Where to start? I don’t really want to write yet another blog post where the theme is the well-trodden path of being single, being lonely, and the angst and pain that goes with that.
But, it cannot be denied either. I worry that it may come to define me in some way.
As previously noted in SLD 113, for the last few months I have started to attend counselling sessions. This is no ‘magic bullet’ solution – counselling takes time and it’s as much about reflection on things as it is about changes of direction.
So far, it has not really revealed anything I did not really already know but has perhaps helped to set a perspective on things.
An issue that has been there for a long time is that of me ‘giving’ but getting little in return. This perhaps requires more explanation. As part of my catholic upbringing I had ‘giving back to society’ driven in to me as a constant theme at school assemblies. The impact on me of that has been that whenever I join a group or an organisation I almost always (with very few exceptions) become part of the administration (committee, council, trustee etc).
Now, this is all very well and commendable, but there are downsides to this. First, let me say I am (without being egotistical) good at admin and organisation, after all I have done a lot of it. I have a long track record of sorting out organisations which are in a mess. So, on the plus side you get organisations that function better, work well, and people do tend to appreciate what I do (again, there are exceptions). The downside includes things like my involvement becomes such that I don’t actually get to enjoy the events and activities of the various organisations because I’m too busy making them happen and making sure they run properly. It also means that at the regular meeting or rehearsals there is less opportunity to socialise as again I will be involved in the admin meaning there are people to see and talk to about the organisation’s business.
So, I am busy contributing to these organisations and helping to make them work, but there is little reciprocation from all of this giving. There is rarely any benefit in terms of social experience or in terms of developing a personal network other than those which benefit the organisations.
Some examples may help. I was on the committee of my local astronomical society for over 20 years and held every post from the most junior to president. I walked away at the end of my term as president as I realised that I was not valued and all I got for my considerable effort was abuse. I have been on the committees of a number of choirs for up to 15 years and again I have been chairman of them. I get to organise concerts and events, some very large and very time consuming. Again, I eventually left the organisations when I realised I was more use to them and I was getting little in return: in one case I got abuse.
Despite all of this work in making organisations function and prosper, little comes back. You get very little appreciation for the time and effort you put into these things. When I was younger, part of my reasoning for becoming involved was to be a part of things and to enhance the opportunities for socialising and meeting people. Perhaps I have been unlucky, but it’s not been a feature of my experiences. There are five groups I have had a long-term association with: the astronomical society (over 20 years); church group over 30 years; two choirs – about 15 years each; music summer school for 8 years. Out of all of those groups and the collective nearly 90 years of association (obviously in effect not actually elapsed time) only from the astronomical society do I have any enduring friendships: I left the society over 20 years ago.
In many ways the church related group was the worst. I was involved heavily with that from my late teens until I was 40 and still associated for years after that. Despite decades of close involvement and being a part of things for such a long time, I have zero enduring friendships from there – some of the people there I have known since the early 1970s i.e. over 40 years. Of course, there is one rather toxic element, namely the catholic church’s attitude to homosexuality. I could write at length on the hypocrisy of that and I have commented on it previously in one of my posts about religion.
So, none of the groups I have been in for the last 20 or more years has really generated any new true friendships beyond casual acquaintances.
It’s not easy to work out why or what is going on here. Plain simple fact: people who are in couples tend to only associate with other couples and rarely do single ‘friends’ get invited to social gatherings (unless they’re open events to all members of the group rather than private events). Even people who I would have regarded as friends seem to discount me when it comes to hosting events, as I discovered numerous times over the years. There have been notable exceptions – one lady in particular made a special point of inviting single people to her dinner parties – but they are rare.
The second point is a related one. The last twenty years has seen me through my 40s and 50s. It is inevitable that the vast majority of people in that age group will be partnered and in couples. So, the demographic is against me as well.
The third point has been covered before but it is the challenge of meeting other gay guys in a social context. The prevalence of so-called dating apps has virtually wiped out the old LGBT centres, clubs, and groups where gay men used to meet and socialise. If you’re young, or if all you want is casual sex, then the apps can work for you. However, they are terribly superficial since people are making decisions about whether to meet someone or not on the basis of very superficial criteria in a profile displayed on a phone, rather than on the basis of having met the person and chatted to them.
I’ve spent a week writing this post on and off. Usually I write them in one go at a single sitting. Partly I wanted it to be more considered. The last few paragraphs have been written on a bank holiday Monday. So, what are my latest thoughts?
I have already decided that I need to stop being the person who ‘gives’ all the time. I have been sitting on committees and doing that for well over 40 years. As of a few weeks ago, I am no longer on any committees or trustee of any charities. I have contributed more than my fair share back into society.
I have decided to try joining groups using meet-up.com. So far, I have joined two types of groups: some photography groups, and some LGBT social groups. I’ve had three social events thus far and a photography one coming up in a week or so. There are issues – none of these groups is near home and all involve substantial amounts of travel, but that is the penalty of not living in an urban / metropolitan area.
The weekend has been mixed: social event for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, orchestra on Sunday, but an empty day on Monday.
It’s too early to tell if these new events and different directions will work to take me forwards or not. We can just try and see where it goes.