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Old School vs. New School: Can Gay Generation Xers and Millennials Find Common Ground?

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By Tim Curfman and Josh Inocéncio

The LGBTQ community has witnessed vast cultural changes over the decades. Even in the short span from the 1980s to today, attitudes about dating and careers have shifted so dramatically that an older gay man may feel like he grew up in a completely different world than the one his younger counterparts are now experiencing. Tim Curfman, a Generation Xer in his late 40s, and Josh Inocéncio, a Millennial in his mid-20s, explore the question, “What has changed and what has stayed the same?”

Tim: So, Josh, how old are you? 14?

Josh: Close. 25.

Tim: Oops! That’s a side-effect of getting older. I walk across the Rice University campus saying to myself, “I didn’t know they let five-year-olds go to college.” (Looks Josh up-and-down and thinks to self, “I have ties that are older than you.”)

So, here’s the thing I’m the most curious about: does anyone go to clubs anymore? Or is everyone meeting each other through dating apps?

Josh: Guys definitely still go to clubs. I’ve been to a few myself in Chicago and Austin. However, I think apps are increasingly taking precedence. I don’t meet people at clubs; I mostly stick to apps. I don’t really do Grindr, which is often just chest pictures or worse, but I enjoy Tinder, which is more dating-oriented. On Tinder, everyone has to have a Facebook account, which means there are fewer fictitious identities. I’ve even made friends on it! 

Tim: But how does this Tinder-Box-of-Magic-Love work?

Josh: You swipe right on the pictures of guys that you’re interested in chatting with, and if they swipe right also, it’s considered a match! You can chat with each other and arrange a meeting place from there. I’ll find a match and arrange a date, which usually consists of dinner and some barhopping—La Carafe downtown or Stone’s Throw in Montrose. Or something a little less traditional. The best first date I’ve gone on was a day trip to the zoo! It’s surprising how much you learn about a person while feeding giraffes and observing red pandas.

Anyway, the biggest downside is that you usually know in the first five minutes whether there’s any chemistry or not, and if there isn’t, then the rest of the evening can be a real drag. For better or for worse, people’s personalities are always vastly different in person.

Tim: Sounds horrific.

Josh: Well, how did one meet guys in the early ’90s?

Tim: I would hit up JR’s or Rich’s, and I would stand next to someone cute, and I would sip on my first drink and be shy and demure and wait for them to talk to me. And they didn’t. Then, I would drink my second drink while we continued to aggressively ignore each other. After my third drink, I would lunge at them, shouting “Hi!” and cause them to spill their cocktail. Sometimes this approach worked. Mostly it didn’t. 

Josh: How inefficient and embarrassing!

Tim: Oh, it was! But I did meet Jim, my husband of 20 years, at a Houston Press singles gathering at JR’s. I walked in the door, saw Jim, and yelled, “Hold your cards, folks! I think we’ve got a Bingo!” Twenty years later, we’re still going strong.

Josh: Congrats! 

Tim: That was after a decade of bad dates. So, how serious are modern gays in their 20s about long-term relationships?

Josh: Depends. It’s probably as varied as it was for your generation. I know guys in their 20s who are searching for love and marriage, and I know some in their 40s enjoying the bachelor life—and on Tinder, too!

The apps can be just as precarious as clubs, though. The people you meet can flake out by un-matching you or deleting their whole Tinder account. It’s called “ghosting.”

Tim: In the ’90s we accomplished the same thing through the use of “fake phone numbers.” My friends and I got more serious about coupling up as we got closer to the age of 30. That may never change.

So, let’s talk about careers. I was a child of the ’80s, where teens wanted to dress like they were in prep-school and we all wanted to make the big bucks. Think the young Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

In college, I switched majors from psychology to computer science, mainly to guarantee a lifetime of gainful employment. I don’t regret that decision, but every once in a while my inner child tempts me to start a new career as an artist or writer or therapist, and I take that little brat and spank him till he squeals!

