Why Die?

At 80, Miller Quarles figures he should have 100 good years left. And Houston's apostle of life extension is determined to find them.

"I had a couple dates and I brought this up to her. She said, "You're a mean man. Why don't you go ahead and die off like you're supposed to and get out of the way for us younger people.' That's actually what she told me to my face." Quarles takes a sip of his rejuvenating water. "Needless to say, I didn't see her anymore."

Living to Flirt, Flirting to Live

Such reactions haven't dissuaded Quarles from meeting women or using dating services, though. Old doesn't have to mean sexually listless. And he's not about to change his personality or ambitions to cater to the next woman he encounters. He feels the way he feels about aging and death, and he's no more willing or able to change that than a leopard can change his spots. He believes he's become an anti-aging zealot because he has the money, the time, the good health, the scientific background, the determination to stay alive, the "chance meetings with significant men such as Pauling" and, of course, a sexual drive. "I'm as sexually active as I was when I was 30," he says. "You still have to have a sexual drive. Sex is very important to every human being."

If sex is the "scream of life" that one philosopher said it was, then Miller Quarles has plenty to yell about. During several conversations on aging, death and survival, Quarles makes a point of mentioning his continued sexual proclivity. He smiles as he mentions it, not so much in braggadocio or lechery as in a sense of relief and accomplishment. He could be saying, "You know, I can still read without glasses," or "My tennis game is getting better" or even "No need for prune juice."

On more than one occasion, Quarles mentions sperm cells as the one group of cells that's been found to use the "immortalizing enzyme" of telomerase to rebuild their telomeres. It's almost as if he's suggesting this proves the linkage of sex and longevity.

To see that sex is important to Quarles, look no further than the stationery for his anti-aging society. The board of directors includes two ex-wives and a current girlfriend, who happens conveniently to be an intensive care unit nurse. In one of his several tangents from his oil well drilling career (he also developed a board game and a scoring system for duplicate bridge), Quarles wrote a book with the hard-to-sell title, The Flirtation Game for Married People. He finished the book in 1987, but has yet to find a publisher interested in printing his description of the 13 stages of flirtation, based on the "Flirtation Quotient Test" he devised after years of observation and thousands of interviews. He's even added two appendices, "What is Date Rape and How It Can Be Prevented" and "Sexual Harassment Among Married People." Other chapters have such intriguing titles as "Difference Between Charm and Flirting," "Lack of Connection Between Flirting and Morals" and "Opportunities While Traveling."

His chapters on what makes a man or woman good in bed are fairly graphic, but also suggest an ideal room temperature of 75 to 80 degrees. Some sexism creeps through in certain areas, particularly when he advises women who don't manage orgasm to tell their mates, "I loved every bit of it, but am just so relaxed and happy that an orgasm was unnecessary for my complete fulfillment." As for males who want to leave shortly after orgasm, he advises, "If you must get up and leave, be sure you say as many endearing things afterwards as you did before."

Having a sexual drive is an important part of wanting to stay alive, Quarles says. In the "About the Author" appendix of his book, he says he "has had two congenial divorces and is now looking for a third wife."

Anxious for the Cure

Seated behind his desk in his downtown office on a Tuesday afternoon, Miller Quarles looks all of 80 years old, somehow sad and distracted, not at all like the vigorous image he displays on the tennis court. He's printing out his November newspaper column so it can be sent off to the California Senior Citizen. "They never turn down the column or change a word," Quarles says with a grin, though he knows full well, since he admitted it earlier, that the publication of his column may have something to do with the $150 advertisement he buys in the paper. The ad is placed next to the column and solicits new members for the Curing Old Age Disease Society.

Mail trickles in from the ad, with most of the respondents requesting that they become members without having to pay the $20 membership fee, an option Quarles has mentioned in his column. His monthly column also appears in People Plus in the Deer Park-Pasadena-La Porte area, Senior Citizen Reporter in California and The Golden Years in Florida and California. His columns deal with news on advances in longevity and Quarles' advice on how to deal with the possible complications of people living an extra century. He hopes the columns will spark interest in anti-aging research and raise the hopes of those who want a longer life.

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