50 years. 50 queers.

David-Benjamin Tomlinson

David-Benjamin Tomlinson

Mar 21, 2014

Name: David-Benjamin Tomlinson
DOB: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Occupation: Writer/Actor/Performer
Favourite Book: ‘American Gods’, by Neil Gaiman
Favourite Movie: ‘Aliens’, ‘Poltergeist’, ‘The Changeling’
Favourite Music: Danish Electro-Pop/Tori Amos
Favourite Gay Person At/Over 50: Stephen Fry
One Word About 50: Intriguing

­Romance may be expressed in a variety of ways. There is the passionate, sexual nature of romance that is the stuff of great literature and love stories, the longing to requite the desire for an object of one’s affections. Then there is the romance to be found in the creative muses that inhabit the physical and ephemeral worlds. This romance is boundless and borderless and is only limited by an individual’s ability to tap in and pay attention. David-Benjamin Tomlinson is a romantic in every sense of the word.

As a writer and performer, Tomlinson is an alchemist who crafts work out of the ethereal, emotional and physical. His fuel is wonder and imagination. He takes that same approach to life—and aging—as he does to his creations. “I’m super intrigued by it because I wonder what the version of myself will be by the time I get there,” he says of looking ahead to himself at 50. “What will have changed? Will I still be doing the fucked up things I’m doing now or will I be doing new fucked up things that I’m equally tired of,” he ponders with a laugh. “Oh, God, I’m hoping that it’s new fucked up things.”

As much as he is intrigued by the notion of getting older and what that will mean to him both personally and creatively, it’s never been an issue he has been ruled by. “It’s weird because I’ve never really paid much attention to age,” he explains. “I don’t meet people and think, ‘Oh, you must be this, or that,’ it’s all about the way the person is and if I really want to hang out with the person. So, I don’t have huge expectations. There was a time when I turned 30 and my friends were buying houses and starting families and I went through a weird thing where I was thinking, ‘Oh, am I supposed to be doing this?’ I was thinking that maybe I was broken because I wasn’t planting the same flag. I was able to let that go. It doesn’t fucking matter how old you are. I’m not freaked out by 50. I don’t know what it means for me yet because I’m not there, but I’m intrigued by it.”

My expectation for 50 is that I will have continued to work and continued to live a creative life.”

While the idea of aging doesn’t freak him out from a chronological perspective, it does cause him a little angst from his creative point-of-view. “I recently have started to panic a little bit about the idea of the amount of work that I have to do and the time that I have to do it in,” Tomlinson admits. “Strictly about the manifestation of creativity and writing and creating things, and how that looks on my timeline. That scares me. I’m starting to think about how much longer I can do it, and will I be able to do it. My expectation for 50 is that I will have continued to work and continued to live a creative life and continued to write. After all of these years of working so hard that I will be in a really rewarding place having lived this interesting journey through the woods, kind of thing.”

This is where the muses and inspiration come in to play, as well as looking at trailblazers for inspiration. One of those is a man who has not only inspired Tomlinson from a creative vantage point, but from a personal and political one, Stephen Fry. “He’s so intelligent and so articulate and outspoken in this really reserved, proper English way,” says Tomlinson of the attributes he admires in Fry. “He’s still got it. He seems so on the ball and so current and so in charge of his own life. That’s really inspiring. He seems at the height of his abilities as a creative intellectualist. I find that hugely inspiring. I find how he speaks out and his principles he expresses and the things he stands for and the work he continues to do and continues to write hugely inspiring.”

That ability to tap into and express ideas and observations in a creative way, while tackling some very large issues, is something Tomlinson knows intimately and is getting more comfortable with as he gets a bit older. The passing of time becomes more fodder for creativity. “You have new stories to tell,” he says. “When you look backwards over the work that you’ve done, a lot of times you see things that you didn’t see at the time because you were in it. You’re like, ‘Oh, I went through my recovery from loss phase when I was writing XYZ.’ In five years I’ll be able to judge what I’m working on now and determine what I was processing and working through. Who knows what I’ll be addressing on the other side of 50. Maybe it will be ruminations of the happiest love of my life, I don’t know. It would be nice if I was writing love stories.”

Let’s focus on the people who have experience…people who know something about how to navigate life instead of the stupid mistakes we all make when we’re twenty.”

Another inspiration for aging with grace and élan has been his mother who, at 49, went through a divorce that ended a 24 year marriage and turned her life on its ear. “She rallied and completely reinvented herself and her life direction and became this incredible healer,” Tomlinson explains of his mother’s mid-life rebirth. “It was an amazing and inspiring story and an amazing example of the possibility of change that exists and that it’s never too late to really discover yourself.”

