This dates from 2000. Since then Iíve been through a Ďdivorceí and become a single againÖand discovered that I have passed through some gate into the territory of being a Ďdaddyí. Maybe itís because my hair is finally going grey, maybe itís because I more often wear a suit Ė but I seem to get cruised more often by young guys than I did. They still donít do anything, of course...
Oh, and the guy I quote in the last paragraph, whoís in his 50s, climbed Kilimanjaro with me. So yah boo sucks to gilded youth.
lazarus 3: the old devils
Scene: Bloomsbury Square, 2am. Men are wandering through the skimpy shrubbery and leaning against trees to be sucked, pants sometimes half down, barely concealed from the clubbers passing in the street. ďGet lost, granddad,Ē says the young lad. ďThis place isnít for you.Ē
The speaker was a Giggling Mary - one of those wishy-washy 17-year-olds with awful hair and the kind of downtrodden camp, fizzing with self-hatred, that told you he had been smacked around a treat every day of his school years. I gave him about four years as a sex object till the long afternoons at the Ku Bar started the slide into alcoholism. He had only one weapon: his youth.
There, thatís nailed the little runt. Bitter? Yes. Because until I turned round and saw the short, humble greybeard who was the object of his scorn, I thought he was addressing me.
I, too, distrusted older men when I was new to the scene. I remember first entering the Coleherne pub in Earl's Court in 1978, when I was 21, and having my balls grabbed by an elderly antique dealer in piss-stained leathers within seconds of being introduced. It wasnít the physical invasion I resented so much as the way he clearly felt entitled.
These days, even gay men are aware of the difference between heavy flirting and abuse. Unless, perhaps, youíre a not very confident or bright 17-year old, in which case itís claws out first, just to be on the safe side.
But the fact remains that it was now the twink who felt entitled; entitled to insult a man who had not even looked at him, purely because he was old. At 44, I am undeniably past the halfway mark, but itís not just the dread of the advancing years that makes me resent the exclusion of older gay men from the ranks of the sexy.
Try an experiment. Get on one of those sex phone lines. Leave a description, as honest or as embellished as you like, and say youíre 37. Count the replies. A little later, leave an identical description, but this time say youíre 43. I guarantee youíll get less than half the interest, if any at all. Nothing has changed. But now youíre Old.
ďOh get real, girlfriend,Ē some of my friends say. ďOlder has never been horny. Your days of the instant pull are past. Cultivate shamelessness. Itís all you got now.Ē
No, I will not get real. I can remember when the gay scene was full of moustachioed 23 year olds trying desperately to look 10 years older. Today, society tiresomely fetishises youth anyway; but a very specific and historical change has happened in the gay scene. Gay-Brit-abroad Andrew Sullivan reckons itís all to do with AIDS. Surveying the way the gay porn of the late 80s got taken over by identically blond, plucked boys with floppy fringes and neatly trimmed pubes, he reckons the Tom-of-Finland types were elbowed out because they were equated with disease. Age equals AIDS equals turnoff. He sees the advent of porn stars like Cole Tucker Ė an HIV-positive 45 year old man-mountain complete with tattoos and foot-long cigar - as a sign that age is coming back into fashion.
The trouble is, I donít want to look like Cole Tucker. I have neither the time nor the inclination to grow biceps the size of my head. The steroid look - pecs like rocks beneath a drug-ravaged face, and the frosty posing to go with it - is just another way of desperately clinging on to youth.
I donít want to go to nosebleed techno clubs either, or not often. Iíve nothing against drugs - free acid for pensioners I say, if weíre all going to get Alzheimerís in the end, letís bring it on quicker and die happy - but I hate the moronic, blasted dance culture that goes with them. When Iím on drugs I like to talk to people (in fact try and stop me).
So if I canít be a twink and I donít want to be a clone or a leather daddy, what do I want? I want to be a bloke. I want to be the totally comfortable gay equivalent of those sexy straight men you see in East End pubs, slightly thickening at the waist, slightly thinning on top, badges of age only adding to their dignity and manliness. It doesnít mean pretending to be working class; it doesnít mean misogyny and sneering at drag queens; it doesnít mean pipe and slippers with the boyfriend and the spaniel; it means injecting back some real masculinity into the gay scene, not the ghastly plastic type on parade at the Hoist.
Thereís only one gay blokeís club in London's ridiculously specialised scene at the moment, namely XXL. Nominally, it's for fat guys and their admirers. Because its larger patrons would look desperate in dancewear and just plain lardy in leather, it lets the rest of us off the hook too. You can turn up in an old rugby shirt and M&S jeans and still feel like a horny geezer.
There is a more serious point to this than complaining that Iím still entitled to my vanity. A lot of gay men in the AIDS generation, consciously or otherwise, welcomed illness and death into their lives because they didnít want to grow old, didnít want to have to keep on trying to pull, undignified and pathetic, in the glacial face of youth.
I was talking to a mate of mine the other day. ďWell, I suppose I should go to Trade, but that means taking drugs, and I just canít be bothered,Ē he was saying. ďIím 46, for Godís sake, Iíve got a hernia. If I was straight Iíd have my feet up in front of the telly warning my daughter not to stay out late. Itís ridiculous.Ē
Well, I still want to stay out late. But I want my dignity back.