It occurred to me while I read it that such an institution would be the perfect home for me. Not just when I am old and decayed (next year, for example) but now. A place where I can meet other men, not to hook up, but to chat, share a drink, and reach tentatively across that gap which divides us from each other.
You see, that sort of club is not for couples. There, men can be friends with other men without their wives also having to be friends with each other or with them. After marriage, for the most part it's couples (whether it's a het or gay marriage): you go out to drinks together, or to dinner together or even to the cinema or the opera together. So if your wife/husband/partner doesn't like your friend's ditto, a strain is placed on the friendship. Also, you cannot be intimate in a group, and intimacy is indispensable to friendship. Intimacy is personal, individual, private. One cannot confess to one's weaknesses and failings in public. Not without bathos. But with someone you care for, who cares for you, you can admit to disappointment or unhappiness or a sense that life has passed you by. You can even admit you are less than perfect because you are gay, or have just been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or some other personal catastrophe.
|"Old Man with Dog" Ivey Hayes|
We are social animals. We need others of our species. Because we don't have human friends we get a dog. But dogs are only a partial cure for loneliness. Better than nothing, I suppose. I expect I shall be an old man with dog, one day.
For people who are clubbable, people who can join groups with other people who have an interest they share, life must be easier than it is for odd and eccentric loners like me. Ninety years ago, there were clubs for all kinds of purposes and people from the humblest to the highest belonged to several. Even if you were without close friends you didn't have to be alone. These days we have Facebook. Or Yahoo groups. It's not the same, somehow.