As a gay man in his middle 60s I have begun to wonder if being alone will be my lot. I have two dogs and a cat, I am not well-off but I survive OK at present and still work.
Without children or close family nearby, I crave a relationship with mutual love, care and respect. So many gay (and no doubt other) relationships start in fiery love and/or sexual encounters, something I seem to be past. Is it possible to find someone attractive and caring and compatible at this age I wonder?
Eleanor says: I had a professor who said that our relationship to the people we love is like our relationship to art; we keep coming back to it as long as it will give or teach us something new. I remember all the bells in my brain chiming at once when he said that. It’s why I like Keeping Up With the Kardashians but I love Monet; I’m done with an episode once I watch it, but when I return to a painting I’ve already seen thousands of times, there’s always something more I haven’t seen.
This is, I think, the difference between a “fiery love and sexual encounter” and a genuinely sustaining adult connection. Fiery affairs burn bright, are easily extinguished, and are basically interchangeable, one for another. They are the Kardashians of love.
But you might well be the Monet. We are taught to be so afraid of age – a billion-dollar industry would collapse if tomorrow we all woke up and thought “I don’t care about looking young”. But your age is what gives you more to share, more to teach, more to give to a partner every time they come back.
You have a life fully lived, a complete sense of self, the wisdom that comes from having navigated your own sexuality for decades. If love lives in the inexhaustible newness of other people, then you have more to make you loveable now than you did when you were 30.
You should try to be the kind of person you would like to meet. I know that’s platitudinous and annoying to hear, but go out, do things, meet people. We can get hooked on being alone, so that the outside world feels like a burden and new people feel like an imposition. Don’t curl into the slippers and the sofa every night, however narcotic it is to sink into the comfort of well-worn solitude. We need to be uncomfortable now and then to keep changing, and we need to keep changing to stay engaging to others.
When you meet people, be careful not to lead with your sense of being alone. People can smell it, and it turns them away. You have a complete life and a whole sense of self; invite people to share that joy instead of hoping too visibly they’ll patch the part that doesn’t feel complete. We have to be nourishing and complex for others if we want to have nourishing and complex relationships.
And don’t relate to your age as a strike against you. Be nervous and self-conscious of it and people will think there is something to be self-conscious of. Be vibrant and unapologetic and they will agree that there is nothing to apologise for.
It’s natural to feel pale by comparison in a world of shiny young things. But shiny exhausts its appeal very quickly. Don’t worry about being shiny. Be the Monet.