Dating in your forties
After 35, you are invisible to other gay men in Boystown.
But after I turned 35, I found it hard to build that full life when all I felt was invisible. You can always feel when someone is looking at you in a bar, and you can also feel when you’re looking at someone who is looking through you. More and more, I was being looked through instead of looked at or even looked around.
The older I get, the more nonexistent I feel. A couple of years ago, I was having drinks at Sidetrack with my friend “Ryan,” who was in his late twenties, and he introduced me to a new friend of his, “Don” (not their real names). Don was in his early twenties and had just moved into Boystown, into my apartment building, in fact. So, I began to see Don quite a bit walking around the neighborhood or coming into or out of our building, but only occasionally did he see me.
Whenever I was with Ryan and we ran into Don in a bar or on the street, Don was friendly and warm and very sweet, to me and to everyone. But when I was alone, Don wouldn’t speak to me. He rarely even looked in my direction. Even when we passed each other in the hall of the building we both lived in. Even after I would smile and say, “Hello.” Even while holding the front door of our building open for him. It wasn’t just that he was ignoring me. It felt deeper than that.
I’ve come along far enough in therapy to know I would never want to date someone who would treat me (or anyone else, for that matter) so cruelly. However, I never quite believed my therapist when he would say that once I became mentally healthy, the pool of possible men to date would become much smaller. He was right, though. I no longer go on dates just to go on a date. I don’t date someone to make sure I will have a “plus one” to a friend’s party or wedding. I like and respect myself, and I know what I want in a relationship and from a boyfriend, which is honesty, above all else. And if I’m busy dating someone just to have someone to kiss under the mistletoe, I might miss meeting the man who wants exactly what I want. Besides, I am okay with—and actually really enjoy—being alone.
Not that I don’t sometimes feel lonely. Add that to exchanging what once was my sex drive for a newfound love of comfortable chairs and you’ll see why being gay, middle aged and single isn’t for sissies. Even when, like me, you’re a sissy.
My friend Patrick, who is 43, helped me combat all these feelings with three words of advice: location, location, location. “After emerging from a seven-year relationship,” he says, “I realized quickly that standing alone in a gay bar was not the same experience at 42 as it was at 35. At 35, I was still part of the mix and mingle; at 42, I was essentially a wobbly bar stool: reasonably functional, but best avoided. It wasn’t until I moved to Edgewater Beach a year later that I realized my problem wasn’t age, it was geography! I was not only a relic in Boystown; for me, Boystown was the relic. The trick was to realize that its time had come and gone. I had essentially outgrown Gay Day at Disneyland, and I am much more comfortable with myself and my community away from the strip.”
So, to no longer feel invisible (and to avoid the skyrocketing rent increases), after 11 years of living in Boystown I recently moved to Ravenswood. The first night I spent in my new apartment, I took a break from unpacking boxes, walked around the corner for some takeout food, and as I was opening the gate to my new courtyard building, a handsome guy was on his way out. I held the gate open for him, and as he walked through it, he smiled at me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Thank you.” As I closed the gate behind me, I remember thinking, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Boystown anymore.