Thursday, February 28, 2008

How old can a boyfriend be?

Gay boyfriendsAn American reader sent me an email a couple of months ago, and along with various other interesting stuff, one of the things that he said was:

“You can have boyfriends only until you are 40 or they are, lovers thereafter, sorry.”

I guess his point is that the word ‘boy’ implies someone much younger than 40, and that it’s teenagers who have boyfriends and girlfriends, so as adults we should have wives and partners because having a boyfriend or girlfriend is a bit childish! I suppose it’s a reasonable argument, but I’m not sure I agree because I want to have boyfriends rather than lovers, even if we're over 40.

For one thing, I reckon a lover is a poor substitute for a boyfriend because a boyfriend does so much more than just make love. Having a guy for regular activities is certainly one of the benefits of a boyfriend, but a boyfriend also shares your whole life with you :-). To me, the word lover doesn't imply all the companionship aspects that the word boyfriend implies.

I guess the adult word is really 'partner' rather than boyfriend, none the less I still prefer the term boyfriend. Partner is a word that could apply to either gender, so I only use it if I think a bit of ambiguity is necessary, in situations where people might prefer not to know that I enjoy sex with other guys. In that context, the word boyfriend is a much prouder word, because it means that I'm not hiding my sexuality.

But perhaps the real reason that I prefer the word boyfriend is a bit childish after all. For me, the word conjures up in my mind all the adolescent wonder that's associated with dating another guy and getting to know him both mentally and physically for the first time. As we grow older, I think a lot of us gradually lose our curiosity and creativity which is a shame because I think those are some of our most valuable characteristics. If I ever reach a point in my life when I don't think that meeting new guys is interesting, and when I'm not curious to know what activities would be like with them, then perhaps at that point I should surrender and accept that it's time to talk about partners and lovers rather than boyfriends. But until that time, I insist that I'm still allowed to have boyfriends!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Email from a gay guy with long-term relationship issues

Just over a week ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

First, I would just like to say that I've been reading your blog for quite some time, and I appreciate your honesty and openness about how your life has transpired with Boyfriend S, and others.

I suspect I particularly relate to your situation, as I am in a very similar situation, and am doing my best to cope with what is right and ethical for both of us.

I met my partner 25 years ago, when I was 23 and he was 41. Today I am 48 and he is 66. We have not had a physical relationship for years.

Years ago, he had physically rejected my advances, and my needs for sexual satisfaction, and I vowed to never approach him again in a sexual way. Now he feels very guilty about that, but that definitely had to change our relationship. But that led to years of solitude, self-esteem issues, weight gain and frustration before I ventured out to others.

About 5 years ago I did begin to meet others, usually at saunas. During this time, I met a married man. He is like your Boyfriend P - I get to see him every morning for coffee, and we manage at least once per week an evening together. It has been a very intense emotional and physical time with him these past 4 years, and I would have to say I love him very much, but I know that he will never intentionally leave his wife.

Lately I have also met someone that was in a very similar situation as myself, and he has had the courage to venture out on his own, 2 years ago, after ending his 18 year relationship. We seem to be bonding very well, and also enjoying each others company.

I suppose I feel guilt and failure regarding my Boyfriend S (who also has had a Boyfriend P for 4 years - also a married man - and he went through a massive depression last year when he thought that that relationship was ending) in that I loved him, and still do, but I know it is not like it was. Also, I suppose I am like your Boyfriend S, in that I am not as financially stable as my partner, and I fear the reality of losing out in a break-up. But both of us have fears of being alone - he due to getting older and more infirm, me because I basically have been with him most of my adult life...

I suppose my question is, after all of this, what is the ethical and moral thing to do - stay together with someone that has been a pillar of your life, and both of you try to live things out, each trying to be happy in your own ways with other partners on the side, or are we not doing either of ourselves justice by not dealing with the reality that things are not what they were, and get on with it?


The reader who set this email clearly feels as though he's at a crossroads in his life, no doubt as a result of the recent meeting with this new guy who was in a similar situation and then ventured out on his own. Since the two of them are 'bonding very well' perhaps there are even relationship possibiliites there.

