I know I’m not the only one that feels a little lost around the holidays. The season tends to focus on family, and love, and togetherness, and acceptance, and for anyone who doesn’t have one or more of those things, the have-nots tend to overshadow the haves, despite all the “be grateful” crap thrown around the airwaves. I’ll say that I am blessed with an amazing family that I absolutely adore, and loves and supports me unconditionally. However, it’s difficult not to think about the fact that, as my cousins get married and have children and my aunts and uncles and parents age into retirement, I’ve been single for a dozen or so years at this point with no end in sight. Being single in and of itself isn’t the problem, really, because I am a staunch believer in the idea that one must be comfortable within his own skin before a relationship with anyone else is a viable reality, but it’s gotten to the point where my “own skin” needs a bit of darning where it’s been well-worn.
When it comes to someone I could see myself with, there are really only three things I look for, with a few subset requirements from each. The idealist in me doesn’t think these things are too much to ask for, but the jaded realist in me is starting to believe that it’s impossible to find them all together. My requirements, so to speak, in chronological order of importance are mutual attraction, a respect for individuality, and a modicum of commitment.
Without mutual attraction, the rest doesn’t really even matter. While there are certainly traits, both physical and personal, that redirect my blood flow away from my brain, I don’t really consider myself to have a “type”. I’m attracted to men of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and while I have a few Seinfeldesque deal-breakers that I won’t go into here, for the most part I try to see the whole over the sum of the parts. But, let’s face it, beauty is how people attract mates, and it certainly does help to be able to turn my head; the hard part is keeping me from turning away again. When I go on a first date, or meet someone for the first time, there are two questions that go through my mind: “Can I see myself in bed with this person?” and “Can I see this person getting along with my family?” The first I can usually answer right away, and if the answer is “yes” then I can investigate in order to ascertain the answer to the second question. Most guys I meet, within minutes, I can tell that long term potential is out of the question, and I can make the decision whether to pursue a relationship anyway, with the expectation that it won’t last very long but maybe, just maybe, he will surprise me or at least give me a few enjoyable romps, or to cut my losses and move on.
If dating someone is on the table, one of the things I absolutely need is my own space. I am a very independent person, always have been, so if the beginning of the relationship consumes so much of my free time that I can’t even go to the bathroom without getting an earful about not spending enough time together, it’s over before it begins. I am a whole person, and I expect him to be too. There are very codependent people out there in the world, and that’s perfectly fine, but they need to find each other, not try and make it work with me despite our different needs. Ultimately, it’s a matter of respect. If you can’t respect my need for elbow room, then you don’t respect me and who I am. If I like someone, I can very well spend almost every day seeing him, but once in a while I need to be able to say, “Hey, you know what? Tonight I just wanna knit and chill in my pajamas with my cat. Let’s do dinner on Thursday?” without a nuclear reaction, just as I would expect him to have a life outside of me. As anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows, I have a host of health issues, and the best thing for me sometimes is to just retreat into myself for a night or so until the worst passes; then I can be sociable again. Someone so self-obsessed that takes that personally will ultimately just feel rejection when that’s not the case at all, and that’s not fair for either of us. Of course, if my relationship with someone escalates to the point of, say, marriage, then it’s during those times of duress I would need him to be the one person I could let in when otherwise I’d want to be alone, just like I would be there for him.
When it comes to the idea of commitment, this is where my opinion really differs from a large percentage of the gay community, and even gets a little political. While I am in full support of those in triads/open relationships/polyamorous situations, they’re not for me, at least not where I am in my life right now. Unless done “right” I tend to find guys in those kinds of relationships to be selfish, one-sided, callous, and arrogant. I’ve watched many friends in those situations get burnt because all the participants are not on the same page as to what they ultimately want from each other. Often I will see a relationship open up because one’s eyes start wandering and the other is so afraid of losing him, he allows it without concern to his actual feelings about it, and the relationship effectively ends before either really realizes it’s over. If I am ever to be in an open relationship, it will be after a period of monogamy where we’re both secure in our feelings for each other, and we both want the same things from including others, but I firmly, firmly believe that cannot happen before monogamy is achieved and maintained. Otherwise, you might as well just demote the relationship from “boyfriends” to “dating” and stop deluding yourselves.
I’m not saying that I need to know the above about someone from the get go; I also believe that relationships need to happen organically, and that feelings and commitment can’t be forced, but I do keep a brief and relatively generic bullet list in my head as I go out on second, third, fifth, twentieth* dates with someone to make sure that I am remaining true to my own needs and desires.
* Let’s face it, I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a twentieth date with anyone. I average two to three dates a year lately, and the last boy I went on more than three with was almost six years ago.
Those of you familiar with Hedwig and the Angry Inch know the story behind The Origin of Love, where the concept of a soulmate is derived from a whole being getting split in two, forced to try and find each other again. It’s a lovely idea, and I held true to that ideology for longer than I care to admit, but I just don’t feel it’s the truth anymore. I honestly believe that there are many soulmates out there for everyone, and sometimes they come in the guise of friends, lovers, or members of your own family. I don’t have any grand expectations as to the form my soulmate(s) will take, I just hope that someday soon I get the opportunity to find out.