When I first came “out” to myself nine years ago, I was liberated, excited and oh, so naïve. That last description is surprising, as I was a forty-something man who had gone to college, been in the work force for twenty-plus years, had been married and fathered three children, two of whom were then teenagers.
In terms of being gay, however, I was a newbie. In fact, in the art of dating, period, I was a profound novice. I had not dated prior to meeting my future wife at college and I was 26 years old at the time. Up to that point, my social life consisted of “hanging” with friends and work colleagues.
Today’s social media was very much in it’s infancy when I discovered my freedom back then, but there were websites to explore and explore them I did. Once contact was made with someone of interest, the route I usually took was to begin chatting with them on MSN.
This is how I came to be friends with a fellow I now refer to as my “gay mentor”. I’ll refer to him here as “GM”. A few years younger than I was, he had been “out” his entire adult life. Had run the gamut of gay life, been heartbroken a few times and was now in his gay dotage, firmly ensconced in his little Island paradise just off Vancouver, contend to live out his days with his dogs and chickens.
I had many questions that he patiently responded to. We spent enormous amounts of time online discussing gay life and culture, gay problems, dating, dangers and joys, etc. You name it, we talked about it. One of the things he helped me focus on was the development of my “gay values”. In actuality, they were already my values but we examined them under the lens of being gay.
I’ve heard it said that when someone “comes out”, the tendency is for them to go through a slut phase. The gay equivalent of “sowing your oats”, if you will. I’m told this is phenomenon is particularly prevalent amongst middle-aged men such as myself. GM helped me focus my new-found sexual freedom to ensure I avoided some of the usual pitfalls associated with newbies.
Although I was not living in any sort of closed community, I was raised in a fairly puritanical period where infidelity was scandalized, promiscuity was ridiculed and everyone was expected to live by the “Golden Rule”. Judgement of community members was constant and failure to live up to the community’s social standards was often met with swift censure. I too, learned to judge others. The sexual revolution of the Sixties had yet to make its impact on the rural back-waters of Vancouver Island.
GM also helped me define my search efforts. We developed an unofficial framework with which I was launched into the gay world to find Mr Right. The parameters for my Prince Charming included age (not too young . . . defined as no less than ten years younger than me and no more than five years older); height (around my own); physical attributes (bearish but not obese, hairy, etc); family status (I really only wanted to consider another man who was also a father), and so on.
I mention this because I am in a similar situation as when I first came out. Only things are different now.
I have come to realize that, apart from the profound sadness and grief that a widowed person feels, perhaps the unkindest aspect of becoming widowed is the sudden and permanent loss of intimacy with another human being. And then factor in as well, society’s expectation of a “reasonable” mourning period (often suggested as one year), and the life of a widow becomes sexually repressive for a long time.
Something that I didn’t know about myself until I came out, is that I am a very sexual being. I love sex. No surprise, but in particular I love gay sex. Given my current situation, I am even more acutely aware of my sexuality and do not like feeling sexually repressed.
My darling, wonderful, Bill had foresight of this and although we didn’t have a lot of time to discuss the future, he did tell me several times that he wanted me to “continue living my life” and he confided in a close friend that he told me he wanted me to “move on” after he died, “only not too soon”. The latter reference alludes to his father becoming engaged to a hospital volunteer three months after Bill’s mother died of ALS. They married within six months. It ripped his family apart.
Given my sexual feelings and with Bill’s apparent permission, I have made up my mind to “step out”, as it were. I have re-engaged some of my online profiles, including Grindr and Scruff, both gay male dating applications (“app’s”). My profile description began from the perspective that I am still mourning so all I was looking for was new friends and chat opportunities. This has quickly escalated however, to me accepting other possibilities as well.
I am re-visiting my parameters. Some of my former constraints are being cast off. I have decided to give myself permission to have fun, to enjoy myself again. I am going to allow myself to explore areas that I have never approached before. I am going to find out where my boundaries actually are and perhaps push them out a little further. Does this mean I am finally going through a delayed slut phase? Maybe, but probably not.
Slut is such an ugly word. It is also far too judgemental by nature. If there is one thing that coming out and joining a sexual minority has taught me, is that I have been far too quick to judge in the past and that it is not my place to judge others. Sure, if people are harmed, I can still condemn the perpetrator, but if no one is harmed, why judge at all?
My sexual revolution includes me jettisoning even more of the constraints that I have lived with. Only some of these are relatively later restrictions. GM would be horrified because some of the concepts I am willing to lose were developed by us when I was in my gay infancy.
For instance, I am no longer restricting age, although in reality I don’t want to be involved with anyone close to my kid’s ages (ie: less than 30) and for certain, even if I made an occasional exception there, they would have to be legal age of majority as a minimum. I have also raised the maximum age because as I get older, I am more and more in tune with men up to ten years older that I. It’s interesting, because in the past week since re-joining dating apps, I have had much more interest from 35-37 year-old’s than anyone else and they have been great fun.
I’m also throwing out my steadfast restriction against playing with partnered individuals in so-called “open relationships”, either singly or as a couple. Again, GM would faint at the thought. I’ve come to the conclusion, that if these two men have made a decision to play outside their relationship and as long as they are honest and forthright about it to each other, who am I to judge? I will draw the line however, if I think one of them is cheating on the other. Cheating is not harmless and I reserve my ability to apply the “Golden Rule” to them for that.
In the long run, I want to find another soul-mate, someone who I can love unconditionally and who loves me in the same way. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy myself and elevate my level of fun by letting go of old constraints . . .