How I Got Over my Fear of Peter Panning

· Updated on May 29, 2018

I find it bizarre how often gay men love to remind me how young I am. They provide unsolicited advice, telling me that at the ripe, young age of 25, there’s no way in hell I could possibly have any idea what I want out of my relationships. Then they end the conversation — the one I neither started nor wanted to have — by telling me one of two things:

1. When I’m older, I’ll find the right man and settle down into a boring marriage, reminiscent of a traditional heteronormative relationship.

2. I should revel in the excitement now while I’m young, naive, and still have my looks because when I get older, I’ll become a jaded, single gay man. As you can probably guess, these men assume that what happened to them is inevitably going to happen to me.

I don’t think it’s naive of me to believe that I won’t grow into one of those “old” bitter queens who’ve resigned to the fact that they’re never going to find Mr. Right. (I put “old” in quotes because these men are only 32 and have already given up on finding love.)

I think I’ll always be enthusiastic and eager about the prospect of meeting new guys. That’s just the type of person I am. I’m naturally excitable, and people from all different walks of life fascinate me. And let me clarify, yes, I’m still excitable after having been ghosted, heartbroken, and rejected in brutal ways by guys I’ve really fancied.

I also will be very surprised if I end up in a traditional marriage. I’m not opposed to it, but I also just ended the best relationship I’ve ever been in. It was a polyamorous relationship, and we dated for 15 months. For much of it, I lived with my boyfriend and his wife. After being infinitely more content being in an ethical, non-monogamous relationship, I doubt that I’ll ever want to go back to an anxiety-provoking monogamous relationship.

But more than all that, I crave novelty and excitement in my life more than I crave stability. When I say this to older gay men, I see an immediate switch in how they respond. They smirk, and nod their heads as if all-knowing, and say in a pedantic tone, “Yeah. That’s something you’ll grow out of.”

Immediately, I slouch and feel like a toddler. I then fear I’m going to grow up to become one of those older gay guys who “Peter Pan.” The guys who refuse to grow up emotionally, still engaging in a ton of sex, drugs, and partying; they always seem incapable of having a boyfriend for longer than three months. Hey, I’m not going into relationships saying I’m looking to settle down and fall in love. I let people know that at this point in time, I’m my first priority, and if I’m to date someone, I expect him to be his own first priority as well.

Additionally, after listening to gobs of Dan Savage’s podcast Savage Love, I truly believe that longevity does not define relationship success. Take my boyfriend and I who recently broke up. We only lasted a little over a year, but this was a fabulous relationship, one I look back on fondly. I grew as a person, learned new things about myself, and we are still, despite breaking up, great friends. I know that we’ll be close friends until the day we die. That’s success right there. If I spend the rest of my life in relationships like these — ones that last a year or two and then we both decide to move on — I’ll be a happy man. I consider that a huge success both personally and relationally. I wouldn’t consider that Peter Panning or acting naive and immature, simply because I never “settled down.”

Who knows what the future holds? Maybe all these gay men are right. I’ll hit my mid 30’s and suddenly, the idea of a more traditional relationship, one that offers support, will become more appealing. I don’t think so, but hey, I’m open to it.

But in the meantime, I’m not going to let any other person influence how I think of myself. Because at the end of the day, they don’t know me better than I know myself. What I want right now may change, or it may not. Regardless, I know that there’s absolutely nothing immature about knowing what I want and being upfront about my intentions with the guys I’m dating. If anything, it makes me more mature to recognize that I want a man who’s my partner in crime — the Bonnie to my Clyde — not the Adam to my Steve.

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