Thursday 28 April 2022

As an older gay man

Resisting the platitudinal

Rarely do I comment on matters of deep emotional situations, especially when it comes to relationships and I would be reticent to give relationship advice as there is no template to coupling and desire, we are as individuals seriously complex beings who in the course of life find and choose people who impact our lives like no other.

With some we form such deeply inexplicable and emotional bonds we might never find the words to express, we just know that the person who has come into our lives is extraordinarily special, incomparable to any other and paramount in the purview of any matter of concern and import, they are where our hearts and lives are. In the middle of which, we take each day like it would last forever.

Alas, the forever we hope for is only to the extent of the moment we are in, for nobody knows even as the hearts of two merge into one, how things might turn out, what things might be changing in either them or us and how we can be blinded by circumstance to suddenly happen upon a catastrophic breakup. It happens and there is no easy way to deal with it.

A commentary lost

It is on this that I posted a comment on Instagram a few days ago to commiserate, sympathise, probably empathise on the breakup of young black queer couple who had been together for a few years. Some of the emotional fallout had been playing out on social media that I read with just a signal of acknowledgement until I saw a radical move of relocating to another city. That triggered the urge to engage with viewpoint of life, experience, grief, hope, and stories.

Unfortunately, the somewhat substantial comment I posted to that particular situation was lost when the original poster deleted that status, my attempts to recreate what wrote in the context of that posting here would at best be ambitious, but I felt strongly about it enough to dedicate a blog to the matter.

Blog: Opinion: Who owns the public conversation?

Sharing experiences of life

As an older black gay man, I probably have a few tales to tell, no so much as an activist, but just as someone who has decidedly just accepted that in my own difference, I belong in the common embrace of diversity in the pursuit of happiness that I have rarely shirked from.

I was intimated with and reminded recently that I am some sort of role model, and I can say none of this is by intention or purpose, however, in the telling of my story either by myself or others, some have recognised an affinity and a belonging that they can freely be who they are, not as the proselytised, but in knowing they are not alone.

It happened to me

I also had a relationship that lasted almost 7 years, I thought we would be together forever, but one day, I was told what we had going was no more and when I enquired deeper about what might have changed, I realised there was another person from whom my partner had to seek counsel to determine whether we still had something going. It was then that I knew it was over.

At that point, I thought my world was over, I cried for days, got compassionate leave from work, went to stay with an elderly gay couple who were like family whilst I tried to sort myself out. What helped me through that breakup was the support of friends and even more significantly, the offer of continued friendship and love from my newly ex-partner’s parents, it somehow made me see beyond the present without any pretence that there was any hope of reconciliation.

For me, I decided I was going to work on the transition from being a lover to becoming a friend with the passage of time, it was left to my ex-partner if he would want to be a friend, but I was of the view that 7 years was too consequential a period in one’s life to just dispense of a relationship that lasted that long.

That my ex is one of my best friends, we chat every few weeks and sometime last week marked 30 years since we first met at London Euston Station and felt an unexplained attraction towards each other that developed into loving relationship.

Making difficult transitions

Though I eventually handled that breakup well, I had had one before him that just lasted a few weeks, from around Christmas of 1991 into mid-February 1992, much as I loved him, there were signs it would not last, his friends never liked me and wondered why he was going out with a black guy.

When we broke off, we also had nothing to build a friendship on, it affected me so much that my boss at work said to me, the way I looked so different from my normal disposition suggested I was going through a relationship breakup, it was much later that I confided in him.

The result of breakup of the longer relationship was just over a year after it, I emigrated to the Netherlands where I lived for almost 13 years and where my ex came to visit a number of times, furthermore, I was chaperone to his grandmother who as a war widow, yearly visited the Commonwealth War Graves of Arnhem Oosterbeek where his grandfather is buried until her death.

And life happened

In the Netherlands, I had a few relationships, some fractious, others enduring, and whilst they did not last, with those that we could find friendships out of the ruins of a relationship, we remain friends, and at the very least I call them on their birthdays.

I also suffered bereavements, one said partner died just a few days after I left hospital in 2009, we were a bit estranged but had not broken up. That death I grieved alone for years, and it probably hindered me from contemplating new relationships too.

Other short relationships, hopeful and hopeless followed with some yielding new friendships that I reckoned I was not cut out for this thing called love, my life was filled with ex-boyfriends who had become friends, they securing significant others along the way. I have always been happy for them.

I found new love

Then I decided after a challenging year of 2018 to spend Christmas in South Africa and there, someone I would never have approached as I reckoned, he was out of my league, came round to say hello at a club I attended, he stole my heart away.

I found love in a somewhat hopeless place in a person that would be stuff of dreams, this same person is known to all my ex-partners who have embraced him and welcomed him into their friendship too. We are planning on setting up home together and getting married too. I could not have scripted that for myself in my wildest dreams.

Living for a better story

On the matter of relationships, we can only work with what we have got in the moment and time we have to cherish each other, we can build on our dreams towards forever, but there is no guarantee that it would all turn out right, such is life. Yet, we cannot for the fear of failure never live in the expectation of wonder, adventure, love, and happiness. Life has its mysteries out of which we craft stories.

To my friend, I said on his Instagram post, “we are meant to live, to survive, to thrive, and to glow, I know you will do well. You will get to write a better story cherishing the past and looking forward to the future.”

There are parts of our life story when living through it, there is no fun, no joy, much sadness and sometimes the loss of hope, but as long as we are living, we cannot give up, for breakups, we need the time to grieve and begin to repair, hopefully with the likelihood of keeping a semblance of friendship going, we are possibility personified, the stories do get better, and breakups are part of the fabric and tapestry of life preparing us for new relationships to take us on journeys that were once impossible.

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