Father Tony

Two Oddly Related Letters

Filed By Father Tony | September 03, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, gay cruising, older gay men, silver daddies

Dear Father Tony,
I am 22, Columbian and athletic. My English is very good, but sometimes I miss signals and make mistakes. At the gym an old guy was cruising me in the locker room. He followed me everywhere. Then he got angry and came up to me and said "Just so you know. I am not interested in you. You are not my type so you can stop all the attitude." I didn't know what to say and I felt bad and angry for the rest of the day. Did I do something wrong just because I did not talk to him?

Hey there FT,
Got any good advice for a guy who is coming out of his closet at 52?
Delayed Debutante

Dear Wally,

I have seen this sort of thing happen often. That old coot tried to make you feel bad because he could not get you to return his advances. And, he succeeded in making you feel bad! The fact is that he has the problem, not you. When this first happened to me many years ago, my response was much different from yours. I gave the guy verbal hell in front of everyone. I know that a loud counterattack, although justified, is not something you may want to learn to do. Some young guys don't like getting into altercations about sexual attraction in public places. If you don't strike back, the old coot can cause you great embarrassment and leave those within earshot wondering if you were the one cruising him. What actually happened in his mind was this: your lack of response injured his pride and he lashed out at you unfairly. That kind of loser can rarely be taught a lesson. The most you can hope for is that he will leave you alone and victimize someone else. (The one whose beads I read never came near me again.)

Good luck, and remember, sooner or later, the old coots will be looking at guys much younger than you. Meanwhile, you have to learn the fine art of thanking someone for his attention without encouraging it further. Mastery of this art will serve you well not just in the locker room, but also in the bar and any other social circumstances in which men will chase you. The essential ingredients in your reaction should be "Thank you" and "Not interested" both delivered with a winning smile. If the old coot persists, a very loud "Fuck off" is appropriate.

Dear Double D,
Whatever you do, don't become one of the old coots who desperately harass young guys like Wally. Here are ten rules for men who come out of their closets late in life (and for older men in general):

1) Don't try to make up for lost time by throwing yourself into age-inappropriate clothing, hair color or dance floors. You're going to have to work especially hard to avoid temptations that would make you ridiculous. Ask your gay friends. They will be honest because they don't want to be seen out with a joke.

2) Don't try to hide the fact that you are inexperienced and struggling. Don't be afraid to look clumsy. In a jaded gay world, your "outsider" demeanor will be an attractant.

3) Use all the manners and gentilities you cultivated in your straight world. One of the most frequent things I hear from my friends who come out late in life is that they felt they had to learn entirely new codes of social comportment. My response has always been that they should not abandon the polite manners that will eventually attract someone of substance.

4) Don't be shy. Gay men waste whole decades being shy. You do not have the luxury of those decades, and even if you did, my advice would be the same.

5) Make yourself the healthiest older man you can possibly be. Be physically active if possible, and if the restrictions of your body will not permit that, be active in other areas such as politics and community involvement.

6) Your smile and your laughter will be the sexiest aspect of you. Younger men want to imagine themselves feeling good when they are your age. When they hear your laugh and see your smile, they will be powerfully drawn to you. Ever notice how young guys do not laugh out loud frequently? It's because they are too nervous and preoccupied with the business of being young. A pity.

7) Do not let your pride keep you from walking up to a man and telling him quietly and politely that you find him attractive and would like to become acquainted.

8) Find your center and your balance. Use prayer, meditation, yoga or whatever it takes to compose yourself. This will make you approachable and attractive despite your years. I know this from experience. In the past week, in the sauna of my gym, three men introduced themselves to me while I was simply sitting on the bench focusing my thoughts and practicing some rudimentary Reiki. One was a 60 year old who is taking care of an elderly mother and told me a lot of his life story. Another was a very young Asian swimmer who wanted to cheat on his partner, and the third was a runner and the father of a seven year old daughter. His partner of many years had died and he wanted someone for regular sex but no romance. Why would this diverse crowd of admirers - all in great shape - look my way? Because I was centered and balanced and at peace, not because of my rather ordinary AARPish looks.

9) Do not be desperate to fall in love. There is no controlling when or how that will happen. Relax about love.

10) Enthusiasm is the key to living well. Celebrate yourself and men will come to your party.

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Good advice, as always, Father Tony. But ...

Why would this diverse crowd of admirers - all in great shape - look my way? Because I was centered and balanced and at peace, not because of my rather ordinary AARPish looks.

Too many of your photos have been posted here on Bilerico for us to buy a line about your "rather ordinary AARPish looks." Sure, the meditation exercises are a great help (and I thoroughly recommend them!) ... but no one should expect them to literally "work miracles".

The reason these guys approached you was because you fit into the most attractive upper percentiles for men in your age group.

No, you do not have to thank me.

No, you do not have to add "Not interested" --- I already assume that.

P.S. My problem in this regard is that men sometimes think I am "cruising" them when I actually am not. Being open to say "Hi!" and cruising are two different things --- at least, for some people they are. I never know how to deal with it when someone stares red lasers back at me just for delivering an ice-breaking greeting --- and usually, when I do this, I am in a friendly mood and I'm making an effort to speak to everyone. Like the young man might have said to the old coot, I'd like to say, "Get over yourself!" ... but I usually just dismiss it, reminding myself it is his problem, not mine.

