GiantsAmongMen has asked a group of men who are 50 or thereabouts to write about what their life is like and how they see the world. Not because they’re famous, or notable, or in the headlines. Just because they are. First up is Tim Hunter.
By Tim Hunter
I’m turning 50 in January, and I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it. Most people approach their decade landmark birthdays with trepidation, and I’m no different. I had my turning-30 crisis at 29, realising it was the last year of my 20s, and at 40, I worried about falling foul of the Peter Pan Syndrome. But 50 is something else altogether.
Reaching the Golden 50 can be daunting for any man, but for a gay man like me, it can be a little more challenging, for a number of reasons.
Looking back at my own father when he turned 50 in 1986, he was the father of three sons aged between 16 and 22, a homeowner (well, there was a mortgage) with a secure full-time job in a company he’d worked with for some time.
Me at 50? Living with my partner of 18 years with two cats, renting, and working as a contractor and freelance writer with a diverse working history behind me. I may not be a home owner, but I have travelled overseas more than my father ever has, most of it in the last 10 years, if that counts for anything. Yes, society and the goalposts have changed significantly in 30 years.
Being gay in 2016 is much easier than it was in 1986. Attitudes are different, gay people and culture are much more visible (for better or worse, or both), and being same-sex-attracted is much more accepted. Or so the surveys and polls tell us. We’re still not treated equally in the eyes of the law, and we still can’t get married in Australia. That’s going to make a difference as I head towards retirement age, and things like superannuation, aged care, end-of-life care and wills won’t be as secure without marriage equality.
And that is something I find myself thinking about, because at 50, you can’t get away with saying we’ve got plenty of time to sort that out. Hopefully I’m wrong, but 50 feels like it’s the start of the Final Countdown.
Being 50 and gay also means I’m definitely entering Daddy/Silver Fox territory, even though it’s only my silver-dusted goatee that gives my age away. And believe it or not, there is life after 50 in the gay scene – and there is a demand for Silver Foxes. An ex-newsreader in Texas, Jim Walker, now 44, is now making a living as gay porn star, Dallas Steele (as you do), complete with tatts, abs and a silver beard. Just for the record, I won’t be doing porn any time soon…
There’s still a pressure – mostly self-imposed – to keep fit and in shape in what is still a very image-conscious and youth-oriented culture. Even with Silver Fox status, 50 still has the whiff of a Use By date about it; like it’s time to stop going out dancing and drinking all night, to keep your shirt on, not wear skinny jeans and trade in your Speedos for more modest swim shorts. I’m not sure I’m ready to accept all that just yet. But hey, it could be worse: 40 used to be the Natural Heat Death age for gay men. We’ve certainly extended our shelf life in the last decade.
To keep the middle-aged pear-shaped paunch at bay, I swim, cycle and walk regularly, and I’ve started attending group personal training sessions with other gay men. I think I’m the oldest in the group – in fact, I’m older than one of the trainer’s father (and in better shape, apparently) – but it’s fun, and it’s getting results. That’s something my dad and his generation didn’t really do.
When my dad turned 50, I was 19, and I remember thinking, as you do when you’re 19 and invincible, that Dad was old then; 50 seemed ancient, so it’s sobering to reach that same age. I’m not old, I don’t feel old, and that’s because I’m fitter, more active and more aware of my health.
More of a concern than physical and social well being at 50 is my looming professional Use By date. As a writer, editor and occasional filmmaker who’s worked in the arts and lifestyle sector for the past two decades, there’s a compulsion for me to stay relevant in an industry where there’s a horde of younger, ambitious writers and reviewers keen to make an impression on the world, and digital publishing and social media are the ideal platforms for them to do that. It’s much easier than when I was a 20-something writer eager to see my byline in print. So, unlike my father, I have to keep reinventing myself stay in the game.
Trying to sustain a steady and secure income as a freelancer, and rely on that to fund my future and retirement is just not feasible at any age, but more especially at 50. And that’s why I’m now working as a digital content writer and manager in a corporate environment. The money’s good, my experience is useful and valued, and I’m learning about the back end of online content publishing. It also means I don’t have to worry about pitching story ideas to editors, and trying to keep ahead of the game. At 49, I just CBF.
I still feel the need for creative expression, of course, which is why I’m looking at creating a new TV series, based on a feature film script I started work on in 2007. It’ll be a series about the gays, for the gays, by the gays. It’s early stages yet, but it’s giving me something to inspire me and keep my creativity active. Because there’s still plenty I have to say – probably more than when I was 21 and studying professional writing at university.
I’ve pretty much settled into myself; I know who I am and how I work, but things are still fluid and sometimes uncertain, and I’m not ready to fall into some humdrum routine. I still want to explore, experience, and be stimulated by people, places and ideas.
So turning 50 is frightening but exciting all at once. Sometimes I look at myself and still see the young, optimistic and idealistic Tim I think I am, and sometimes I catch sight of my own father looking back at me out of the mirror. Sometimes I just want to curl up with my husband, the cats, a cup of tea and the crossword; sometimes I still go out and party, dancing, shirt off, to New Order with my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Am I having a mid-life crisis? No. I’m just not giving up on life yet. It’s been a full life so far – much more than my father’s has been, sad to say, but it’s not over yet, and I’m not planning to stop any time soon.
Who is Tim Hunter? Tim is a writer and editor who’s doing his best to grow old gracefully, but sometimes falls off the perch. He’s written for Time Out Melbourne, The Age, MCV, Cinema Papers, DNA Magazine and many other print and online publications. He’s written and directed a documentary, Packed Lunch (2005) about gay men and Speedos, and short gay comedy Working It Out (2007). He’s not looking at slowing down just yet, and has grand plans of creating a TV drama series about gay men and their relationships. As you do when you’re almost 50…