Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lonely Gay Couple

Three short blocks away from where Chris and I live lives another gay couple.  They've been there at least as long as we've been here (nearly six and a half years).  One is Filipino and I'm guessing in his early 40s; the other is Caucasian and I'm guessing in his late-40s or early 50s.

In six years, we've crossed paths with this couple and quickly said hellos.  They've always been cordial but aloof with us, and we've always been cordial but aloof with them.  We've never introduced ourselves–the opportunity's never come up, or we've never made the opportunity. 

And, honestly, I'd like nothing more than to meet them, or to have another gay couple as friends–to go out for dinner or see a movie with, or to go out to the local gelato shop for a treat on a hot summer evening.  It's just Chris and me now–mostly has been during the twenty-three years we've been together–and we could use some friends.  We really could.

The other night, I was reading through some of the search words readers have used to find my blog.  And no fewer than three out of ten were people who were older, in relationships, and wanting to meet other people like themselves.

Which made me realize Chris and I aren't alone (what a relief that was).  My experience has been that single gay men find it relatively easy to befriend each other, but gay couples don't find it easy to meet other gay couples, and I've wonder why that's the case.  I've wanted to write about this for years but didn't know what I'd say.  Perhaps, in the process of writing about it now, I'll figure it out. 

The truth is, if you're reading this, and you think I have answers as to how gay couples can meet each other for friendship, then I'm sorry to disappoint you.  If I had those answers, I'd have used them by now myself, and Chris and I would have a small but meaningful network of friends (because I don't believe in spreading myself too thin over lots and lots of friends, and I haven't had great experiences with friends in the past, which has made me leery about meeting new people).

As I write this, it occurs to me there are two types of loneliness.   

Of course, there's the loneliness you feel when you're single (which I'm still all too familiar with).  You may or may not have lots of friends, but, because you don't have that special someone in your life yet, you still feel lonely, like something's missing.  (Because I've been both single and coupled for long periods of time, I can tell you something is definitely missing when you're single–although many single people say they're happy to be single and wouldn't want it any other way.  I have my doubts.) 

And there's the loneliness you feel when you're coupled.  Just because you have that special someone in your life doesn't mean you don't feel the loneliness of not having friends outside of the relationship you can talk to and do things with, either singly or as a couple.

But therein lies the problem, at least for me.  Chris and I are secure in our relationship.  We've been together for a long time.  Perhaps one of the reasons why we've been so successful as a couple is because we haven't had the distractions of friends.  I suspect a good many relationships have failed because one or both people in the couple focused too much time and attention on their friends and not enough on each other.  I want to spend my time with Chris.  I want him to be my best friend, which he is.  It's just that I'd like our world to be a little broader than it is now, to include other people.

Why haven't either Chris or I introduced ourselves to the couple living a mere three blocks from us?  I can't answer for Chris, but I can for me.

Because I'm worried they already have full lives (as most people do), with a wide circle of friends, and don't have enough space to fit us in.

Because, even though they're another gay couple, Chris and I may have nothing in common with them (who wants our sexual orientation to be the only thing we have in common–that's not enough, at least for me, to sustain a friendship).

And because (I'm being honest here) I don't want, in any way, to jeopardize what I have with Chris.

I'm not saying the couple down the street have an open relationship–maybe they do, maybe they don't.  But, if they do, and one or the other takes a liking to either Chris or me–or by our interest in them as friends, they think we're open to playing around–things could get complicated.  And I don't want to shit in my own yard, so to speak.  Chris and I already had problems with a straight neighbor that caused a lot of grief, on both sides, and I don't want to go through that again.  I can't go through that again. 

So, for now, Chris and I remain a lonely gay couple, eager to meet other gay couples, but not sure how to go about it, and, if we're honest, not sure, in some respects, if we really want to. 

If we meet other gay couples, we want them to be the right ones.  By right ones, I mean people who like us, and who we like, as human beings (that is, have the same, or similar, values, etc.).  I mean people who support us and don't interfere, or try to tell us how to live our lives.  And I mean people who don't complicate what Chris and I have, because what we have is pretty terrific.

I guess that sums up where we're at now, and how I feel.  In writing this, I haven't come up with any answers to help us with our challenge.  If you've been in a similar situation, and you've figured out what to do, let me know.  I'm open to suggestions.          

