L.A. Affairs

I was 55, gay and worried: Why would anyone want to date me?

After the dissolution of my 21-year relationship, I found myself in a unique situation. What would I, as a 55-year-old gay, Latino man living in the Valley, have to offer the dating world?

I mean, I had always sensed that aging in youth-oriented Los Angeles, and having the ability to find love in the middle ages, would not be pretty. And I had always been told once a gay man hits his 50s, “paying for it” was the norm.

Turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

First, though, I had to untangle my mangled emotions. Although we had never married, I can tell you that recovering from that relationship was tantamount to dealing with a death or divorce. I sought help from my family, friends and a professional counselor as I wanted to be truly free of whatever damage had been done over the course of the messy breakup. I wanted to emerge from this as emotionally healthy as possible. I kept to my six-times-a-week gym schedule at L.A. Fitness, and I also began meditating. I even took up yoga, which I now commit to regularly. All these things helped me to heal my battered psyche.

Then I began to get that yearning. I understand myself pretty well, and although I am quite content to sit on a rock in the middle of the desert and be at peace by myself, I tend to do better when I have someone at my side.

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I began to explore. There are the bars — the Rages, the Abbeys — you know, the traditional mating ground of the gay male; dating sites; and of course the alternate “apps” where you can geo-locate the love of your life – or at least find someone to enjoy some time with.

Starting with the apps, I had always heard they were a place in which companionship could easily be found. However, now I viewed them differently. I was less concerned with torsos and more with profiles. I found that there are indeed a healthy number of people who use these sites to seek out, dare I say, relationships. There is something in the anonymity of these sites that makes conversation easy and I have made a number of friends whom I regularly chat with.

The professional dating sites like Match.com, are more complex. Having spent my life as a professional communicator, I have to think I am at least a decent storyteller. I sent more than a few emails and received pretty much meager results. Now, I am not model material but I am not roadkill either, so I was surprised. Anyone who has certain ZIP Codes in their profile I pass on, as I am very down to earth and suspect I would have little in common with some of the more elite digits around L.A. (such a snob, I know).

Further, anyone who has “sitting by a fireplace,” “walking on the beach” or “staring longingly into each other’s eyes” is passed on. Why? I have been in two long-term relationships, and anyone who has been can tell you that you spend more time fighting over who’s going to take out the trash rather than looking at each other adoringly. So I look for those who have been in relationships, or who at least seem to be grounded in the realities of life.

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Bars are not an option for me; they are bacterial breeding grounds for insecurity. I don’t need that at this point.

Dating is so vastly different now. People no longer talk, they text – incessantly. You have to understand, I stopped dating before the age of the Internet, so there have been 21 years in which a new infrastructure had been built up that I had not been privy to, but again, I am rallying.

I have never had a “type” and in the past was attracted to those older than myself; they generally had more to say and I appreciated their knowledge and understanding of self. Now the rules have changed. Someone 20 years older than me would be in their 70s, so not the same feeling. And I am a really “young” 55. I like Coldplay, can still make it up the trails at Griffith Park, have been known to savor a musical or two at the Pantages, and have a very open mind and heart. So the people I am conversing with are younger.

When I say younger, I did not plan for a person in his mid-20s to become part of my new landscape for the four months he did – and no, I did not pay for it.

I have to give credit to this person, he was the first one in 21 years who got me to open my heart, as bruised and battered as it was. It felt wonderful and painful and I was able to experience the Hollywood Bowl through a new set of eyes. We had a lot in common, but in the end, the age expanse made a difference. We spent many a night talking until 2, 3 in the morning, but I get up at 5 a.m. and this new lifestyle wasn’t really working with my schedule. I remembered at that age, those were common hours to keep. I also found I had to explain pretty much everything; as intelligent as my friend was, he simply did not have the experience. So we’re on hiatus, most likely permanently.

I made a date with an esoteric 40s guy with a man bun whom I had chatted with for several months. He was great and an interesting guy, but lit up a bowlful on our first date at my Sherman Oaks home. I am not a judgmental person, but I decided this was probably not a good fit.

I have had absolutely no problem having people express their interest in me, but I have to admit terms such as “papi,” “daddy” and “sir” are not conducive of the lens from which I choose to perceive myself.

So I will forge on.

Dating in your 50s is very freeing; I have absolutely no neuroses about whether the people I meet like me or not, or whether I said the right thing, or if the clothes I wore on a date were the right choice. At this point in life, it is what it is. And I say, “love me, love my bald head.”

What I am finding is that my lifetime of experience, and all the joys, love, entanglements and, yes, pain, have made me a person of worth, value and strength. And I am finding that that is far more attractive to people than a set of six-pack abs.

The author, who is a marketing professional, spends his time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs and is now dating someone he describes as “age appropriate.”

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments, or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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