As a writer, he sees his mother’s inspiring story—and those of other women in mid-life—as something lacking in a lot of pop culture and media. “I don’t see that narrative anywhere in movies or culture in terms of women’s stories like that,” he laments. “The discovery of 50. Where’s that movie? Where’s that story? My work is that I want to tell the stories that I’m seeing that aren’t represented. I have to represent myself. I committed very early to being an out performer and an out actor and what I write is driven by the desire to represent the story that I see happening, which are no longer about twentysomethings. Let’s focus on the people who have experience. Maybe people who know something about how to navigate life instead of the stupid mistakes we all make when we’re twenty.”

To that end, Tomlinson sees a correlation between these stories about life at 50 and how that effects the narrative of the gay community, one that is arguably still mostly obsessed with youth. With a relatively new generation of queer people getting into their 50s, 60s and 70s in much larger numbers, there is a bit of a struggle in how we learn to relate with one another socially and intergenerationally. “It’s interesting how we treat each other. I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the last couple of years. I feel a lot as if gay guys have to come out and they do it and then they think, ‘I’m my own person. I’ve done all the self work I need to do because I’ve come out’ and they stop working on themselves. I almost feel like the gay community really needs to remember that after you come out, you’ve got to really start figuring yourself out as a person, because it’s so weird how are we are with each other.”

Tomlinson sees somewhat of a schoolyard mentality in a lot of the socialization of gay men in particular when it comes to, what he says, is an effort to disenfranchise one another. “We were all bullied in high school and the first thing that we do is fucking bully celebrities on the red carpet for their choices,” he explains. “I think that’s bullshit. The lack of spirit of togetherness. The dating thing is crazy, too. Why are we so weird and broken about interpersonal stuff? Why is intimacy so difficult for us? When I look at stuff that’s happening in terms of gay filmmaking or gay television, I think, ‘Let’s get past the coming-of-age stories and get into the evolution of the gay guy. Let’s take a look at ourselves and start to examine ourselves’. I just feel that if we worked more on ourselves and our character and not judged who we were, we could just be together. This is the time.”

We really just need to start opening up our hearts again and dealing with each other as people and taking care of each other.” 

Another thing that Tomlinson sees as desperately needed in the community is romance. After 15 years of cruising on apps and websites, the pendulum may be swinging ever so slightly to something more real and old school: dating. “Where has making out gone? Where has romance gone? I’ll tell you what, a good make out is so fucking amazing. Where has that gone?” he wonders. “It’s just all, ‘Door open, pants drop, fuck me’. What happened to romance? Like, you don’t have to stay for a week, but let’s make out a bit, let’s laugh a bit. The other thing that I love, one of my favourite moments in a relationship, is that one morning where one of you just rolls over to the other person and you decide to articulate what kind of a pervert you are,” he continues with a laugh. “So you just start that conversation, ‘Hey, do you know what I’d love to try…’ and you reveal yourself as being this kind of pervert and whatever your fetish is. Then the other person has been waiting for the right opportunity to bring it up. I love that conversation. Instead of offering it up front, instead of walking through the door wearing your horse mask.”

We really just need to start opening up our hearts again and dealing with each other as people and taking care of each other. Romance comes out of that. There’s a beautiful romance to life that we can get back in touch with interpersonally,” Tomlinson continues. “Why is being romantic in a ‘weak’ context? I guess it’s not about fucking. Again, it’s this idea of what it is to be strong and manly and how romance is okay for women to be romantic and men to be romantic to women, but can we be romantic with other men? I love romance. We need to be more comfortable to thrill in our romance in everything. To be allowed to be open.”

One of the great romantic relationships Tomlinson has had has been with creativity. It’s been one of the most constant, enduring and fecund of his life. “I’m never truly alone. The creatives, the muses, however they are addressed, they come frequently and hang out with me. They keep me up at night. That’s the relationship,” Tomlinson explains. “When they come to me at two in the morning and say, ‘Hey, fucker, I’ve got something for you.’ I need to show that I’m listening by writing it down. If I ignore it I’m being a bad partner in the relationship. And I look at it as being an active relationship. I’d like a human version of that,” he says with a chuckle.

It’s amazing what happens when you’re left to your own devices,” he says ebulliently. “In my career I’ve had a lot of rejection and a lot of detours along the way. The interesting thing about being redirected is ultimately I kept doing my own work and now I’m at this place. I really understand myself, I really understand my tether and the creative community I have, which is always fluid. I don’t know if I would have this understanding if things had gone the other way. Now things are really coming together. I just need to relax and chill out. Everything is fine.”

Photo credit: Ian Brown

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