Patrick J Hamilton

Suddenly Single

Filed By Patrick J Hamilton | June 22, 2012 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: break up, Facebook friends, gay dating, Patrick Hamilton, suddenly single

Two years and two months before I turn 50, and one week and two days before Pride, I find myself suddenly single. The news took me by surprise, pulled all the oxygen from my lungs. Four wonderful years, ended with a phone call that I thought would end like every one had ended nearly every weeknight for the past four years: bigstock-Broken-heart-13398914.jpg"Pleasant dreams." Not this time.

I've been through break-ups before, but this is my first post-Facebook break-up. Which, at moments, makes me feel ancient. And at others, like a sixth grader. I need to change my status. And I don't wanna. I don't want the reaction right now from uppercase Friends (although I treasure the support). I don't want the symbolism that semi-public declaration represents. I don't want the finality of that one little click. I don't want it, or us, to be over. I know that's not what makes it over, but it feels like that, like flicking a switch and turning off the lights forever on a very bright part of my life that I don't want to go dark.

He saved me that click though, for now. He deactivated his account, so in one fell swoop, it now says I am "in a relationship," unnamed, anonymous and open-ended, with no closure. And that's exactly how I feel, in the swift wake of news I did not see coming. I am still Facebook Friends with his family and some of his friends, and I admit I've checked those pages for a sign he's sorry, or regretting the call. I've also discovered even though I am not Following him on Twitter, or him me, I can see his Tweets and check-ins if I so choose. And I admit, I've peeked. Suddenly, all so high school.

Facebook is not the only way this break-up is different from past ones. In the four years we were together-- the span between presidential elections and Summer Olympics (both moments marked side by side on a sofa)-- the world has changed around, and out from under me. He and I met in a bar (he used to call me "the Trick who never went home"). But those bars, who goes to them, and why, have changed. Every face is now almost eternally lit with a smartphone glow, boys in bars choosing to cruise Grindr instead of the man standing next to them. Good thing, I guess, my last upgrade was to a smartphone. And in those bars, which I haven't frequented too much in the past four years, I have gotten four years older, while it seems the average age has dropped by about twenty.

As I did before finding my place with him, I feel again a little lost in the Middle, standing by myself in a no man's land where I am not skinny enough, or not fat enough, or not buff enough, or not something enough. I know full well what I am worth, and it is a LOT. But the gay world can be shallow and brutal on the surface. Facing it without a distinctive place is daunting. And things I thought he loved me for anyway resurface as insecurities, like submarines breaking the waters in a terrible, panicky rush.

I have friends who have come to my side, with an overwhelming strength and generosity (and yes, some of them, if not most, were brought into my life via Facebook). But we both struggled with keeping friends in our life as he and I became a "We." And we both lost friends, friends who liked us better single. I think that happens a lot in the gay world, maybe even in the straight world too.

His (perceived and real) loss of friends was a running theme over our time together... and I worked very hard to bring friends to the table that liked us each, and liked us together. I considered many of his friends friends too, and I hope I find a way to keep them in my life. But I couldn't always convince him of the same, even though every single person I introduced him to loved him. Almost as much as I did.

Part of me feels like a fool for not seeing the signs that his unhappiness, while maybe not caused by me, involved me. Looking back I see some signs of his general unhappiness. When I tried to talk about it (and I did) he shrugged it off as career frustration, and I was reassured when he'd say, "I don't even have time to spend time with my boyfriend."

I do realize, over the last months, in hindsight, I was alone more and more, to the point a colleague said to me at an event, "Do you go everywhere by yourself?" When I look back at my stash of Facebook photos, there are fewer and few of us together. I just chalked it up to his grueling schedule in a demanding career, and credited his unhappiness with that schedule, too. I just never thought I was part of his unhappiness. He was never part of mine (except for the occasional spat). As I struggled with a career change that drained my savings and at times, my spirit, he was the one bright spot, my sunlight and moonlight in an otherwise dark or cloudy sky.

Whether I missed or misread the signs, it's hard not to be gun shy, now, hard now not to overanalyze what someone is or isn't saying.

