Growing old, as a gay man, comes with its own unique set of challenges. Most of us have heard that once we leave our twenties that we also lose any chance to have relationships or be happy. There is a belief that youth and sexual attractiveness are the only valuable currencies in our lives. As we age, we see that not everything is bright lights and fabulous parties. We have to reshape our views on how we see the world.
Life after the thirties
Throughout history, gay men were type casted as only having an interest in appearance, attractiveness, and sex. While this isn’t limited to gay men, it does seem to be much more concentrated. While youth and sexual attractiveness may be a valuable currency, as we age we often feel that our bank accounts may be running dry. We can see how valuable this is in dating apps like Grindr and Woof.
Many gay men in their twenties seem less focused on dating and opt for random encounters. The feeling that there is a lot of life to explore leads to not wanting anything serious. When it comes to dating later in life, there is a definite learning curve. Unfortunately, many feel like there is little hope to be able to date after thirty.
So, how can we combat this?
Dating after thirty
At present, the dating pool has never been more interesting and challenging. There are as many options now, as there were in our youth. More gay men are coming out in their 40’s and 50’s than ever before. With longer life spans, there are more options for single gay men to choose from.
A survey conducted in the US found that 57% of gay men over the age of 45 are single compared to 39% of lesbians being single. This survey interviewed 1, 782 LGBT people across the US, it asked their thoughts on aging. All people, regardless of sexuality, start out as single. These studies show that lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals move on to finding long-term partners, where many gay men do not.
Relationships are hard to find and nurture. But how much harder does it become when the only role models society shows us are heterosexual ones?
How do feelings factor in
Growing up gay in modern society can cause a deep wound to our self-esteem. This can hinder opening up to another person beyond the physical level. It becomes scary to open up to others because we lock our feelings away due to the shame we’re forced to feel most of our lives. Men, in general, are less likely to talk about their feelings. But, bottling them up is counterproductive to living a more healthy life.
If we do end up in a relationship that comes to an end, we often try to numb the pain of that loss by turning to hookups. The truth is that sex is as powerful as alcohol or drugs. It’s fun and it feels good, but it is also empty and can leave you wanting more. We forget how it feels to wake up on a Sunday morning and just snuggle with someone. That loss can become extremely painful.
This leads us to find ways of coping with the pain, as such we end up on some dating app like Grindr or Woof. We search for guys that are looking for similar things to ease the pain for a short while. The problem with using sex to soothe our trauma is that casual sex can lead you to forget what you wanted to begin with.
Maybe the reason why 57% of gay men over 45 are single is because of the influence of these dating and sex apps. After all, it is pretty easy to fire up these apps and there is the next option within 300 feet. Because of the ease of finding sex that these apps allow, we have forgotten what it is like to actually date or get to know someone, beyond their sexual proclivities.
So how can we change this?
Tips to help in re-learning how to date
It is a simple fact that there are less gay people than straights. If you live in a larger city it is less of a problem than if you live in a rural area. There your chances of finding a compatible partner are decreased, due to population density. This is why dating apps have such a large benefit. So how can we change our dependency on these apps and relearn how to date?
Put your best foot forward
Because our numbers are smaller than our heterosexual counterparts, competition is very high. To combat this you need to put forth the best possible you that you can. If you are going to use online dating apps, make sure that you highlight your best qualities. Have your best friend proofread your profile to make sure it is up to snuff. In fact, have that same friend help you take a great picture for your profile.
You don’t have to settle, but don’t be too picky
Prince Charming will not find you if you aren’t out there looking for him just as much. You can start by making a list of the qualities you want to find in a person. From there, what are the ones that you will not overlook? Don’t be afraid to pass over a guy if he doesn’t meet your standards. Remember, there are a lot of great guys out there, don’t be too picky and overlook the good ones in front of you.
Confront your fears
The one simple thing you need to remember is that you are not too old to find love. After all the years of fighting social prejudice for us to gain our self-esteem, we still struggle to keep it. There are far too many negative stereotypes that reinforce the belief that gay relationships are based on physical attraction and we are less likely to find lasting relationships. This leads us to the belief we are not good-looking enough or that no one will want us. You have to remind yourself to focus on being your best self, regardless of your age. Loyalty, humor, intelligence, and compassion are ageless traits to have. Foster them to share with someone special.
Embrace your new reality
Leave trying to turn back time to Cher. Remember that you do not have to be perfect, because all too often that seems to be the equivalent of saying “young.” You can’t be 25 again and while taking care of your body and health is important, obsessing over it isn’t. Feel good about yourself and who you are. That way when someone touches you they will feel the real you and not some bundle of self-critical tension. Forget the fine lines around your eyes and make the twinkle in them more important.
You can be single and happy
In the fight for marriage equality, many of us have started to believe that being happy and single is an oxymoron. We often think it is more important to find a committed relationship than to ask if it is the right one for us. Wanting a relationship so bad that we will grab the first person that walks by and bats an eye at us. Do you want a relation with someone that doesn’t bring you happiness? We need to remember that we should not settle for anything less than good chemistry, shared values/lifestyles/goals, trust, and growing friendships with someone we love and respect. Is it worse to be single, gay, and older than it is to be coupled, gay, and unhappy?
There is no right time to start dating, just as there is no right time to come out. Remember that we should not be bound by stereotypes of old, life does not end after your twenties. Every twenty-year-old says that they will be missing out on a wonderful world of experiences. Get out there, date, and have fun.