What constitutes an old maid in this day and age? I don’t mean the card game where you try your best to stick your opponents with the decrepit old women in the rocking chair. I am referring to the dreaded age when your family and friends stop wondering if you will shack up. The age when they give up hope that you will ever find love.
I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately. In all honesty, its mostly because I have a birthday looming - my thirty-seventh birthday to be exact – and I’m beginning to feel like I’m staring down the barrel of forty. I realize that forty isn’t, by any means, ancient. And I’m aware that men have been known to have children into their seventies. But no Charlie Chaplin am I
On second thought it might not be just the looming birthday that has gotten me all disjointed - maybe it’s gay marriage. Let me be very clear, I am elated about this forward movement for gay rights and I still have the dream of partaking in this highly fashionable ceremony. But if I receive another wedding invitation, see friends wedding albums on Facebook, or read another engagement notice in the Sunday Times, I think I might just vomit. Retrospectively, I believe I can blame this nauseating reaction on none other than Miss Jane Austen, herself. I have been re-reading her books lately. I can’t help it, I love them. (Well almost all of them, does anyone truly love Northanger Abby?). The problem is that her books can be very destructive. Yes, I said it, destructive. She creates these visions of men and relationships that never seem to walk the same path as reality. And most importantly, she writes about a time when you are considered to be an old maid if you are not married by your mid-twenties.
I am not moronic. I realize that those standards have no bearing on our current society. But I cannot help thinking about it. Re-reading the literary genius of Ms. Austen and the sudden onset of gay men making a dash to the alter, I have become a bit of a curmudgeon. A couple of years ago it was easy to blame my singleness on my HIV status or working too hard or the boys themselves, or even just living in New York City. This city where there are so many gay men to choose from. Let me rephrase that: There are so many smart, successful, insanely attractive gay men to choose from. Sometimes I think this endless buffet of options makes it hard for anyone to want to settle down. It seems as if everyone is keeping their eyes open for the next best thing.
Then reality strikes, and I have to consider that it isn’t any of these things. Maybe it’s just me. I mean, I’m smart, I’m attractive (so I’ve been told), I own all seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD. So what’s the problem? I have this quirky personality trait that when I start thinking about these things my mind begins this downward spiral and soon I imagine myself as Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her, with two hundred cats all alone, shoveling icing into my mouth with my fingers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from celibate. But I have to wonder if that is also the problem. I’m not saying that because I am turning into one of the Whores of Babylon and incapable of finding love. I’m only saying that sometimes it is easier not to notice or care that you are alone when you can easily and readily find intimacy with a stranger. Although I have found that comfort wears off quite quickly.
I guess the point of these ramblings, if there is one, is that I am beginning to accept that my fairy-tale, Jane Austen-esque ending may not happen for me. Please don’t think that I am becoming apathetic; I still want to be in a relationship. Perhaps becoming a New Yorker has put a layer a cynicism on my romanticism. Maybe I’ll just end up like Ms. Austen herself, writing about love and longing, while becoming content with spinsterhood. Or maybe I am just in the midst of a dating slump and will talk myself out of this craziness next week. I think the latter is most likely.