As the famous Tessa O’Shea sang, no-one loves a fairy when she’s forty
The notoriously ageist LGBQ scene can be a cruel place for many gay people as they age. So, what is it like as you head into your late fifties, you are single and looking to date? I’ve been single for seven years and turned 57 this year. So let’s talk about ageing, dating and being a single, gay man in London.
Age is just a number, or so we are led to believe. I am not often “on the scene”, but this is not because I am 57 and feel out of place. I always envisioned myself with a blue rinse, fan dancing with the best of them at a rave in my 80s. It is more due to the fact that I do not have the time and that London has become so diverse that the hardcore, gay bars are no longer necessarily the safe haven they were in the 80s and 90s. Plus, my priorities with my free time have changed. Bars are no longer high on my list.
There is the added point that I am fortunate enough to get invited to a fair few glitzy events, though they are more about networking than matchmaking.
Really, I was not aware of the age thing until I went to G-A-Y Bar in Old Compton Street with some friends where, ironically, they were playing music from the 80s. It was a fabulous atmosphere. To my surprise, within a minute, a cute guy walked straight up to me and planted a kiss on my lips. I thought, “Gosh, it is my night! He’s great!” But, it was not long into flirting and conversation that THE question came up…”How old are you?” Now, I do not lie about my age, nor do I bring the subject up, as I know that in so many social circles it can lead to offence .
Upon telling him, his face fell. He suddenly remembered he had someone, who no doubt had a cold sore, but would still be preferable to flirt with.
Some friends say you should lie about your age and that everyone does it. But how can you enter into a relationship that should be based on honesty and trust, if it begins with a lie? Somehow, the act of dating had escaped me for almost seven years, but I really do not feel that I need a paper bag on my head.
I was in a relationship for 18 years beginning in my early twenties and had a great pseudo-partner at the start of my 50s that seemed to fill in all the gaps, except the hugs, but then he moved to sunnier climes. Perhaps my own personal fear of dating, somehow, subconsciously kicked in as I got older owing to the vast amounts of propaganda that I was fed by the chicken hawks in my teens.
Bopping away at a pop star’s home at 16, I remember one of his friends telling me to “Lap all the fun up, no one wants you when you’re over 21!” Nothing could actually be further from the truth, but many young men on the scene are told this. Back then, they were called chicken hawks. Now, they would be simply labelled as paedophiles.
When I moved to the US with my partner in my early twenties, I came across a man called Vern Magnusson; a handsome, all-American rancher, who was in his early forties. We struck an instant rapport. My husband was overseas, and it was not long before Vern dropped the question, “What kind of men do you like?” It was obvious I liked older men, but I was in love with my fella. I was so worried my rejection would affect the friendship. To my surprise, he liked older men, too, but in their 70s. He just liked me for my company.
Vern, in fact, belonged to a club for men looking for the very mature male. My recollection is that it was called the “Swan Club”. He took me along to some of their events and it was beautifully reassuring that life and sex did not end for the older, gay man.
At any age on the scene, you may just have to dig a little deeper. It helped; I quickly realised, that there was life after 50.
In fact, the US seems to embrace its more mature LGBTQ better than the UK does.
In Fort Lauderdale district, Wilton Manors boasts an array of gay bars, such as George’s Albi, where the over 50s can often be the more predominant clientele and the over 70s belt out old show tunes around the piano.
The author of “Tales of the City,” Armistead Maupin, talks of finding his younger lover, Christopher Turner, on a webpage, Daddy Hunt, although the 74-year old never made contact with the former model on the site. On seeing him on the Castro, however, he chased after him and are now happily married.
For me, I share the same perspective as Maupin. I like to meet face-to-face and online dating fills me with dread. I have never been on Grindr and the stories I hear hardly entice me to want to try it either.
After separating from a partner, I had a brief dalliance with Gaydar, but between the liars, downright deluded and dick pics that were sent to me, this proved highly unsuccessful. Gaydar was described as suitable for people looking for a relationship (I am not daft, I knew that I would have to kiss a few frogs to find a prince) but Gaydar was not the success I had hoped. Two of my best pals met on there, though, and have been together for fifteen years. One did confess to me recently that he had only discovered his partner’s real age when they went on holiday together; he saw his passport and realised that he had taken seven years off his age. But, he was smitten by then.
