I've discussed my multiple personality disorder before.
Sometimes, I'm a teacher, or a male, or a gay person. Sometimes I'm a gay male teacher who writes, or a gay male writer who teaches. And only one of those may change with retirement, but the persona of being a teacher for thirty-plus years will be ingrained in me.
After a long day teaching, I come home and face the chores of being a homeowner. In spite of my grousing about the chores and financial responsibility, I don't want to go back to renting. So, that won't change.
But, I'm always single and at midlife. And one of these will change and one might. I will grow older. I might remain single the rest of my life. The possibility does exist as the gay male community can be very superficial, with ageism being a very large part of that superficiality.
Yet, as I'm entering the dating/social arena, I find a couple more personalities have surfaced leaving me more confused than before.
A while back, a seemingly nice guy asked me for a possible date. Someone I shared this nice bit of news described me as "giddy" and it's true. I felt giddy as a school boy whose crush just asked him to the prom. As I have begun confronting the realities of dating, I have discovered, it's all new to me. I'm not sure I even understood it back then, in the 1980's when I first started gaily dating. I feel like; no, I am the awkward teenager just learning to date and beginning to understand what the secret codes men use actually mean. "Let's get together soon," means "I really don't see a future in even our hanging together (I just don't have the courage to be honest enough to tell you directly)." But, enough of that. Many awkward teenagers can't count the years to retirement on two hands, let alone be thinking of it. And this is what's adding to my own confusion.
Over the almost four years since my divorce I have discovered one thing about my past relationships. I surrendered so much of myself, I no longer know who I am; what do I like and not like? what do I want and not want in a relationship? But, I have come to understand one thing:
I am a 56 year old teenager when it comes to dating.
Minus the excessive libido.
So, how can I know what I'm looking for, when I don't even know who I am?
And is it fair to drag someone else through this mire of confusion when I'm trudging through it myself?
While I tell myself it's okay to be confused, after all, I never expected to be dating again after I met my now ex-husband, it still is overwhelming and at times, it hurts.
What hurts is the thought of rejection. These men who have decided not to date, or even pursue a platonic friendship with me, (i.e., reject me) do not know who they are rejecting, so it is more of a reflection on where they are in their lives. I can accept that, mentally. Emotionally, it is a bit harder.
I think because for many years, I have been rejected. Rejected by society, by my church, by family, by friends, and ultimately, by myself. I say by myself, because in reality, only two family members actually rejected me when I came out. I didn't lose any real friends, my coworkers didn't care I was gay, so much of the perceived rejection was in my mind. Society has rejected me as I see anti-gay hate crimes across the media. School society rejected me by calling me names, taunting me, bullying me.
So, dating has taken me back to high school when I didn't even date then. I wasn't out then and not really in the popular crowd, as I was a loner, changing high schools every year.
As I learn to navigate the dating rapids, I must also realize that gay dating is a bit different than non-gay dating. Sort of. Men tend to react to the physical first, the emotional later. So, we both have to think the other is hot, then we have to decide if we even like each other. Sounds a bit backwards to me. Yet, since I am at midlife, and not looking to be a "daddy" for the third time, I must accept I am not a teenager who happens to have a full gray beard. (Hmm. Maybe I should shave it?) Dating at midlife is different than dating in your teens, twenties, or even thirties, with the exception that many guys in all age groups are expecting, or seriously hoping to have sex on the first date. Older men may have children and/or grandchildren in the picture. Do I want to become an instant step(grand)parent? (I realize I'm putting the cart before the horse, but it is a reality I may have to face.) Men my age may have more of a possibility of being HIV+ because less was known in the 80's about transmission, diagnosis, and treatment. (I will need to decide on dating the man, not the diagnosis.) Men my age have worked long and hard for their financial security, and are looking for someone who has as well, not someone looking for support. (A lot of my financial security was eroded post-divorce as I learned to juggle the budget.) And many men my age are not looking to date men my age because we older men have more baggage to overcome as we've collected more emotional souvenirs from our past relationships. (I come with full steamer trunks.)
So, the odds aren't necessarily in my favor. I've come to terms with that.
That doesn't stop the giddy teenager from giggling and getting goosebumps when an nice, attractive guy asks me out.
Nor, does it stop the hopeful romantic from wishing it would blossom into something special.