50 years. 50 queers.

Jeffrey Round

Jeffrey Round

May 30, 2013

Name: Jeffrey Round
DOB: Variable, depending on the company I keep
Occupation: Writer, thinker and social critic
Favourite Book: The Great Gatsby (yeah, it’s true)
Favourite Movie:
Walter Salles’ Central Station (Central do Brasil) but sometimes Peter Brook’s King Lear when I’m feeling upbeat
Favourite Music: Anything complex, from Arnold Schoenberg to Dizzy Gillespie
Favourite Person(s) over 50: Lily Tomlin, Jann Arden and kd lang, and anyone who refuses to be anyone but themselves no matter their age
One word about 50: The big O!

“I have a plan. When I turn 50, I’ll throw myself a 60th birthday party so that when I turn 60 I can reverse it and have a decade of being 50 a little bit later,” says writer Jeffrey Round about his strategy for turning 50. The writer of such mystery novels as The P-Town Murders, Death in Key West, and the 2013 LAMBDA Literary Award-winning Lake On The Mountain is used to employing a little smoke and mirror intrigue in his works. He plans on using that as he ages.

“Andy Warhol said, ‘Boys don’t have to tell their ages anymore’,” says Round with a laugh when explaining his caginess about revealing his actual age. Although he does concede that he is “officially” in his “mid-to-late-early-forties—though possibly just a little older in real life,” he still enjoys a bit of mystery when it comes to how many decades he has been laying tread on the planet. As he puts it, “What’s a Sphinx without a secret?”

As one of the few Canadian names of the queer mystery genre, Round enjoys exploring the edges and dark corners of the human psyche. Perhaps this is where he gets his somewhat offbeat sense of humour. “There are certain subjects I refuse to be serious about: race, religion, politics, age, and almost everything in between,” he contends. “Though I’m very serious about two things: bowling and books.”

Although he doesn’t give a lot of thought to getting older, Round does have a vision of what he would like his later years to look like. “I don’t want to be old and not enjoying my life,” he says. “I think if you exercise regularly, eat healthily and don’t take an inordinate amounts of drugs or alcohol, you can actually have a physically enjoyable later part of your life. A very gay sunset, as it were.”

“Youth and beauty are the crowns worn by the young set and the rest of us get to be ugly older stepsisters.”

He looks to some of the grand dames of showbiz for a little inspiration on how to age effectively—and with glamour. “I remember that Mae West starred in her last film, Sextette, at the age of 85 portraying the most beautiful woman in the world, and I thought, ‘Good for her!’” says Round. “Recently I was in Palm Desert attending a charity event, celebrity-photographer Michael Childers’ “One Night Only”, and there was Carol Channing, 91-years-old, sitting in the front row in a gold lamé suit, her hair all done up, and I thought, ‘God, woman, you look fabulous!’ It can be done. It takes a little bit of effort. We can’t all wake up at the age of 90 and look gorgeous and sexy without a little struggle,” he concludes with a laugh.

While contending that living life well now can pay dividends later, Round admits that there is an undeniable cache in being young in our society—especially in the realm of gay men—but he already has a strategy to deal with that. “Youth and beauty are the crowns worn by the young set and the rest of us get to be ugly older stepsisters,” he observes of the culture. “I think I’m a little bit ahead of the game in that I’m generally attracted to men older than myself, so there’s always this gratitude on the part of older men finding themselves attractive to a younger man. I think I have that in my favour. I look forward to chasing those centenarians as I get older,” he says with a laugh. “You just have to move to Palm Springs, get a good tan and hold your martini very high. You’ll do really well.”

“Fun is something you have to make for yourself at any point in life…I have every intention of aging disgracefully.”

When not pondering life as a grand dame of the desert (Ed. note–Round is currently writing The Prophet of Palm Springs, fifth in his celebrated Bradford Fairfax comic mystery series), Round and his friends have a little fun with the idea of life in a gay old age home. They picture themselves in wheelchair races and just indulging in general zaniness. Not a bad plan for the later years. “I intend to have a lot of fun when I am older,” Round declares. “Fun is something you have to make for yourself at any point in life. Why not just keep on doing that when there’s nothing or no one to do it for you? I have every intention of aging disgracefully.”

