I suppose I thought age would make me more tolerant, if not sympathetic, to the visual of a doddering old gay man squiring someone half, or 3/4 his age, on his atrophied arm, but it hasn’t.

Here, in Fort Lauderdale, where the average age of the gay male seems to be 72, it is so prelavent it seeems suddenly epidemic. If this bears the stink of self-righteous judgment, you should probably reach for a clothespin because, yeah, I AM judging.

In fairness, I find myself recoiling when I see an old, leathery West Palm Beach geezer in a plaid jacket kidding himself that his young, cosmetically-enhanced blonde in leopard print loves him. I mean: really? I know introspection is currently out of fashion — look at the bloated, orange imbecile that sits in the White House — but how can you not privately admit your companion is interested more in your money sack than your ball sack (which probably resembles a circa 1942 baseball mitt, run over repeatedly by a car)? Do you really, truly, believe that your new “friend” really wants to lay under or on you, that they won’t note the baggy elbows, the skin tags, the weird rashes, the blood thinner bruising and the nose hair? Do you want to be the butt of her private jokes when she does girl’s night with her other like-minded golddiggers?

But I am gay, not straight, and how the other half chooses to comport themselves is their folly. I cannot help but wince when I see someone dressed far too young — by young, I mean tight, and by tight, I mean high-waisted and low-breasted — barely lifting his sandals and snapping his dry fingers on a dance floor with his 28 year-old “protege”. I assume it’s the fingers snapping; maybe it’s a bum hip or a trick knee or a DEPEND unlatching itself.

The desperation to keep up makes me want to cry out. I watch hustlers, most of whom fall into the category of “rough trade”, latch onto the elderly at places like The Grille or Listeen (formerly known as Progress/Chardees) on Wilton Drive, and I want to go separate them with a crowbar. I understand loneliness. I get that men don’t want to surrender the idea of a sex life to the passage of time. No one wants to feel archaic, obsolete. To see them fall prey to a vampire makes me sad. To see them urged to visit an ATM outrages me.

People of a certain age are vulnerable. The phone scams, the home invasions, the recurrent funerals of friends, frightening medical crises…isn’t that enough? This melancholy is made even moreso when they might’ve lived their professional and personal life in the shadows, closeted by stigma or self-shaming, until they finally outlived their parents or siblings, moved elsewhere or retired from a factory and found the courage to come out. That we, as a society, worship youth is no surprise; I admire poreless skin and a 30” waist as much as the next leering, over-served patron. But to try and reclaim one’s past by financially supporting one as you fumble to make relevant conversation strikes me as self-defeating. You won’t feel younger; you’ll probably feel even older, and defeated, as you explain who Archie Bunker was, or why Stonewall mattered, what a diagnosis of AIDS meant or when phones were rotary.

Exposure to “younger” thinking has its merits. One of my continual complaints about where my Mother resides — a Senior community — is that she’s no longer around forward-thinking people, inquisitive minds, a hunger to learn or evolve. It has clearly affected her. Her rigidity, her intractable beliefs (some of it due to living alone and answering to no one) are being reinforced by the mumblings and discontentment of depressed, housebound, financially-insolvent individuals who find little to live for in a world they don’t understand. (They are also, mostly, frightened and angry Republicans who want a wall.) Someone twenty years my junior has walked a different journey and, if they’ve genuinely processed those passages, can broaden my own vista about life in 2018. I LIKE talking to intelligent people who were born after 1990. I Just don’t necessarily want to fuck them. And, even if I DID, I wouldn’t want to provide them lunch money.

Do I believe May-September romances exist? Yes. I’ve seen moving examples, where respect and dignity are conjoined with love and care. I also think they are the rare exception, just as I am convinced threesomes are the inevitable road to a breakup and that casual drug use leads to addiction. I just hope I never kid myself. And, as my own personal call-out to the young who target the old…I hope you come to some variant of respect for your older companion…I hope you work out your Daddy issues without decimating the final stretch of someone’s life.