As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m here to report that the “Free Love” generation is still living up to its name. Even though many members of the group called the Baby Boomers are now in their 70s, it seems flower power is still going strong, at least in bedrooms.
Even the venerable gray lady, The New York Times, recently dedicated a portion of its Sunday magazine to the amorous arts of those over 70 years old. The article discussed in often explicit detail how the Boomers are dealing with aging and that still very important aspect of their lives.
What was scary about the article was the series of photos that accompanied it. For some reason when I looked at them, I couldn’t help but think back to spring breaks of yore and hundreds of thousands of young, sleek, bronzed bodies frolicking at the beach in skimpy swimwear.
We all like to see ourselves in our minds as we were at our best, kind of like Bob Seger’s song, “Like a Rock.” But the images in the Times magazine were of wrinkled and flabby shoulders, elbows, backs, and hands, often glistening with sweat. Fortunately, the images were sufficiently abstract and colorized to avoid, as we used to say back in the ‘60s, “gagging a maggot.”
So my vision of spring break quickly turned into a nature documentary. You know, one in which they show small islands covered with thousands upon thousands of blubbery elephant seals jostling each other for space in the sun. I could even hear a very British voiceover by Sir David Attenborough in my head: “Now, after decades, they return during springtime to those places of youthful indulgence — Ft. Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Miami — to replenish their bodies with oils, consume alcoholic beverages, sun themselves, and, yes, attempt to mate one more time.”
We know such mating activity among the elderly is happening based on statistics. Not in an elevated birth rate, as happened, say, after the famous New York City blackout in 1977. Rather, we know it’s happening because, according to news articles and even the AARP, there has been a dramatically rising incidence of STDs among members of retirement communities. States with the largest populations of elderly citizens are seeing the largest increases in disease.
I think there are three reasons for this.
First, people in this age group often just plain forget things.
Second, because fertility in this age group is close to zero, there is no need for contraception. Thus, going unprotected is more likely.
Last, many Boomers possibly remember what it was like trying to purchase birth control devices in the 1960s. Unlike nowadays, back then the entire subject was considered taboo, and such items were often kept behind the check-out register. You had to ask a clerk to get the required items, much like how cigarettes are sold today.
Back in the ‘60s, of course, cigarettes were widely available at low prices, so you could smoke afterward if you had the nerve to get what you needed for the part that comes before the smoking.
Take, for example, what happened to a friend of mine while we were attending college. His high school sweetheart was coming to town for homecoming weekend. Hoping for the best, Fred (I call him ‘Fred’ here because that was his name) went to the local pharmacy.
The clerk was a woman old enough to be his grandmother, so the situation was uncomfortable for Fred right from the get-go. Having other customers in the pharmacy made it worse. I should also mention Fred had a speech impediment — a slight but uncorrected cleft palate, which made him hard to understand.
The clerk asked Fred if she could help him. Trying his best to be a suave and debonair college man and using terminology that was correct for the day, Fred whispered, “I’d like some prophylactics.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand,” said the clerk.
“I want some prophylactics!” said Fred in a slightly louder voice, his level of embarrassment rising.
“I’m sorry,” said the clerk, “I still can’t understand you.” Other customers began to line up behind Fred.
Fred was now quite agitated, and his face was red. He blurted out in a loud voice, “DAMMIT! I need some RUBBERS!”
A hush fell over the crowd as the clerk reached under the counter. Fred made his purchase and fled the store. I don’t think he ever went back to that pharmacy.
So you can see how there might be some reticence on the part of many Boomers to wandering the aisles of pharmacies and getting what they need.
But statistics on STDs in the elderly population are just statistics. My editor is a stickler for verifying all aspects of an article before she will publish it. That’s why I suggested, for the mere price of an airline ticket and a beachfront hotel room, I am willing to go undercover, so to speak, and thoroughly investigate what’s going on with retirees in places such as South Florida. I’m ready to leave just as soon as I locate my tie-dye T-shirt, bell bottoms … and hookah.
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