Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gay and Over 50 (For Me)

Consistently, among the most common search words used to find my blog are variations on being gay and 50 years old.

* gay men over 50
* gay mature men over 50 years
* gay men's sexuality over 50 years
* gay man in his 50s
* gay lovers over 50

This list goes on.

I can only assume this curiosity is somehow related to the baby boom, many of whom are now reaching that milestone age.  But, because the search words are so general, I don't know what these readers are looking for.  So I thought I'd use my own experience as a gay man over 50–53 to be exact–to see what I come up with.  Let me know if I'm on the right track, or if you have something specific you'd like me to address.  I'll do what I can to help you.

At the outset, let me say my experience of being gay and over 50 will be very different from a good many gay men, because I'm in a relationship.  If you're new to my blog, I've been in a monogamous relationship with my partner, Chris, for twenty-one years this June–and, by the way, the best twenty-one years of my life.  I can't imagine facing any of them on my own, and I'm glad I didn't have to.  But I know many gay men, either by choice or not, are single for much of their lives.  And I can only assume the longer they're single, the harder it is for them to find someone to love and share their lives with.

That's why it was a priority for me to be in a monogamous relationship pretty much from the time I came out, in my mid-20s.  Back then, in the mid-1980s, it was widely understood that, if you didn't want to be alone for the rest of your life, you'd better not wait until it was too late before you found someone.  I believe the magic age was 30.  By the time you reached that milestone age, if you were still alone, chances are you'd have difficulty finding someone.  Or that's what I was led to believe.

Unfortunately, at least then, gay culture was very oriented toward youth.  If you were young and cute, you got a lot of attention from other gay men.  But, if you were 30 and beyond, you probably didn't.  I'm lucky.  Back then, I still looked youthful.  People were surprised when I told them my age; they said I looked much younger.  I think this may have helped me in my search to find someone.  Chris and I met when I was 32.  But Chris told me he'd always thought he'd end up with an older man (he was ten years younger than me when we met).  He said he found young, gay men too flighty, unsettled, and immature.  I couldn't have agreed more.

That's one for older gay men.

I'm nothing if not settled.  I've always placed high value on security.  I know for some that might translate to dull and boring, but not me.  I don't handle upheaval well.  From one day to the next, I want to know where I'll be, and what I'll be doing.  Whenever I met a flighty, gay man–and there were plenty of those–I ran in the opposite direction.  They may have been fun to spend time with, at least for a short time, but a life partner?  Not for me.

I had no interest in the drama.  When I was much younger, I thought the drama was fun, even exhilarating.  I constantly shook my head at some of the situations my gay male friends found themselves in.  How could they live like that? I wondered.  What did they get from being all over the map?  How did being flighty improve the experience of their lives?  I didn't get it.  I put up with it when I was younger, but in my thirties?  No thank you.

So, here I am, in my 50s, partnered, living in the suburbs (which is, I understand, where the majority of gay men now live around North America), and life's pretty good.  Chris and I have clear title on our single-family house.  We've been debt-free for over five years–no mortgage, no car payment, no credit card debt.  Our house is about seven or eight years old, we've decorated it in a way that suits us, and it's filled with everything that has meaning to us (most importantly, each other).

The whole idea behind our working toward being debt-free was so I could leave my job with a major financial institution, which I did back in July 2007.  I'd had the dream, since I was a little boy, to write.  Write what, I didn't know, but write something.  So that's what I've been doing for the past five years.  Currently, I work on this blog on a regular basis, but my main focus has been on writing a novel.  I have a full first draft completed, and I'm working on chapter-by-chapter rewrites now.  It's a slow, arduous process, but there's nothing else I'd rather do.  Some days, I want to pull all my hair out, but I know that, if I hold on, tomorrow will be a better writing day.  It almost always is.

And, when I'm not writing, I'm looking after all aspects of our household and taking care of Chris–everything from cleaning, cooking, planning meals, doing minor repair work around the house, calling in service providers when necessary, balancing all of our accounts every two weeks, making sure the bills are paid, setting aside funds for occasional expenses, watering the garden during the summer, and so on.  I even cut Chris's hair every six weeks or so (which is an intimate experience, believe it or not).  And, when we had minor flooding in our front yard earlier this year–ain't home ownership a blast–I was out there with a shovel, trying to figure out the problem.  When the problem became bigger than anticipated, I hired casual help to finish digging the hole in the ground, so we could get at the source of the water leak.        