That part makes me nervous, too... reentering the dating world as an almost-fifty year old with sometimes empty-ish pockets. I wasn't planning on being anyone's Sugar Daddy, no, but I'd like to feel I can go Dutch at a nice dinner. (Do people still say "Go Dutch"? I'll look it up on UrbanDictionary later to make sure it doesn't mean something different. Or dirty.)

I am, and I'm not, worried about keeping up a sex life or making new romantic connection. There are, thanks to technology and the unflagging libido of gay men (mine included), at least five guys in my phone I could probably hook up with this weekend if not sooner. The romantic prospect seems more iffy. My social circle is comprised largely of work and industry colleagues, and while there are MANY men in those circles I'd love to date, it's a small world and it seems dangerously like fishing off the company pier. Dear god, do I need a Match.com profile?

There are simple things it will be hard to get used to again. My bed will still have "my side" for quite a while. There are basic things I have to do again, too, that I don't want to. I have to buy condoms again, and make sure I am the guardian of my health.

I feel like I've built a stage, started a script, learned my own lines, only to have my leading man walk out. In the next act, he probably doesn't know I was plotting to borrow a ring of his to have it sized so I could buy him one. This birthday, or Christmas (whichever I could afford first), I was planning to give him one. Not to propose: he made it clear he was not a believer in marriage. But to show him I would if he wanted. That I was in it for the long haul. I don't think he knew that. I don't think, now, it matters. I used to kid that I thought he'd make a funny old man. I had planned to see firsthand, and with a ring on those fingers.

And now, without even just the symbolism of those rings, the battle for marriage equality has become an abstract concept to me once again. But in the last four years, I've met enough passionate people for whom I still share the wish, and will stand up for with passion. It's a fight I'll keep fighting, even if I'm only, for now, a Best Man or Bridesmaid.

It was a ring of a different kind I'd hoped he'd give me. Encircling one wrist, he had a beautiful tattoo he thought up (though he insisted he was not "creative"). Entwined letters, each the first letter of a family member. There was room for more letters, and I often hoped there would be, some day, room for "P" (what he also used to call me), that I'd be considered close enough to a blood relative to become entwined in his welcoming, funny family. I liked the idea of that kind of "permanent" proof, that would take a procedure to remove, and not the click of a mouse. I do wonder, if we had been married, whether he'd find a way to find happiness with me and not end it with a phone call.

The whole thing also makes me think about, and be grateful for, what it means for me to be open and Out. It means I had a network of people I could go to for support in my despair... texts, Facebook, and phone calls. What if that despair had descended upon me as a closeted man, or as a younger man in a home where my secret was kept locked away, or beaten back by a church that condemned me? All the more reason It Gets Better videos remain relevant. Even if right now, it doesn't necessarily feel any better. All the more reason I'm grateful my eyes have been opened to activism and speaking out.

I don't write any of this to blame or embarrass. I love him, and always will. I write it to help me make sense, and maybe to have someone else read it and think, "I'm not the only one who's suddenly single, suddenly scared, suddenly wrestling with a world of change I wasn't ready for, a trip I hadn't started even packing for yet."

I wish it were like it was in the movies, where a grand romantic would melt a heart and change a mind ("Please change your mind," I tearfully asked him during that phone call, knowing it doesn't work that way.) But I'm pretty sure the successful Grand Gesture only happens in Hollywood. Mine, anyhow, would be a peanut butter and jelly on an English muffin. Early on when I was already thoroughly smitten with this hardworking little man, I cabbed it up to his place in East Harlem, with PB&J in hand, dropped off with his doorlady so it'd be waiting when he came back from a surprise late shift. I would take him another now, every day, if I thought it would make a difference. I don't think it would. Plus, preparing to reenter the dating pool, he's probably off carbs.

Maybe THIS, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, is the Grand Romantic gesture: a public break-up letter where I pour my heart out in cyberspace, to anyone who happens to come across the link in their Feed. Or maybe it's just a new kind of self-indulgence that social media now affords us. Either way, if he hadn't deactivated his account, I'd share it with him on Facebook. Either way now, for all I feel and all I'd like to change, It's Complicated.

(Broken heart clipart via Bigstock)


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