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Soloist

By fogcityjohn

February 3, 2010

I've spent most of my adult life alone. Not literally alone, of course, but single, unattached, unpartnered, unmarried, or whatever you want to call someone who lacks a significant romantic relationship. I'm now a 49-year-old, HIV-positive, gay man with lipodystrophy. Having reached this point, I often wonder what, if any, prospect I have for finding love.

I can't blame HIV for this situation. Singlehood was a feature of my life long before my diagnosis, and I'm sure there's any number of explanations I could offer for it. For starters, there's my lifelong struggle with clinical depression, a disease that saps one's energy and increases social isolation. There's also my rather introverted personality, which makes it hard to meet guys and often leaves me reluctant to place myself in the kinds of social situations where I might meet a potential mate.

You could add to this what I'd call the lingering effects of homophobia. Like most gay men of my generation, I grew up in an environment hostile to gay people. As a child, I endured the incessant taunting, name-calling and abuse that were the fate of "sensitive" boys who weren't good at sports. My survival depended on not speaking the truth, on concealing who I was, and on keeping my real feelings completely hidden. However useful all of this may have been as a childhood survival strategy, it's not exactly helpful in any kind of emotional relationship in which honesty, sincerity and open communication are essential.

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So while HIV obviously didn't cause this situation, I still think it's complicated it. And it's done so in a number of ways. First of all, it's reduced the already small pool of available men. Why do I say small pool? Simple. I'm 49, and at my age, lots of guys have already settled down. They're in longstanding relationships. As for the ones who aren't, well, let's just say there's usually a good reason they aren't partnered. So, I'm fishing in a really small pond to begin with. And of the fish in that really small pond, a lot of them don't want to date a guy with HIV. For many, my serostatus is a deal-breaker. And you know what? I can't really say I blame them. Sure, I wish they weren't so closed-minded, but can I really fault someone for not wanting to buy into having to deal with this disease?

Which leads me to the second point -- HIV is pretty emotionally consuming all by itself. Anyone who's positive has at least one significant relationship in his life -- his relationship with HIV. Just dealing with the emotional impact of the disease, with the stigma it still carries, and with all of the various medical conditions it may cause can be a full-time job. How much emotional energy do I have left after dealing with work, my depression and my disease?

Finally, living in a subculture that places such emphasis on youth and good looks, how realistic is it for someone like me to expect to find a partner? Don't misunderstand me, I think I've got a lot of really appealing qualities, but how much of a market is there for a short, balding, nearsighted guy with a chronic disease and a body altered by lipodystrophy? Sometimes I wonder if I'm just kidding myself. Is my continued quest for a relationship the ultimate triumph of hope over experience?

But despite all this, I still feel a strong need for companionship. I had someone I called my partner for a few years (I don't think he'd like the term), and my time with him was the most fulfilling of my life. I think the best part of it was being able to love someone, to have the chance to try to make another human being happy. He left me, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me the chance to love.

So nowadays I wonder, will it ever happen? Will any man ever hold this withered, bony hand with the tenderness I crave? Will I ever fall asleep at night, knowing that the guy snoring gently next to me loves me for exactly who I am, pathogens and all? Will I ever know the joy of giving someone all the love I have and receiving his love in return?

When I'm honest with myself, I realize that, realistically, the prospects are probably pretty slim. Somehow, though, that doesn't keep me from hoping. I've been going solo for so long that I'm quite used to walking life's path alone. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to have someone to walk it with me.

