Monday, August 15, 2011

May-December Romances

The term "May-December Romances" refers to a romantic pairing where one person is significantly older than the other. The age difference is at least a decade, but often more. The phrase comes from the younger person being in the "spring" of his or her life (i.e., May), while the older partner is in his or her "winter" (i.e., December). In the gay community there often seems to be  a focus on youth, but when a gay man is out of their twenties, does age really matter anymore?

Several weeks ago someone requested a commentary on age differences. There are no real moral or ethical implications of dating a person older or younger than yourself. Most people do find an attraction to someone a few years older or younger. However, in this email that I received the man was referring to age differences of 10, 20, or 30 years. He is in his sixties and his partner is in his forties.

The first thing that needs to be determined is if there is an unhealthy reason for not choosing a person of ones similar age. This would be true of the predatory adult who needs to control and manipulate another person and therefore seeks a weaker type of person who sometimes is also younger. This type of predatory person is dangerous and may be violent. Though I don't know a great deal about their relationship, the man that emailed me seemed very happy with his relationship and did not give any indication that there were any unhealthy reasons for their relationship, and I can't see any reason that there should be.

I have no experience myself with a May-December relationship, but I know several men who are older than me, that if they lived closer to me, I would be all over them. An intelligent, cultured is the type of relationship that I have always wanted. I have no desire to be a gold-digger or a boy-toy (which I am too old for anyway), but to have a mature relationship that is not all about sex (though sex is a consideration in the equation) is the type of relationship I have always desired. Whether the person is older, younger, or the same age as I am, it is the connection of the minds that means more to me.

One of the most famous gay May-December romances is probably that of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. At forty-eight years old and already an esteemed British writer, Christopher Isherwood met 18-year-old Don Bachardy at Will Rogers State Beach in October 1952 and by early the next year, the two had begun an intimate relationship that lasted until Isherwood's death in 1986. They were a high-profile, openly gay couple whose meeting coincided with one of the most homophobic decades in American history, the era of McCarthyism, when homosexuals were being driven out of the State Department.

Yet to the gay community at large, as well as those who were casually acquainted with the couple, Isherwood and Bachardy seemed to live an enviably idyllic existence in their hillside Santa Monica home, where they entertained the leading figures of the world of arts and letters, and the movie stars that Bachardy once sought out for autographs. For all that seeming perfection, Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's loving yet clear-eyed documentary, "Chris & Don: A Love Story," reveals that the couple worked hard and long to achieve their bliss.

Nowhere in this fine, quiet, richly-sourced documentary is the phrase "gay marriage" ever uttered. But then, the relationship at hand spanned three pre-political decades until 1986, when Christopher Isherwood died in L.A. Today, in the same gloriously sunny, cozy Santa Monica cottage they shared, his surviving partner Don Bachardy, a portrait artist, leafs through dozens of often nude sketches made during Isherwood's last days—and even after his death. It seems perfectly natural, and the film includes even more dazzling visual records—photos and color home movies from Venice in the '50s and of mingling with the stars back home (including Igor Stravinsky, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Aldous Huxley, David Hockney, and John Boorman). And in a nice nod to Cabaret, which made Isherwood's fortune, Michael York reads from the author's letters and diaries. Chris and Don met at ages 49 and 18, respectively, on the beach, where Don and his older brother (also gay) were trolling for sugar daddies. Was that so wrong? Their relationship—and this movie—prove otherwise. Boorman comments, "Isherwood had succeeded in cloning himself." To which Bachardy, speaking in the third person, agrees: "It was exactly what the young boy wanted."


Writer said...

Wow! Up until my 30s, I only had May-December relationships much for the reason you mentioned. I've never even as a child known how to be around people my own age, so I mostly stayed near the adults. When I started dating, it was the more mature and sometimes "cultured" men that I got on better with. I put "cultured" in quotes, because, well, this being Kentucky there were a lot of uncultured men as well. Now that I'm in my 30s, I find my desires run in the opposite direction. I've dated an 18 year old young man who was very intelligent and we got along very well as friends, though sexually we were quite a bit different. I'm currently interested in someone 3 years younger than myself, which isn't that big of a difference, but it's new to me. :)

Schweigsame said...

And let's not forget that in Ancient Greece, older men had a civic duty to have an intimate relationship with a young man as part of the younger man's maturing process. It was just part of Greek society.

