Discover more from Too Close To Call
Reflections on middle-aging from the West Coast.
Today I turn 44 — an age that only a few years and even some months ago, I would’ve masked or fudged to the wider world.
I’ve reversed course, steeling — if not — deluding myself with the notion that confidence is of the most essential traits you can wield as you attempt to age with grace and appeal — especially if the bounty you’re still chasing is younger, as its always been and always will be.
If the advantage of youth is beauty, the benefit of age must be wisdom.
The number holds symmetry that thirty-six and forty-one lack.
It’s easy to double and then think to yourself whether you’ll reach that advanced age, or even aspire to.
So what have I learned? What do I know at forty-four?
A tour of life’s touchstones >
When you are without partner and your family is small, friends rest at the top of life’s architecture. They are the core of weekly planning and joy, but they change over time. Every 7 years on average, say the studies. Much of this is due to nature and evolution. Most friends find mates and make babies and stretch toward the dreaded suburbs. Their circles shrink around their offspring, which they can’t be blamed for, but which the single man can not be forced to find alluring. Some friendships don’t summarily end, but slowly disintegrate because they have to. Interests diverge, politics collide, personalities don’t quite mesh like they did in your 20s and 30s, when time was infinite. In your 20s and 30s you are permitted to waste time. In my 40s, I find my time more valuable, simply seeing less of it in front of me. This means being intentional about who I spend time with. Every weekday. Every weekend. This makes the core friendship group smaller, but stronger and more like family. An obligation, not recreation. The worthwhile friendships are the ones not meant to check a box and “catch up with” but to be excited about staying up all night and getting excited about doing it all over again. With that exact same friend.
There’s a new person I’ve been taken by and am excited about. With the necessary guardrails attached. He’s a pilot and he’s 36. The right age. We me online while he was in D.C.
during his off period. Pilots are two weeks on, two weeks off apparently. His chats were warm and magnetic off the bat. We’ve only met three times so far (but two were sleepovers, so doesn’t that count for more?) He is different in what he values. It’s not aesthetic, it’s kinetic. He seeks emotional synergy, which is unique. For gay men, it’s usually, “Am I hot enough?”, with him it’s whether our charisma completely aligns. The sexual compatibility — a necessity — appears to be there. He told me so. But that’s the easy part. The rest takes time, of course. How quickly does attraction become deep affection? How much work does it entail? Based in Orlando, he lives like a nomad, landing in Santa Barbara on Sunday and Teterboro on Monday. His work is new and a priority, which I respect. We’re in that initial phase where the texting is thrilling and the time between communication can sap one with self-doubt. They tell you you’ll know when it’s the one. But the few times I’ve even toyed with that idea I’ve been wrong, leaving me with the belief that is fraudulent or pure fantasy. High expectations could mean false ones, but allowing vulnerability is achieving life. The conundrum with being single is you have all the time to think about this — and not screaming kids. The only upside to failure is that excitement dies with time. That’s how you explain marriage. Cue Gore Vidal: “Experience suggests that desire of any kind is brief.”
I’ve been experiencing this sense of dread when my phone rings in the middle of the day or a text lands late at night. My friends are trained not to call me, and the late texts are usually just the factor of a different time zone. But since my parents are aging into their late 70 and 80s and both are in very good health. And still, I’ve become predisposed to this fear of receiving a bad call from a hospital or my brother. I don’t know how I’d deal with it so I’m trying to prepare for it mentally. Morbid but prudent. My mother is the reason for everything, truly. I’m adopted so god knows where I’d be if I hadn’t won her drawing. I’m cognizant of this as I organize my time, even if being home is fattening and my childhood bedroom is cramped and hard. I don’t think she completely understands what being a gay male means in 2023; nor do I. But she steadily got to acceptance. My father, I never came out to, officially. Yes, he knows. But only because I brought my boyfriend to brunch in New York. My father talked about college basketball the entire time.
In my 20s and for a good part of my 30s, I largely lived to work, climbing the ladder, chasing the dragon of success. This has largely changed in the past few years. If you’re reading this you know I cover politics for a living. Politics is still something I’m fond of because I know so much about it, but it is not the passion it once was. And I wonder if that flame is gone, how to rekindle it or whether there is something new to pursue. But the risk. 2024 seems like a semi-replay of 2012. A seemingly vulnerable incumbent against a retread who had already lost but looked like the best shot. Does 2024 inspire anyone anywhere? Politics has not been dominating our news. It’s been bank failures and war and crypto and of course, our national pastimes, abhorrent random mass shootings. But the personalities of politics are stale. Biden-Trump? DeSantis is the best bet for newness. Though 18 months of this seems drab. I’m in need of some inspiration to believe it. Usually it takes a sweat-driven work-out and a shower, but I’ll get there. Because I have to. You don’t need to love your job, you just need to like it enough for it to enable you to enjoy the other parts of life. (See above.)