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Sun., Feb. 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm EST
@ Florence: So good to hear from you again. I do not think I feel defeated, but I do think I am realistic. You are right that it is never too late, and that is why I have not stopped hoping. Best wishes from California to Kenya.
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Comment by: Florence (Kenya) Sun., Feb. 14, 2010 at 2:55 am EST
Most HIVers understand you very well.. the loneliness can be overwhelming, most questions are at times very hard to answer-about life partners and the future are just some of the greatest dilemmas everyone has deal with given that every single day you realize you aren't growing any younger while your HIV status remains constant. Do not sound so defeated because ..it is never too late...
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Feb. 12, 2010 at 12:23 am EST
@ Jim in Vancouver, BC: You're absolutely right. Love, like charity, begins at home. Only when we love ourselves can we properly love others. I'm working on the "loving myself" part and hope to get there before too long. Thanks for commenting.
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Comment by: Jim (Vancouver BC, Canada) Thu., Feb. 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm EST
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings regarding this subject. I have to agree with your post as I myself once had a love, he passed in 2005, we were togethere for 10 years. I consider myself lucky to have had love at least once, knowing this I know that I and others can have love again if we want it. No matter who you are or what your'e into when you are ready love will surely come your way. I think what others are really mostly attracted to in another person is how much that individual loves themselves, it always shows through. Knowing this I still ask myself all the questions you have posted and more. I agree, with the responses, first believe in your self, next get out into the world and show your stuff. After awhile others will be attracted to this positive energy. Oh by the way I'm still single, 43 yrs old and still looking for a new love. Ha ha, see what I mean?
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:21 pm EST
@ Michael in Bakersfield: I haven't stopped hoping, although I confess that sometimes it's hard not to. Getting out can be tough, since I feel less "datable" given my age, serostatus, and lipodystrophy. But I persevere, since that's all any of us can do.
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Comment by: Michael (Bakersfield, CA) Fri., Feb. 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm EST
While reading your words, I couldn't help but feel connected in a way that only we in that "very small pond" you're fishing in can connect. All the cliches, no matter how well-meaning, just don't cut it. But to me, it sounds that you are the special one in that small pond who had that companionship once and surely feeds on that time for energy.
I mean - here I sit, 45, with AIDS and liver failure, my waist expanded from it's pre middle-age 32" to 36" (OK-really 38"), and the one partner who blessed me with 8 years of happiness. Will it happen again? All we can do is hope. Until then - as cliched as it is - focus on the good things, the happy things, find something to do, just get out and only then are you giving yourself the opportunity to meet someone in that pond. And just when you least expect it, you might get a nibble! Keep the faith!!
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Feb. 5, 2010 at 1:19 pm EST
@ Emmett in San Rafael: You exactly right. All of us need to pick up the drum of life and beat out our own rhythm. Good advice. I shall try to take it. @ Mico in DC: Trust me, I'm following much of your counsel -- trying to eat right, exercise, and know what's going on in the world. (The sex part may take a while and is the subject of an upcoming post.) @ Pete in Glasgow: Your story gives me hope, and I will certainly keep looking for a "gem" of my own. BTW, you get bonus points for the "South Pacific" reference. @ Tricia in DC: Are you *the* Tricia? ;-)
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Comment by: Tricia (DC) Fri., Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:28 am EST
I agree with Jonathan.
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Comment by: Peter (Glasgow, Scotland.) Fri., Feb. 5, 2010 at 9:08 am EST
Hi John. I read everything you have said here and it all rings so true and authentic: I know exactly the situation you are in. All I want to say to you is that there ARE guys out there for you. Not many. They are the rare ones. But they are out there. I know because I found one for myself. He's negative and he literally adores me despite my HIV status. There's nothing he would not do for me. I know I don't fully appreciate all that he has done for me so far and that he will continue to do. So, you see, I KNOW there are gems out there. It took me years to find mine and I had to do some hard persevering work to find him. I had to spend some big money and put a lot of time into it. Advertising is the key. Sort of exactly what you're doing really. Spread the word, let people know who you really are, what's different about you, and somewhere there will be someone who will respond with excitement. And then, as the song says, ". . . never let him go!" Good luck, Pete.
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Comment by: Mico (Washington, DC) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm EST
I am 51, gay and I have hiv. I am 'on my own' without a 'partner'. Of course, I've seen the 'married' ones, in long term relationships and good for them. What of those who are around my age without a partner, poz, gay and not pretending? We are around, but hard to find.

I don't enjoy feeling like 'fresh meat' when I decide I'll go out. So, I don't unless a friend keeps after me. Then I see the looks and the eyes and someone buying me a drink, but that's not me 'anymore'. I look more like John Wayne with my build. Strong and quiet, yet wanting that special someone.

Guess what? It's got to be me, just like your special someone has to be you!

Strive to eat right, get some exercise, know what is going on in the world, have sex now and then, be spiritual and be damming. On onto a body pillow when you sleep.

Control your remote.

Use bamboo towel sheets and sleep on high thread sheets.

Continue blogging.

Your point system, is you.

