Last Saturday night I came face to face with a demon. I attended a dinner hosted by Black Tie International, a social club of gay men who meet several times a year for a black-tie dinner. About thirty men attended; the average age was sixty-six. Almost all were partnered, most for twenty to forty years.
I loved meeting these men. They were fabulous role models on how to grow old gracefully. Even though most were retired, all led extremely rich lives. I loved learning about their lives. One was writing a memoir; another enjoyed gardening; many divided their time between North Carolina and Florida.
I had fun, yet waves of sadness and longing washed over me now and then throughout the evening. Scanning the crowd, these men became mirrors. Looking into their eyes I saw my aging self.
I just turned fifty-six. I am far from a senior citizen, but aging is on my mind. Maybe it’s because several close friends are battling serious diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and heart trouble. Or maybe it’s simply the flecks of gray that have appeared around my temples, and the deepening fine lines around my eyes. But more likely, it’s because I’m single. I ask myself tough questions like: Is this aging body still capable of attracting a potential mate? Who will take care of me if I get sick?
These questions don’t belong exclusively to single gay men; my single girlfriends struggle with them too. But most have children who will take care of them in their advancing years, I reason. And finding a mate in the straight world is certainly easier than in my world, although most of my girlfriends would disagree.
Buck up, I say to myself. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You have a wonderful life. It’s true, but when I think about aging I get scared. I dance with one of my demons.