For me, a relationship has always been as essential for life as clean air and water. Except for the hours, days, or weeks required to find a new one, I’ve been seeing someone steady since the fifth grade. By high school graduation, I’d spent thousands of hours on the telephone with dozens of girls who sported cheap jewelry engraved with my name or initials.
My goal to stay in a relationship continued through college, after I came out, and beyond. A partner was proof somebody loved me. Desperation guided my selection process, with unsurprising results. Yeah, I know. Pathetic. Pardon the pun, but I had a hole to fill. Decent guys ran like the wind, leaving nothing but riffraff to sort through for my next partner.
My last ex was an exception. Although I did meet him days after kicking his predecessor out of my house, the age difference — he’s twenty-two years younger than me — kept me from taking him serious. We dated other people for two years, but hung out together just about every day. As we hadn’t exchanged jewelry and didn’t live together, I pretended we weren’t in a relationship. By the time he moved in a year later, we were best friends.
The friendship survived our relationship and the breakup. These days we have dinner and TV night once or twice a week, babysit dogs for each other, and otherwise help out as needed. We don’t regret the twelve years we had together. We were good for each other in a hundred different ways and had a lot of great times. The age difference, in and of itself, certainly wasn’t the reason we split up, but we agree our next partner will be someone closer to our own age. I could elaborate, but except to say we’re not judging anyone in a May-September relationship, I won’t.
In truth, I don’t have time for a relationship. Nonetheless, as you know from my May 2013 series of posts about my field research on the dating habits of contemporary gay men, I put myself out there, maintaining profiles on several hookup apps and websites. I’ve had a lot of titillating conversations, seen pictures I’ll never be able to un-see, and met some nice guys who really didn’t interest me. No big deal. Like I said, I’m not looking for a relationship.
Flirty chatting can be a lot of fun. Meeting the person almost always puts an end to the good times. Posting a flattering picture is fine — expected even. Reaching back decades to find one, however, is a problem that never ends well. Disappointment is not the reaction I’m going for when I meet someone for the first time. My pics are all very current. I don’t run nine to twelve miles every week and spend all that time at the gym for nothing!
Athens is a college town, so the pool of eligible bachelors skews young — especially evenings and weekends. Many who work here live closer to Atlanta to take advantage of all the big city has to offer. My ex heads to Atlanta (65 miles) just about every weekend. Not me — I hate all the damn traffic.
Guys outside of my acceptable dating range — with persistence, determination, and a flood of really hot selfies — do sometimes break through my defenses. Since splitting with the ex almost two years ago, I’ve made a fool of myself over two of them. Not bad, for me. By the second dates, even though we’d agreed the age difference ruled out anything serious, I’d planned our lives together with happily ever after endings.
Scared the hell out of those poor boys. I’m not crazy. Honest! I just act that way sometimes. I think maybe it’s a writer thing. Go ahead — laugh. Like you never act crazy.
Oh well. Since LTRs had already been ruled out, no harm done, and I learned something about myself. I’m fine being single — unless and until I meet someone I really like. Then all the old ways come crashing back, out of habit more than anything else. At least now I know.
The nearly two years since the ex and I split is the longest I’ve been single since grade school. Taking care of me all by myself is a lot of work. But I’ve managed, and being on my own — fully independent for probably the first time in my life — has been good for me. I like living alone. Toodles is great company and I have tons of time for writing.
Is there another long-term relationship in my future? Your guess is as good as mine. Assuming I don’t go bat shit crazy and scare him off, the odds favor another partner in my life by a hefty margin. I’ll keep you posted.