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Knoxville: Lover’s Lane for the Prematurely Old?

Can America’s most geriatric city top our nation’s “hot to trot” list? Yes, we can!

Let’s contrast two hot-off-the-press news flashes:

ITEM ONE: It’s official: During the run-up to Valentine’s Day 2012, we learn that America’s most romantic city is Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the famous Astonished Tamale! (Also the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, manytime national champions under basketball’s amazing Coach Pat Summitt. Plus we used to play a little football.)

Our “most romantic” ranking is bestowed by, presumably the last word on such questions. Amazon’s Feb. 9 press release cites Knoxville’s purchases of romance novels, relationship books, romantic comedy movies, Barry White albums, and “sexual wellness” products. We beat out Alexandria, Virginia, which held the top spot for the past two years.

The “least romantic”, according to Amazon, is New York City, whose Wall Street Journal a few years back kissed off Knoxville as a “scruffy little city”.

ITEM TWO: Just one day after Amazon’s announcement comes the prestigious Real Age web site (, handing Knoxville its coveted “Oldest Fart” award.

Okay, technically, Real Age calls Knoxville America’s “oldest” major city in terms of “aging too fast” (via poor health practices). Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, founders of the site, calculate “real age” by adjusting for diet, exercise, tobacco use, seat belt use, and many other factors that affect longevity. Knoxvillians on average are just 33 calendar years old, but our “real age” apparently is much greater. (The docs don’t specify precisely how much.)

According to Real Age, Knoxville earns its “bottom spot” via “drinking, smoking, stress, unemployment, low income, and — not surprisingly — the least amount of optimism”.

Real Age, however, agrees (at least halfway) with Amazon about Knoxville’s romantic prowess: Despite chiding us for life-shortening health neglect, it still names Knoxville the nation’s “best city for sex for women“. And lots of hot sex — according to Oz and Roizen — is a powerful lifespan booster.

The irony isn’t lost on Real Age, which comments: “Knoxville’s ladies prove that being stressed, sleepless, and cynical shouldn’t get in the way of a satisfying sex life. ”

We guys, alas, don’t fare so well: For us, Real Age deems Knoxville the nation’s eighth worst for sex. San Diego, California, earns top marks as the best city for sex for men. Hmm. Knoxville gals, San Diego guys: “Where are they getting together?” wonders Dr. Keith Roach, Real Age’s chief medical officer.

The Astonished Tamale! would like to know as well. If you have the answer to that or any related question, please be among the first to comment using the link below.

And wherever you live, please enjoy many more wonderful Valentine’s Days throughout a long and happy life!

11 comments to Knoxville: Lover’s Lane for the Prematurely Old?

  • Rachel & Jason

    We love you dear friend and miss you madly. We are happy for you and loved the article and photos!!!! Got a great laugh!!!!!! Reading your Val day post. Keep the goodies coming, HUGS

    Rach & Jas

  • Hi there Gary

    What a cute story and discoveries about Knoxville and their marriage happiness insights. Not sure where Seattle fits into all of this…but being a Senior newly wed all I can say…”Life is Good!”

    Look forward to read more have a wonderful writing style

    Zabine Van Ness

    • Gary Matthews

      Zabine, Seattle ranks in the Real Age top 20 of cities with the “youngest” (i.e., most healthful) population. (It’s number 14; check it out here.) And Washington State, with three cities in Amazon’s top 25 “most romantic” list, is tied with Tennessee for second place in the most romantic states category. But Florida, with four cities in the top 25, is flagged by Amazon as the overall top state for romantics.

      Come to think of it, this most romantic state is known as a retirement haven for the elderly. Not in “real age” terms, just calendar years. But maybe we’re seeing a pattern anyway.

  • Lynne

    Can’t wait to read the next article. So glad you’re doing this blog. Love to you and Cheri.

  • James A Williams

    A brilliant blog from a brilliant mind. I laughed while reading…high romance in a city of “old farts”…how love blossoms in the Tennessee mountains…and demographic love metrics. Amazon’s analysis also infers a high literacy rate in Knoxville; “what” is being read doesn’t matter. Congratulations on a truly “loving” start!

    • Gary Matthews

      Thanks, James. Your point is well taken, that the Amazon rating implies good things about the literacy rate here. That’s an angle I must imvestigate further.

  • Patricia Visser

    Being an old “fart” from Knoxville myself, I was laughing all the way reading through your first article. I absolutely love the name of your website: The Astonished Tamale …
    It signals curiosity – a trait that many smart and successful people share – and it signals food!
    I remember Knoxville at one time being the city having the most Restaurants per square mile in the entire country! Then of course I remember the Dogwood Trail, the gorgeous blossoms, and the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains, the long Indian summers, and the long Indian summers, and especially the long Indian summers. Currently living in Idaho, the Gem State, you will appreciate why I miss the long Indian summers. Our summers here are short, very short, but beautiful. Idaho is called the gem State for a reason. Check it out:
    . . . I will enjoy many more of your “Tamales” on this blog, I’m sure. And to all you young lovers and romantics in the Knoxville area – take your loved ones out to dinner tonight to one of those many, many Restaurants to choose from. Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • Gary Matthews

      Thanks, Patricia. The fact that Knoxville was ever first in the “restaurants per square mile” category is news to me. But that may help explain the high obesity rate here, which in turn contributes to the shortened lifespans about which Real Age is fussing.

      Thank you also for the state information link. Please check it out, folks: Breathtaking views, fascinating facts. Of course we all know about Idaho and potatoes, but I didn’t know it was called “The Gem State” — or why. (Although, from an Astonished Tamale! perspective, potatoes are gems.)

  • Janelle

    Well, you have certainly astonished me.
    Lots of love to you and Cheri. –Janelle

  • Charles Coffey

    Your blog reminds me of why I fell in love with my future wife in Knoxville. The incredible romantic atmosphere of Knoxville must have temporarily clouded her reasoning — lucky for me.

    Too bad I didn’t read your blog in time to cover the 1,613 miles between me and Knoxville without resorting to time travel, which requires a great deal of energy. Not green travel.

    PS. I used to live in the University of Tennessee Football stadium.

  • Jane Wilson

    Go Guy, we all need humor in our lives. Where do we rate in gardening?
    Love and Blessings to you and Cheri.

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