In any case, the fact that this reader has had a relationship with another guy for 25 years is a significant achievement. I do reckon gay relationships can be more fickle, so when comparing with heterosexual relationships I think a gay year is worth more than a straight one! But people do gradually change, and in a relationship if people change in different ways, it's possible that a compatibility can slowly change into an incompatibility. Relationships change too, again not necessarily for the better. In the case of this reader it sounds as though the change that happened in connection with their sex lives caused him a lot of problems.

As the reader says, he's been with his partner for most of adult life. However, the worst reason to stay together is just because it's comfortable. Equally, 'the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence' so change for the sake of change can also be a mistake. What he doesn't mention in his email is the quality of companionship that the relationship provides. Do they still socialise a lot together, and still enjoy each other's company? Since they both seem comfortable having other partners on the side, if the rest of the relationship is still good I see no reason to finish it. But if they mostly get on each other's nerves all the time, then a separation would be better. From the reader's email I can't judge where he is along that spectrum of possibilities.

In my case, at present it seems likely that my relationship with boyfriend S will end up being downgraded to a close friendship. I don't want to lose contact with him because we've shared to much together, and I think he feels the same way. Perhaps this reader could also downgrade his relationship with this guy to a friendship and still keep some of the benefits of the relationship? Maybe there's some way of doing that so that he doesn't lose out financially in a more absolute separation?

A couple of times, the reader mentions the ethical and moral dimension to this. When I try to think of ethics and morals in relation to this situation, I start wondering what these two guys owe each other, not in a monetary sense but in terms of the lives that they've led together. Did one of them support the other one for a long period, through a difficult time in their lives? What sacrifices have been made for the relationship? Only the guys involved know the details. But maybe the reader is referring to the fact that his partner is within striking distance of his 70th birthday and might find it hard to find a new partner if they separate. My feeling is that there's no debt in connection with that fact alone, because the older guy didn’t have to start a relationship with the reader. The older guy should have been fully aware of the age difference and what it's implications might be in later life. Furthermore, the fact that he rejected the reader's sexual advances years ago makes me think that he could have been playing around for a lot more than the 4 years that the reader mentions in his email. So the available evidence suggests a debt to the reader, rather than the other way round. The reader also shouldn't feel 'guilt and failure' in connection with his relationship problems, because making a relationship work is a joint responsibility.

Do any other readers have any other thoughts on this situation?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Looking to meet Bankers

About a week and a half ago, a reader sent me an email asking me a simple question. The email had the title "Looking to meet Bankers" and was as follows:

Dear GB,

I read your blog with interest and was wondering if you could tell me where a good place is to meet gay finance people. I am currently trying to expand the "types" of gay people I meet and would love to meet people in finance and politics which seems to be something you don't often meet in your regular gay bar. Is there any unofficial wateringhole where one could meet gay bankers?

Many thanks for your help.

Warmest Regards

Immediately I thought about the gay interbank drinks events, but then this guy doesn't sound as though he's even remotely connected with the banking world so that seemed inappropriate. But suddenly I had another idea:

Well to be honest I don't think there's any unofficial watering hole where gay bankers meet. But have you been to the Village Drinks, perhaps that's close enough? GB xxx

Canary WhaftBut it was his reply to my response that made this little episode amusing:

Many Thanks! I'll give that one a try. I was thinking financial types because I seem to be a big hit with them. Every time I go to the gents at Canary Wharf a whole bunch of guys are eager to milk me off! You guys seem to be an extremely outgoing and randy bunch and I'd like a bit more than just a quick wank in the loo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nudity etiquette in gym changing rooms

A couple of years ago, a reader told me that various activities sometimes occur in the men's changing rooms at a certain gym near where I work, and ever since then I'd been looking for an opportunity to find out for myself. So when a friend invited me to attend a group fitness class with her at that gym last week, it was hard to refuse!

I arrived early to give myself time to check everything out before the class. And looking around inside the men's changing room I found what I was expecting, namely a sauna and a steam room inside the locker room itself. Most gyms in London have these kinds of facilities, but they’re not always located inside the changing rooms. The gym I go to used to have such a sauna in the men’s changing room, but unfortunately that sauna was closed a couple of years ago. The advantage of having such facilities inside the changing rooms is that all the users are the same gender. I’m not sure what goes on in women-only saunas, but in my experience men-only saunas and steam rooms can be quite cruisey :-).