Peace,

Mico
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Comment by: Emmett (San Rafael) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm EST
All too many of us have started life out being the odd ball, the one who was never great at sports, weaker, slower, softer and more sensitive but we made it through without killing ourselves or another only to carry a deadly disease later in life with its own set of complications both physical and mental. I am shy as hell but force myself out into social situations regardless and many a time I have run out or sat trembling but in the end I know loneliness is worse than pushing through my fears. I am always trying out new things, at the moment I am taking drum classes in SFO and that is really hard being with strangers trying something I'm not yet good at but slowly I am taking on something new, meeting people and trying hard to enjoy life even though it makes me tremble at times. Good luck to all of you that are shy, all that have been teased, all that live with scars that show up in our lives as shyness, low self esteem and hurrah for making it this far, especially those of us with HIV added to the mix. Dare to pick up the drum of life and beat out your own rhythm, surprisingly others will begin to notice you. We are many, those of us that are feeling as you...wade through the mud to find your lotus flower...the dirt hides glory.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm EST
@ Alex in Israel: Thank you for the kind words. As for getting treatment to set myself free, I've been in psychotherapy for years. I take anti-depressants. All of those things help, but I still haven't found the key to the mystery of love. Perhaps my age has made me a bit more realistic (or fatalistic) about things, but I don't think one can release himself from himself. We evolve, but we fundamentally remain who we are. The task, therefore, is finding someone who can embrace us for all that we are. Someone who will, as we say here in America, love us "warts and all." It's a difficult task, but not an impossible one, I hope. Best to you, too.
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Comment by: Rick (Charleston, WV) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm EST
Your not alone I to was looking for that someone special and I was older than you !! I am POZ and thought no one would want me anymore, I was WRONG!! I have been living with a wonderful man of whom I call my Husband for 8 Years now. Bought a house and we've settled into a loving life together. Oh by the way he is POZ Also! Hang in there love can happen any time or anywhere. You are loved by many you just dont know it yet!
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Comment by: Alex (Israel) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm EST
I would advise you some kind of treatment to get yourself free. Who you are also makes you so special, different from anyone else and will catch the eye of someone who matches you. I don't believe love should be looked for, I rather believe that things happen the way they are. The only thing you need to do is release yourself from yourself.

I'm only 25 by the way, but I experience many of the things you have told about yourself. I believe there is a ray of light, we just need to look outside of the box...

Much luck to you.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm EST
@ Jonathan: Hey! Thanks for reading and thanks even more for commenting. Always good to hear from an old friend. As you say, so much of this is serendipity. I had not expected to meet my ex-whatever-he-was, and then suddenly he was there. We cannot know who will cross our paths. My strength comes from knowing that I have people like you whom I can count on. My friends always provide a port in the storm, just as you've been doing for me since the 90s. Thanks for everything.
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Comment by: Jonathan S. (Madison, Wisconsin) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:47 am EST
Since I first got laid off in 2002, I have spent most of the subsequent eight years either un-employed, partially employed or under-employed. So anyone looking at my resume in order to discover who I am, would naturally assume I'm just a guy who can't hold a job. But of course nothing could be further from the truth. I was fully employed (and generally working an extra job) for almost 20 years before my first layoff, and since 2002 I have stuck with one employer --Weight Watchers-- through thick and thin (bad pun intended).

By the same token, I think if you look at some of the circumstances of your life it might appear on the surface as though you were some kind of loner -- a go-it-alone guy who asks nothing of the world and seeks refuge in your solitude. But having known you for 20 years now, I can say that you have a deep capacity for human relatioships, you are profoundly loved by the people who know you well, and you have a clear ability to embrace romance and affection.

So yes, your life currently comprises the challenge of dealing with HIV and a changing physical body. And yes, your partner of several years standing did move on, leaving you behind. But it seems to me that the future of your love life is not predestined by any of those particular factors. Rather, it's just a roll of the dice (as arbitrary and unfair as that might sound). So I feel as though as long as you keep placing bets, you stand a chance of becoming romantically involved. And like the Lotto "you can't win if you don't play."

My point is that you are a person of tremendous depth and complexity. And while neither of us is 29 any more, you are still physically attractive and emotionally appealing. I guess I'm just saying "don't write love out of the picture just yet."
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Comment by: anon (San Francisco, Ca) Thu., Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:01 am EST
Your article was touching. Good luck to you!
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fogcityjohn

fogcityjohn

My name's John. I'm 49 years old. I'm a lawyer by profession. I now live in beautiful San Francisco, California, after spending a long time on the east coast. I was diagnosed in 2004, so I've been positive for something like five years.


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