Saturday, October 19, 2013

Men. Man. No Men.

Men

One of my favorite activities every week is my Married/Formerly Married Men's Group meeting.  I never would have guessed that I'd enjoy any kind of "support" group, but I like this one.  A lot.

What's weird is that, for as much as I like the group, I sometimes wonder whether I would have taken the time to get to know my co-participants if I'd met them in some other way.  For example, what do I have in common with a scraggly-looking, 79 year old widow who lives 45 minutes away, in a trailer behind his daughter's house? Well, now that I've gotten to know him and his story, I have a big soft spot for him.  I feel his sadness and anguish as he copes with the loss of his long-time partner and struggles to stay relevant to his children and grandchildren.  He's a good man who deserves to be happy just as much as I do; just as much as anyone does, really.

For me, there's a magic to the group, a magic that I didn't really "get" until my third or fourth meeting.  At first, I thought these guys were just formerly closeted men who decided to come out in mid-life.  Now I've come to realize that even if their sexual preference is clear (and sometimes it's not), they're fundamentally different from both straight and gay men, and that difference isn't so much about sexual preference as it is about life experiences.
What's this man's life like?

What I mean is, living in the suburbs as a straight married man and raising children is NOT like living as a single, gay man in the city.

Similarly, living as a single gay man who is raising children in the suburbs is NOT like living as a stereotypical straight suburban dad.

Although I can keenly relate to various aspects of those two different lifestyles, I've found that no one truly understands what it's like to be me, a single gay suburban dad, unless they've already walked in my shoes.


And how different is it than this man's?

Life-long gay men, even ones who were closeted well into their 30s, just don't understand what it's like to raise children in the suburbs.

And even the most open-minded, straight suburban men don't understand what it's like to be a single gay dad.


Gay with kids: its own lifestyle


But the men in my support group are all men like me.  They're dads, they've had long (and usually good) relationships with women, and, what they most want now is to connect with another caring man and settle down and enjoy a happy, peaceful life together.


I think it's fair to say that my participation in the support group has very positively affected the way I view other formerly married men, especially those with children.

My attraction to this demographic has grown so strong that when I started dating again earlier this year, the very first online search I did was to find exactly those kind of men.  Likewise, the first guy I messaged was a single gay suburban dad.  Part of the reason I found his profile attractive was because he said, "I am the father of two amazing handsome, smart, kind and good young men. They are my greatest accomplishment. They have made me a better man."

Apparently, he didn't think I could make him a better man.  Or maybe he just didn't share my affinity for formerly married men with children.  Either way, he never replied to my message.

Getting ignored right out of the gate immediately brought back memories of my previous year's dating frustrations.  For that reason I decided to try a new approach.  Instead of proactively reaching out to men who seemed like good matches, I thought I'd try "saying yes" to the men who contacted me.  That's almost entirely what I did.  In five months of active dating, I think I only sent an initial message to three guys, including the first one who ignored me.

Man

One of the two other guys I messaged first was also formerly married.  He turned out to be the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" when it came to my self-esteem. 

I had many good reasons to reach out to him.  Not only did we have similar values and interests, and not only was he a recently divorced father of two school age children, but he also lived just a few miles away, a rarity.  Perhaps most promising of all, he seemed to have an interest in me because he visited my profile several times over a period of a few weeks.

I was waiting for him to message me first but I changed my mind about that when I saw him having brunch with his parents in a local restaurant.  Seeing him in person was very helpful because it convinced me he was well within my league, in terms of appearance, even though he was five years younger.

I also decided to take the plunge because I knew he'd respond.  I mean, he pretty much promised he would in his profile: "I especially welcome meeting other single dads."
This guy is better looking.

Of course it turned out that he does not welcome meeting just any single dad.  He has his standards...and I didn't make the cut.

Ouch.

I was so surprised to be rejected that I re-analyzed my decision to contact him.  I went through the mental checklist:  Numerous shared interests? Check.  Shared life values? Check. Age appropriate?  Check.  Height appropriate?  Check.  In my league?  Check. (Somewhat similar to the guy pictured, only less attractive.)  Lives nearby? Check.  Willing to date a guy with kids?  Definitely.

He was one of those "on paper" ideal matches.  The kind of guy that I'd expect to easily be friends with, even if we didn't have any romantic chemistry.  It was a no-brainer to message him.  Of course he would reply.

Only he didn't.

As I've said, my self-esteem was already in a downward spiral before that, for several reasons:  I had a series of strange dates and rejections; I learned that the one guy who I thought really liked me, my bf of several months, was never very interested; and, I came to the realization that too much exercise had significantly and adversely affected my once youthful appearance.  Not getting a reply from Mr. Average Dad was the final kick when I was already down, a kick that my battered ego just could not take.

The only way to heal from the cumulative hurt I was feeling was to withdraw from dating for a while.  Most likely, a long while.

No Men

It's been four months since I've been out on a date - and more than a year since I've had sex.  You'd think I'd be depressed about those things, but I'm not.  It's actually a relief not to be dating.  It's one less headache to worry about.

I haven't given up on men entirely, but in their absence I have (unexpectedly) achieved an element of inner contentment that I've been missing for years.  I've realized that I can be single and celibate for the rest of my life and still be happy.  That's not my preferred outcome but it definitely wouldn't make for a sad or miserable life either.

Like many closeted married men in mid-life (or older), I was afraid that if I ever became single I'd be too old to find a new partner.  That's not the reason I stayed married but it was certainly a big fear that I had. 

