Recently a survey about the lives of gay and lesbian senior citizens concluded that we are destined to face the ‘crushing effects of loneliness’ in our golden years. Among the startling conclusions the survey found were that older gay and bisexual men are three times more likely than heterosexual men to live alone; only 25 percent of gay and bisexual men and 50 percent of lesbians and bisexual women have kids, and LGB older people are more likely to be single and less likely to see their families regularly. The result, according to the study, is that all these factors can contribute to ‘loneliness in old age’ which is linked to depression, immune and cardiovascular health problems and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
At first brush my reaction was, “Uh, duh!” Lonely seniors tucked away out of sight in an old folk’s home . . . big surprise. But then I noticed this is but one more example of an insidious trend which professes that to be truly happy, even gay men, need a long-term partner and maybe even a kid or two. Evidently without that pairing, you’re headed to a sad, lonely death. Bullshit. When did gay men begin to aspire to the life led by the breeders of the world? What happened to older gay men, happily spending their riches on a life others could only dream of, while thumbing their nose at society? Has acceptance led us down the slippery slope to boredom and banality?
God I hope not. Forget about the crushing effects and loneliness of old age. I’m more worried about the crushing effects of marriage.
The survey results have quickly become yet another banner to fly for the equality in marriage folk. They feel it shows that without the opportunity to marry and breed, gay folk all face a bad ending. But along with the right to marry, proponents of marriage equality also profess that getting hitched is good; that getting married is the only way to go. And having a few rug rats is even better. It’s a lot like coming out. Many of those who have, think everyone else should. Regardless of the reality of the situation.
The rush for gays to marry and adopt or have kids is a trend. So were avocado kitchen appliances in the ‘70s. It’s the lemming-like approach to life; it’s something you should do ‘cuz everyone else is. If you really need to follow a trend, I think the current version of the Pet Rock fad, the iPad, is a better bet than marriage and parenthood. At least when the iPad goes out of style it’ll be easier to get rid of.
Ever since I’ve been about 30, well-meaning friends in relationships have tried to set me up with the man of my dreams. The result has always been a nightmare. Straight friends, not knowing any better, assume any gay guy will do as though that was the only qualification necessary. Gay friends do a bit better, but almost always choose someone who exemplifies what they’ve found in their partner. And while I’m glad that they’ve found love and happiness, my brand of happiness does not rely on what they’ve settled for. But that’s just among friends who are in happy relationships. Those struggling through dysfunctional relationships are just as insistent on placing me in a like situation. Thanks. But no thanks.
I don’t believe being in a relationship, as a goal, is a good idea. Not that I have anything against relationships. It just seems to me that if a relationship happens, then it was meant to be. If, on the other hand, your relationship stemmed from your desire to be in a relationship, it’ll never last. And when it doesn’t, it always means heavy drama.
Relationships, at least according to Hallmark, are suppose to be happy. How can you be happy when you are always fighting with your partner? Where’s the joy in a relationship that is filled with hatred and disgust? And why in the world would you move from one relationship to another, again and again, if they always end in disharmony, pain, and anguish? I know misery loves company, but do you really need to live with someone in order to be unhappy?
‘You complete me’ is probably one of the most sickening statements I’ve ever heard. But understandable. Society has nursed us on the idea that you are not whole until you’ve found your partner for life. Gay men used to be off the hook on that one. Since we couldn’t legally get married, well, it sure made for a connivent excuse to stay single, happy, and carefree. But thanks to well meaning liberals, that is beginning to change. The ugly spectre of gay marriage is becoming a reality.
Gay marriage is gaining in roads across the world. I’m not sure that this is the result of the majority of people moving toward acceptance as it is the realization: since it hasn’t worked for us, let’s let the gays give it a try. Or maybe they are just sick of us being called gay and know that through marriage we can be just as unhappy as they are.
In the U.S. we have legislation, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which precludes same sex marriages from being recognized on the federal level. With 60% of marriages ending in divorce, you have to wonder just what it is the law is supposed to be defending. If it is the sanctity of marriage, then that’s an institution that the majority of Americans obviously do not believe in. And the rest of the world is in a similar boat. Except the Philippines where divorce is not legal. Which makes a whole lot more sense to me.
At the same time that DOMA is found to be unconstitutional, I think the religious right should enact DODA (The Defense of Divorce Act). It would make more sense since that appears to be the institution that straight folk hold more dearly. And in this case I’d be completely supportive of trampling on the civil rights of gays. In fact, I’d be cool with the legislation only applying to gays. Then gay men could marry, they just couldn’t divorce. I think a lot fewer would take a chance at the former if an exit strategy was not readily available to them.
Though gays are not yet entitled to participate in marriage or divorce, when only 40% of marriages are successful you have to wonder why we would want to. The only winners in that lottery are divorce lawyers. If you had a 60% chance of getting hit by a car when crossing the road, would you step off the curb? I doubt it. But the stampede is on; the lemmings are being herded over the cliff. Ignore that a failed marriage can be more bloody than being hit by a car; get in line, get your license, get ready to be as unhappy as all the straight folk you know.
