Single Men of a Certain Age

There was this suspicious looking guy at the beach last weekend.

He was middle-aged, balding, a bit flabby, and alone. And he was dressed for winter – jeans, shirt with collar, boots – when it was warm day.

I saw him lingering awkwardly around the café, sipping on a bottle of water, and decided to keep an eye on him. There was something about him that was not quite right.

Eventually he found a patch of grass and squatted with crossed legs as though about to meditate. He took a notebook from his backpack and started scribbling in it, while watching the parade of joggers, bikini girls, surfers, kids and families that filled the promenade. Then he pulled out a camera and took a few pictures – of the beach, the sky, the clouds. At least, that what it seemed like from where I was sitting – they might have been sneaky pics of kids!

What was he up to? Was he a pervert? On drugs? Was he dangerous? Or just deranged?

Well, he was me! I was taking a rest after walking several kilometres from a nearby beach.

And the above observations are the thoughts I imagine pass through the minds of those not in the same demographic – i.e. male, single, middle-aged. For I’ve noticed in recent years, that the unmarried or unattached S.N.A.G. (sensitive new age guy), while acceptable in the twenty-to-thirty age group, somehow morphs into the S.M.A.C. (sleazy middle-aged creep) when he hits his late forties and fifties, at least in the eyes of many people.

My daughters, both in their mid-twenties, first alerted me to the phenomenon, when they pointed out that my habit of talking to little kids and babies at the supermarket was probably scaring the parents. A young father might be able to get away with it, or a hobbling, silver-haired octogenarian, but not a balding, spectacle-wearing middle-aged male like myself.

I have since kept well away from playgrounds, toy stores or any such places, lest I be nabbed as an undesirable, my repulsive visage flashed across the pages of the Sunday Mail.

But the phenomenon is not confined to the ‘relationship’ between the single S.M.A.C. and children. For example, I’ve noticed that younger women react differently to single middle-aged men, as though the man’s marital status might represent a serious threat to their physical wellbeing.

This is well illustrated by a story my daughter told me. She once worked in a small office in which there worked many young women. There were also a couple of married guys, a few older married women, and a fifty-year old guy who lived alone. He collected jazz records, liked to travel and go to the opera. My daughter befriended him – after all, he seemed nice enough and talked about interesting things.

Unfortunately, my daughter was unaware that this man – due to age, gender and marital status – was ‘untouchable’. Her female colleagues ridiculed her – and the poor S.M.A.C. – until she desisted from talking to him again.

In John Irving’s book, The World According to Garp, Garp’s mother, Jenny – a single mother by choice – refers to herself as a ‘sexual suspect’.

I think this term sums up the S.M.A.C phenomenon. ‘Normal’ men do not reach middle age alone. There must be something wrong with them. They are diseased, damaged, deranged or dangerous. They are sexual suspects!

Of course, without hard evidence, such a hypothesis is bound to make huge generalisations, reach faulty conclusions, and be warped by personal experience. I can only say in my defence that I hope these are an unconnected collection of observations.

But spare a thought for the single S.M.A.C next time you see a movie or TV show about a child molester, serial killer or random pervert. Is he a middle-aged male? Is he single? Balding? Does he wear glasses?

No wonder people run away from me!


by Max Funt 


The Ibis Threat

In a scene reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a dozen dirty white birds with long blade-like beaks have taken over a small suburban playground. Children don’t play here anymore – they’re too scared.

And while such scenes might be expected in the mountains of New Guinea or the Amazon jungle, this is suburban Adelaide. Growing numbers of these birds have been spotted across the metropolitan area, from Semaphore to Aberfoyle Park.

In Hillcrest last week, a seven-year-old had his lunch taken by a gang of five birds. While in Modbury, a flock of over 30 birds disrupted a church picnic with unruly behaviour and loud squawking.

But what are they? Where have they come from? And what do they want from us?

‘The Sacred Ibis is common across eastern Australia,’ explains Professor Badger-Smith from Coca-Cola® University. ‘But they’re usually found in estuaries and wetlands, not urban areas. And they’re generally timid creatures that avoid human contact.’

Tell that to Aldo Luring, a pensioner from South Plympton. He was returning from a trip to the local TAB when one of Professor Badger-Smith’s ‘timid creatures’ snatched the war veteran’s beanie, leaving a savage scratch mark on the man’s forehead.

‘This is a mutant strain of ibis,’ suggests Hugh Smirch from the Limp River Wildlife Park. ‘Could be global warming, biochemical testing or even alien experimentation. We’ve got a dingo at the Park with three tails – one coming out the top of its head. You can’t tell me aliens didn’t have something to do with that!’

The man with the most chilling explanation for the urban ibis – or ‘urbis’ – is Dr Frank Drell, a geneticist whose book Genetic Engineering For Fun And Leisure was a New York Times bestseller.

‘This type of development is not uncommon,’ says Dr Drell. ‘A relatively harmless species comes into contact with humans – eats human food, watches humans play sport – and begins to take on human characteristics. There are hedgehogs in Sweden that can understand the most complicated mobile phone contracts.’

‘Unfortunately, the animal doesn’t always take on the most appealing human traits,’ he adds ominously.

Indeed, some inner city ibis have been seen queue jumping at city bus stops, while still others have been caught putting recyclable material in with regular garbage.

‘Every ibis in the country should be put on a boat and sent back where it came from,’ declares Independent MP, Olly Swine. ‘There’ll be no queue-jumping in Oliver Swine’s Australia!’

While politicians and scientists debate the ibis issue, nothing is being done, and ever-increasing numbers of birds are gathering in our playgrounds, restaurants and discount pharmacies.

We can only hope it won’t be too late before action is taken.

If you see, hear or smell any anti-social ibis behaviour ring 1800 IBIS HELP immediately.

Max Funt Reporting.