London is starting to mirror its cousin across the pond, hosting clubs like XXL, catering to the Daddy macho bears, and, so-called rugby types. The club has come under scrutiny recently for not allowing overtly camp men into its premises. My empathy is with XXL.
Boy George held a school themed party for the launch of his first book, “Take It Like a Man”. On receiving our invites, we were told that if we did not come dressed according to the theme, then we would not be allowed in. Even his mum came as a school dinner lady. Executives from the company were turned away if they did not toe the line. Back then, I made a good prefect and was completely with THE boy.
Of course, there is a fine line that could be seen as prejudiced. Why not make something exclusively for the over 50s? My friends asked me to go to a speed dating event at Shadow Lounge. I arrived, only to discover that no one over 45 was welcome.
But, back to the issue at hand. How do I start dating and be honest that I am 57 years young?
Truthfully well kept, I love going to the gym but am old enough to know that being a gym rat, combined with living on chicken and broccoli, does not make for a happy or successful life, unless your partner is in to that too. I am not a bear, nor a daddy as such, either.
In hindsight, hanging out in bars was never going to cut it. So, I took a second look at various online dating websites and realised that I may need to try the over 50s mature dating and perhaps give Gaydar another go. The guys that seemed popular got the most winks or likes, had great pictures and were at least hinting at being sexual (not in an overly in your face manner) and had good profile pictures to boot.
Graham Martin is a premier gay photographer, who, as well as shooting the likes of Denise Welch and Dame Judy Dench, has also photographed some of the biggest pornstars in the industry. Additionally, he makes some of his bread and butter shooting gay men’s profile pictures for online dating sites.
So what percentage of the men are my age or older? “It is 50:50 recently. I had a man that was 76 come for a shoot not long ago. He had been off the scene for seven years as he had become addicted to chem-sex parties.” Graham told me that the man is doing really well and is now happily dating once more.
Graham, who turns 60 this year, has been in a loving relationship for the last 32 years. He puts his success down to marrying his best friend and he does have a point. Perhaps the fact that I was with my best friend for 18 years makes it difficult to fill the void. Should I be looking for someone sexual first, developing a friendship second?
Graham told me that the dating scene has changed so much that he gets inundated with men wanting pictures for their profiles, as well as portrait shots. Men, whatever age, want to look their best. “Keep it real!” Graham informed me when giving tips for my shoot. “Do not ask for it to be Photoshopped so that you are an embryo. If you are a chunky, beer-bellied daddy, then do not take yourself down to a thin man. When you hook up it will just be one big disappointment. Equally, make sure that you prepare yourself in conjunction with your age when you are getting ready for the shoot. Do not spray tan because the look can often be uneven, but do make sure that you are groomed well. Do not have a drastic haircut unless you plan to keep the look.
He says that it is vital that you stand out and . So, my first attempt at dating starts with a shoot undertaken by Graham, who rather nervously laughed and said, “You’re practically a chicken compared to some I shoot,” which put me at ease.
Many men do the Full Monty, but that’s not me. We settled for a taste of sexy, though, to be honest, it is not a natural feel. Forty-five minutes later and the photo shoot is complete. I love the results and my friends all rave about the final images.
Just one more step until I am ready to go dating again, a little freshen up with Doctor Ioannis Liakas, a popular aesthetics doctor amongst the LGBTQ community.
Before people scream, you fix your house if it is falling down. I see a bit of Botox as being the equivalent to putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls.
Doctor Ioannis Liakas told me that single, gay men in their 50s are terrified of getting the ‘frozen’ look. Therefore it has become his speciality to be able to turn the clock back in a much more realistic way.
“Gay men in their 50s are very confident and that is what I love about them. They have done their homework on exactly what treatments they want.”
Well, wish me luck as I am all ready to get back out there.
Pics: Graham Martin
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