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Not Too Old After All

by rock oakeson

In one week I will turn 48. Just two years away from the big Five-O, and there is nothing Hawaii about it, believe me. Each morning I look in the mirror and see a 40-something, and each morning I still feel like an adolescent inside. Time plays cruel tricks on us. My inner child is still young, small and scared, but each day I must go out into the world and act like I am turning 48 in one week.

This must be the most difficult part of life: acting like we are supposed to, and yet knowing deep down that we don’t really know how we are supposed to act. How does a 48-year-old behave, anyway? I feel like physically I am on the cusp between middle age and my senior golden years, but mentally and spiritually I am still being potty-trained. For many years I have taught at a local college, and in one of my classes there, a student finally did what we 48-year-olds always fear. “Mr. Oakeson, I just have to tell you,” 21-year-old Marie said in front of the 30 other students, “that you are the best teacher I’ve ever had. And you really are a cool guy for somebody as old as you are. Really! I mean it!”

Ouch! I’m sure she did. And as I waited for a round of laughter from the other students at the uncomfortable age reference—laughter which never came! —I realized that they too considered me both a cool guy, and old. The latter part didn’t make the compliment taste any better.

So now, during these winter holidays when life can be a bit depressing for us older and single folks, I find my mind wandering back to an experience that gives me some hope.

Picture it: Laguna Beach, California, 1987. I was 33 years old. I had just come out of my fifteen-year stint in Mormonism by returning to the two things that were my birthrights through no choice of my own: Judaism and homosexuality. I came flaming out of the closet the day after the Santa Ana judge pronounced my temple marriage “annulled.” I attended a synagogue that very next Friday night, finally to be with my own tribe after years of nothing but gentile blond hair and blue eyes alleging that they too were somehow descendants of Abraham. (My ass!) And it was at that first Jewish service that I met Jason.

Jason Sternfeld was just turning 20 in two days. My gaydar was strong enough to sense that I would like to take him out for his upcoming birthday. After that Shabbat service, he happily agreed to go out with me. I was ecstatic, but nervous. After all, this was to be my first openly gay date with a man—a man who was only turning 20! And there I was, a 33-year-old guy just beginning the gay life. Was I too old to pretend that I could begin participating in what seemed to be the domain of much younger guys? I remember waiting eagerly, but scared to death for him to arrive at my Laguna Beach house the night of our date. Finally, just a few minutes later than scheduled, he walked up to my house and rang my doorbell.

He looked so cute in his floral Hawaiian shirt and orange “jams.” (Did we really dress like that back then?!?!) We talked a bit, then went for dinner—my treat—at the Beach House Restaurant nearby on Pacific Coast Highway. During dinner, I noticed that he seemed reticent to tell me something. But I didn’t want to push. After all, this was so new to me. All I could think about was: My God! I am actually out on a date with a guy! A guy who is gay like me! If my Bishop could see me now!

After dinner we walked along the beach back to my house. Again, I sensed that he was not telling me something important. Finally I said, “Jason, what is wrong? You seem to want to say something, but you don’t say it. You never have to worry about offending me. This is the first gay date in my whole life, and I could use some feedback. Please tell me what is on your mind.”

“Well,” he began, “I didn’t want to make you feel bad, but—” his voice trailed off. He looked up at me with total sincerity in his eyes, and said, “You are only 33. I guess you are not old enough for me. I like older guys. I mean, really older guys.” We got to my house, I unlocked the door and we walked into the living room. “When I said that I liked older guys, I meant those around 65 to 70 years of age. I know that may be weird to many people, but I have always liked them. Many of us younger gay guys do. You are too young. So no offense if we don’t see each other any more?”

I was flabbergasted. How often did I agonize back then over the thought that I was too old to come out of the closet and begin dating men! How naïve to think that, at 33 years of age, I was too old for anything at all! And now, I am only turning 48! Still too young for the Jasons of the gay community; too young for the Jasons of the entire world. So why do I think I am getting old?

I don’t know. I guess I’m not. But one thing is for sure. I learned that there will always be a Jason around no matter what. Now I just have to get out there and find him…

Editor’s note: Rock is single once again, and looking for Mr. Right. If you are a gay male and interested in meeting him, please write to us in care of this publication. We’ll forward your note on to him. Rock is a frequent contributor to Wild Utah, and we love him! We guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!