Luckily, after the class my host was busy so I had time I had to check it all out for myself. Although I didn’t get involved in anything on this occasion, it was interesting to gauge the atmosphere. Most gyms have rules against activities, and although one’s unlikely to get caught, being someone’s guest would make that scenario particularly embarrassing. But there was no doubt that I could have picked up a guy if I’d wanted to :-). I caught the eye of one of the other guys when I was in the steam room, and after that he kept looking me up and down knowingly, both in the steam room and watching me shower nearby. Perhaps I could have had a take-away! In any case, the guidelines that I drafted almost two years ago still seem to be accurate :-).

It’s also interesting to see how etiquette on nudity varies from gym to gym. In this gym last week, inside the steam and sauna facilities all the guys had white towels wrapped around their waists, and the only guy who didn’t was wearing swimming trunks. But in other gyms that I’ve visited with these kind of facilities in the male changing rooms, there’s been a significant amount of nudity, and even if a guy initially wears a towel he might take it off and sit on it once inside. I always enjoy going naked, and I also don’t mind if all the other guys are more modest than me, however I also reckon that it’s a bit rude for a visitor to ignore the etiquette so I covered myself up.

Unfortunately, the general trend in London gyms over the last couple of decades has been towards more modesty and less nudity in male changing rooms. In the late 1980’s the shower areas were usually completely open, so that it was easy to check out the other guys who were showering at the same time as oneself. But in the late 1990’s glass partitions started to appear between the showerheads, and these days whenever a renovation occurs the glass seems to become less transparent! One of the gyms that I know which had glass partitions then went and installed shower curtains a couple of years ago, whereas previously the cubicles had been completely open at the front.

Straight guys used to think that gay guys were only the effeminate types that could be seen in TV sitcoms, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that this trend towards more modesty has occurred as gay rights have become stronger. I reckon that a lot of straight guys worry about who’s looking at them naked, especially now that a lot of them have realised that gay guys can be found everywhere! Straight guys are always secretly checking each other out too of course and somehow that doesn't worry them. So maybe one day they’ll realise that being checked out by a gay guy isn’t a threat either, it’s simply a compliment :-).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Valentine's Day 2008

Two hearts"So where are you taking boyfriend S for Valentine's Day?" asks boyfriend P while I was talking to him on the phone early last week.

"Nowhere!" I answer, feeling a bit unhappy, "I'm just ignoring it all this year :-(. It just doesn't seem appropriate given that I'm buying him a house so that he can live separately from me."

"Well Happy Valentine's Day from me :-)," replies boyfriend P, sounding distinctly happier than he did when he was asking me the question about boyfriend S.

"Awww, thanks P, " I say, "and a very Happy Valentine's Day to you too :-)."

A couple of days later, on Valentine's Day itself, I wake up next to boyfriend S as usual, and while we're lying there together he hands me a card.

"Happy Valentine's Day GB :-)," he says smiling, still sounding a bit sleepy.

"Awww, thanks S," I say sounding a bit taken aback. It's a simple but nice card. What on earth can I say? I move over to cuddle him but he's got a question for me.

"Where's mine?" he asks.

"Errrr, do we usually exchange Valentine's day cards?" I ask, fishing for an excuse. He nods.

"Well ... sorry ... I forgot." It sounds very weak.

"Oh don't worry about it, " he replies, clearly a bit upset. Although he lets me cuddle him a bit before we get up, I can tell that he's not happy with me :-(.

On my way to work, I start thinking about all the guys that I sent Valentine's Day wishes to last year. Apart from boyfriend S and boyfriend P, there's also boyfriend R of course. However, boyfriend R let me down badly a couple of months ago, and I'm still waiting for an apology. At this point it seems likely that I'll never see him again, so sending boyfriend R a Valentine's Day txt msg seems highly inappropriate this year :-(.

However I do still see my gorgeous Japanese masseur :-). Although I haven't seen him since last November, that's only because he's back in Japan for a few months, so I decide to send him a txt msg to wish him a happy Valentine's Day. But it's been a long time since I saw either of the other two guys that got txt msgs from me last year, so instead of sending them Valentine's Day wishes I send a txt msg to the cute Mexican guy that I've been seeing recently. I also send another txt msg to a nice Chinese guy that I met a few weeks ago.