Chris is the breadwinner in our family.  Every workday, he gets up at five in the morning and is out of the house by six-fifteen, to catch the shuttle and train into downtown Vancouver, where he works for the provincial government.  He returns home for dinner exactly twelve hours later.  I have dinner ready for him.  We wash and dry the dishes together.  Then the remainder of our evenings is free.  Chris goes for runs Tuesday and Thursday evenings (I'm a morning person, so my exercise takes place then).  Otherwise, we usually do something together, like watch some of our favorite TV programs recorded on the DVR.  Chris is in his bedroom usually around nine-thirty.  He reads for a bit, then his lights are out by ten.  The routine begins all over again the following morning.

Chris and I spend our weekends together.  Saturday morning begins with a pancake breakfast.  Then, if we have some errands to run, we do that.  If not, we usually think of some place we'd like to go (like into Vancouver, which we do every four to six weeks). By late Saturday afternoon, we're back home.  We have dinner and settle in for a little entertainment in our theatre room.

On Sunday morning, Chris and I go for a long bike ride together.  Since I started having problems with pain in my feet, I've had to find some other form of exercise besides running (which I miss a lot).  After our ride, we have breakfast, plan our meals for that week, then buy the groceries we'll need until the following weekend (this way, we always have on hand what we need, and we mostly keep to our budget).  Sunday afternoon, we usually work around the house or in the yard.  Sometimes, Chris spends time with his Mom, who lives a short distance away, and I work on my writing.  Later, we have dinner at home, settle in for the evening, and Chris is back in bed for ten.    

This is what gay being and over 50 looks like for me.  I imagine it's not a lot different from most heterosexual couples.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Perhaps some of you think that, as gay men, our lives should be a lot more interesting. We should be taking in concerts or the opera or the symphony; going to art gallery openings; socializing with our exciting gay male friends; going on weekend jaunts together; travelling.  Perhaps some of you think we should still be clubbing it, even though, as far as we're concerned, there are no reasons to go to the clubs–unless you're still single and searching for someone.

I don't know what you think being gay and over 50 should look like, but I know what it looks like.  The single most important part of my life is Chris.  My life really revolves around him, taking care of everything for him, so that the short time he has at home when he's not in bed sleeping will have as much value for him–and for us–as possible.  My quality of life improved substantially when I was able to leave my job, focus on Chris and the house, and work on my writing.  And I want to do everything I can to ensure Chris's quality of life is as high as possible, even though he has to go to work every day.      

When I was thirty-two, my priority was Chris.  Now that I'm fifty-three, my priority is still Chris.  He makes being gay and over 50 worthwhile.  He makes life worthwhile.  I can't imagine not being with him, seeing him walk in the door at six-fifteen, after a day at work, having time in the evening to spend with him, finding out how his day went, asking him if anything new is going on at work or in downtown Vancouver.  I can't imagine where I would be without him (nor do I want to find out).  I can't imagine being gay and single at my age.  I can't imagine how lonely it would be, how challenging to meet other gay men.

I am blessed, and I know it.  My ninety-four-year-old grandmother told me a few years ago that these are the best years of my life.  And she's right.  Sure, being 50 isn't the same as being thirty, or even forty, in terms of your looks and your body and your health. But I don't look at aging as diminishment.  I look at it as a privilege.  It's merely a part of the cycle of life.  And, at every age, we must make the most of what we have.  We must live fully, no matter what our situation.  And we must be grateful for everything around us.    

10 comments:

  1. It is so interesting to me (as a straight female) that people might expect gay relationships to be any different in terms of activities to heterosexual relationships? I think I can understand that an age gap is a more common in gay relationships but I wonder why people would expect u to be have a particularly exciting & fabulous lifestyle. Is it just stereotypes? And I wonder if people expect the same for lesbian lifestyles. Anyway, another wonderful blog post, thank u :)

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  2. isadore, as a matter of fact, yes, I think many believe gay people live, as you put it, an "exciting and fabulous lifestyle" because of a stereotype.

    That said, I received an email from a reader just yesterday, who turns 50 this year, and who wrote that all he encounters is, as he put it, "forever-single" gay men, between the ages of 35 and 55, who actually live that lifestyle. So guess who's perpetuating the stereotype.

    As I told him, on the surface, their lives may seem more exciting and glamorous. But anyone can see how meaningless they are, and how they're compensating for what they really want but will never give themselves the chance to have.

    My lifestyle with Chris couldn't be further from the stereotype, unless you're talking about the stereotype of straight, married people. And, frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Thank you so much for your interest in my blog and for contributing a comment. I appreciate it.

