Bette Davis used to say, "Getting older ain't for sissies."
Amen! Neither is dating at midlife — especially if you're a gay man.
Whether you're single again after the end of a long-term relationship or you've been around the block a few times still on the hunt for Mr. Right, gay dating isn't easy.
See also: Romancing on a budget.
But don't let that be your excuse for sitting home on Saturday night watching reruns of The Golden Girls.
These strategies can help you develop your inner explorer to make dating after 50 a little less daunting:
1. Confront your fears
You're never too old to find love, but that's not a message gay men hear very often. Why? After years of "working on ourselves" and fighting social prejudice to gain self-esteem, many of us struggle to keep it. The hurdle this time? The gay community's — OK, let's get real, mostly the gay male community's — ageism.
"Within the gay community, negative stereotypes reinforce the belief that gay relationships are based solely on physical attraction, and that once youth starts to fade, we are unlikely to have any real or lasting relationships," says Rik Isensee, author of Are You Ready? The Gay Man's Guide to Thriving at Midlife.
Worried you aren't good-looking enough anymore? Who'd want you when there's some 30-year-old hottie turning everyone's heads at the gym? Don't even let yourself go there. Focus instead on being your best self, no matter what your age. And remember that the most important characteristics — loyalty, humor, intelligence and compassion — are ageless.
If you think you're too old for love or you stopped believing that you can find someone to love who'll love you back, think again. Maybe you just stopped believing in the kind of naive love that you can only trust when you're young. But what about the deeper, more mature love that allows for the wide spectrum of experience and truth? That's where you should set your sights.
2. Embrace your new reality
For every 20-something entering the gay dating scene full of wide-eyed wonder, there's a 50-something (or a 60-, 70- or older-something) man back on the market after a relationship ends. One is learning the rules; the other has "been there, dated that" and wonders, "Now what?" It's daunting to consider starting over.
The truth is that you've earned your age. You really can own it. Focus on what you've gained — rich experiences, accomplishments, survivor skills and wisdom. Your next romantic partner will benefit from all of that, and from your passions for the life that's in front of you.
Give up wishing you could turn back time. Give up trying to be perfect, too, especially if that's a code word for "young." Yes, it's important to take care of your body and your health, but no need to obsess. Instead of trying to be 25 again, get comfortable in your skin. Feel good about your body. That way, when someone touches you, they'll really feel you, and not a bundle of self-critical tension. Think more about keeping a sparkle in your eyes and less on fighting the fine lines around them.