The guy L that I met last summer would have been on my list, except that he decided to stop seeing me. Last October, I was using txt msgs to try and to set up another meeting with him, and towards the end of the conversation I'd said

OK L, hope to see you next Monday, but to be confirmed nearer the time obviously :-). GB xxx

However, I then received the following reply

Will c 'cause 2 b honest wit u I don't like 2 f...k around wit somebody else boyfriend. :-(

And he only knew about boyfriend S. If he'd also known about boyfriend P and boyfriend R who knows what his reaction would have been! None the less, we parted on good terms, and if I ever spot him online again I'll definitely contact him to see how he's getting on.

During the course of Valentines Day, I get nice replies from all the guys that I'd sent txt msgs to except that there's no response from my Gorgeous Japanese Masseur. But it doesn't matter, no doubt he's not using his UK mobile phone at the moment, so hopefully my txt msg will be a nice surprise for him the next time he turns it on :-).

Before going home, I decide to make an effort for boyfriend S, because in spite of what's happening between us at the moment I don't want him to think that I don't love him. Last year I'd bought him some red roses on my way home from work, and had got myself into trouble because the roses had come from Kenya. Boyfriend S is very keen on saving the environment, so I got told off because of the environmental damage that must be caused by the aircraft transport of agricultural goods which could instead be produced locally with negligible environmental impact! So at the flower stall this year, I insist on locally grown roses. It turns out that they don't have any from England, but they've got some nice bouquets of Dutch roses so I settle for those, even though they're more expensive than the Kenyan ones.

"Happy Valentine's Day," I say to boyfriend S, handing him the roses together with a Valentine's Day card as I arrive back home.

"Wow, they're nice GB, thank you :-)," and I get a peck on the cheek from him.

"And they're NOT from Kenya," I say triumphantly, "you may recall that you told me off last year, so this year they're from Holland instead :-)."

"Actually GB, you're still in trouble!" replies boyfriend S grinning, "although they have to fly the Kenyan roses over here, at least they've got the climate to grow them over there at this time of year. They'll have wasted huge amounts of electricity in Holland to get those roses ready for mid-February!"

In spite of his unexpected objection, I seem to be forgiven for not having had a card for him in the morning :-). Valentine's Day is all very well when one's dating a guy or if one's at the start of a relationship, but at what might be the end of one it's a terrible minefield!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gay parenting

Just over a month ago, a regular reader sent me an email asking me a couple questions. Back then I didn't have time to answer him properly, partly because I was preparing to go on holiday, and partly because I wanted to think about my answers. One of the questions was about gay parenting, and the section of his email relating to that was as follows:

Do you think that steady gay and lesbian couples should have kids together? I'm guessing it would take some very unconventional dates for the couples to determine whether they would make suitable parents together and want to "consummate the relationship".

If they decide to go ahead and have kids, in the most muddled situation suitable for a Hollywood film, they could "cross match" so that with four children each could have a maternal and paternal half-sibling and a step-sibling! But really, in a setting like this, surely each man should stick to the same woman because there are so many extra complications for both parents and children e.g. each biological parent/child would have a biological child/parent living away from them (unless all four parents and kids are under one roof). And should the arrangement fall apart, each pair of parents would have combined responsibilities over three instead of two children, and there is also a higher risk of having to raise a child (whether step or biological) of an ex! (step or biological depends on whether the split is between the same-sex or opposite-sex couple or both)

Confused yet? That's why I shall stick to the scenario of not "cross matching" to make things simple, which would be the more plausible scenario in real life anyway!

I can foresee how the couples could cultivate platonic love for the mum/dad of their children through shared parenthood. Is that part of the solution for gay/lesbian relationships to prevent the relationship from breaking down as the sexual desire withers? Even if one or both the same-sex couples split there will still be the opposite-sex "partner" to enjoy a platonic relationship with, not to mention the children. I for one know that my siblings and I have helped tide our parents through periods of strain in their marriage.