True, these relationships were not designed to be "forever and ever" marriages. But they were erotic, as well as social, as had been seen on various vases from the period. An older man instructing and "polishing up" a younger man as part of his education, with sex as part of relationship.

silvereagle said...

In my own relationship, spanning a difference of 29 years between us, there has never been any idea on either part of control or manipulation. I know that might not be the case in every situation. But, ours is built on a foundation of trust, compassion, and the desire to be with each other. And, the strong part of the foundation is our religious upbringing- his Catholic and mine protestant. And, the initial contact did not involve a sexual encounter, but those did come later, with great pleasure for both of us. We live in different cities, several hours between us, but I anticipate moving to his city in the near future. We look forward to our relationship growing stronger in every aspect.

Neither of us consider the age to be a defeating or limiting factor in the love we share, and in fact relish the difference. I learn from him and he learns from my life experiences as well. We would both consider our relationship to be "cultured and intelligent" :-)

Thanks for the great article!

fan of casey said...

Joe: Large age differences can work or they can be a challenge, it seems to depend on what the partners want out of the relationship and whether there is a healthy boundaries between the two, with one not so dominating over the other.

I think differences in stage of life probably has less risk in it, compared to unequal economic standing, which can cause friction if there isn't a fair way to make sure each contributes equally to the relationship.

And even if there is a sugar daddy/gold digger intent, as long as both parties know and agree to it, they can't really complain about the arrangement.

I guess we have been influenced by so many poor examples with celebrities that we usually do assume that if a young guy or gal pursues someone much older, they must be after money.

Uncutplus said...

I recently saw the documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story and really enjoyed it. Don's paintings of Isherwood were very poignant.

I also loved the movie A Single Man based on Isherwood's novelette.

silvereagle said...

fan of casey....well said! The relationship depends on the integrity of the two individuals~~~something often lost with celebrities it seems...

JoeBlow said...

Writer: I think that no matter the age, it is the person that matters.

Schweigsame: Check out my post "Ancient Mentorships (With a Little Sex Occasionally Thrown In)"
( for more about pederasty and the Ancient Greeks.

silvereagle: I agree that May-December romances have things that each person in the relationship can add such as experience or enthusiasm, etc.

FOC: You are right, large age differences can work or they can be a challenge and celebrities have not always been great examples for us. The important thing is to know what you are getting into.

Uncutplus: I have yet to see either one of them, but they are soon to be on my Netflix list.

fan of casey said...

Joe: How one views this topic sometimes depends on how you spin the wording. Women have been marrying for money for the longest time, especially before when they were viewed as property themselves and were expected to raise children and not so much contribute financially. Even today, a smart gal won't say "I married him for money", they will say " I married him for financial security" -- but the core reason is still the same, it's just how you "market" it.

PS: I forgot to add that Joe you can be my boy toy any day.

silvereagle said...

People - Be sure to read the article referenced above
Schweigsame: Check out my post "Ancient Mentorships (With a Little Sex Occasionally Thrown In)"
( for more about pederasty and the Ancient Greeks.

Very informative and well written (as are all articles here), but one of the best!

Mike said...

This was really interesting! I guess I have a May-December romance right now. hehehe

fan of casey said...

@Mike: Now the age difference is not that much, your's is more like March-May romance.

JoeBlow said...

I agree, FOC.

Thanks, silvereagle.

Mike, teachnically, if he is at least 10 years older then you do. I tend to think of them more in the terms of relationships in which the younger partner could legitimately (age wise) be the older partners son.

JiEL said...

I have such a relationship as I'm 60yo and my «husband» since March 29th 2009 is 35yo.

He could be my son too...

BUT, as my BF loves older men and I love 30-40yo men...We connected at first sight. Well Love at First Sight I must say here..

Now, you must know also that my BF is quite gifted with a 187 IQ and can read 120 pages/hour and remembers ALL of it to the word....

The funny thing, also, is that he had earlier crush on hairy, grey hair or bald guys, big bear types on men....
I'm just the «contrary», really not that at all... I'm totally hairless, no beard, in good shape because I swim a lot and I have ALL my hair (brown with a glimps of grey on the side)...
He didn't expect to fall in love with «my type» of man...LoL !!

So, when I bought and saw that story of Chris and Don, I ADORED it.
In our couple, I'm the artist and my BF is more litterature type.

So, LOVE is the MAIN patern here.
Age is just a number...

JiEL, Montréal, Canada