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  3. Rick, your life with Chris is, in many ways, the same as mine with Wayne. And why should it be any different?

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  4. I couldn't agree more, Wendy. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

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  5. Beautifully written Rick. Love and stability...it's the foundation of my life too. Thank you for sharing.

    Love
    Loretta

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Loretta. You know I appreciate your interest and kind words.

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  6. Hi Mr. Rick,
    What a beautiful and inspiring story I would say. But I would like to ask something which you might answer based on your experience. If all male singles above 50 years old with no girlfriends are gays?
    I hope you will enlighten me.
    Thanks and best regards,
    Fiona

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    1. Fiona, thanks for saying Chris and my story is a beautiful and inspiring one. I hope that's the case, so other gay and lesbian people know great gay relationships are out there and possible for anyone.

      In terms of answering your question, I can't say I have much experience with a lot of single men over 50. I know the stereotype, particularly from decades ago, was that if a man was still single at 50 and had never been married or had a girlfriend, he was probably gay. But, with the greater acceptance of gay people these days, I hope that's less the case. At least I don't think anyone, whatever his sex, age, or coupling status, should still be concerned about what was considered true in the past.

      The nature of your question is curious. Why would you like to know this about men over 50? Do you have a story yourself you'd like to share?

      Thank you for your interest in my blog, your comment, and your kind words. I appreciate it.

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  7. Your story is interesting. I myself am over 50 and have NEVER been in a relationship. I have never even seriously dated anyone. In my 30's..there were a couple of people I was interested in but after a couple of weeks getting to know them, I was fully aware they were not relationship material--for me. It seems that the "type" I like, is never available to me. They are always either attached...or str8....or some guy who's path I would never cross and I admire from afar. Oddly enough, for those who study astrology, everything I've ever read about my birth date always ends up talking about "finding love later in life". I mean HOW MUCH FREAKIN' LATER??? lol...Now that I'm in my 50's it's actually starting to become stressful in that I don't make a lot of money, and I really should have a "help-meet" that provides support and comfort, as I would for them. I just don't think a lot of people have it as easy as your experience portrays. You and your partner sound like Virgo/Capricorn type people....

    I'm also curious as to whether you have been monogamous all these years. Most gay couples I've talked to that have been together over 20 years have not been. The acceptance of cheating, or of an open relationship seems to be the way the way they have managed to stay together. One-on-one monogamy for decades seems to be something most gays have trouble with. I know I'm looking for that type of commitment from a real relationship...and that is one reason I never have found one.

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    1. I hear you, D.C.

      For years, I've followed a blog written by a local gay fellow who's approaching 50 and a part of the dating scene (Rural Gay). I feel for him. He's a great guy and, like you, having a lot of trouble finding someone he connects with, and who connects with him. So I have a sense of what you're going through. I know it's not easy.

      I keep encouraging him, and I will encourage you. When we give up hope, there isn't much reason to keep going. So never give up. You must believe there is someone out there for you. I can't imagine anyone getting through this life without experiencing true love at least once. That's one of the reasons why I write this blog. Rightly or wrongly, I believe if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

      Actually, I'm a Libra, and Chris is a Scorpio. So what does that tell you about us? I'm not sure how much credibility I put in astrology, but some people really believe in it. More power to them.

      Yes, Chris and I are totally monogamous. As I've written in another post, that was a deal-breaker at the outset. If either one of us had wanted/insisted on an open relationship, we wouldn't be together today. In fact, we wouldn't have been together at all. We believe very strongly in monogamy and have maintained it during our nearly twenty-two years together (June 13).

      I don't believe at all that an open relationship assures the success of that relationship. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. I've never understood how two men can cheat (yes, let's call it what it is), yet still come home to each other and say they are passionately in love. My brain is incapable of registering that as either acceptable or viable. But that's just me.

      I have very strong opinions on cheating and open relationships, which I've written about extensively here. So, if you are truly determined to have a monogamous relationship, then I encourage you to continue seeking that. I would also encourage you to seek a man who is younger than you (how much younger you must decide for yourself). I've seen so many gay relationships, where one man is often much younger than his partner. Chris and I have ten years between us. I think this arrangement works because, in general, younger gay men are more idealistic, which means they may be more inclined to monogamy. It's just an idea. Keep it in mind.

      Thanks for your interest in my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment. And I wish you every success in finding that relationship. Never give up. True love is DEFINITELY worth it.

      All the best.

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