Round has an idea of the old age home he’d like to settle into—and it doesn’t include a few things that some consider iconic to the queer experience. “No ABBA—that’s a must. And no drag bingo,” he states emphatically. “I hate double-entendres. My personal vision would also not have a lot of Broadway musicals revamped for those in their 80s and 90s. I’d want something a little bit more sedate. Some Anton Webern, but sung by Adele, perhaps. But that’s my personal vision,” he continues. “If you want to have fun, you could probably be doing Hello Dolly! into your 90s.”

“When I go out to the bars these days, I find that, now that I’m not in my 20s and whooping it up every night, dancing and being silly, the bars have lost a lot of their appeal,” Round admits. “I think there are still fun moments to be had, but the older I get the more private I am and the less public my pastimes,” he explains. “I am the private type. I’m a bit more of an intellectual, on the reserved side, and I partake of campy, silly stuff only when it’s at a distance, largely because I’m not really a campy, silly kind of guy. It’s just a preference, not a judgment.”

Although Round enjoys looking at the absurd side of life from time to time, he does acknowledge that the current generation of queer people—while enjoying an unprecedented freedom now more than at any other time—still face challenges when it comes to getting older, particularly in regards to family dynamics. “With the advent of Stonewall we understood that we could make our own families and we didn’t have to have children,” he says of the changing landscape of LGBTQ people. “We don’t have that social network of the biological family as much as straight people do. It’s a different generation, with different baggage, if you will. Many of us have grown up without children who will become company and support us in our old age,” he says. “I’ve noticed that a lot of pre-Stonewall men who came out older, sometimes in their 70s and even in their 80s, all had kids. We don’t have that. That’s where the chosen family comes in and the choice of having children or not having children is going to make a big difference in the coming generation.”

“We kind of went to the other ends of the earth and said,
‘Fuck work, let’s dance.”

Another issue that arises for many people as they get older—and particularly queer people who may not have children or spouses—is isolation. Round, currently single and pet-less, says he has been paying close attention to that lately and he notices a difference between his social life today and when he was younger. “When I was in my 20s and more sexually nubile, I didn’t have to worry about making friends,” he says. “I had a new friend every weekend. You could meet someone at every dance party, if you chose to. The less I go out, the less that happens, so I’m making the most of the friendships I have now.”

While harkening back to his 20s, Round sees a big difference between young queer people today and young queer people in the first years of AIDS, who lived in a more homophobic world then, and how that affected the way they lived their lives and perceived their futures. “I know that the young queer sensibility is extremely career-oriented these days, whereas when we came out [25 years ago], there was a lot of emphasis on having a good time and going dancing, as well as having a lot of sex as a reaction to the repression that came from homophobia,” he explains. “We kind of went to the other ends of the earth and said, ‘Fuck work, let’s dance’. I think people are taking their lifestyles more seriously now—for good or for bad, it’s not for me to say—but there’s an emphasis not just on career success in terms of what baubles and bangles they can afford to adorn themselves with, but really in terms of the larger picture, of what shape they want their lives to take, and what role finance plays in that. I’m certainly not advocating wealth for wealth’s sake,” he continues. “I’m not much of a fan of the whole capitalist grab bag, if you can call it that. I do find that younger people are taking their careers and their futures more seriously than we might have in our generation. That may be a result of having been the first AIDS-generation and having far more serious things to consider in terms of partnerships and in our private lives.”

While Jeffrey Round looks at many aspects of life with a sense of humour—or at least a twist—he does have a few ideas of what his life will be like as he moves forward through the decades, and one constant will be writing. “I always thought I’d be writing no matter how old I get,” he says. “I think of George Bernard Shaw, who was still writing in his 90s. I never thought I’d be doing anything other than that. I don’t think I’ll make 90. I hope I don’t, actually. I’d be miserable,” he says with, what else, a laugh.

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