Monday, August 10, 2015


Chris and I live at the far end of Metro Vancouver.  So, about every six weeks or so, we make a point of going into the city, visiting some of our favorites areas (South Granville, Kitsilano, downtown), favorite shops (Pottery Barn, Chapters, Chintz & Co.), and favorite restaurants (Stephos, Cactus Club Cafe, Milestones).

One of our other favorite shops is The Cross Decor & Design.  Located in Yaletown, on the corner of Homer and Davie, The Cross is unique among home decorating stores.  It's stylish, for sure, but also relaxed and cozy.  It's also playful and whimsical.  The Cross is a fun place to visit any time we're on an adventure in the city.     

A gay man works at The Cross.  He's short, a little overweight, and bald.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his mid- to late-30s.  His salt-and-pepper beard is attractive, as is his warm and easy smile. 

What really sets him apart from many places where gay men work is his friendliness.  Not fake friendliness.  Not the kind of friendly he has to be, because he's the employee, and we're the customers.  No, genuine friendliness.  He makes me feel like I'm a long, lost friend.  He makes me feel like he cares about us.  He makes me feel good being in The Cross. 

Some time ago, this man introduced himself to me.  Chris was off doing his thing elsewhere in the store, and this man and I came into contact with each other.  He told me his name, but I'm ashamed to admit I'm not good with names, and I've since forgotten it.  Let's call him Brian–as good a name as any.

I happened to be talking with Brian while Chris walked up.  I introduced Chris to him.  Brian was equally friendly with Chris.  He had to have known Chris and I were a couple; he's seen us in there together before.  The three of us talked for a few minutes, minor stuff, connecting.  None of our conversation felt forced.  Brian's warmth came through.  He's a nice man.

Weeks later, when Chris and I returned to The Cross, I saw Brian again.  He made a point of talking to me.  Again, conversation was easy.  He was warm and friendly, like he'd been before.  When I told him I had to go, he said it was good to see me again.  I believed him.  It was good to see him again too.

Whenever I go into The Cross, I hope Brian will be there.  I hope I'll have the chance to talk to him.  He's one of the reasons why I like to go in to The Cross.   

Lately, I've found different places to work on my novel.  There's the Silent Study room at the local public library (where an old Asian gentleman peers at his computer screen through a tiny magnifying glass and slurps on his own saliva, which is very distracting).  There's the lobby at The ACT (Arts Club Theatre).  Sometimes, there's a local coffee shop.  And, about once a week, where I indulge in a grande Mocha Frappuccino nonfat no-whip, there's the Starbucks location closest to where Chris and I live.

A gay young man works at Starbucks.  He's short, sports a thick head of neatly-styled hair, and a thin beard.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's in his early-twenties.  He dresses in the latest fashion, wears glasses, and smiles quickly.  Then it's gone.  I'll call him Paul. 

Everything Paul does is quick.  He's like a whirling top around that coffee shop.  He's here, he's there, looking after this, then that, and that.  He's not shy.  He knows a lot of people, and he interacts with them without holding back.  In years past, he'd have been called a "going concern."  He makes things happen.  People seem to like him.

The first time he saw me, I was sitting at the table closest to the door.  He was just coming on to his shift.  He gave me a lingering look, the one gay men know as an acknowledgement of each other's sexual orientation.  No smile, no nothing.  Then he was gone.  He's avoided looking at me since.

One day, after I'd ordered my mocha frap, I stood in the area where people wait for their drinks.  Paul happened to be making the drinks then.  

In the past, when my drink's been handed to me, I've always gotten a smile from the Starbucks employee, and they've always made sure I had a straw to enjoy my drink with.  In other words, they've been friendly.  They've made an effort to be pleasant.  They've made me feel appreciated, like they were happy I came in that day.  

When Paul realized he was making my drink, he seemed to move even faster than usual.  Mocha frap in hand, he whipped it across the counter at me and blurted what it was.  No smile, no straw–no appreciation for coming in that day.  He couldn't have turned away from me fast enough to return to whatever else he had to do.

These past two weeks, Paul hasn't been working in that Starbucks location when I've been there.  The other employees, mostly young women, have been so nice to talk to, so friendly.  Especially the one usually taking the orders.  She's opened up to me, and we've chatted a bit.   

For me, at least, the atmosphere without Paul has been easier, more relaxed.  I feel comfortable when he's not around.  Maybe he's moved on to something else.  I hope.

Update as of August 12, 2015:

Nope.  Paul hasn't moved on to something else.  He was at work today, just as indifferent to me as before.  Oh, well…

Friday, August 7, 2015

Advice to a Young Reader

For those of you who follow my blog, and keep checking back from time to time to see if I've written something new, thank you.  I appreciate your interest.  And loyalty.

