“How old is he, anyways?” my friend Sebastian asked me. “I don’t know,” I replied, smile cracked in mock surprise. It wasn’t a lie. I was curious myself, but hadn’t asked because, well, sex. “He says he’s 34 and that makes him younger than me, but I’m actually guessing he’s a bit older. Like, a lot.” I had been seeing Brad for three weeks. He looked like he was in his early 40s and dressed like he was in his early teens. His profile said 34. And despite all that, the chemistry worked. You never can tell with these things.
“I actually guess he’s in his early 40s… I don’t know why he doesn’t tell me. I mean, I’m into it.” – “Well, he’s right. Forty can be the kiss of death for gay men. Especially on the apps.”
I forgot Sebastian was just over 40 himself. I’ve seen his profile and he kicks his age down below the 40-notch on those things. Age has always been an issue for gay men. And the apps just add a heap of obstacles on top, setting up roadblocks before the ride can even begin. And if you ‘hide’ your age, that’s worse than saying it in the first place. I don’t want to be that old fart that complains that new developments in technology may not be all they’re cracked up to be, but nowI am.
It’s true, having age be the first thing gay men see has changed things. Twenty years ago, if someone hit Oranienstraße pick-up joint Roses with a fully (over)loaded liver and unhindered blood flow to the cock, that number wouldn’t matter much. You clock ‘em, take ‘em home and ask later. That’s not to say that früher war alles besser… there’s always been a certain vanity and narcissism among gay men (and that’s not necessarily bad), so the young were prized more than the old and there were certainly still power dynamics and ageism and such at play, but that hard number wasn’t up there in your face…
I often look at straight relationships and wonder how the old trope of the older man/younger woman works. You just don’t see it as often in gay couples. Are women just smarter at a younger age? Can they appreciate the totality of the package? I mean, looks count for something, but there’s a lot of stuff that younger men (gay or straight) don’t have yet.
Men are always the centre of their own fucking universe. Yeah, today there are some counter examples for het women, i.e. the cougar and the MILF. But the old formula still seems to have a hold and men don’t usually chase above their age brackets. I guess for all the progressive gender politics in Berlin, we still play out the same ageist games that all men do.
I’m lucky my tastes have grown with my age… and not moved along but expanded. But with dating Brad and my own age, it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’m in my mid-thirties and, eventually, I’ll have to think about lying on my own apps. Not because I’m afraid of only getting old ass, but because I’m afraid of not getting any ass at all. And I’m not immune to this pathological phobia of getting older. I remember the furore I raised when I turned 30. But maybe with apps making those numbers so public, it will eventually force us to reevaluate the age game anyways. In the meantime, while Berliners never grow up, I kind of think all Berlin gay men should grow up about their age.