The Internet has been buzzing since British Olympic diver Tom Daley, 19, posted a YouTube video in which he tells how, while he still “fancies girls”, he is dating a man. In the video, Daley avoids declaring whether he’s Bi or Gay, and does not identify his beau. Posted on December 2nd, in 5 days it’s garnered over 9.6 million views.
E! online reported the next day that Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, 39, is the boyfriend. That evening, Black Tweeted “Slept all day today after my trip to Russia. Did I miss anything?” (wink wink, nudge nudge) As of this writing, neither man has officially confirmed the reports, and among the accolades and congratulations making their way across the Internet are comments by some who take a dim view of the age difference. ‘May-December romance!’ some proclaim, although it’s more like ‘May – early August’ (Black isn’t even 40 yet, after all!).
To the nay-sayers I say, hush! This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And on this subject, I am the voice of experience.
I was 37, he was 20. We first met not in person, but over the airwaves of “Ham” radio. Ted was working for a private security company, and had a route in our rural community that took him to various citrus groves, packing houses, rancher’s shops, and even the local Costco. We would chat while he drove from site to site, and eventually met in person. For a while, ours was a simple friendship based on mutual interests: Ham radio, computers, and law enforcement. (he a former Explorer Scout associated with a city police department and then in security, and I as a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher)
In a subsequent report, Daley says he made the first move with Black, leaving him a note and his phone number, and suggesting he call. After knowing each other for several months, Ted suggested moving in with me. In my case, and I suspect in Black’s, there was never more intended, at first, than friendship. Like so many relationships, however, things evolved.
Ted lived with me for about a year and a half, then moved out. As a couple, the relationship did not survive, but in it’s place an incredibly strong friendship has grown. I’ve known him for about 18 years now, and I can’t imagine my life without him there. I list him on my Facebook page as “brother”, simply because both Facebook and the English language have no word that adequately describes our relationship. “Friend”, especially on Facebook, is terribly inadequate. “Best friend” is so middle school-ish it’s a little embarrassing, and sets up an unfortunate hierarchy which might seem to exclude the other “brother” Dennis, who is also a “best (straight) friend”.
The age difference may or may not play a determining role in this relationship. While they will have different world-views relating to the times in which they grew up, and have different touchstones in their personal histories, both are major celebrities in their own fields, and that can provide a common ground on which to build an enduring future. Who can say what will draw two people together. We’ve all seen couples where we might secretly (or even out loud) wonder what they see in each other, and ask ourselves what keeps them together. Some of them couldn’t tell you themselves, even if you asked. All we can say for sure is, something has. Age differences can sometimes be a barrier, but sometimes it’s just a “thing”, and simply exists but does not define.
Nobody knows how the relationship between Dustin and Tom will play out. Hollywood is not known for long term relationships, and the Olympics can’t be an easy world to live in, either. Between high profile careers, travel, and publicity, there will be strains and pressures that most of us cannot begin to comprehend. Regardless, the story can have a happy, not ending so much as, outcome. That’s how my relationship with Ted exists today. We’re not a couple, but we are as close as I can imagine friends to be. Dustin and Tom may not stay a couple, but regardless of where their futures take them they might very well be very close and loving friends for the rest of their lives. Only time will tell, and I think we should all step back and let them find their way.
In the meantime, congratulations and best of luck, to them both.