Wednesday 25 April 2018


Late-breaking gays, unisexuals, Old New Dads, Caffeine Crazies... a new book invents more labels than David McWilliams

Paris Hilton is a 'pet parent'
Paris Hilton is a 'pet parent'

By Ann Dermody

Labels are in and we're not talking designer frocks here. David McWilliams may think he invented them with the Hi-Co's and Decklanders, but US author Mark Penn, described by The Washington Post as "the most important man you've never heard of", is identifying new ones and how the world is shifting to accommodate them.

An advisor to Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates, Penn has put his finger on the zeitgeist in his latest book, Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes, branding all sorts of sub-groups hovering beneath society's radar.

There's the "late-breaking gays" -- those who don't come out of the closet until their 40s, resulting in 3.5 million children in the US whose parents declared themselves gay later in life.

Or the "unisexuals" who have now become a bona fide faction thanks to a blurring of the line between male and female purchasing power in terms of habits, tastes, and fashions.

And what about that large band, now common in Ireland, classified as the "extreme commuters"? You're one if you spend more than 90 minutes each way to and from work. Fast-food restaurants have also spotted the trend, creating meals to fit in your car.

"Cougars" are successful, older women, a la Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, who date younger men.

In 2003, nearly three million couples in the US comprised a woman at least six years older than her partner.

Then there's the "Old New Dad". You might have thought the old man you see pushing a toddler around was its doting grandfather, but actually nowadays it's more likely to be the child's father.

"Old New Dads" are no longer the exclusive domain of entertainers like Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart.

Penn, himself an "Old New Dad", identifies a growing number of "men who take painkillers to go out and toss the ball with their children".

In 2002, one in 18 births in America were to fathers over 50 -- a figure that's growing all the time.

Part of the reason, Penn says, is the already identified sub-group of "Old New Moms", who put kids on the backburner in favour of career.

Then there's divorce and the "Do-over dads" creating a second family. The third factor, he says, is biology and success. "'Old New Dads' can still physically father children; they have more access to younger women; and they are more likely to have the means to support children later in life." Some of the knock-on effects in society will range from the "Old New Dads" retiring later to consuming more energy drinks.

Another growing band of unorthodox "parents" that Penn has identified is the "Pet Parents" -- that assemblage of households with pampered animals but no children.

While in the US 63pc of homes have pets, almost half of these don't have kids. In many houses pets are replacing kids while living in luxury.

Penn says that in the United States, "the top 1pc of pets live better than 99pc of the world's population". Staggeringly, last year that translated into almost $40 billion being fluttered by Americans on their pets, with the average pet buyer being a female aged 24-45 without children.

Unsurprisingly, to meet demand, the world has produced such valuable products as 'Doggles' to protect pooches' eyes from glare while driving in the convertible; animal anti-ageing creams; puppy sunscreen; cat nail polish; and even 'pawfume' to make the furry ones smell better.

For those of you who, like Posh Spice, have only boys in the household but no daughter to look after you into old age, there may be good news.

Penn has branded an emerging group of men "the Dutiful Sons". While women are still the majority care-givers, a 2004 study found that of the 44 million people who provided unpaid care to aged adults in the US, almost 40pc were men -- sons, sons-in-law, nephews, brothers and husbands.

It turned out that many of the male care-givers were of Asian descent or gay.

The "High School Moguls" are a group Penn says have grown thanks to the advent of the internet. Sites like eBay, Facebook, MySpace have created an opportunity for the most entrepreneurial of children.

In 2000, a survey found that 8pc of teenagers in America were making money by selling on the internet, and some are doing serious business.

There's Elise MacMillan, founder and CEO of, that sells chocolates online, with 12 employees and thousands of hits a day, that she started when she was 10. MacMillan only started college this year.

She's not alone. The top 100 entrepreneurs in the 8-18 age group in the US in 2001 earned $7million in profits.

The "Caffeine Crazies" have been around for years, but with news that some coffee shops are getting their customers in as young as 10 or 11, it's not surprising that Penn has set the coffee-lovers aside in a group of their own.

The "Caffeine Crazies" are not getting all their kicks from coffee. The rise in high-energy drinks, and soft drinks containing two to three times the amount of caffeine in their original products, means we're set to buzz around even more in the future.

Penn says all this need for speed is because of the 24-hour world of shopping, working and entertainment we live in. But perhaps the most eye-popping products being created to keep us hyper are breakfast foods with caffeine added for those who don't drink coffee or tea. Welcome to the world of "buzz doughnuts and bagels" currently hitting the States.

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