What dating is like for one gay man over 50
One Londoner shares his experiences
My experience isn’t everyone’s, but dating as a gay man in my late forties/early fifties in London has been a lot of fun. I’ve had mostly good encounters and made some really good friends. I’m pretty new to it.
I got into a 17-year relationship at 28 and I wasn’t a big dater beforehand. I was living in Swindon—not the gayest place on Earth—and was happy being single. When I moved to London, I thought, This is my time… Then I met my ex almost immediately, through the lonely hearts column in Time Out!
We got civil partnered, but we didn’t have kids (I’ve never wanted them; I love my friends’ kids, but I like giving them back!). I don’t regret the relationship, but by the end we were moving apart; breaking up was the right thing to do. We’re still good friends and speak all the time, but won’t be getting back together.
Then, at 45, started a process of change (including going back to university to study fine art and sculpture—the best thing I’ve ever done). I was looking forward to being single.
"There’s no set path when you’re gay. You can be whoever you want to be"
One big difference between my twenties and now is the internet, which is a double-edged sword. There has never been as good a way to meet and talk to people. Yes, there’s a lot of cruelty online, but I avoid those people. I don’t fit into any of those tribes, for want of a better word, and I put a lot of people off by not being one of those categorisable types. So I don’t get people contacting me just for sex, which I’m happy about, as I’m not hook up-orientated. My online profile doesn’t say a lot. I worked in marketing, so I know less is more! I’m only on one app: Scruff, which I love, because I love guys with beards!
But the biggest difference is me, and my level of confidence. I’m a completely different person now. I guess it’s experience. This is going to sound big-headed—it’s not, it’s a relative thing—but I’ve never felt this confident or looked this good.
What’s my type? Guys with brown eyes. As a friend of mine said to me, “that gives you a lot of options!” I don’t have a type in terms of height and weight. But age is an interesting one.
The youngest I’ve dated is 21, and I’ve dated someone who’s 60: very different experiences. Ideally I’d be dating guys between 40 and 50—people who have their s*** together and are financially secure—but that’s proving really difficult. And I don’t know why.
I seem to keep dating guys in their late twenties and early thirties, so I can’t say I’ve experienced ageism. Age is less of an issue these days. When I was in my twenties, I never would have dated a guy in his fifties, but sadly back then, that age group was heavily impacted by AIDS and a lot were in the closet, so perhaps there weren’t as many around.
On the other hand, it’s not something I’ve talked about much. I don’t like bringing it up. Age still feels like a taboo subject for me. It’s something I shy away from. I worry it will become the be all and end all, when it’s only one aspect of me—that I’ve been on the planet for 50 years. It comes up enough inadvertently, like when I make references. They’re like, “I have know idea what you’re talking about…”
Some guys are immature, and you associate that with age, but it might just be the person. To be honest, the levels of self-sabotage some people in their forties have is surprising. I did date one younger guy who had a lack of awareness of LGBT history. But then I’m discovering stuff I didn’t know either as part of my artistic research.
Dating’s been interesting. In my thirties, I was settled down and doing the heteronormative thing. I don’t think that’s what I want anymore. I don’t aspire for a country house and dogs, put it that way. That doesn’t appeal to me.
I try not to speculate what a future relationship will look like. I’m open-minded. I think I might struggle living with someone again full-time, sharing everything. There’s a lot of boring stuff—housing insurance, for example—where I’m quite happy not to have that part of someone’s life. I just want to do the fun bits. A long distance relationship might even suit me.
That said, I don’t think open or polyamorous relationships are something I want, although I don’t judge others’ choices. But when I’m on the apps, if the person isn’t single (and there are about 27 descriptions these days for not being single), I move on. Logistically, it wouldn’t work for me. I don’t want to get involved in other people’s dynamics, (one half of a couple isn’t going to admit the other doesn’t do the washing up…) and I want to be the priority in a person’s life. I think most of my friends who are my age feel the same.
I do realise, though, I’m old-fashioned in wanting monogamy. Is the idea of two people together heteronormative? I don’t know. It is so ingrained in how society thinks, in legal proceedings, everything.
Also, I know how shaped I am by the time I grew up, how liberating it felt to be in a standard, heteronormative relationship between two men, it felt like amazing progress. Now, and even potentially even at the time… I’m just not sure. Part of me feels, “The straights just thought, They’re not going away. The best we can do is make them as straight as us. As long as they act and look like us, we can tolerate it.’” That is playing out now, which is exciting. So part of me wonders why open relationships and polyamory aren’t for me—and if, fundamentally, that’s even the case.
The truth is, there’s no set path when you’re gay. You can be whoever you want to be.
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