Josh: I’d like to say that Millennials are more likely than Generation Xers to take financial risks and follow their dreams, but that assumption stems from my artistic background as a writer and a performer. Artistic people from every generation have taken bold leaps in their career trajectories. I have friends who are doing temp work in New York, Chicago, and L.A. while pursuing theater or film careers, and I also have friends who are accountants, teachers, and engineers.

I do think, however, that our largely Baby Boomer parents who sought financial security encouraged many of us to pursue more passionate career paths than they did. However, reaching adulthood in the wake of the financial crisis has certainly texturized Millennials’ views on stability.

While I do save money, I sometimes spend like every day is my last. I’ve never earned a lot of money, but I’ve managed to take trips to Korea, Japan, and road trips across the United States, among other places. As a burgeoning playwright, though, all of those experiences provided new material to write plays.

Tim: You’re just baiting me, aren’t you? You realize that we older guys feel that it’s our moral imperative to tell you younger guys that the world is cruel and will stomp up and down on your dreams with sharpened cleats. STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! But I’m not going to say that. 

Josh: But you just did . . . 

Tim: On the flip side, adulthood lasts a very long time, and there’s nothing wrong with guys in their 20s wanting to bounce around a bit. I didn’t buy my first house or have my first serious boyfriend until I was 28, so I can’t really talk, now, can I? (Deep breaths all around…)

What was your experience with coming out of the closet? Is there even a closet to come out of anymore?

Josh: I didn’t come out to anyone until I was 23, just two years ago.

Tim: No! Why? What’s the point of all of this social advancement if guys are still waiting so long to come out? I’m still mad about not being able to date other guys in junior high. I was in my prime!

Josh: Well, don’t forget that while the nation is progressing, we are still in the South. I brooded on the question of my sexuality for a long time. I’m an only child and there were expectations about bringing a daughter-in-law into the family. I was also raised in a very religious household, so the subject was difficult to broach.

Tim: The fear of being different is a universal experience. It’s always going to be difficult to take that first step away from your family’s expectations and to make your own way in the world.

Josh: Well, some guys have done much better than me! I know plenty of guys who came out as gay when they were teenagers, even in middle school!

Tim: Okay, let’s do a Lightning Round—New School vs. Old School.

Organic Food:

Josh: Tainted by hipsters, but I do prefer fewer toxins.

Tim: My body has adapted to the toxins, and now I need them to live. Mmmm, Cheetos. . .

Texting:

Josh: It’s like letter-writing for Millennials.

Tim: Why won’t young people answer their damn phones? What’s wrong with talking?

Most recent thing that made you feel older:

Josh: A weekend visit to a college town.

Tim: Buying arthritis cream.

Advice to your own generation:

Josh: Get out and vote!

Tim: Take more naps.

Dating:

Josh: An audition I’m never quite prepared for.

Tim: Horrific memories of dating continue to strengthen my 20-year relationship.

GLBT vs. LGBTQ:

Josh: LGBTQ is more feminist, thus more inclusive!

Tim: What’s the Q? Who are the Q’s? Do they get to use our designated parking spaces?

So, what do you think, Josh? Is it possible for gay men of different generations to be friends?

Josh: You mean, despite the older guy’s tendency to give unwanted and unneeded advice?

Tim: And despite the younger guy’s painful naiveté about the ways of the world?

Josh: And despite the older guy’s condescension and the oppressive weight of his long-dead dreams?

Tim: Well, sure!

Josh Inocéncio is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine, a playwright, and a freelance writer. Read all of his OutSmart articles at outsmartmagazine.com/author/josh-inocencio.

Tim Curfman owns and runs Scenic Hill Vacation Cabins in Brenham, Texas, (scenichillvacations.com) with his husband, Jim Rolewicz. Read all of his OutSmart articles at outsmartmagazine.com/author/tim-curfman.

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Josh Inocéncio

Josh Inocéncio is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine, a playwright, and a freelance writer. A Houston-area native, he earned a master’s degree in theatre studies at Florida State University and produced his first play, Purple Eyes, before returning to Texas last May.

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