We've talked about this on the site before... I forget which posting. Of course I'm generalizing here, but we've all at least SEEN this happen: younger gay men always seem to think the older gay men who talks to them wants to rape them, older gay men treat younger gay men with disdain because they think they're shallow and self-absorbed.

I think the best thing to do in ALL situations is smile sincerely and never lose that smile. When people see you don't take yourself too seriously, it disarms them. A young gay man who dismisses the greeting of an older gay man feels that his suspicions were confirmed when the older man gets upset at the dismissal. Keeping a sincerely good attitude about it, sends the 'safety' signal. At the same time, a younger gay man dismissed by older gay men for the crime of being chronologically impaired, can just keep their good attitude and send the signal that their approval is neither desired nor required.

Wally, funny thing is that I was in that situation last night! I went out with a friend for my birthday, and we had a great time, and we closed out the bar (I'm so proud of myself)! While there, we chatted with a somewhat awkward fellow who seemed like good people, but was definitely the kind of kid who couldn't WAIT for summer to be over so school would start 20 years ago. He's also clearly not figured out how to become a part of the gay community, and seems a bit lonely.

Here's why.

I can certainly be a bitch when needed, but I generally try to give all new people the benefit of the doubt (especially when the bar is practically empty), so I was very friendly to him, as was my friend. I don't have to tell you he really took this the wrong way.

When my friend and I decided we were going, he started to get really touchy-feely, and kept talking about protecting us in the park. I said, I'm fine, I don't even walk through the park. He kept making this big deal--very strange. Like he wanted me to say "yes, I do need protection... on my two block walk home." I said, no thank you, nice meeting you, have a nice night, and my friend and I went a-walkin. He followed behind us, but didn't say anything. We just began chatting between the two of us. Suddenly, he yells out "Protect yourselves!" and stormed off.

Well sir, I was planning on it, thank you! That's why I carry pepper spray!

Rather than engage him further, I just laughed. If that situation had occurred in the bar, I would have laughed and made a joke. The man is trying to save face. Rather than getting into a fight, making the situation into a joke gives him one last ditch chance to save a little face as well--take it or leave it. If he chooses to get even more sour about it, well then his choice. At least I've maintained my composure and classiness. I come out the victor, he goes home the loser.

If he does chose to join in on the joke, it may be on my terms, but he'll be able to salvage some dignity too. That is, on the rare occasion, he doesn't take himself so seriously that he CAN handle eating a little crow.

The guy from last night is lonely and doesn't like gay men because he can't make gay friends, but he can't make gay friends because his behavior is so atrocious. He goes into every interaction with gay men wanting to get laid and find love, but expecting this same result, and viola: self-fulfilling prophecy! Maybe its time to learn to chill for a while. Meet people JUST to meet them NOT to do them. Make gay friends first, lovers later. Less lonely that way.

But since he stormed off in a huff to the sound of my giggles, I assume I won't be able to impart that advice on him myself. So here you go. :-)

I love your advice to the older man coming out and to older men in general. As someone in his very, very late 30's (actually 55, the late 30's thing is a joke a buddy of mine uses) and who could easily pass for 54 and a 1/2, I have been surprised by the number of younger men who have taken an interest in me.

I know that it's that I am very interested in what's going on around me. I don't go to bars, I do a lot of politics, I have finally learned to listen and enjoy hearing others and I don't have a lot of expectations. Young men, the brighter ones anyway, like this. It's really hard being a young gay man, particularly if you're bright and bored at the bars.

I don't date or sleep around as I am contentedly married so there's a bonus too. Sometimes I have actually fixed up two of the younger guys I have met.

To emphasize Fr Tony's advice to the older coming out guy, work on this first:

5) Make yourself the healthiest older man you can possibly be. Be physically active if possible, and if the restrictions of your body will not permit that, be active in other areas such as politics and community involvement.

I would add do both - physical and social. I don't think anything makes you more attractive and you're going to enjoy it.

And for the younger Colombian guy, listen to your Fr Tony. One thing you might try is asking in a very concerned voice to the masher, "Are you feeling well? I think you saw something that wasn't there." It will infuriate him but it will get your point across and it's really true. But don't take abuse. As someone who has spent much time in Colombia, I can tell you that it is a much less polite society in the US and you have to learn to deal with it. It's not nice but it's real.

FT: you are so kind.

I say to Wally: It was all about CONQUEST


All good advice, beautifully written.

thank you father tony, for excellent advice. as a semi-newly-out, it is hard to know which way to turn to meet new men. and because i am in the upper age range, it is stifling to think that others might think i am desperate. being shy is far easier than being available for friendship, etc., especially in this stage of being; but of course it is counter-productive in terms of finding other gay men to befriend and perhaps even turn into lovers.

as for this week, i am thankful that i've had a cup of coffee with two different men, and both of them have an interest, as do i.

an excellent post...thanks once again.