No one my age is attractive...

Real intimacy is scary. While we all think we should want it, it's a lot of work: it forces us to look at ourselves and see the dark side (the Darth Vader in us all) as well as the well-adjusted face we show to the world. One way to avoid real intimacy and all the work it requires is by choosing unsuitable partners. Many people say they want a long-term relationship, but have never had one. How could this be?

From my work as a psychotherapist, I've seen a lot of clients who are split down the middle in the relationship department: one part of them likes to keep it light and sex-based, and the other part of them wants more. There's a tug-of-war going on in their brain and they tell me they feel "stuck." Sound familiar? Another good way to never find a partner is to find people your own age unattractive. Let's call it, "Ageism."

For us LGBT folks, ageism is so easy to buy into that most of us don't give it a second thought. Both gay and straight media make big bucks by pushing youth in the form of predominantly white, hairless, slim but defined, perfect-looking young men and women with no fat, no wrinkles and no maturity. These idealized beings (often photoshopped to death) are used to sell us products that we think we need to stay desirable and attractive.

While these amazing looking young people may be beautiful fantasy objects, with rare exceptions, they're not good potential partners. Psychologically, someone 21-27 (the age of most fashion models) is in a very different place than someone in their 30s, 40s or older. In general, this developmental stage (early to late 20s) is about experimentation, having fun, getting laid, discovering who you are, what you like and beginning to spec out a future path for yourself.

As we LGBT men and women approach the end of our 30s, most of us are looking for something more meaningful than mere experimentation: we've done the bars, the clubs, the parties and we want more. We've had fun sex and been out all night more than we can count, but now we want something with depth and meaning. We want to connect with another person and see if we can create a good life together. From my work as a psychotherapist, this is what most people in their 30s and 40s are after: a good healthy relationship where each person helps the other to become the man or women he/she wants to be. This is wonderful, productive but hard work. It takes real commitment and maturity, and most young people just aren't there developmentally, emotionally or spiritually. For some folks, being with a much younger lover is about control. It is a reaction to an earlier time in their life when they felt out of control (and probably were). These men and women enjoy playing the "older, wiser" lover who may want to help or even mentor a younger person.

But are there strings attached? You betcha! Usually the strings are about being in control of the relationship and not threatened or challenged by the younger partner. Someone your own age may scare the shit out of you, because they're playing the game at your level (or above). Picking much younger partners is one way to avoid acting your age. It lets you avoid having a partner who challenges you to be the mature man or woman you can be, will call you on your shit and kick your ass when it needs kicked.

Some of my clients say that they like the youthful bodies of young people: smooth, sleek, and slim with perfect skin. Well, honestly, who wouldn't like to look like that? But few of us have ever possessed the look of youthful perfection. And if we did, we couldn't hold onto it, no matter how much plastic surgery or personal training we bought. Many young people are beautiful, you can get lots of agreement for that. But what about the beauty of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-year-old men and women? And let's be real about the ageism in our community. It's used to sell sexy underwear, skin supplies, magazines, porn...and it can destroy our self-esteem.

If you find that it's impossible to be attracted to someone around your age, it may help to talk with a therapist about this. It may take some work to find out where your "twink" obsession comes from and how to free yourself from it. There's nothing wrong with finding young people attractive, but this kind of "obsession" can prevent you from hooking up with someone hot, beautiful and more mature - someone who could potentially be a good lover/long term partner for you.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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