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Gay Americans and The Fountain of Youth

Published in “HWFmag”

October 2007

It’s no surprise that Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de León went searching for the Fountain of Youth in 1513 in what is now America’s State of Florida. Stories date back to the third century about the mythological spring having the magical powers to restore youth back anybody who drinks its potent waters.

The United States has long been a country fixated on youth. As I entered university in 1970, during the height of the Hippie movement and protests against the Vietnam War, one of the most famous sayings of the day was, “Don’t trust anybody over thirty.” Obviously, reaching one’s thirtieth birthday was a bit traumatic for the Baby Boom generation.

With America being a young country and having a large frontier many young people immigrated here to look for a better life. They took risks, settled rugged land, opened business with little financial backing. Some had great success while others built a foundation for their children and grandchildren to succeed. New industries developed along with new ideas.

Of course, I always laugh at the idea of the Fountain of Youth being located in Florida. Having grown up in the suburbs of New York, so many elderly people that I knew retired to Florida once they became senior citizens. Florida is popular for the elderly as it provides a warm climate allowing seniors to escape the harsh winters faced by those who live in America’s Northeast and Midwest. I have always joked that New Yorkers move their entire neighborhoods to Florida once they reach sixty-five years of age. Everybody seems to have a ton of friends in Florida once they move there. Elderly women all seem to dye their hair silver blue and they drive huge cars (huge by American standards, mind you, which means the cars are the size of an entire London borough). As you see their cars motoring down the street, you can hardly see the driver. In fact, you typically only see the fingers of their hands grasping the steering wheel along with a tuft of silver blue hair visible above the steering wheel through the windscreen. Fountain of Youth indeed! However, youth does drive American culture. New trends come from the young, be it the latest music, clothing styles, or computer technology. Let’s face it; older folks aren’t listening to rap music. iPods were first adopted by the young. If you have problems with your computer, just find a fifteen-year-old to come solve the problem and make you look like a complete imbecile. Have you ever seen anybody over thirty wear Spandex or a thong? Such a thought is enough to send shivers up and down one’s spine. Even with the guarantees in the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights (before “Bonzo the Wonder Chimp”, better known as George W. Bush, decided to put them through a paper shredder) the wearing of such apparel was a privilege not a right.

As a person who has earned his living in the marketing and advertising field I can tell you that the eighteen to forty-nine year old demographic is the most sought after by advertisers for most products, especially those that are between ages eighteen and thirty-four. Those over the age of fifty-four are about as desirable for most advertisers as being forced to spend a fortnight in hospital with Dick Cheney as one’s roommate! Of course, the people with the most disposable income available to companies marketing goods and services are over fifty-four but that doesn’t seem to matter. To reach the young demographic, most American television shows are aimed at youth, as are movies and music. ‘High School Musical’ shown in February 2006 was one of the most popular original movies ever produced for cable TV and High School Musical 2 was a huge hit this summer; now a now High School Musical 3 is a film in development to be released in movie theatres sometime during 2008.

Thirty years ago when I heard the term ‘Plastic’ I immediately thought about somebody wanting to charge their latest purchase with a MasterCard, Visa or American Express card. Today when I hear plastic, I think face-lifts and tummy tucks. I haven’t heard of any plastic surgeons in the U.S. going broke lately. A hit show on American television the past few years has been ‘Nip/Tuck’, which is about two highly dysfunctional plastic surgeons with their practice in Miami. This season they are moving their practice to Los Angles so the show should get even wackier! One of the doctors has a wife played by Joely Richardson (Vanessa Redgrave’s and Tony Richardson’s daughter). Guest stars including Richard Chamberlain, Rosie O’Donnell, Vanessa Redgrave and Joan Rivers have been thrilled to appear on the popular show. I understand that ‘Nip/Tuck’ has made it to your side of the pond. Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

If there is a fixation on youth in the American mainstream, it is even more feverish in the gay community. Most gay youth think anybody over thirty is a fossil and worry that if they haven’t found a life partner by then that they are doomed to lead lives of solitude aging away in some attic as undesirable as an antiquated computer. Many older gay men are only attracted to younger gay men and so they lust after guys in their twenties. I have to admit that my husband is fourteen years my junior but since I am fifty-four and he is forty and we met in December 2001, he was hardly ‘chicken’ when we met. Besides, he is far more sensible than I am so if anything, I am the kid. To be honest, I don’t know what I would do with a man in his twenties. Sure he might be attractive, at the height of his physique, and worthy of a roll in the hay. But it would be nice to have something in common so that one might actually be able to have a conversation outside of the bedroom.

It is no surprise that most gay men look years younger than their biological age. We tend to take better physical care of ourselves than do our straight brethren. We don’t freak out at the thought of using facial care products instead of a bar of soap. Such a suggestion to a straight man would send him into sheer panic. Many gay men are gym fanatics. I hate exercise so whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lay down until it goes away (a famous quote I borrow from the first president of the University of Chicago where I studied for my MBA). Gays also tend to eat healthier food. I am starting the South Beach Diet this week but only after being browbeaten by my doctor.

Still, it isn’t easy being a gay youth. With the challenges they face, as pointed out in my column last month, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything.

Well, I have to run. My salad is ready. I’m due at my doctor’s office in an hour for my Botox injection and then have an appointment with my personal trainer at half five! Now, where the hell is that damn fountain?

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© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.