What does love look like for those who reach the beautiful age of 40 while being queer?
I am currently a 41-year-old queer man. Much of my understandings of dating come from the experiences of my heterosexual, single mother and my older sisters. I have watched as they have navigated through love and heartache with all its successes and failures while also aging, being mothers, and above all finding love. Being a spectator to the men they have dated has gifted me a litany of free lessons on what to do and what not to do, but the stark difference is that I am queer (I’m also not a dad—but, one day, hopefully). I have learned lessons around fidelity, healthy communication, setting boundaries, and financial planning. As I have physically aged, I have not only assessed what I desire and what I don’t want, but now I want to also give insight to those who may meet a man like myself.
After the mistakes of my 20s, I used my 30s to reconcile many mistakes and heartaches. My 40s is where I have reaped the benefits, and I now have peace of mind. I have become more self-aware, gained a little weight, fixed my credit, and found the importance of therapy, but all those things don’t happen at the same pace. However, my proverbial hindsight started to meet my foresight more quickly, which has saved me much heartbreak. The space of my 40s romantically has been a laugh-riot on most days and a stressful hell on others. When desiring love, I have been craving someone who is emotionally intelligent, communicative, financially literate, and sexually explosive. Also, I still haven’t given up on the idea of marriage and a family. The delay in marriage quality is a factor in why many of us are getting married so much later in life—and it is beautiful to see.
Dating at this stage of life caused me to cut out all the caterwauling and mediocre game-playing. Things like playing phone tag or standing up dates are completely off the table. I had a relationship that took up the bulk of my 30s. The relationship taught me what not to do—especially in moments involving communication and finances. Those two major opportunities are important, and I have found the direct approach and being present are also appreciated. I adore those same qualities in men, and also other qualities like thoughtfulness, sincerity, honesty, and communication. A key component of the journey is staying humble with an open mind. Desiring things like perfection has kept me a single waystation. It doesn’t exist because I know it doesn’t exist in me.
When you date or have sex over 40, you face many stereotypes from partners about longevity in the bedroom and physical dexterity. Dexterity could be as simple my ability to put my thighs to my chest or if my sphincter still has a grip. Many of the triggers I have faced stem from HIV/AIDS stigma and desirability politics; those can be around youthfulness and many queer men believing that once you hit 30, life is over. Other facets are that as I age, my body does not bounce back as much as I would like. My relationship with my gym body and maintaining it can seem like an uphill battle. Ageism is a large problem in general, and when I experience those feelings, I do not internalize them. Any appearance of unhealthiness can be unsettling for people my age, regardless of how natural the process becomes. The HIV/AIDS epidemic coupled with hookup culture has made all these experiences a reality for me. I have not become disinterested in sex or lost my sex drive.
To be frank, my sex drive has been through the roof. I remember when one round was enough; now a good three or four are needed to satiate me. I am also aware that my testosterone levels are decreasing as this is being read. Aging is the factor, but that is also why it is imperative at this age to have a great physician. While I am more discerning about who I have sex with, I know that the sex I require needs to be more qualitative than quantitative. Sure, one-night stands are still fun, but nothing is better than a consistent sex partner, even if it’s not a monogamous connection. Dating apps aren’t off-limits. I know they can be a headache and can play with my value systems, but they can still be a great avenue for hooking up and finding love. Once again, I keep an open mind.
One stereotype that is loaded around older queer men are predatory behaviors. I don’t deny that older queer men can be predatory toward younger queer men. Some use their access to stability (not necessarily wealth—not all older queer men are wealthy) and someone’s naiveté to lure them in, but on the other side, something I experience is that at my age, I am always seen as a sugar daddy by younger queer men. Being at this age puts me in a weird space about how I apply my money to the men I date. Many times, as a man my age, I am not paying for everything because I am trying to buy you off, but because I want a fulfilling experience—and I don’t allot time to go back and forth on what someone can afford. To be frank, if I am asking you out on a date, I got it covered. Any time shared with me can range from a simple date to a mini-vacation, and nothing is required in return except fun, romance, and a few laughs. At this age, life becomes harrowingly shorter, and I realize that I don’t want to miss out on enjoying things anymore. I will add to steer clear of older queer men who use their wealth or stability as a sign of power.
I have had a lot of time to think and process this time of my life, and I am still learning, but I will close on this note from the great, talented, and very fictional Truvy Jones of Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, portrayed by Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias. She once said, “Time marches on, and sooner or later you realize it is marching across your face.” I feel that this is the sentiment of many of us in our 40s. I want to enjoy this part of my life and make the best of it. I am not getting any younger, so why not?