• Al Jennings

27, Still Single - and as Fabulous as Ever!

I must admit, that over the last two or three weeks I’ve gotten into a stage where I’ve been writing every day and it’s been welcomed. It’s nice to have a creative break from the rather mundane work that I do from 8 till 5 most days. I’ve found the little things really inspire me now, and this piece was born out of something that I hadn’t really thought about for a while.

I was inspired during my post-work out cool down walk to the local shop to by another pack of cigs. I walked past a house on the way where the people living there were having the almightiest row. The kind of row where other nosey neighbours are peaking their heads out of the front door, peaking behind their net curtains that don’t look to have been washed for years. I was brought up to dip my nets every week – it’s a very northern, working class thing to do. Back to the argument – we all have them, it’s a normal and healthy way of expressing our emotions. This then got me on to thinking that I’ve never actually had a full-on row with a significant other. Then I realised that at the age of twenty-seven, I’ve never actually had a significant other to have a row with.

Yes, at the age of twenty-seven I am yet to experience a long-term relationship. I began at this point to ask the question what exactly it is. What does that mean? A short-term relationship can be about exploring yourself or trying something new, but a long-term relationship is really about growing closer, and growing closer. That, for me, includes not just daily communication via text, email or in person, but also intimacy.

I then started to think; well – there must be something wrong with me, right? It’s not normal not to have that in your life – halfway to middle age and you’ve yet to experience that – there’s definitely something wrong with me. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me to be quite honest. I thought I was perfectly normal, if not incredible independent millennial and that I didn’t need another man to satisfy me – or let alone define who I was a person.

I’ve had relationships with people in the past – but that’s not been for a number of years now. These relationships have even been extremely one-sided or just fizzled out after a few weeks, months due to not having that spark or the passion. These relationships have never amounted to anything, but these relationships haven’t been useless, or a waste of time, because I’ve come out of them the other side learning something new about myself and my needs, all, in the name of aiming for that ultimate long-term, happy and healthy relationship. You sometimes have to go through these experiences to understand and not make those same mistakes again.

It’s not until now that I’ve actually started to question if, in-fact, there is something wrong with me. I guess on the surface the things that are wrong with me are obvious. I’m over-weight, I smoke a little bit too much and I’m not that good looking. I realise that these things are immaterial. Yes, there are lots of fat, smokers that look a bit like Boris Johnson’s love child with bleached blonde hair and they find people and are happy. They are in happy, healthy and safe relationships. They’ve found their lobster, their soul mate and are set for life. That’s great for them – I’m happy for them. I just don’t want to feel like I’ve settled.

I think it’s safe to say to say that the queer community is one of the highest risks group for depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Many members of the gay community have learnt that our little community can be very harsh with each other and with ourselves for trying to fit in to one of those boxes. The gay community is obsessed with looks, status and sex. We know that men in general are more competitive, and that toxic masculinity can be difficult to overcome.

There are pressures within the gay community that are unfortunately all too obvious within our society. These pressures include its focus on sex over long-term commitments, the focus on status-related concerns like masculinity, attractiveness and wealth. Other pressures include the perception that it upholds a kind of a shade culture and general social competition. Finally, an exclusion of diversity including racial-ethnic diversity and age diversity and discrimination toward gay men with HIV. I find myself a victim of these stresses. I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel less attractive compared a lot of my friends and people that I meet and I’m more effeminate compared to some gay people. I guess you could say that I feel that I don’t fit in and I don’t fit into the social circles.

I guess I would say I’m picky when it comes to me. I have a type, many people do, however it seems to me that I don’t fit into those people’s type. It feels that I am sometimes I am constantly chasing a dream I might never reach. I’ve always wanted the drop-dead gorgeous husband, the two kids, the house in Suburbia with a white-picket fence. I’ve always had a thing for older men, a bit of stubble, a cheeky smile, a bit of dad bod, but in good shape with a killer sense of humour and someone that I can spar and have banter with.

I’ve always hated the term “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I guess on some levels I don’t feel beautiful. I don’t feel worthy compared other people. I know you shouldn’t compare yourself to other but in this community there really isn’t any choice. We’re always being force-fed information on how we can improve our lives and become better people. How to look better. How to dress better. I guess there is a wall in my head, and I can’t see over that wall. We put walls up to protect ourselves, to block out the pain of rejection, of confusion. It’s easy to build these walls – but even harder to pull down the bricks one by one. Sometimes we don’t want to take down the brick, because for god-knows how long it’s helped and protected us – taking down that brick is like holding a mirror to ourselves and sometimes it’s not nice to look at.

I’m taking more steps to make changes in my life. Some would say these have been long overdue, but we’ve all got to do these things in our own time. I’ve done this considerably over the last 12 months. However, I’ve still got issues with food and addiction that I’ve started to deal with. I have made conscious decisions to live a more healthy, active lifestyle – I joined the gym and got a personal trainer who I’ve had for about 9 months now and I’ve started to see a difference and notice a difference in myself. I didn’t realise how much exercising would help me and improve my mental health especially. I love being active now. Whether that be a long walk, a P.T Session in the garden doing god knows how many squats and lunges, or whether it being smashing out a big session in the gym when I’m able. Writing has also helped me. It’s been a great outlet for my thoughts, feelings and emotions.

So, is there something wrong with me? I don’t think so – not down deep. I just don’t want to settle for mediocrity. I don’t want to get to eighty years old and look back at my life with regrets. I don’t want to feel like I’ve settled for second best and that I’ve not lived my life the way I wanted to deep down. I owe it to myself to live my life how I want to, and if that means waiting for the right guy to come along to sweep me off my feet then so be it. I’ll wait. God knows I’ve waited long enough. I know to go to make a change for my own physical and mental health, then maybe my love life will change. How do I that? Through self-care and preservation. Do things for me that make me feel happy and good about myself. Taking a little time out of my day to sit back, relax and think about where I am going, where I’ve been and the obstacles I’ve still to face on that journey to my final destination. Oh, and maybe not by eating my feelings, or smoking a 20 pack of lamberts a day.

I said earlier on that I feel like I don’t totally fit in into the community sometimes. I’ve learnt over the last few years that that’s okay. It’s okay to be different. Diversity is what makes our society so great. Living your life, the way you want to live it. Not conforming to social stereotypes, being your own person. We are all unique and we should live our lives the way we want to – not because we feel that we have to fit in to a box. We can make our own boxes. We can write our own labels.

Being overseas for such a long time is great if you want to find and discover yourself. I was working overseas for a couple of years and really helped me to get me head around a few things that I were struggling with. It gives you time to think about who you are as a human. What makes you tick. What irritates you. What pisses you off. Where do you fall in the grand scheme of things? We can’t expect to be able to do it all by ourselves. Sometimes you need support from those closest to you. Whether that be a friend, or a family member. I’m lucky that I’ve got a couple of really close friends that I can call on for support and I know they’ll be there unequivocally.

Acceptance starts with yourself. We all have to learn how to love ourselves, because if we can’t love ourselves, then how the hell are we going to love somebody else?

Now can I get an Amen in here!

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