It’s not just the failure of a commitment that worries me about marriage and the subsequent divorce, though I do take the commitments I make quite seriously. To me, the financial impact is even more worrisome. And cash is one of the things that gays have traditionally had on their plus side. With no spouse or kids to support, the pink dollar has been well lauded, our mass of disposable income is something to be jealous of. With the right to marry, that cash quickly goes swirling down the drain.
A recent nationwide study, the results of which appeared tin the Journal of Sociology, provides some of the best evidence to date of the devastating financial toll divorce can wreak on a person’s wealth. The study of about 9,000 people found that divorce reduces a person’s wealth by about three-quarters (77%) compared to that of a single person.
“Divorce causes a decrease in wealth that is larger than just splitting a couple’s assets in half,” said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio State University‘s Center for Human Resource Research. During the study, the same people were interviewed repeatedly over time, giving Zagorsky the opportunity to see how wealth changes as a result of marriage and divorce. Zagorsky used data from 13 surveys conducted between 1985 and 2000 to reach his conclusions.
People who remained single had a steady, but slow growth in wealth – from less than $2,000 at the start of the surveys up to an average of about $11,000 after 15 years. For people who married and then divorced, there was a slow buildup of wealth during the early years of marriage and then a steady decline beginning about four years before divorce. Total wealth bottomed out the year prior to divorce, to an average of about $3,500.
Wealth begins climbing again in the year of the divorce, but not by much. “Even a decade after divorce, the median wealth stays below $10,000,” Zagorsky said.
So we’ve had centuries of straight folk marrying and few getting it right. On top of that, it turns out a failed marriage has devastating long lasting effects on your wallet. And yet, as gay men we fight for the right to make the same mistake as our breeder brethren have. I’m all for equality. And I think we should be able to marry whomever we please, just like the straight folk do. In theory, marriage equality is a good thing. In practice, I’d hope we would be smarter than that.
As far as having kids goes: WTF? Gay celebrities, both in relationships and not, have been busy procreating over the last few years. That has led a horde of gay men wanting to have their own little rug rats. Elton, Ricky, and Neil having a kid or two is good. They have the life-style that allows for a nanny while the kids are young and exclusive boarding schools when the kids are older. The rich and famous can have kids for the Kodak moments and pass them off to someone else to deal with the day to day drudgery of child care. The average Joe is not so lucky. He gets burdened with a mini-me for the next twenty to thirty years. And there goes your disposable income. At least whatever you had left after the divorce.
I realize for some, even for some gay men, having children is the way to go. But that should be the exception to the rule. That so many gay men now feel the need to breed is just plain wrong. Again, it is nothing more than an attempt to emulate straight society. I thought we were suppose to be the creative ones? Surely there is a better mode of ‘family,’ one that is more successful than the straight folk have come up with.
Yes, the children are our future, but what kind of future are we preparing for when in America 37% of children grow up in homes without both biological parents? I fear the ‘I’m gay and I need a kid’ trend has no more substance than Paris Hilton’s fondness for pocket-sized dogs. Paris appeared with hers and then all the little skank wanna-bes started turning up with carry-on puppies. That fad ended, those dogs all went to the pound. Sounds to me like orphanages will soon be a growth industry.
So then if neither marriage or children is the answer, are we as gay men doomed to a lonely death as purported by the recent study? Possibly. But then the results of that study, or at least the conclusions drawn from the results, are faulty in portraying a different ending for gay and straights. That you come into the world alone and go out the same holds true for both. Just because you had children or found a partner to marry doesn’t mean your final years will be spent in familial bliss. Children abandon their parents, spouses die. Not a real rosy picture, but a true one. At least it is if you decide to emulate the breeders of the world.
Who knows, maybe some day I’ll meet the man of my dreams and get married. But I won’t hold my breath. Instead, I have my biological family, for what they are worth. More importantly I have my family of close gay friends who care for and look after each other. And I have lots of cash. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure in the hell pays for a happy life style.
Maybe I will spend my golden years alone. Though it is more likely I’ll spend them surrounded by friends. Maybe I will spend my final years without the love and comfort of a partner. But I’m cool with that and will gladly trade the love and affection of another senior citizen for the love and affection of a younger gay man into grandpas. Maybe my final years will be spent in an old folks home. But I can guarantee you it’ll be a five star facility and my care will be of top notch quality.
According to Billy Joel, only the good die young, so I should last for a long time yet to come. With luck (and the good genes I’ve been blessed with) maybe I’ll still be a spry ninety-something year old on holiday in Thailand when my time comes. I hope my death coincides with my last la petite mort, that my short time becomes my final time, that I come and then go. My married and divorced friends with kids may not be as lucky, but I plan on my ending being a happy one.