It's All Marc Jacobs' Fault....
Now, I know this blog generally deals with the yuppification of Boston’s South End, however, it seems that Provincetown is going through the same changes that the South End has already had to endure and I think its interesting to compare and contrast the two. What got me pondering was a quote from a young dad visiting P-Town, stroller and infant in tow. He said, “I remember coming here and it was all about alternative lifestyles. Now its calmer….the restaurants are very kid welcoming.” How South End of him.
Provincetown was a summer vacation destination for my family back from the mid 1960’s through the mid 1970’s. Don’t laugh, but we stayed at the Boatslip and I didn’t have two daddies (then). This was before there were tea-dances and DJ Mary Alice and flag-twirlers and D&G sunglasses and cosmopolitans (Blogger’s Note: That’s me, above, jumping into the Boatslip Pool, circa sometime in the mid-70’s [My flags and my cosmopolitan have been cropped out of the photo to save space]. Look how much fabric they used on bathing suits back then!! Also, the water in the pool had a much thinner consistency as hair product had not yet been invented).
My parents dragged me to P-Town not because it was “child-friendly” but because it was an artist’s colony and they thought it was intellectually stimulating. They were artists and they enjoyed being around other like-minded people. To them, the diversity and creative atmosphere in Provincetown was more important than whether there were changing tables, children’s menus and sippee cups. If the reverse were true, we would have stayed in Hyannis or Falmouth. As far as I was concerned, I was happy to swim in the Boatslip pool all day and go hunting for snails (that’s escargot to my South End audience) on the wooden posts under the deck of the Boatslip, bringing them back to our room, much to the horror of my mother. Apparently, people still hunt for snails there, too, late at night.
I get the feeling, however, that the young parents visiting Provincetown, who are being “actively courted” by the P-Town tourism boards, are into the diversity of the creative community not so much. I don’t really see any of them at the P-Town Film Festival or at any of the few remaining galleries. They’re more about trolley tours, whale-watching, ice cream and shopping. Which is fine. But, just like in the South End, there needs to be a little realization and respect for the community that was there before them.
One long-time P-Town vacationer quoted in the Globe article said that it “used to be that you could walk down the street holding hands with a man and you felt safe. Now you feel gawked at.” He hit the nail on the head with that statement. Regular readers of this blog might recall that I had experienced something similar a couple of years ago in the South End, when a bunch of my gay male friends kissed each other goodbye, quite innocently, on the corner of Waltham Street and Tremont, right in front of the Butcher Shop. Patrons of that mega-yuppified establishment looked on in horror and possibly even disgust, which made me want to hurl rotten heirloom tomatoes at them (See post entitled The Long Kiss Goodnight).
And just several weeks ago, when my party of 8 gay men was called by the hostess at Rocca, I turned to notice a Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton wannabe at the bar with her greasy-looking boyfriend pointing and laughing at us. I’m a pretty good lip-reader, and I am fairly certain I saw her say the word “fags” as they stared. I, too, feel “gawked at,” both in P-Town and in the South End.
As I am always careful to point out, there are plenty of straight people in P-Town and the South End who do not fall into this category. I have numerous straight friends who live in the South End or vacation in P-Town who have gay friends in their immediate social circles, attend gay weddings, and for whom one’s sexuality is not an issue in the least. They don’t gawk and make us feel as if we were on display at the zoo (“Please do not feed the muscleboys”). They don’t sit on a trolley and look shocked when they see two men holding hands.
All of this leads me to the following questions: Why does Provincetown (or to a certain extent, the South End) need to be “child-friendly”? When did “child-friendly” and “kid-welcoming” become the paradigm to which we should all aspire? Shouldn’t we still keep a few “adult-friendly” venues, if just for nostalgia’s sake? Are we gentrifying these places into blandness?
The United States is about 3200 miles long, from the easternmost part of Cape Cod to the western shores of Oregon, much of it child-friendly. Can’t we just claim one or two miles at the eastern end of it all for ourselves? P-Town should be all about shell shops, fudge stores, restaurants with never-changing “specials” and short-shorts for “boys.” Not a Marc Jacobs store. That stuff should stay on Newbury Street where it belongs. It introduces an unnecessary element to a seaside town (and believe me, I have no problem with high-end designer boutiques whatsoever, in the right context). The way things are going, I’m sure that a Baby Gap will make its way onto both Commercial Street and Tremont Street within the next 5 years.
In the meantime, if this yuppification/gentrification continues, we’re going to see some changes in Provincetown: A-House will become A-B-C House Day Care Center. Body Body? How ‘bout Baby Baby. Then there’s All American Toddler. Don’t forget Clean White Girl. The Pied Pacifier. And Toys of Eros will, of course, switch fro dildos to Dockers.
If children happen to come along to P-Town, then that’s fine, but I’d argue that they don’t need any special provisions or accommodations. I was there as a child and there were very few amenities for those with children back then, but the parents who brought children there did just fine left to their own devices. And no one imploded when they saw two men holding hands (which I remember seeing a lot of , and I turned out just…..well…, y’know).
Don’t get me wrong – unlike dogs, I love kids (it’s the parents I could live without). There are just certain areas in which kids should romp freely and have the rule of the manor. If I were to go (hypothetically speaking!!) to McDonald’s, or Chuckie Cheese, I expect to see and hear sticky children. When I am dining in the newest South End hotspot at 10 o’clock on a Friday night, I should be seeing adults from Chestnut Hill and other bridge and tunnel flotsam and jetsam, not 6-year-olds who should be in bed. This, no matter how many layers of Prada in which their ultra-cool hipster parents are draped. I think its cruel to keep children up that late in that type of environment, and I do not blame them for crying or whining in the least (these are the same parents who argue that they must have nannies and an SUV to transport their only child, when, believe it or not, I know of some parents who with two small children make due with a two-door coupe and no help). Sometimes when you have kids you have to make – gulp – sacrifices for their well-being and you might even – gasp – have to stay in on a Friday night!!
If children are being wheeled down Commercial Street in P-Town, then they are going to get an eyeful and perhaps an education. Our lives should not have to be put on a back burner, or worse, sanitized, because some whiny and entitled parents brought little Madison to Provincetown or the South End and she saw two men kissing. Life ain’t Burger King and you don’t get to have everything your way. There are enough places in this world where the rights and entitlements of new parents are paramount. Let’s just have one or two places where they aren’t.