Dear Dr. Rutherford,
I found your name listed in the Sexpert coulumn in MEN magazine, offering help, so I’m ask for it now.
I have a very unusual problem I will just bet you have never heard before. I am a 52-year-old gay near-virgin trying to find a partner for a long-term relationship. How did I get to be such an old virgin, you ask? That’s pretty simple; I just never thought anyone could love me, or want to make love to me because of the birth defect that I have. You see, I have a deformed right arm. It’ similar, but not quite, to the thalidomide babies of the 1950’s (you may have to look that up; no one seems to remember that any more), but with a shirt on, I just look like an amputee. So, I just sailed through life thinking I’d have to live my life alone, and I got pretty good at making everyone think I was just a nice, straight guy, even though I knew all the time I was gay.
Well, something snapped this summer, and it suddenly dawned upon me that I really don’t want to spend what’s left of my life alone. So, last month, I actually started making an attempt to find someone, but it has been very frustrating, more so, I think, that what a normal gay man would go through, because not only do I have to deal with all the normal issues that go along with dating, there’s this huge issue of my deformity. I’m not really into the bar scene, but I did try going to one; I mostly just got the “look” of something that doesn’t belong. I’ve bought a membership to two popular dating websites, where so far, I’ve actually had two dates, which isn’t bad considering I only signed up a month ago. The first date was wth a man 8 years older than I, and we’ve had three dates so far. I told him how I looked before we met, and he said he didn’t mind. Instead of a neutral place, I went to his house on the first date. He was very passionate, with lots of kissing, but I was too nervous to go all the way. On the second date, again at his house, we went almost all the way- everthing but anal, and only because he went soft while sticking it in, and couldn’t get it up again. He made me keep my shirt on the whole time; it was a tad demeaning. We were supposed to go bar-hopping on the third date, but when I called to pick him up at his house, he said he wasn’t feeling well, so we went out to eat, and I dropped him off back at his house. On every one of these dates, he constantly refers to his “ex”, which makes me wonder if I’m just a substitute for that, and he whines a lot. I don’t think we’re really a good match, but he’s all I have right now.
I just got back from a first-meeting type date with an absolutely gorgeous man who is four years my junior. As before, I clearly told him what I looked like,and once again, he said he didn’t mind. He wanted to meet at a neutral spot, so we went to a cozy coffee place, where we talked for two hours. He is just an incredibly good match for me because we have an unbelievable amount of similar tastes, and we’re in the same profession. I absolutely adore this guy, but when I asked him if he’d like to go out with me, all he said was, “I don’t know,” and that was it, and that’s how we parted. While I was driving home, he called me on my cell phone to thank me for the rose I’d given him (I guess he’d just read the card I enclosed with it) and the classical music CD I gave him because him because he’d told me it was his favorite music, and he said he’d call me later that evening. When he didn’t call, I called him, and we chatted awhile. I asked if he’d like to go and do something later in the week, or maybe have me over to his house, only because he told me he’d rather spend time at home. Once again, all I ended up with was the same, “I don’t know,” reply. I can’t figure out if he is afraid of me, or really doen’t want me, but that seems weird, since I found him advertising himself on a dating site. I am so confused.
I need some help here. I think I’m doing most things right, but I could sure use some help in getting past this deformity thing of mine. Can you give me any advice as to how to approach this whole new world of dating, given my special problem? Where can I find a date in this special case? Should I be getting this frustrated this early in the game? Does it take normal people a long time to find someone? And- most of all- how can I land that second guy?
Thanks you so much for any help you can give. I really appreciate it. This is all so new to me, and I’m so unsure of myself.
My apologies for the late reply. I receive quite a bit of emails and sometimes it takes a while to answer them all. Your letter really struck me. The first emotion I had when reading it was an admiration for how much courage you have. First to realize that someone could actually love you and then to do something about it by putting yourself out there and beginning the dating process. I don’t want to sound patronizing but I really believe it is a courageous thing. It is somewhat analogous, although not exactly like, beginning to date again after an HIV diagnosis. With HIV, you can’t see the difference between you and the other guy but you know it’s there. With you, the difference is obvious. I am familiar with the Thalidomide syndrome and the many deformities that drug caused. My understanding is that, while there is a deformity, the rest of the person functions and operates “normally”. That phrase being used here to describe “like most of the general population”.
First off, dating is hard. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. Interacting with other humans when things like love and sex are concerned muddies the water and makes it hard for everyone involved. It’s work to continue to put yourself out there without the assurance of getting anything back in return. That being said, it can be a lot of fun. I always tell people to look at it like an adventure. Like Forrest Gump said, “life is like a box of chocolates”. You never know what you’re going to get. That’s half the fun. Tall, dark, white, yellow, red, short, fat, skinny, beefy, blind, bald, hairy, pretty, rugged, limp, one arm, one leg, bearded, smooth, deaf, shy, loud, obnoxious, kind, blue eyes, brown…..and the list goes on and on. You get my point.
The real point is that although these things matter on some level, what really matters is the connection between the two people. Essentially, what is in their hearts. Now you might meet some people who may not be able to get past the “stuff”. This is an unfortunate but predictable part of the dating process. Get right with this concept in your head before you meet the person and it will prepare you for the ride you will take with them. Some will not want to connect. Ride over. Some might just want sex but nothing else. Your decision…I say go for it if your safe. Experience is a good thing. Some might want to date you for a while but may not be able to commit. Some may be available for the whole shebang…connection, dating, sex, and, drumroll please, Love. You have to look at it like it is out of your control. And it truly is. All you can be is yourself. The rest is up to them.
The guy who said “I don’t know” was probably being completely honest. He may not know. It is up to you if you want to continue to date a guy if he is so unsure of himself and his feelings. Your self confidence says “take what you can get” but I would question this. Your different arm is only one small piece of you. Although it has felt like such a huge piece to you for so long it has taken on mythic proportions and become bigger than it should be in your eyes. Honestly, I think everyone will notice your arm for the rest of your life. I think the most shocking part, for you, will be that some of them won’t really care about it. Some guys may even be into it. Who knows. Your job is not to ward them off at the pass. Just be yourself. Keep putting yourself out there and, sooner or later, on the tenth date or the hundredth one, you will find a man with whom all the pieces fit. Your only task is to enjoy the ride wherever it may take you. This is my philosophy on life and I live by it ferociously.
As for the second date/flowers/CD guy…I say give him a call and ask him directly what his feelings are. He may not give you an honest answer but you can at least put it out there. “Do you want a second date or not?” “I like you but think you may have some reservations about my arm. It’s okay if it’s a problem. No hard feelings. Just let me know so I don’t waste my time.” Or something else equally as direct will do. Don’t throw yourself under the bus because of this arm of yours. Know that you are a viable, desirable candidate swimming around out there in this gigantic dating pool. You have as much right to be there as anyone else. Go for men who turn you on and don’t settle for one because he is “not disgusted by my arm” and think that is the best you can get. It isn’t. You can do better. Just keep trying and, I’m sounding like Oprah here, but she’s often right on the money….believe in yourself.