It does not matter what time of day or night it is. It does not matter what the weather is like outside. It does not matter if a hundred or just a handful of guys are at the baths. You will always find this particular “type” at the tubs, no matter when one goes. What “type” am I describing? Anyone over 65 who looks like a grandfather. Or what I refer to in this essay as “The Prime Timers.” (I refuse to use a particular six-letter word that begins with the letter “T”)
Before I start getting hate mail from The Prime Timers, let me say that I have the utmost respect and admiration for older gay men. I believe that, as gay men, we must honor those who have come before us. At the same time, give a hand to those coming after us. For the past three years, I have volunteered at a Gay Senior Center in the city (see, I do not spend all my time at the baths!) Working with these older men, listening to their stories, and learning from them has been an education. Older gay men deserve nothing less than respect and dignity. These men have blazed a trail for all gay men to follow.
But anytime the word Bathhouse comes up, people automatically think of a “dirty old man” stalking the hallways of a gay sauna. The thought is that only men desperate to get laid go to the baths. Hence the image of older gay men in a towel. Well, let me shatter a myth right here. First, every type of guy imaginable goes to the baths: Gym Bunnies, Blacks, Chubs, Latinos, Twinks, Asians, and the list goes on and on. I have seen it all. So why should The Prime Timers be any different? But as I’ve said at the beginning of this essay, it is the number of times you see older gay men at the Tubs. One day, I dropped by the baths on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The sun was out, and it was very humid. The baths were completely dead, except for The Prime Timers. At least ten men over the age of 65 were roaming the hallways. Why are these men not enjoying the beautiful weather on such a lovely day? But instead of hanging around a bathhouse, being indoors? Two reasons; #1 – the sex drive does not go away after being 65 years old. #2 – A deep sense of isolation develops once you reach senior’s age, more so for gay seniors than for heterosexuals in the same age bracket.
To be blunt, all men over 40 start to become invisible, undesirable, and truly worthless in the eyes of many gay men. Once anyone reaches their late 30s or early 40s, things begin to slow. By age 50, they come to a grinding halt! Gravity starts to take over as things sag, and suddenly, you are middle-aged. Just because a gay man turns 60 does not mean the testosterone vanishes. The hormones are active as long as a guy can get it up. I mean, they had a reason why they developed Viagra! When one is 60, there is no place for senior gay men to cruise with other men. Trying to pick someone up at a bar or club when you are 60 is impossible. Forget park sex; that stereotypes the image of “dirty old men” lurking in the bushes.
So the gay baths become a refuge for many older guys to go and get lucky. You have nothing to lose since it is anonymous. The worse that will happen is that you get rejected; better in an anonymous bathhouse than a bar or a club. But the other reason you see older gay men at the baths (which may shock you) is that they have nowhere to be around other gay men! The biggest problem facing gay seniors today is a sense of isolation. Many of our gay seniors today did not benefit from spending their adult lives as out gay men. Many only came out later in life. With more teens coming out in record numbers, the gay community is getting younger and younger. So the older generation does not feel connected with the gay community. With all the half-dressed twinks dancing up a storm at bars and clubs across America, our gay seniors feel self-conscious and entirely out of place. Almost like, “What is wrong with this picture?”
So the baths become the only place for older gay men to be themselves. They can be in a sexually charged environment, cruise, and, most importantly, be among their peers. They do not feel this sense of isolation. With an increased senior gay population within the next decade, we may see even more seniors at the baths. The fact is that the older gay and lesbian community will continue to grow. An estimated 400,000 gay men and lesbians in the United States turn 50 annually. Also, more people with AIDS live longer thanks to new drug combinations.
But even at the baths, there is an “invisibility” aspect of being a certain age. 95% of young Gay White Men want to be with guys their age or younger. So the fifty-something men go after the easy pickings – young Asian men. Gay Asian Men have this obsession with being with Gay White Men. If Gay Asian Men cannot find any Gay White Men their age, they seem to have no problem with someone 65, as long as they are white! The issue is self-esteem, which Gay Asian Men lack – thus chasing after anything white. The thinking is that any white guy is better than no white guy. For older Gay White Men, being with a young Asian is better than being with no one. It is slim pickings out there for the fifty-something crowd. The guy could be green, and these older guys would be happy.
It sometimes astounds me to see these 60-something white guys with 20-something Asians on the street. Once, on my way to the baths, I stopped to buy a coffee at a cafe. I saw an OLDER white guy with a VERY YOUNG Asian sharing a slice of cake. I thought, “Well, maybe they are straight and just friends. Don’t assume the worst.” Half an hour later, guess who showed up at the baths together! Then on my way home that night, I saw another 60-something white guy with 20-something Asian cuddling on public transportation. It hurts me when I see so many Gay Asian Men exploiting themselves like that. It also stereotypes Gay Asian Men as only interested in older daddy-type men.
