¡hola papi!

‘I Feel Like I Missed the Boat to Relationship Island’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola, Papi!

By rights I shouldn’t be complaining about anything. I’m in good health, have my own place, have a social life, and get fulfillment from my work. But I’ve never had a boyfriend, and I’m 30. It’s not for lack of trying or being closeted, and I’m frustrated.

Lately, I’ve been lonely. At Christmas, I was bringing down the tree from the attic and almost fell down the stairs with it. My first thoughts after “Oh, shit” were “Why the hell am I doing this? No one will see it” and “You could have died and no one would have been there to help.” I cried while putting the ornaments on. On Valentine’s Day I spent 16 hours at work rather than going to an empty home. A date stood me up the weekend before.

It doesn’t help that all my siblings are paired up, as are many of my friends. I always feel like a third wheel when I don’t have anyone to bring to gatherings. I can’t help but feel like I missed my boat to Relationship Island.

I’ve been on dates and I have my share of hookups. But I always get a “I don’t think I’m ready to date” or just straight-up ghosted. It makes me think there’s something broken inside me. My friends try to encourage me and say the scene is bad or that it’s another guy’s loss, but it gets harder and harder to believe. 

I don’t think my standards are high, and besides being a big dork that takes bad pictures, I don’t think I raise any red flags. A part of me wants to reinvent myself (get an Instagram, travel to tourist hot spots, post thirst traps, dye my hair, etc.), and another part is telling me that would be false advertising. It’s just that at this point it’s hard to conceive of a first Christmas with a new boyfriend where I’m not as old as Santa Claus himself.

Any advice, Papi?

Missed the Boat

Hey there, MTB!

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way — because I mean it as a compliment — but I receive a lot of letters expressing this sentiment and none of them have been as sad as yours. Reading about your Christmas tree incident reminded me of reading The Little Match Girl for the first time. You know, the book about the little girl selling matches out in the cold? The one where she freezes to death? It was like reading that. The Little Gay Boy.

Very evocative storytelling.

Near-fatal encounters with holiday timber aside, I understand your anxiety and, as I alluded to before, it seems to be an increasingly common concern among a certain age demographic. How to go about finding someone to date is a question that our best and brightest advice columnists are on, but, to be frank, none of us have come up with a perfect solution, nor is it a group project in which I am really pulling my weight.

Once I do find the answer, be it “doing group activities” or, worse, “starting a conversation,” I will definitely seal it away from the public like that one diamond company did with all the diamonds. I need to maintain the demand for my services, which would be rendered useless if everyone suddenly got paired up. I hope you can forgive me, but it’s just one of the many ugly realities of life under capitalism.

However, as for your question about whether it’s “too late” for you to be dating people at the ripe old age of 30, well, that’s one we can answer here and now. No, it is not. You will know when it’s too late for you to look for love. You will be underground, or a pile of ashes, or frozen to death on a cobbled street in Denmark while selling matches, providing we still have winters cold enough to do such a thing. The Little Match Girl was published in 1845. Things have changed. The match-street-vendor economy is probably also in shambles.

The point is, although it’s a cliché, it really is never too late to find love. It’s never too late to let someone new into your heart, or to have that heart broken and mended and opened again. No matter your age, be you young or old, we are each of us incredibly brief creatures with finite time on an earth that promises us nothing except for the here and now.

Some will certainly roll their eyes at you asking such a question at your age, and I do wish millennials would stop blowing up my inbox cosplaying as Methuselah. But I think you’re never too young or too old to worry that the good things in life are passing you by. I understand.

But the fact that we can experience love, romantic love, platonic love, self-love, and love for strangers is an unlikely blessing that slipped between the gaps in the stars and arrived impossibly at our feet. I won’t lie to you and say it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, that there’s a surefire method to finding it, or that the conditions we live under haven’t made it difficult.

I can only assure you that you’re not alone, that I get lonely too, and that love is possible in a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors that don’t always look precisely like the ones we imagined or wanted but bring meaning to our lives nonetheless.

Anyway, have you tried Hinge? (Hinge, please sponsor me.)

Con mucho amor,

Originally published on April 14, 2023.

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons here.

‘I’m 30 and I’ve Never Had a Boyfriend’