Or maybe adoption is still the best solution? As I understand it, marriage/civil-partnership status and sexual orientation cannot be grounds for approving or rejecting an adoption application but a gay person can't just look for a random man/woman whether gay or straight and say "There...we both want to raise a child together and would like to adopt please".

Do you think having children helps cement gay relationships? Do you know of any (unmarried!) gay men who have successfully adopted? I really like the idea of adoption since I think the world is over-populated and that humans are brought into the world without any apparent purpose anyway or worse still, are here only to plunder Earth. The only thing a biological child can do that an adopted one can't is to satisfy my curiosity of what he/she would look like!

Certainly an email full of fascinating thoughts and questions, and it is a subject that's been at the back of my mind for several years. I've said before that I'd like to be a father, but I'm no closer to achieving it than when I did the post eighteen months ago on that subject. Actually, I feel that when I was a bit younger I would have made a terrible father because I didn't have sufficient maturity, but at this stage of my life I think I'd actually do a reasonable job.

I've always thought that the idea of finding a lesbian couple for a parenting arrangement would be a sensible way of doing it, but for me the problem is that I have very few lesbian friends. However, both boyfriend S and boyfriend P have more lesbian friends than I do, particularly boyfriend P who knows lesbian couples both in the city where he now lives and in the city where be grew up. So I guess there are still some distant possibilities for me there.

The reader seems to be suggesting that the gay guys and the lesbians would be able to "cultivate platonic love" for each other through this arrangement. However I don't think that things would work out like that because gay women love women not men, and gay men love men not women! So I reckon the relationship between the men and women would start out and remain as friendship only, and also that insemination would definitely not be via sexual intimacy. In any case, I think the reader is right that the cross-matching idea with four children is probably best avoided, for all the reasons he gives. But does any reader know of any couples who've actually done that?

When I think about the adoption/biological issue, for me a biological connection is important. I can even recall hearing about a case where a child became convinced while they were growing up that their father wasn't actually their biological father simply because they couldn't connect properly with each other, and eventually during the child's late teenage years it was proved that there had indeed been a mistake made at the hospital after the teenager's birth! I think it's also best if a child knows where they've come from, so that they can understand the origins of their family. It's also important so that when they've grown up they'll know if there are significant family medical histories that could affect them.

In my circle of friends in London I don't actually know of any gay parents, biological or by adoption. But I do know a fellow blogger who's a gay father in New York, namely Lavi Soloway. Last September he said in an email to me that "...I get the sense that all this gayby revolution stuff is very New York and L.A. and not-so-much London. Not yet." Indeed, I'd never heard the word "gayby" until I got that email, but I guess he's right and that there will be more gay parents here in London in the future.

I also think that raising children should help cement any loving relationship, whether gay or straight, as long as both people in the relationship commit to the task at the outset. If one person in a relationship is keen and the other isn't then it could destroy the relationship. But whether it's children or other shared interests, I'm sure it's a good idea to have some common interests as one grows older together :-).

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Appalling intolerance

Foreign readers may not be aware that the archbishop of Canterbury (who's the head of the Church of England here) has been receiving a huge amount of criticism in the UK over the last few days. Given the title of this post and without knowing anything about the situation, most people would probably assume that once again, a religious leader has made some intolerant comments about gay people or sex before marriage or something like that. It matters so much less when it's just one person who's in the wrong. Unfortunately, this time I think that it's the Archbishop of Canterbury who's right, and 99% of the British population (and 100%+ of the media) who are in the wrong :-(.

The "sin" of the archbishop was to suggest tolerance in connection with Muslim Sharia law when he gave the foundation lecture at the Royal Courts of Justice last Thursday. Visit the archbishop's web site for the full text of the lecture, which is highly academic in nature. Unfortunately, this was given slightly sensational coverage by the British media, even from news organisations that I normally respect such as:

BBC news: Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable'
Telegraph: Rowan Williams says Sharia law unavoidable
Guardian: Archbishop backs sharia law for British Muslims

This news coverage, which is often inaccurate because he did not "back sharia law", has prompted a sometimes hysterical reaction from the much of the British establishment and the population at large. Visit any of the online forums and comment pages that all these news organisations run to see what I mean. I am utterly appalled by the intolerance that is being displayed by so many of my fellow countrymen.

