Monday, January 14, 2013

Fifty-Seven: Alliances

I am a gentleman of a certain age, and  a lifelong bachelor. I style myself as an aging roué. Those are dangerous things to admit to, these days. Even more so when one admits to a preference for younger companions. Nonetheless, here I am: of a certain age, and never married. The question is always there, I suppose: why not? And, too--- am I capable of what's defined these days as a socially or psychologically correct relationship?

I dislike having to defend my never having married. I dislike the idea that the decision is something that needs to be defended. However, society as it stands here in the new century looks askance at the bachelor. To be a bachelor is to be assumed either closeted gay or, if one is grudgingly allowed to be straight, then assumed to have deep psychological flaws.  I took a long time at postgraduate studies, and I had a long series of short-term contracts and moved from city to city on a largely annual basis. I have to plead poverty and lack of stability. I might also plead habit, that one grows used to living alone. I've never wanted the standard marriage, but I have always wanted relationships, or at least wanted someone in my life.

There are things I know I don't want. I've never wanted things like children. I've never wanted to own a house. Anyone who's with me should know that. That life--- a family, a house with a yard ---never appealed to me. I'd be no good at raising children, and I'll never in this life have the money to support either children or a house and the life that goes with a house in a middle-class, professional district. 

I always imagine a relationship, a long-term affair, as involving long, long conversations. That's key, I think. Being able to talk with someone about everything, being able to To share ideas and thoughts. All the best relationships in my past have involved long conversations across tables or over the aether deep into the night. I've always said that one thing I like about lovely co-eds is that they still live for and through ideas--- books, music, films, theory. I don't know anything about the things women of my own age talk about, and things like mortgages, local politics, business gossip, kids are just part of another, alien world for me. What I need is...well, talk. The kinds of talk I remember from university and grad school and academia--- ideas, things that offer up intellectual excitement. I could never be involved with someone who didn't care deeply about books and ideas and music.  

If I did have a lovely girl in my life right now, we'd, well... spend long hours talking. Take that as a given. We'd go out on Saturday nights to favourite spots. I wouldn't even feel awkward dancing so long as I was with her. Dinner, drinks, events in the art world--- all those things would be on the agenda. But it would always be a Saturday night--- Saturday night so that there could be Sunday morning coffee somewhere. We'd get up early and go down to be a latte-and-croissants couple in the city. We'd be a laptop couple, sitting with back-to-back MacBooks at our favourite coffee shop, talking and sharing things we'd find. That might turn into brunch, of course: Mimosas do make a Sunday. And there'd probably be a night during the week when we'd meet for drinks after work. Definitely that.

I think I've always needed the small proofs of being part of someone's life, the proofs of love. Private names, small shared symbols and rituals.  I need the things I see other people, other couples, do. I need to think that I'm doing the things that people in couples are supposed to do. Maybe that's it, or at least part of it. I'd like to have someone who'd want to meet for drinks on a midweek night, who looked forward to brunch on Sunday. I'd like to have someone who'd want to be seen with me in public, who'd be willing to claim my acquaintance. That would be a key thing--- to have someone in my life who'd be proud to be my acknowledged young companion.

A relationship... I'd like to be able to do couple things: dinner, drinks, coffee, being together at all the small events that pop up in a university town. I'd like to be able to do the things I see couples doing.

It's very hard to set out what I'd do in return, of course. I have my own doubts about my value and skills. But sometimes I do have imaginary conversations with an imaginary girl and try to market myself. Looks, money, social status, social skills--- I'll never have any of that, and of course my age is shameful all on its own. But I am polite, and I am a good listener. I'm not bad as a conversationalist about certain things, and I know enough to talk with some knowledge about a few things. I can be adventurous as a lover, and at the least, I do want to please a partner. I've never been someone who's a regular at dinner parties or cocktail parties, but I do have basic training in etiquette. I was trained to that as a boy. Pets like me, and grandmothers of a old school.  I never know what else to say. I really don't know what socially-accepted adults talk about or what they do. But I do make a good voice late at night on the telephone, and I'm not bad talking and flirting across a cafe table. And I am always, always fiercely loyal to people I do care about.

The socially-accepted definition of a proper relationship eludes me. I have a nagging awareness that whatever it may be in the eyes of the social gatekeepers, let alone in the eyes of the gender warriors and the Social Justice cultists, I'll never measure up.

I'm not looking for either a house in the suburbs or children. My vision of a relationship may be more like some kind of extended dating or an extended affair. Maybe that's what I want.

But I do want someone in my life who cares about me, and who knows that I care about her. I want to be taken as valuable, and I want to be valued. I want the proofs of love, or at least the public rituals and private symbols of being part of a couple. I want someone who shares interests with me, and who'll talk with me about the things we want to learn and know and experience. I want someone who understands about rituals and symbols and who believes in gentle affection--- and who believes as well in seeking out adventures with lovers.

I do want voices over the aether late at night. I want to talk and talk and talk. Those long late-night conversations that I used to have with the lovers in the past who meant the most to me, those conversations about all the things we were thinking about during the day... I miss those, miss being able to share thoughts and memories and hopes. I need a voice in my life. I need someone who looks forward to talking back and forth in the dark.

Well... Here's what I'm clear on. I miss voices, and voices are a key part of any relationship. I need someone with whom I can share things I've been thinking or reading. I need the closeness of someone who'll hold hands across a table, or wake up with me on a Sunday morning before we go out for coffee. I need someone who'll be there with me on a Saturday night for drinks and wandering urban side streets. I know that I'll never have a family or a well-defined social role. I don't mind that. I've known that since I was an undergraduate. Any relationship I have won't end up being what socially-adapted and socially accepted persons of my age are supposed to want.

Voices matter, though. And small private symbols and rituals. And someone who's willing to be seen with me in public, and who values what I have to offer. Someone who knows that she'll call most nights to talk, or even just to say hullo before bed. Those things matter. They've always mattered. I'm not good at defining relationships or even at understanding what a relationship is supposed to be under the Arbitrary Social Rules. I do know what I imagine would be part of any relationship for me, even though it may only count as "dating" or an affair. Voices matter, knowing that you're part of someone's life matters.

Perhaps I'm simply no good at this. I'm a good late-night voice, and I'm a loyal friend. I am at least a lover who's open to adventure and to offering pleasure to his young companion. Those things may not be enough. They may no longer define parts of what a relationship is supposed to be under the Arbitrary Social Rules.

I will never marry, and I'll never have a family. I could, however, wish for a relationship, for an alliance, for someone who'll sit across a table from me or look forward to the things we do together. I'm used to a certain amount of solitude, but it would be a delight to know that someone wanted to wake up with me on a Sunday morning or share conversations on a Saturday night in bed. An alliance--- does that sound more or less precise than "relationship"? Does it sound more or less acceptable as something a gentleman of a certain age should want? 

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