No doubt, you've noticed I haven't written anything for a while.  In the introduction to a guest post a month or so ago, I explained why.  But I want to add that, for me anyway, when you haven't said anything for a while, you want to be sure that, when you do, it's worthwhile.  That someone will get something out of it.  I hope that's the case here. 

Let me set this up.  

Over the past six-plus years, since I've had this blog–but especially since I've made it about helping gay people build the relationships they need with themselves–I've received emails from many gay people, mostly young men and women.  Some write a single email with a burning question, which I answer as honestly as I can.  Others become friends and continue an email exchange with me over time.  

What you'll find below is a response to an email I received several days ago, from a young, foreign student in a major Canadian city, who I've corresponded with, on and off, for over two years.  He's struggling with being single and lonely, and he wanted to know how he could meet other young men.  Here's what I had to say, which, if you're in the same place, I hope you'll find helpful.  


Your question, about how to meet more young men to date, is the twenty-five-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it?  If I had an easy answer, I could share it with lots of young people like you, and potentially make a lot of money. 

As I thought about your dilemma over the past few days, it occurred to me you’re approaching it from the wrong angle.  I believe that, if you go out specifically looking for something–or someone, in this case–you probably won’t find it.  That is, if you deliberately try to find someone you’ll be interested in, you probably won’t. At least that was my experience, and it’s the experience of many gay men I’ve known or heard from through my blog.

Believe it or not, you are already doing the things that will help you be successful at what you want.  You're socializing with friends.  You have a job.  And you’re working out and looking after yourself.  These are all ways to feel better about yourself, to build your confidence, and to network with other people.  They certainly beat sitting at home, never putting yourself out there, and wondering why you haven’t found someone yet.

So keep doing what you’re doing.  Keep building yourself up, physically, mentally, and spiritually. All of that will not only increase your confidence, but also it will make you more the kind of well-rounded person young men will be interested in. When you feel better about yourself, you’ll send out the right vibes to people around you.  And, when you see someone you like, you’ll be more inclined to approach that person and initiate conversation.  There is no substitute for working on yourself.  It will help you in all areas of your life.

If you don’t already, you probably should frequent gay bars and clubs.  A lot of people will tell you that you'll never meet a quality young man there; I might have said the same thing myself about twenty-five years ago, when I went to the clubs weekly and had no success at all.  But, then, on a fateful evening in June 1992, I met Chris at a club.  And, twenty-three years later, we’re still together.  It worked for me, and I know it's worked for a good many gay men like Chris and me. 

The thing about gay clubs today–which I’ve only read about, since I don’t frequent them any longer–is there are fewer of them than there used to be, and they don’t draw young, gay men like they used to.  Back in the day, gay clubs were the only safe places gay men could go to be themselves.  With greater acceptance of gay people in general, particularly in countries like Canada, there are other options.  The challenge for you is to figure out what those options are.

So let’s say you like photography.  Without going into it thinking you might meet someone, perhaps you should join a photography club.  Not only will you do what you like, but also you’ll meet other people–that you wouldn’t otherwise–and you might even meet another gay, young man who likes photography too.  See what I’m getting at?  What are you passionate about?  What do you love to do?  You might even find a group frequented by gay men who like to do the same thing.  You never know.  In the area where you live, I’m sure there are lots of options.  You just have to do a little research.

Regarding online dating, I haven’t tried it myself (fortunately, I haven’t had to), but I’m thinking some sites are probably more reputable than others.  Some will be hook up sites for sure, but others, like the gay equivalents of the legitimate straight online dating sites, will be much better, with a higher-quality clientele.  

You could do like my sister did when she used online dating sites to meet the man she’s now been with for eight or so years:  When you connect with someone, and you both seem genuinely interested in each other, communicate online for a period of time, getting to know each other better before actually meeting.  My sister didn’t meet her fellow in person for five or six months, during which they emailed each other, eventually spoke on the phone, and exchanged pictures.  If a young man you’re interested in online doesn’t care to wait that long, and you’re not yet comfortable meeting him in person, then you know he isn’t the one for you.  Let your heart and your conscience be your guide.  You'll know when it's the right time to meet someone.  When you do, make sure it's in a safe, public place, and never get drawn into anything you’re not comfortable with.  Never allow your need to meet someone to override your common sense and decision-making ability.

