I’ve written lots of articles on the pros and cons of being an older gay man and some of the misconceptions the younger generation has about us Daddies (yes, I’m fine with that label).
But, like a really good Saturday night, there’s a flip side to everything. So here, a few things I’ve learned that we older men should avoid saying when we meet the younger folk we are interested in dating or befriending. To research this piece I got a little help from my friends—and if you don’t get that reference, I just can’t even.
1. You’re too young to understand
There’s nothing worse than discounting someone’s argument, not on lack of merit, but on their basic existence. While a young guy might not be able to converse knowledgeably about that crucial Cyndi Lauper v. Madonna debacle, he can certainly relate on different levels. Besides, what better way to get to know someone than to offer up a pop history lesson? As a bonus, you might get educated on the Taylor Swift v. Everyone stories that elude most guys who already earned their reputations by 1989.
2. Aren’t you a little young to be at this bar?
Reverse ageism does exist, so don’t be the older snob who wants the kids to disappear. Maybe he likes the company of older men (Hello! Score!), and maybe he finds some of the bars that cater to men his age lacking in the maturity factor. Regardless of whether you are into younger guys or not, be inclusive and invite him to the party. You might just learn something.
3. Your generation has it easy
And you know this, because? While it’s true that human rights have excelled since the days we were marching, and dying, being in your 20s is never a picnic. I can’t imagine growing up in today’s world, with cyberbullying and social media disconnection and Orange-Hole in the White House. Be thrilled your work helped the young man gain rights, don’t give him a hall pass for ignorance, but do realize that just maybe he’s experiencing difficulties you never had to face.
4. I don’t do chicken
Yeah, and maybe he has a distaste for pigs. It’s fine and understandable if you’re not attracted to younger men, but be polite about it, unlike those kids who say they don’t want to date “gramps.” We’re so quick to qualify our rejections based on generalizations, and it’s kinder to politely say thank you for asking me out, but there’s a little lack of chemistry. You’re not lying, and you didn’t just negate as unattractive an entire generation.
5. I can’t wait to top you
Speaking of generalizations, you might want to get to the bottom of this one before assuming how the night’s going to work out. You could end up with a Top O the Mornin, Mate.
6. Back in my day…
First off, that makes you sound old because the expression’s been around longer than Cher’s Farewell Tours. When I was in my 20s and someone started a sentence with that phrase, I always rolled my eyes because I knew it meant I was going to get a lesson on how much better/smarter/more disciplined people were in the good old days—and by the way, they weren’t always that good. Nothing’s changed, so I suggest you use this phrase sparingly, and with an emphasis on the dynamics of change, not the demerits. Expressions like “If you think Man Buns are dumb, back in my day we sported mullets” are always welcome additions to the conversation. When in doubt, think first—and not just about sporting your own man bun.
7. All of my friends died of AIDS, so don’t ever complain to me about anything
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is forever embedded in our history and our consciousness, and it has been our war. But we also need to remember that HIV still exists and kids are growing up under the specter of death. Most of their gay, adult role models—the ones who survived—are vets, and judging by the PrEP-or-not-to-PrEP feuds alone, the young guys are struggling to figure out how best to sexually proceed.
As an addendum to #3, we didn’t grow up with skyscrapers imploding over our cities, with mass shootings almost weekly, with authoritarianism at democracy’s doorstep. That’s not necessarily a “gay” list (although Fascism’s never been much of a friend to the queers), but it’s a reminder that every generation fights its own wars. The free-love/Stonewall/Vietnam generation above me had a lot of perks going for it, but a hell of a lot of darkness too.
Together, let’s concentrate on the heart of it.