I have lately begun to wonder why it is I prefer to date men younger than me. It’s not that I’m only attracted to younger men--I am an equal-opportunity voyeur. I just have a hard time dating men even one year older than me. There is some block in my psyche that prevents me from seeing “older” men as romantic possibilities. Intellectually, I am open to dating a man in his 30s; but on all practical occasions, I cannot let it work. I have come up with a few possible reasons:
1) Modern gay “sub-culture” is obsessed with youth. Being in my late 20s, I am on the cusp of gay youth and gay adulthood. I refuse to let myself “grow out of” gay life, so I date only those men who remain youth. The main fault here is that I do not subscribe to most of modern gay “sub-culture,” so this paying homage to this one detail is unlikely.
2) I maintain a vestigial sense of chauvinism, and only seek out romantic opportunities wherein I can assert my masculine dominance. Since I am not prone to dating women, this leaves me the options of younger, weaker, less-intelligent men. The problem here is similar to #1: I do not subscribe to the (ef)feminist philosophies that would allow me to label and berate myself in this way.
3) I am a “late bloomer.” Like many men raised in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I did not “come out of the closet” until I was in my early 20s. To men of earlier generations, that seems early. To men of the rising generation, this is late. Boys are “coming out” while still teenagers more often now than before. I have been “out” for less than 10 years, and those whose “outness” I tend to associate with are in their early to mid 20s now.
Furthermore, I took a few years off between High School and College. I started college about the time I was coming out, and took almost five year to complete that degree. By the time I graduated, the only gay men I was meeting were the new freshmen who were six years younger than me. The problem here is that this solution does not deal with the root of the problem, but only explains one way that may have exacerbated it.
4) My favorite excuse is that I am the youngest of six children. All I ever wanted growing up was either a little brother, or a twin brother. However, it was no longer medically possible for my mother to conceive after I was born. I was the last, I am the baby. I have three brothers, one of whom is only 18 months older than me (which is close in my family), and we were practically treated like twins. He and I were close growing up, and he and I are close now--however, during our formative teenage years, he decided it was no longer “cool” to hang out with his younger brother. That bond with my older brother became temporarily severed just as I was becoming sexually aware. My growing sexuality became complicated with my need to fill a specific interpersonal need.
I like to think that my search for that one last brother is what fuels my romantic urges. Since it sounds incestuous and psychologically disturbing, this may be the right answer. How can a boyfriend be my twin or little brother if he is even a year older than me? Like the rest, however, this sounds like an excuse.
American male homosexuality is rife with ageism. There are men in their 20s (or younger) who are only interested in men in their 40s (or older); and there are plenty of older men who reciprocate. There are 18-year-olds who think anyone over the age of 24 is a sexual predator, and there are men in their 50s who refuse to date anyone under the age of 35. My internalized ageism is no different--but that fact doesn’t help me feel any less shallow. There are plenty of guys in their early 30s who have shown interest in me that I would like to get to know better--but not well enough to take on the role of the younger brother again.
This is my block, and I cannot fault any “younger” man who refuses to date me for the same reason. How can I expect someone I’m interested in to get over his issues if it allows me to give into mine? It would be unfair.
[Editorial Note: I should specify, given my last post, that I prefer to date men in their 20s, not teenagers (and especially not younger than that). The idea of a 10-year age gap, in either direction, still seems wrong to me.]