Although I'm not a religious person myself, I DO want to see religious leaders preach tolerance of other religions. It's right for them to suggest that people should try and find ways to accommodate other beliefs, which at the end of the day is all the archbishop of Canterbury was trying to do. In this case, it may well turn out that there are serious incompatibilities between British law and Sharia law, it may well turn out that there is no way round practical problems which would arise from having two different legal systems in one country, but it is NOT right to denounce anyone for suggesting that for peace on earth it might be worth trying. And in case anyone hadn't noticed, tolerance IS completely in tune with the teachings of the great spiritual leaders, including recent ones like Gandhi, and perhaps most importantly here with old ones like Jesus Christ!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A reader's gym encounter

Last week, a young reader who enjoyed reading my old gym posts sent me an email asking for advice on London gyms. At the end of the email, he'd written about one of his own gym encounters from a few years ago. It's a nice story so I asked him whether he'd mind if I posted it, and later that day he replied to say that I could use the story if I wanted. The story is a little more explicit than what I usually write here, so bearing that in mind, if you want to read the story CLICK HERE [over 18's only]!

I'd be interested to hear from any readers with views on where the best gyms in London are for gay guys interested in activities. Also, do any other reader's have any gym stories of their own that they'd like to share?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My South America 2008 photo gallery

For the last couple of years, I've posted the best photos from my more exotic holidays in single purpose blogs. The first time I did this was with the photos from the holiday to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia with Boyfriend P in summer 2005. Then in late 2006 we went to Argentina. Last month we went back to South America again, mainly to Chile, but visiting Argentina and Brazil briefly too. The photos can now be seen in my South America 2008 blog, but don't worry, it's not too taxing, just a few photos!

As usual we had a good time, but for me the best bit of the holiday was the white water rafting on the upper Trancura river near Pucón. But whatever one does, I reckon South America is a pretty good holiday destination :-).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Email from a woman with a bisexual ex-boyfriend

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email from a new female reader:

Dear GB

You don't know me - but I saw your blog and thought to write you!!

I recently found out that my ex-boyfriend/lover is "bi-curious." We've talked about it and I made sure to confront/ask him about it in the most sensitive way. We are best friends and I would never want to betray that or hurt him - even though I was hurt and shocked to find out (found out through searching on the web). He said that he's never actually followed through with's just a fantasy for him. I understand him and want to be there for him, but now I'm obsessed. I check the web every other day to see if he's still active. I don't know what to do or how to handle this situation. I love him to death - but not sure how to continue with him. My trust is gone, because he never told me. And I'm not sure he's just curious...but I know he'll never tell me if he's not. Just wondering if you have any advise for me... On how to be there for him but protect myself...

I replied immediately, asking her why she was concerned about an ex-boyfriend, and whether it was him that ended their relationship. She replied within a day to say she was worried about giving any more information, in case the guy in question identified her from reading my blog.

In my follow up email to her, where I tried to allay her fears about divulging more information to me, I pointed out that her situation is very similar to the female reader who sent me an email last October. Indeed, I reckon much of the same advice applies. If she can, I think she should encourage him to investigate his bi-curiosity, because only once he's done that will he be able to make adult decisions about how he wants to live his life.

Whichever one of them it was that caused the split, the most likely underlying reason is that the guy was having doubts about his sexuality. He could have consciously made the decision to split, or perhaps the female reader felt he had become too distant and was maybe hiding something and hence instigated the split. Either way, they're not in a relationship any more so she needs to recognise that. It's nice to stay friends with ex-boyfriends where possible, but she's got her own life to lead.

I never got a response to my last email so I don't think there's much more to say, except that she should be concerned that she's become so obsessed with this guy's situation. My best guess is that she doesn't know many gay or bisexual guys, so for some reason being so close to this one has fascinated her. But if she likes the idea of having gay guys as friends, the internet can help. Apart from contact with gay guys like me through our blogs, the internet can also help straight women make develop real [offline] friendships with gay guys. The best example I have of that is when my one of my gay male friends moved to a new city a couple of years ago. He successfully advertised online as a gay guy who wanted female friends, so perhaps it would work the other way round too!

Do any other readers have any thoughts?