It does not matter what time of day or night it is. It does not matter what the weather is like outside. And it does not matter if there are a hundred guys or just a handful of guys at the baths. You will always find this particular "type" at the tubs, no matter when you go. What "type" am I describing? Anyone over 55 who looks like a grandfather, or what I refer to in this essay as "The Prime Timers" (I refuse to use a certain six letter word that begins with the letter "T")
Now before I start to get hate mail from The Prime Timers, let me just say that I have the utmost respect and admiration for older gay men. I am a strong believer that as gay men we must honor those who have come before us, and give a hand up to those who are coming after us. For the past three years I have volunteered my time at a Gay Elder Center in the city (see, I do not spend all of my time at the baths!) It has been such an education working with these older men, listening to their stories, and learning from them. Older gay men should be treated with nothing less than the respect and dignity they deserve. These are the men that have blazed a trail for all gay men to follow.
But anytime the word "Bathhouse" comes up, people automatically think of "dirty old men" prowling the hallways of a gay sauna. The thought being that only men who are truly desperate to get laid goes to the baths, hence the image of senior gay men in a towel. Well let me shatter a myth right here. First off 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 have said at the beginning of this essay, it is the amount of times you see older gay men at the baths. I remember one day I dropped by the baths on a Sunday afternoon that was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was out and it was very humid. The baths was completely dead, with the exception of The Prime Timers. There had to be at least 10 men over the age of 65 roaming the hallways. Now you would think to yourself, it being such a stunning day why are these men not enjoying the beautiful weather? Why are they instead hanging around a bathhouse, being indoors? Two reasons; #1 the sex drive does not go away after the age of 65 #2 Once you reach the age of a senior, a deep sense of isolation begins to develop, more so for gay seniors than heterosexual seniors.
To be blunt all men over the age of 40 start to become invisible and undesirable and truly worthless in the eyes of many gay men. Once anyone reaches their late 30s/early 40s things begin to slow. By age 50, they come to a grinding halt! Gravity starts to take over as things begin to sag and suddenly, you are hit with middle age. Just because a gay man turns 60, does not mean the testosterone vanishes. As long as a guy can get it up, the hormones are still very active. I mean they had a reason why they developed Viagra! Being 60, there is practically no other place for senior gay men to go and cruise other men. To try to pick someone up in a bar or club when you are that age is impossible. And forget park-sex; that just stereotypes the image of "dirty old men" lurking in the bushes.
So the baths become a safe haven for many older guys to go and try to get lucky. You really have nothing to lose since it is totally 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 a lot of older gay men at the baths (and this may shock you) is that they have no other place to go to be around other gay men! The biggest problem facing gay seniors today is this sense of isolation. A lot of our gay seniors today did not have the benefit of spending their adult lives as out gay men. Many only came out later in life. With more teens are coming out in record numbers, the gay community at large is getting younger and younger. So the older generation does not feel connected with the gay community. With all of the half-dressed twinks dancing up a storm at bars and clubs across America, our gay seniors feel self-conscience and completely 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 are able to be in a sexual charged environment, cruise, and most importantly be among other gay men. They do not feel this sense of isolation. And with the increased senior gay population within the next decade, we may see even more of them at the baths. The plain fact is that the older gay and lesbian population will continue to grow. An estimated 400,000 gay men and lesbians in the United States turn 50 every year. As well, 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 (GWM) 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 (GAM) have this obsession to be with Gay White Men (GWM) Read Racism or Preference for more. If GAM cannot find any GWM their own age, they seem to have no problem being with someone 65, as long as they are white! The issue is self-esteem, which Gay Asian Men lack. Hence chasing after anything that is white. The thinking being that any white guy is better than no white guy. And for these older GWM, being with a young Asian is better than being with no one. It is REALLY slim pickings out there for the fifty something crowd. Hell the guy could be green, and these older guys would be happy with that.
It sometimes astounds me when I see these 50-something white guys with 20-something Asians on the street. Once, on my way to the baths, I stopped by a café to buy a coffee. 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 50-something white guy with a 20-something Asian cuddling on the public transportation. It really hurts me when I see so many GAM exploiting themselves like that. It also stereotypes GAM as being only interested in older daddy-type men.
Because I am Asian, older guys constantly approach me for sex all the time. While I have my share of difficulties attracting guys my age, attracting older men is not a problem for me. Rather it is a hassle. And it does not help matters that so many Asians chase after older guys, hence 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 I was in the lounge reading and I saw this older guy stare at me. I have seen him on and off at the baths for a number of years, and in the beginning he used to cruise me all the time. I think I made it clear to him 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 next to me and started to stroke his dick to erection. We were not in the porn lounge, but the reading lounge. I positioned my body so I was away from him, and held up my magazine to block my view from his dick. I thought he would get the message, but instead he kept at it. Finally after 10 minutes he gave up and left. End of story, right? Wrong! He returned twice and did the same thing! Excuse me, are my actions not blatant enough to show him that I was not interested?
Another time (as mentioned in Eye Contact) I was in the whirlpool and this 60 year-old man, who had been cruising me for an hour, got in and sat near me. I was not interested, and I tried to make that obvious. I sat away from him, positioned my face so that I was facing a wall, and curled up into 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! And then he took offence that I acted that way. Excuse me, but who was cruising whom? Is it not obvious by my actions that I was not interested? And he is not the first (nor the last) older gay man to cruise me like that in the whirlpool. This has happened many times.
See below to go to page two of this story