Because I am Asian, older guys frequently approach me for sex. While I have difficulties attracting guys my age, attracting older men is not a problem. Instead, it is a hassle. It does not help matters that so many Asians chase after older guys, perpetuating the stereotype. So when older guys see me, they automatically assume I want to give them a blowjob. There has not been a bathhouse visit where I have not been cruised, grabbed, or approached by an older gay man. One time in the lounge reading, I saw this older guy stare at me. I have seen him at the baths for several years; initially, he always cruised me. I think I made it clear to him that I was not interested. He gave up after a while, so I did not ignore him whenever I ran into him. But I did not encourage him either. In the lounge, he sat beside me and stroked his cock to an erection. We were not in the porn lounge but in the reading area. I positioned my body away from him and held up my magazine to block my view from his dick. I thought he would get the message, but he kept at it instead. Finally, after 10 minutes, he gave up and left. End of the story, right? Wrong! He returned twice and did the same thing! Excuse me? Were my actions not blatant enough to show him I was uninterested?
Another time I was in the whirlpool, and this 60-year-old man got in and sat near me. He had been cruising me for an hour. I was not interested and tried to make that obvious. I sat away from him, positioned myself facing a wall, and curled up in a fetal position. You would think that he would get the message. What did he do? He tried to play footsie with me underneath the water. I did not expect him to touch me, and when he did, I was so surprised that I yelled and sprang up! Then he took offense that I acted that way. Excuse me, but who was cruising whom? Is it not evident by my actions that I was not interested? He is not the first (nor the last) older gay man to cruise me like that in the whirlpool. It has happened so many times.
When I am at the baths and see older gay men act this desperate, I can only feel sympathy for their sense of isolation within the gay community. Their need to connect with someone is evident. Many older gay men have relationships with hustlers inside and outside the baths. It is that desperation and craving to be with someone, even if you must pay for it. Maybe that is why much older Gay White Men and young Gay Asian Men connect. Both groups are similar in that they have an air of desperation about their situation. Both groups repeatedly set themselves up for rejection in a bathhouse environment. So they wind up together because nobody else wants them.
But it is not all doom and gloom at the baths for older gay men. I have seen some 55-year-old men score just as many times as a 25-year-old would at the baths. Some men have such a strong charisma that they have no problems finding younger guys to hop into the sack. Their charismatic aura is so strong that they become a magnet for younger men. I cannot explain it. But it does not hurt that more and more older men are stopping the age of time. Some 50-year-old guys are still pretty hot! Regular trips to the gym, eating right, and medical advancements have made 50, not a depressing number. Many guys have told me about their sexual escapades with men over 55. Listening to their stories, those 55-year-old men don’t seem 55!
Some young, hot-looking guys prowl the Bathhouse in search of older men. Just as some men have a fetish for Chubs and Asians, many are obsessed with Daddy Types (the term used online). Because many older gay men are not computer literate, it is hard for younger guys to find older men. So they go to the baths, hoping to find one. I remember seeing a guy in his thirties arrive with an older sixty-something gentleman, and they headed straight to the sling room (think S&M). When they emerged from the room two hours later, I noticed that the older gentleman had a great-toned, muscular body. So I could see how the younger guy would find the older guy attractive. I even overheard the younger guy telling the older guy that salt and pepper hair was a turn-on for him. I do not think he was talking about his coif!
I even have a friend, Ari, who is heavily into older guys. Ari and I are the same age, but he likes his men in the 60-something range. For Ari, the older the guy, the better. Once, I overheard Ari and a 65-year-old man having anal sex! (I had the room next to the older gentleman!) Ari entered the room, shut the door, took off his clothes (he likes to stay dressed at the baths), and began to bang the living daylights out of the old guy (I can only assume that Ari put a condom on).
This other time I was doing reception at the gay senior center where I volunteer. I greeted a 50-year-old man who a 20-year-old guy accompanied. They were both Caucasian, and it was apparent to me they were a couple. Being in a heterosexual frame of mind then, I stopped myself in the nick of time from asking the older gentleman if his son wanted something to drink!
We cannot ignore that we will all be 50 or older soon. Now is the time to start treating the more senior men we see at the baths (or even outside them) with the courtesy and respect they deserve. Soon we will be in their shoes. It may seem far away, but it is just around the corner.