I never really got the Romeo and Juliet thing, the idea that love could make a couple of kids crazy enough to kill themselves. Or make Lucia — as in di Lammermoor — crazy enough to murder her husband on their wedding night and wander around in her nightie, totally unhinged, bloody dagger in hand, hitting a high E-flat several times along the way. Or make Jay Gatsby crazy enough to arrange his life around gazing at the green light on the end of his beloved's dock, and throwing gigantic parties night after night on the off-chance she might wander into one of them.
Love as madness. I didn't get it. I'd read about it and seen it in the movies, but it had certainly never intruded on my reality.
It's not that I hadn't experienced love. I had the typical butterfly-inducing crushes as a timid teenager. And the occasional, exuberantly requited, landslide of lust as a drug and alcohol enthusiast in college. Later, there came something more measured and enduring that twice led me to marriage. None of this was bad. In fact, the second marriage was, by almost any yardstick, exceptionally good. But I was never tempted to fling myself off a cliff for any of this, nor did I understand why anyone else would be.
That was then. It's different now.
Almost five years ago, at the astonishing — to me, at least — age of 55, I came out. First to myself, then to my wife and my sons, then to the rest of the world. And I think I get it now, this love-crazy business.
After a lifetime willfully not considering men as lust/love objects, coming out opened the door to a primal drive I didn't quite believe existed in real life. Now, more than four years down this road, I'm sort of shocked at how compelling the drive remains. How often I think about it. How it can send me into hours of longing — often not for anyone or anything in particular, just longing. For something. For it.
It's not that I'm just some horny old goat. What I'm talking about goes much deeper. This is a drive that goes all the way to my core.
I felt its power with amazing clarity the first time I woke up next to a man. It wasn't love — too soon for that. Nor was it lust — we'd handled that part the night before. It was a sense of rightness. On a Saturday morning a few months after my divorce, I woke up in my own bed with a guy lying next to me — his lovely, ginger-colored hair on the pillow next to mine — and I finally began to get it, this Romeo and Juliet thing. How love could be madness.
Nine thousand mornings, more than half the mornings of my adult life, I woke up next to a woman, usually feeling quite content about it, but I had never felt anything like this. It wasn't about the sex. It was about feeling complete, unconflicted, normal. At home. And it absolutely blew me away.
So, here I am, three months past my 60th birthday, not in love with anybody — I haven't been since coming out — but ready. Ready for the real real thing.
Will it be grand and glorious, the stuff of romance-novel drama? Gosh, I hope so. Will it hurt? Yep, in one way or another, it most likely will — possibly quite a bit. Will we live happily ever after? Who knows? Considering how much closer to the finish line I am at 60 than I was at 30, the chances of a till-death-do-us-part kind of deal are comparatively good.
But irrespective of the joy, the pain or the enduringness this love thing brings, it will be right.
First love at 60? I'm ready.
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