A friend of mine, who is a gay man, was explaining to me that he was once engaged to be married to a lady. “She was lovely,” he said. “I was mad about her.”
One way or another the proposed engagement didn’t materialise. The lady was the loser. He is a terrific guy, and any woman would be privileged to have him as her partner in life.
Indeed, I can hardly count the number of middle-aged, and older, women I have heard remarking that they would love to marry a gay man. It is a frequent topic of conversation, sometimes, perhaps tending towards benevolent generalisations. “Gay men are so kind, so thoughtful, so sensitive, such wonderful friends, such fun to be with..” That’s something I’ve heard many a time from ladies of a certain age on the lookout for a second (or perhaps subsequent) husband.
It is well established that when a divorce occurs, heterosexual men remarry at a speedier rate than their former wives. And they often go down the age scale. Some studies have claimed that a man’s second wife is, on average, seven years younger than his first. (And presumably the third and fourth wives seven years younger yet again.) Yes, there are ex-wives who find younger men as spouses, but they are unusual.
The general market picture is that there are more middle-aged women looking for partners than there are middle-aged men. And then men, statistically, die before women, so there are always more widows than widowers, too.
Some divorcees and widows do not want to marry again: they actually relish their freedom from pairhood. This has always been the case – the widows “whose hair turned gold with grief”. Widows have played a more prominent role in business, historically, than married women because of this freedom. Several of the great champagne brands in France were launched by a widow, the label still carrying that mark of distinction – Veuve.
But some women certainly do want to marry again, or at least enter into another union with a genial companion. And it is not unusual for a woman of a certain age to have as her absolutely best friend and favourite companion a gay man.
Many gay men like older women. Older women are seldom as overtly sexual as young women. Older women are interested in other pursuits anyway – travel, the arts, collecting antiques, playing bridge – and gay men feel comfortable in the presence of a non-predatory female.
It’s a perfect match, when you think about it – the older woman and the gay man. He can give her warmth, support, friendship, kindness and glamorous evenings at the opera; she can give him an unthreatening femininity, home cooking, and a substitute family.
Indeed, an older woman can often give a gay man something he never expected to have – grandchildren. This provides a new context to Gore Vidal’s advice: “Never have children: always have grandchildren.”
Of course, nothing is perfect in this world, and there would have to be certain provisos. The gay man himself must be free, and perhaps he is not. Perhaps he is already in a relationship which precludes marriage to a lady. The lady herself must not be too concerned about sex, in one form or another, and must exercise discretion where, so to speak, it raises its head.
Though there have been cases where a certain element of conjugality has been managed in such a relationship. Oscar Wilde’s lover, Bosie, later married a woman and fathered a child (who sadly died).
John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, was essentially gay, yet fell in love with the Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, married her when he was 42, and they were hugely happy together. She grounded him and cared for him, which is what matters most, in the end.
Similarly, Cole Porter, though gay, adored his wife, and they had a wonderful life together. Though he had other relationships, she remained his inspiration and the centre of his affections and his work.
My husband’s great-grandfather, a Victorian literary chap called John Addington Symonds, was also basically homosexual – with a special attachment, for some reason, to Venetian gondoliers – but he married, fathered four daughters, and died surrounded by his loving family.
In the matter of human attachment, nothing should be ruled out. You never know where love – and respect – may blossom. ENDS
Irish Independent Magazine. February 2010