When I was living in West Hollywood, there was a strict age segregation. If your boyfriend was more than five years older or younger, tongues would wag. More than ten years, and there would be snubs and disinvitations to parties.
So when I moved to New York in 1997, near my 37th birthday, I assumed that my boyfriends would be in the late 30s - early 40s range.
Instead, I was cruised by every Cute Young Thing in sight, guys in their 20s, even teenagers.
What did I have in common with guys 10 or 20 younger than me? I had never heard of Puff Daddy or the Spice Girls. I didn't watch Dawson's Creek. I didn't play Grand Theft Auto. And I was ready for bed by 10:00 pm.
But guys in my age range were usually in long-term monogamous relationships or married to women and closeted. Or else they had major personality flaws. So why not try the Cute Young Things?
But they had drawbacks of their own.
Fall 2000. I meet Mario (not his real name) at a party. He's somewhat more feminine than what I usually like, but short and muscular, two of the five traits I find attractive (the others are dark skin, being religious, and having a large endowment).
A student at Columbia University, majoring in education -- "I've always loved kids" -- and a professional model. He did some fashion catalogs and a nude photo shoot for Freshmen.
I call him the next day. "Would you like to see Saving Silverman next Friday night? I hear there's a lesbian character in it. And afterwards we could go to the Empellon Taqueria. That's where I went on my date with Andrew Lloyd Webber."
He giggles. "Dinner and a movie? So old-fashioned! Sounds great!"
We see the movie, which is entirely heterosexist, all about "changing" lesbians. Then, over quesadillas and chiles relleno, we discuss my brief modeling career and porn movie, compare growing up fundamentalist in the Midwest with growing up Catholic in New Jersey, and reveal our lists of favorite cities (mine are Paris, Tallinn, and Brussels, his are Paris, London, and New York).
That's when he tells me that he's only 19 years old.
I can count on one hand the number of teenagers I've been with, and the dates usually end up badly. What would the guys back in West Hollywood say?
But I figure, We're having a nice conversation. Why not give it a shot?
It's 10:00. I'm ready for the evening to end with a kiss on the doorstep, or an invitation inside, but Mario says "Let's go to Webster Hall!"
I'm fuming. I rush over, pull him from the embrace of some guy, and tell him, "You don't cruise when you're on a date! It's not done!"
He doesn't stop dancing. "What's cruising mean?"
"Flirting with guys!"
"Oh, come on, don't be jealous! I'm just having a good time!"
It's midnight. My head is throbbing, and my shirt reeks of cigarette smoke. "Can we go somewhere quieter?" I ask.
"Sure. I know a place."
We take a taxi to a dark, scary warehouse-type building. We pay a $10 admission fee, deposit our clothing into lockers, and enter a dimly-lit maze where guys are walking around in towels.
"You brought me to a bath house?" I exclaim, astonished at his chutzpah. "But we're on a date!"
"Don't be a prude! Seeing all the hot guys will get us all excited for later, right?"
There are lots of hot guys around, more and more as time passed, until the hallways are just as packed as the dance club. You have to push your way through, being grabbed a dozen times on the way.
At least I can to take a shower.
2:00 am. I lose track of Mario for a long time, and think he's gone for good. I'm about ready to get in a taxi and go home when he appears, nude and smiling. .
"You lost your towel," I point out.
"Oh, yeah," he says absently. "I must have left it in someone's room. So, where to now?"
"But I'm starving. A quick bite first, ok?"
4:00 am. The four of us walk out onto the cold, dark streets of Chelsea. "Home!" I exclaim. I mean that we should go to our own separate homes, but I'm too groggy to protest as Mario pushes me into a cab and gives the driver his address -- a dormitory on 114th Street. He has his own room, with a sink, but the bathroom is down the hall.
All I can think of is sleep, but Mario has other ideas. Lots of them.
I wake up at the same time every day, no matter when I go to bed. So I'm up at 6:00 am, after about 45 minutes of sleep. I take an early-morning subway back to my apartment.
The Gay Community Center is advertising a meeting of SAGE, the gay senior citizens club. I think I'll find my next boyfriend there.
See also: Liam's 18th Birthday Present; My Most Embarrassing Date.