Psychotherapist Robert Levithan brings his Advocate column, The New 60, to the Good Men Project Magazine. In this first installment, he writes about the benefits of dating younger men and generally not acting his age.
Of late, I have been dating mostly younger men, much younger men.
I will not turn away from that which brings me a feeling of aliveness. I can’t worry about what other people will say.
When I was in my 20s, I had three significant relationships: One was brief but impactful, with a 56-year-old man of the world. Although he had an Oscar and some Tonys, he did not seem to be enjoying his life fully, and I moved on, not ready to be engulfed in his not fully felicitous aura. Another was with a delightful Venezuelan director who was four years older than me; he was my inspiration to change continents at a whim and run off and be an artist. The most important was with the brilliant photographer, Peter Hujar, who was 16 and a half years older than me to the day—our birthdays being exactly six months apart, October 11 and April 11.
Peter was a particularly insightful mentor. He taught me how to trust my eye and how to wash a dish. I was introduced to the best of outsider and avant-garde art: Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theater, Ethyl Echelberger—some of the greats. Art was life and life was not always easy, but thrilling nonetheless.
My next major lover, a writer, six years my junior, I taught how to wash a dish and thrive in NYC. Over the ensuing decades, there have been some slightly older and some slightly younger. My last beloved ex, a high-energy director/artist/entrepreneur, was 10 years younger than me. I am more confident for knowing him; he is more able to partake of the joy of the present. In some sense, all my relationships were successful: I have always learned and grown.
My lovers have been my teachers, my comrades, my students. My attractions have shifted and changed over the years. Some lovers are white, some black; right now I am enamored of a smart, sexy young Taiwanese architect. My taste is catholic and mutable, depending upon the person and the chapter in my life. Since my last relationship ended, I have come to see that not only am I often attracted to younger men, but a lot of them seem to want a 60-year-old man as a lover, friend, mentor, and various combinations thereof. It’s convenient, it’s mutually beneficial. They keep me in touch with enthusiasm and vitality; I hope I bring them the gift of my experience.
I have written about internalized prejudice, when we buy into the concept that we are less than, because of something which we are, something which is often derided in our culture at large, such as race, sexual orientation, or age. I do not choose my lovers by age based on ageism. I am confident in my own viability as a man of this age, and I am thrilled when I am attracted to a man my age or older, and, as I said, recently, I have been dating younger men: 38, 24, 32, 27 …
I was talking about this with a 25-year-old romantic friend a few months back, and he put it this way: Despite the differences in our ages and races and backgrounds, we make sense together. We are “soul mates.” Societal expectations be damned, the truth of our connection is a fact to us.
“Act your age” I hear either directly or between the lines from some of my friends and associates. This is my age: I ride a Segway. I enjoy sex. I have friends between 22 to 90, and I am still willing to risk having my heart broken in order to feel it full—and I don’t always act like this society’s picture of an almost-60-year-old. I have better things to do with my time.
This is crucial to The New 60: honoring what brings aliveness.
More from Sex Week at the Good Men Project:
Benoit Denizet-Lewis: The Dan Savage Interview
Hugo Schwyzer: Male Self-Pleasure Myths
Amanda Marcotte: What Women Don’t Tell You
Ed Fell: 10 Secrets to Satisfying Sex
Andrew Ladd: A Billion Wicked Assumptions
Charles Allen: Why I Hate My Giant Dong
Emily Heist Moss: Does Size Matter?
John DeVore: Multiple Inches of Love
Joshua Matacotta: Do Gay Men Fear Intimacy?
Hugo Schwyzer: Mythbusting Bisexual Men
Bhatia & MacKinnon: The Psychology of Erectile Dysfunction
Wilson & Robinson: Can’t She See I Need It?
(Photo via minegoestoeleven.com)