I had a very enlightening conversation with a 60 year-old friend which bordered on frightening. It made me think hard about the direction my life is taking and the sort of problems I’d like to avoid should I make it to his age.
He told me that in his younger days he was very much a closet case and since he didn’t want to marry but couldn’t find the courage to tell his family, he took jobs that allowed him to travel all over the world, saying he was “too busy to settle down”. He also never wanted to find a man and enter into any form of relationship because he wasn’t “that gay”.
Now he’s alone and very lonely; even though it’s easy for him to find sex, he’s never made a serious connection with anyone and at his age, it’s not easy to find someone who would like to settle down. He said that if he could have done things differently, he would have settled down with a man or even woman or at least tried to. I had chills when he talked about his experiences because I am at the same place he was years ago – not ready to live a lie, too scared to date another man but engaging in constant, meaningless sex as a way to ease the frustration that has resulted from the lack of a sturdy, decision-taking backbone. I saw myself continuing in denial while growing old and alone.
Unfortunately my friend’s situation is a common one in the gay community and this loneliness may even affect physical well-being: apparently ageing gay men/lesbians have a much higher risk of psychological stress and physical disability than their straight counterparts and this has been linked to the fact that more LGBTIQ find themselves alone as they age.
While sex is good (and sometimes amazing!), its pleasures are only fleeting. Three years ago, I didn’t even believe two men could have any sort of lasting relationship, I felt the only sort of connection could only be sexual since most men were not wired for a ‘together-forever’ kind of union. I’m not the type to feel lonely but I’m petrified by the idea of being old and without anyone. This particular fear ensured that I kept dating women even as I became more aware of the fact that I was very gay and explored this aspect of myself. At this point, I no longer want to date women and I’m slowly coming around to the idea of dating men. In the end, it would be better for me to have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried then failed than always wonder and regret. I’ve heard it said that a lot of reflection at the end of one’s life centre around the “what ifs” and I think it’s time I helped my future self by living a little and reducing the stockpile of such thoughts that I have already amassed. Currently I’m still deep inside my closet (so far in that I might as well be in Narnia) but maybe it’s time I opened the door and let someone in.