I’m proud of you for taking my advice about not giving yourself to someone physically until you love him.  That said, in the perfect world, that would be great advice to follow, but, in the real world, it may be unrealistic.  

There’s a big difference between throwing yourself at every man you see, because you’re desperate for physical attention and gratification (which a lot of gay men do), and being with the occasional young man you find attractive and feel a connection to.  See the difference?  In the former case, you think only with your penis; in the latter, you think with the head on your shoulders.  As long as you think with your head, as long as you remain in control of what’s going on, and as long as you respect and love yourself not to get involved in something that’s counter to what’s most important to you (that is, your values, etc.), then you should be fine.  

Open the door just a little to sweet and comforting physical contact with another young man.  You don't have to go all the way, if you don’t want to.  If he wants oral or anal sex, and you’re not ready to do either with him, let him know.  And don't allow him to convince you to do something you don't want to.  If you feel any pressure from him, no matter how much you might like him or feel a connection to him, he’s not the one for you.  If he respects you the way you should respect yourself, and he’s perfectly fine with your decision not to have oral or anal sex, then you have a quality young man on your hands.  Maybe oral and anal with him isn’t in your immediate future, but it could be down the road, once you know each other better, and once you feel more inclined to share yourself with him in that way.  The choice is always yours.

I know how it feels to find yourself in a social scene where you don’t fit in.  That describes me perfectly, when I was your age.  First, I didn’t fit in with my fellow classmates at school, because I knew I was different from them, and because I knew, back then, if they knew I was gay, they wouldn't accept me. 

But things got no better when I met other gay, young men like me.  They did things I didn’t like.  For example, they smoked (a lot), and they drank a lot.  In many cases, they did drugs and had a lot of anonymous sex.  You can’t imagine how frustrated I felt when I thought I’d finally found my people–the people I should be comfortable with–but I still didn’t fit in, because I was so different from them.  

So it’s difficult, but it’s also necessary, to stay in some sort of contact with other young, gay men. Although you might not think you’ll feel comfortable, you won’t know for sure until you’re there and try.  Don’t color every upcoming experience with what you know of that type of experience from the past.  Keep yourself open to meeting new people and having new experiences.  Even when you feel uncomfortable and end up leaving, you’ll still develop social skills that will help you in the future. Every experience you have will contribute to helping you become the young man you were meant to be.  And you never know–you might just find the love of your life on one of those occasions.  You certainly have less of an opportunity to meet someone who will be important to you, in terms of being either a good friend or maybe even a life partner, if you don’t make the effort, if you don’t try.  Make sense?

You are so kind to call me a mentor.  I appreciate being a positive influence for you, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.  I sincerely hope I’ve said something here that helps you on your journey.

One last word:  Everything you’re doing now is exactly what you should be doing. Your life is unfolding as it should.  Just because you haven’t found someone to date yet, someone to call your own, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.  It just means the time isn’t right.  I believe–even though some people think I’m misguided in this–that, when it’s meant to happen, you will meet the young man you’re supposed to.  I say that because, in my own life, it was true.  

I wish I’d met Chris ten years before I did, but God or the Universe or whatever had other plans for me.  I wasn’t ready yet.  I see that now, but I didn’t then.  I would have made a horrible life partner ten years before I met Chris.  In some respects, I still made a horrible life partner after I met Chris.  But I believe I’d done enough work on myself–was well on my way to being who I needed to be–to get and keep a long-term relationship.  

So many young people, gay and straight, meet who they believe are their life partners before you’re truly ready.  What you must keep in mind–in addition to believing that, when the time is right, you’ll meet the young man you’re supposed to–is this time on your own is critical to your personal development.  Don’t shortchange that.  Don’t think the time you’re on your own is less important, or less valuable, than the time you’ll spend with a partner.  It’s every bit as valuable, maybe more so. This is your time.  This is your time to be everything you were meant to be as a single, young, gay man.  Use it.  Use it fully and with enthusiasm.

Sure, you’ll be lonely from time to time.  Everyone is (believe it or not, some people in relationships are too).  And, sure, you’ll wish you were with another human being, who makes you feel great because he’s with you and no one else–who validates you and makes you feel worthwhile.  

But the one you must always look to for the things you most want from someone else…is yourself. You must give these things to yourself first.  You must respect yourself first.  You must value your own company first.  You must love yourself first.  Only when you do all these things–or you’re well on your way to doing all these things–will you truly be ready to meet that young man who will love you the way you deserve to be loved, and who will change your life in ways you can’t imagine now.