When I was in my thirties and had lost my baby-fat but had not yet gained middle-age spread… I was hot. I was slender, curvy, and although not supermodel material, looked quite fabulous in a bikini—despite childbirth and a few stretch marks that could only be seen in bright light. My ex and I had joint custody of our son, so although I was a single mom half the week, I was single the other half. I never had to wait more than a few months between beaus or beauties, sometimes the start-up of one relationship occurred right on the heels of another’s demise. Even my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease didn’t put that much of a crimp in my social life at first because I already had a boyfriend, a girlfriend and lots of friends.
But the girlfriend decided she wasn’t comfortable with my double dating (now she’s the poster girl for polyamory) and the boyfriend wanted a healthy partner and children. Other bisexual relationships, though delightful in many ways, came and went.
But now, 13 years after my illness was diagnosed, it’s been two years since I’ve been in a relationship. And I’m not sure the last two even count. They were two recycled boyfriends, one bi and one incorrigibly straight, that I reactivated out of loneliness and the hope they would work out better the second time around. They didn’t. My theory was that two workaholics equal one decent boyfriend. But I just ended up being twice as frustrated when both of them cancelled dates, didn’t call when they should have or kept taking weeks off from the relationship because they “needed time alone.” Theoretically I was in two relationships. But in reality, I was spending weeks without a single date. I finally broke up with both, deciding that being alone would be about the same as dating those two, except without the cancellations. And then when they didn’t call me, at least I was expecting it.
About a year later, I had a few dates with a woman from one of my bi groups who proved even more slippery than the guys I broke up with. (In my experience, when it comes to dating, women are just as screwed up as the guys.) She had flirted with me years ago but when we went to see her sing in a Village jazz club, a light turned on. She had chocolate skin, long hair and a beautiful smile. She could spontaneously make up a new verse for an old standard and get everyone going. She got me going for sure. We had a couple dates but between her day job, gigging and rehearsing with her band, it was hard to get penciled in. I convinced her to squeeze in a date midweek. Although she invited me in, on my way out the door, she cancelled our date for the following Sunday. After she had her way with me. Apparently I had used up my quota of her time for the week. And this was a vacation week when she wasn’t teaching and had said she’d have more time. I got fed up and stopped calling. And since I had done all the pursuing…that was that.
Nine months later I turned 50 and freaked. I hadn’t had a date in 9 months. I hadn’t had a relationship in a year and a half. I had been faithfully attending my bi group twice a month, was showing up to a new one that popped up as well as an LGBT brunch group in my neighborhood (which turned out to be a bunch of gay guys, one lesbian and me.) I hadn’t met anyone. Just to prove to myself that I could still get a date, I put some personal ads on craigslist but left off my age. Of course since I’m bi, I had to post separate ads for men and women. And I had to be careful to write completely different wording so I wouldn’t be flagged as a repeat ad space hogger. And I had to omit any mention that I am bi.
In the men’s ad, I didn’t post that I am bi, because that attracts guys who assume I can’t wait to meet them at the nearest sex club. In the women’s ad, I didn’t post that I am bi because I would be instantly stereotyped and rejected as a bi-curious chick seeking a girl-on-girl one night stand. The only responses I could expect would be come-ons from women who are (very graphically), seeking the same.
To my bi-free ad I had many replies and three actual dates: two straight guys and a transgender woman (I answered her ad.) They went the way of most blind dates: in the crapper. I recently posted personal ads again and posted my age this time. The silence was deafening.
Apparently 20’s and 30’s are sexy. Even 40 isn’t over the hill these days. But 50 is the kiss of death. Of course, in person, people say I look much younger. But that still assumes that at 50 you have attained hagdom.
I’m experiencing the invisibility that goes with aging. Although it’s a relief to be catcall-free when I’m walking down the street, the lack of attention in my personal life is not as enjoyable. At 34, my social calendar was full. Either I have become eccentric and cranky in my old age or people just don’t think of 50 year old women as appealing. I’ve had some offers for casual sex, but one thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m into relationships and casual sex doesn’t do a thing for me.
Even the one time I got dragged to a sex party way back when (I was out of town at a bi conference and as everyone knows, conference sex doesn’t count) I fell in love. I called the girl I hooked up with at the party the next day and invited her to visit me in New York. I could tell over the phone that she thought I was a lunatic. She was taking the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” approach and I was still thinking about the tender way she wrapped my scarf around my neck before I walked out the door.
I recently launched a new bi women’s group called Bi Women of All Colors, with Donna Redd, a friend from the good old days of the original Bisexual Women’s Group in NYC. Donna has a husband and a girlfriend—she is the bomb. I was hoping that this would be an opportunity for me to make new friends and possibly find a girlfriend too. At one of our recent dinners, two beautiful and interesting women showed up, each one special in her own way. I considered both, daydreaming about what it would be like to fall in love with each one. I was feeling quite hopeful. At the end of dinner they went off with each other.
What happened? I used to be that girl. The one that people wanted to go off with. But my role has changed. I am now seen as a mother-figure who provides opportunities for others. I am no longer hot.
I am also no longer child-bearing. I have already had hot flashes, night sweats and erratic periods. Even if I could get pregnant, when you have a child who is old enough to have his own; it’s time to close down the factory. I enjoyed motherhood but was never prepared to repeat an experience that almost killed me the first time. Luckily, modern medicine intervened and, unlike mothers who gave birth before the advent of antibiotics, I survived. And was able to enjoy raising my child.
I used to turn to family for love and attention when romance was in short supply. But the loved ones who made me feel special, my mom, my dad and my aunt have all died. My son regards me as a parent to rebel against, not a person to get to know. And my brother is a bit overwhelmed trying to substitute for the three people who have disappeared. Although he tries to be supportive, he is so tired of the bi topic, I can see his eyes roll up in his head even over the phone.
Right now, my main relationship is with my new vibrator which I was forced to purchase when my other one fried. It literally short circuited while in use, making scary noises accompanied by the acrid smell of burnt rubber—and a case of orgasm interuptus. “Electrocution by vibrator” might have gotten me into the Book of World Records, but I’m glad it didn’t.
Of course, having a chronic illness has caused me to be much less socially active. When you don’t have energy to go out, you have less opportunities to meet people. I don’t go to bi groups as often as I used to, or explore other events at the LGBT Center either. I don’t go to the theater, dance performances, restaurants or concerts—disabled people tend to be poor. I don’t go to free outdoor concerts either, as they require arriving an hour early to get an uncomfortable seat or a patch of grass (I need a backrest and a padded chair to sit for more than a few minutes) and if there are bathrooms, they are far from the seating area and have long lines; which I can’t stand on. I feel older than I look, a result of the constant fatigue from having a chronic illness. After 13 years, I only have a vague memory of what I used to be like pre-Crohn’s. People who can go to a job five days a week, play sports on the weekend or have a trim figure, all things I can no longer do, seem like they have superpowers to me.
My only superpower left is my activist work. Over 16 years, I have learned by doing. And because of the internet, it is something I can now do at home in my nightgown. I can rest between proposals and emails. And can turn my computer back on if I’m having insomnia at 3AM. Or 4 or 5 or 6. For some people, it would be a superpower to be able to speak out about their bisexuality. Either they have too much to lose or they’re having too much fun. At this point, I have nothing to lose and I’d rather spend my time racking up accomplishments for the bi and LGBT community than wasting my time on a relationship that doesn’t work, even a bi one. I would be willing to cut back a bit for true love, however. My psychic bisexual ex-boyfriend says it’s not in the cards. But I’m ready to throw the cards away.