Now that I'm living that reality, I have to say that it feels good to have faced that fear and conquered it.  Even better, I've realized that overcoming it has laid the foundation for a much needed (and hopefully permanent) boost of my self-confidence.  We've all heard that cliche' that "you can't love someone else until you love yourself first."  I'd like to add a corollary to that: "You can't love yourself until you realize what good company you are."

Anyway, this is my way of saying that I'm healing and growing.  I plan to continue to take time off from dating for at least the next several months.  I'll return when I genuinely feel motivated to do so.  Until then I'll happily keep busy with other interests, including blogging.

11 comments:

  1. Widen your pool of possibles, quite often those that lives are to similar are not good matches. While online dating profiles work wonders for hook-ups, its hard to see if there is a true spark that might lead to more. Check the web for a local gay men's social group on Meetup.com. I think that would be the best way to meet people, some of who might morph into friends, and who knows maybe a love match might come out of it.

    While tis easy to say to not let being turned down ding your self esteem. Really try to not let it niggle at you, how much of why they turned you down have nothing to do with you, but them and their issues? Dating is a grinder at any age, but when there are other pans of worry on the stove, it makes it all the more severe. Which is why a social club would be a better bet for you than the online option.

    Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Biki - Thanks for your very helpful suggestions! In addition to the men's group I've been attending a monthly gay men's gathering since May. That's a very large and diverse group; sometimes more than 100 guys attend. I also check Meet-up groups periodically and I've attended one gathering. Those events have been difficult for me to make. For example, the hiking groups meet on Saturday mornings but my son has a game every Saturday.

      I definitely prefer social gatherings to online dating. The whole point of online dating is to meet in person. With social groups you skip all the drama and you have a casual, no expectations meeting. It's ideal, really. That's why I will continue to attend various gatherings when I can.

      Thanks again for your insights and suggestions!

      Delete
  2. Glad that you are in a support group. Though I have decided to stay in my marriage being around gay/bi married men in a support group also helps me along the journey.

    Don't give up. It takes years to find the right one. Work on your issues while you are looking.

    Don't worry about growing older. Yesterday I was walking down the street and I was smiling because I was going to an orchestra concert with a friend. I passed a guy. Okay, he was drop dead gorgeous: Asian, muscular, tall, and he was with a male companion about his age (late twenties or very early thirties). A few steps after we passed, I turned around to get another look. I nearly fainted when he looked around to look at me with a grin on his face! We walked on but that moment made my day. I'm fifty years old and expending tremendous energy fighting off love handles. He was totally out of my league and he still looked back to check me out.

    The point is that unless you are a total troll, someone will find you handsome and he will be totally hot. Don't let your fears get the edge on you.

    YNT

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi YNT - I've been going to the men's group for more than a year. As I said, I really enjoy it.

      What a thrill to have a drop dead gorgeous guy check you out! Especially if he was 30 or younger and you're 50. If that ever happened to me it would make my year. I'm very happy for you.

      Who knows if someone will ever be into me. Plenty of people are single their entire lives or for many years. If they can be happy, I can be too.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  3. I would be careful about jumping to the conclusion that this guy rejected you because something is wrong with you. He could be just nervous about meeting. Maybe he thinks he's out of YOURr league. Or maybe he has a preference for porn stars.

    I completely sympathize. This gay dating thing is awful when you are over 40. At least you should know that you're not alone in this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right that it's best not to make assumptions about rejection. In this case, the guy has since changed his profile and what he says explains his attitude pretty well. He took out the part about meeting other single dads and replaced it with "My free time is scarce so I am pretty selective about who I spend it with:)" Also, he's a doctor and they're not known for being shy, insecure or nervous. If anything this guy is just the opposite.

      We discuss dating headaches in the men's group and you're right, it is very reassuring to know that I'm not alone.

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    2. hey now, i think his attitude is more a function of himself than his profession..unless he is a surgeon, and yes those guys do tend to be jerks. if it's any consolation, dating isn't much easier for us younger guys.

      Delete
  4. I really enjoyed this post and your perspective.

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  5. The support group sounds nice and I wish I could go to one while married, but that is not realistic for me. I am in the same age range as you and do fear dating again, but also love the wife. We just don't really like each other now, it seems. You are really quite a role model for me in the gay father dept. The kids are moving out/ college now; maybe my courage will go up but my age will too. Like you, I enjoy my company and could finish life alone, but like to have sex too. Maybe separate sex from "relationship" and you might find them coming together by chance.
    Roger

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  6. hey, I don't give up on dating. I came out two years ago when I was 38 and it was crazy. I was horny all the time but was freaking scared of doing anything or meeting anyone. I did meet a few nice people on craigslist, but some new friends told me to do okcupid and that worked out better for me, though it was 50/50 response from men that I thought I would like...really weird. So I expanded my search criteria and decided to just meet anyone who seems nice and has a decent job....2.5 years later and I'm in a relationship with a great guy who really cares about me. Have you tried meetup.com? I joined groups that sparks my interest such as hiking, kayaking, poker, or wine tasting. It's a good way of meeting people and potential lovers/boyfriends. Good luck!

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  7. I'm happy that finally someone blogs this. It's what I told some of my friends all the time when they got divorced. They are all always so eager to find someone new. But often people forget the most important part: Someone who is content with himself is much happier and actually gets more attractive. Learn to live with yourself happyily, love yourself. Don't depend on someone else for your happiness. Share this when the right person comes along but don't waste your time to wait for someone else to make you happy. You can do it.

    ReplyDelete