a true romantic relationship.
It wasn’t until I did move that I was able to get some distance to reflect on my infatuation with the professor, to admit that I had fallen in love with him, and that in some ways that had held me back. But, in that admission it also helped me recognize what I really wanted. That yes I was truly interested in older men and that they weren’t just the objects of fetishistic arousal, but that they could be pursued as legitimate, authentic partners. Like admitting to myself that I was gay, there was an epiphany where I realized I really could pursue an age disparate relationship. Eventually I began dating and building relationships with older gay men. As those relationships increased I was able to reconcile those two aspects of my character, being gay and being attracted to older men, into a single aspect of my identity. While I may still have a ways to go in educating and informing those around me, I certainly now feel at ease with myself.