The Gospel According to Marc:Starting Over - - It's Never too Late
|by Marc Acito|
Well, I'm 37 and I'm still not famous. So far the only way my name has appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair is on the address label.
If I sound a little bummed it's because I am now simply too long in the tooth to ever be considered a rising young anything. In fact, I'm so long in the tooth my dentist recently informed me I have a "recession" in my gums. First the economy, now my gums. At least the economy will come back someday.
There's enormous pressure to be extraordinary when you're gay. Supposedly we're all gym-bodied party boys of unlimited discretionary income with enough time on our hands to cater exquisite brunches in our tastefully appointed homes. When we're not memorizing show tunes we're having tons of wild sex with our buff buddies.
No wonder I feel like a failure. The wildest sex I ever see is on the Discovery Channel.
Usually I torture myself on my birthday by reflecting on all the notable people who had completed their life's work by the time they were my age, like Van Gogh. (Oops, I did it again.) But this year I've got a new attitude (and a new prescription), so I've decided instead to focus on all the notable people who hadn't begun their life's work until they were my age or older.
I'm not talking about people who worked a lifetime towards some goal that they didn't reach until after they were 40. Nope, I'm talking about late bloomers; people like me who screwed around, wasted time, and made a whole lot of wrong turns, detours and scenic side trips on their journey through life.
People like Julia Child, who said, "I was 32 when I started cooking. Up until then, I just ate." Julia was no child when she enrolled in the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris five years later, and was 52 when her hit television show premiered.
Phyllis Diller also got her start at 37. The working mother of five children, she was struggling to make ends meet as a publicist and journalist when, at the urging of her husband (immortalized as "Fang"), she tried stand-up comedy for the first time.
Harry Truman entered politics at the age of 40 after having lost his shirt in men's clothing, his fourth failed business. "If I hadn't been the President of the United States, I probably would have ended up a piano player in a whorehouse," he said. Truman didn't live in a house of his own until he was 50 when he left for Washington, DC to become a senator.
Mary Baker Eddy, the only woman ever to found a major world religion, created Christian Science at the age of 53. Sure, Christian Science makes Mormonism look positively logical by comparison, but The Christian Science Monitor, which Eddy founded when she was 88 (!), is still a highly respected, secular daily newspaper 95 years later.
Yet, even with all that inspiration, I still find the idea of being a late bloomer painfully embarrassing, like I'm the kid who has to ride to special school in the small bus. I'm 37 years old and I'm on my fourth career, which is particularly galling when you consider I was a student until I was 25. You do the math.
So when I really start to despair I turn to my role model, Jacqueline Susann. Jackie may not have started a major religion like Mary Baker Eddy, but to those of us who possess more ambition than talent, she is our patron saint, albeit a pill-popping, alcoholic one who used Nembutal suppositories.
A lousy actress with a nothing career, Susann published her first book (an autobiography of her poodle) when she was 45 years old. She was diagnosed with cancer a few months later, and, figuring that being a late bloomer beat dying on the vine, she made a deal with God that if he gave her ten more years to live, she would become the most successful writer of all time. Despite being almost as bad a writer as she was an actress, she and God both kept their promises and her next book, Valley of the Dolls, remained on the NY Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 65 weeks (28 of them at No. 1). With her next two novels, she became the first author ever to occupy the no. 1 slot with three consecutive books.
Some people ask themselves "What would Jesus do?" I ask, "What would Jackie do?" I figure if it worked for her, it can do the same for you and me.
And that, my friends, is The Gospel According to Marc.
Marc Acito's syndicated column appears in 11 papers nationwide. He can be reached at MarcAcito@attbi.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 13, No. 1, February 7, 2003.