I'm a teacher is Madison Wisconsin who is ready for a change. I've been vacationing for many years in Fort Lauderdale ever since my partner died. I think that is where I want to be and I have an opportunity to do this. I am hesitating because I think I know only what an outsider knows about the city and this move could be a big mistake. Is it true the men are interested only in sex, booze and drugs and can't handle relationships? Would I be moving into a city of burn-outs? I'm OK with being single but love would be nice. I can be alone here in Wisconsin, so I don't need to move to Florida for that. Got any advice for me?
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Before you plant that For Sale sign in your front yard, you ought to think this through a bit more carefully.
When I was a child, my father would sometimes come home from work and tell me that we would be going fishing on Saturday on a lake described by one of his coworkers as "full of the biggest trout you've ever seen". As we drove out to that lake, he'd assure me that almost nobody knew about this fisherman's paradise. In our rowboat, we would follow his secret directions to a secluded bend of the lake where we would eagerly cast our lines. At the end of the day, we'd drive home with nothing. Dad would blame the clouds, the temperature, our bait. Before long, he would come home excited with some fresh news about yet another secret fishing hole and he would again begin the countdown to Saturday.
I was always glad that our family was safely distanced from the California Gold Rush by more than a century or Dad surely would have abandoned us, with Mom needing to take in laundry and me without piano lessons.
I grew up, and developed friendships with men who would call me on Thursday, babbling about some new bar which, it was reported, contained huge numbers of beautiful men never seen anywhere else. We'd go there on Friday night and find ourselves sipping drinks with all the men we saw every week, and with whom we would now collectively watch the door for the arrival of at least one fresh face.
"We're going to New York!" someone would proclaim. "If you can't get laid in New York, you need help." We're going to Boston! That's where they're hiding them, our husbands. We've taken a house in Ptown. It's crawling with the most gorgeous selection of gorgeous gorgeousness! It's only five hours to Montreal where there's all of Canada waiting to party with you! Have you heard about Atlanta? Miami! That's where you'll find the rich ones!
Please. I don't think there's a city in America short of Dayton, Ohio that hasn't been touted as the best place to go for your heart's desire. If you are coming to Fort Lauderdale to find happiness, you'd better first examine your expectations and then examine your personal baggage.
All cities contain the full spectrum of gay men and women: the ingénue, the predator, the talent, the jade, the liar, the ambitious, the rich, the poor, the kept, the addict, the brilliant, the beautiful, the fading and the writer. You'll take your place among them. You'll earn a label that may be revised over the years. You'll find out whether you are immune to wisdom or susceptible to it. Whether or not you come to love or hate being gay in a city will not impact your choice to remain or flee. The reaction varies.
Your chances of finding love in Fort Lauderdale will probably be no greater or smaller than your chances in Madison. They will depend on what you are made of in either place.
A gay man must learn to build himself from the inside out. He must become his own city; a self-sufficient entity, or regenerative ecosystem, if you will, that can transplant itself anywhere and produce its own happiness even in a wasteland. Are you creative and resourceful and loving and enthusiastic, or are you just a sponge? Gay ghettoes are full of sponges who, having soaked up all the men in their own backyards, seek the higher concentrations to be found in cities. There's no smile on a sponge, and they mostly end up dirty and ragged and crusty and trashed.
The gay man or woman who is self-contained and self-possessed can live anywhere and should base the decision on the qualities particular to the geography or culture of a place. I am in Florida for the ocean. I am in New York City for the arts. I can't imagine sacrificing either and I think both extremes of place contain an equal number of beautiful and eligible men and women.
I sometimes think there is a natural geographical progression in the lifespan of the American Gay. He begins in the suburbs or on a farm longing for wings. He tries himself out in a small city. He blossoms in a big city. After some years, he begins to dream of escape and solitude and quiet. At any point in this continuum, he may or may not have found love. If I knew the secret to finding love in the woods of North Dakota or on Manhattan's 9th Avenue between 30th and 50th Streets, I'd be a multimillionaire.
If it's warm climate, beach and sex you are seeking, come to Fort Lauderdale where we probably have more of it available than in your town, but if it's happiness you want, Dorothy, there's no place like home, and you can be home anywhere.