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    May to December

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Life is a journey marked in years and filled like a grocery cart at Walmart. The closer you get to checking out, the more you ponder the things you selected. My life’s cart has been filled with copious amounts of music, family, friends, food, activism, and, of course, religious indoctrination. From time to time, you may have seen photos of my husband and me. You may have noticed an age difference. If you didn’t notice, I love you, but you might need to check your eyeglass prescription. You might also be one of those rare people who “doesn’t see age.” Bobby and I are in what many like to call a May to December relationship. In case there was any confusion, he’s May, I’m December. For simplicity, we’ll call it a M2D relationship.

    There has been a lot of research done on M2D relationships, but there is only one article that we could find that mentions same-sex relationships. Katie Bishop, of the BBC, wrote an article titled “Age gaps: the relationship taboo that won’t die.”  She provides these fascinating statistics: “In Western countries, around 8% of male-female couples have an age-gap of 10 years or more, rising to 25% in male-male unions and 15% of female-female relationships. In the U.S., only 1% of relationships are 28 years or more.”

    I never imagined I would be in the 1%—of anything!

    She continues, “These days, even as most societies embrace increasingly progressive views on love, relationships, and the rich variety of ways they can present, couples where one person is much older than the other still face judgement. Rather than assume people are happily together, there’s a tendency to worry about possible power imbalances. There’s even specific vocabulary to aid that judgement.” She lists “sugar daddy,” “gold-digger,” “cougar,” “boy toy,” or victim of “daddy issues.” We’ve heard them all and more.

    While Bobby and I don’t think about our age difference much, other people do. When I first laid eyes on Bobby at a San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus concert, I didn’t think, “Wow, he’s young.” I replaced young with hot and off we went. A few weeks ago, we visited M2D friends in Palm Springs. They shared that they had moved from San Francisco because they found themselves in too many uncomfortable situations from people staring or mumbling under their breath. They don’t experience the judgement in Palm Springs. We have not experienced it in Portland, Oregon, either. I guess we’re just helping “keep Portland weird.”

    We do occasionally get asked if I’m Bobby’s father or he is my son. It’s always the straights who ask. It gives us immeasurable delight responding, “Nope, we’re husbands!”  Bobby is likely to reach over and kiss me on the lips as extra punctuation. Public displays of affection can be generational. I absolutely love the freedom younger folks have.

    The term May to December was first used in a song from around 1818 titled, “An Old Man Would Be Wooing.”  

    “An old man, an old man, will never do for me,
    For May and December can never agree.”

    That is not an auspicious beginning for M2D. The most memorable reference is in the haunting song by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson titled, “September Song.”  It was composed in 1938 for the Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday. It has been recorded by countless artists: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and more.

    “But it’s a long, long while from May to December.

    And the days grow short when you reach September.”

    The final song on the topic is one I recorded on my first solo album. You can hear it on YouTube. It is “Somebody Older” from the musical Steel Pier. The first time Bobby and got together, he sang and played for me. I played my recording for him. We were both smitten, and we liked the music, too!

    “Somebody older can teach you things
    Someone who’s seen it all can help you get through
    What you’re going through now
    Listen and hear what somebody older might say
    Someone who’d probably be someone a lot like me.”

    Psychotherapist Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT, has compiled “8 Ways to Bridge the Age Gap in Your Relationship.” They sound like good advice for any couple. I’ll share 4, along with our personal experiences.

    Accept the differences of where you are in your lives.

    We have the best of all worlds. Bobby is doing 80–90 concerts a year. I go along when he sings in pretty places. The rest of the time, I sit by the Columbia River in Portland. I pet Tater Tot, volunteer at the humane society, and marvel at geese who can eat and poop simultaneously.

    Consider your role as caretaker.

    Bobby proved to be a great nurse when I had rotator cuff surgery. I am anticipating having other body parts replaced soon. He is incredibly patient. I, on the other hand, am a terrible patient. I’ll work on that.

    Know that maturity is relative.

    If you know me, I am really a 13-year-old mischievous imp. Bobby, on the other hand, is the one who is focused and filled with deep thoughts that fall out in spectacular poetry and lyrics.

    Identify mutual interests.

    Our lives have similar mission statements: changing the world through music. Our carts are filled with the same items: family, friends, food, animals, activism, long walks on the beach, and no-matter-how-hard-you-try-to-make-it-go-away religion.

    Bobby and I have not experienced much disconnect due to the age gap. We don’t know each other’s generational soundtrack, of course, but we can sing any song in any hymnal. And boy, do we. Television references are completely different. I’m terrible at video games. He can program a universal remote. I cook Southern food and delight him with Texanisms. He cooks Northern California fare and delights me with just about everything.

    “If you find that you have a strong connection with someone who is 10 years older than you, don’t let statistics deter you from building upon that bond and building a life together,” says Theresa E. DiDonato, PhD, a social psychologist at Loyola University.

    Thanks, Dr. T. We took your advice and got married. From here we plan to enjoy being in the 1% and continue kissing in public to frighten straight people.

    Finally, what you’ve been waiting for. How many years between our May and December? Bobby is 38. I am 43 in spirit and 73 in body. Yes, Bobby is younger than my son, who thinks Bobby is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Most delightful of all, the younger Grand Girls don’t care as long as Bobby sits on the floor and plays with them and talks to the 13-year-old about her rock band. Their judgement is nonexistent. If Bop Bop is happy, they’re happy. And Bop Bop is very happy.

    Of all the names I’ve been called in my life, “cradle robber” is definitely the least offensive! Don’t stop yourself from falling for someone with an age difference—large or small. We all have wonderful things to learn from each other. We hope you’ll try an M2D, too.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversation
    Published on June 13, 2024