Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's All Marc Jacobs' Fault....

According to this week’s Boston Globe, Provincetown is “no longer mainly for gays.” Nowadays, P-Town is “courting a broader population.” And from the looks of things, that population is wearing a lot of pleated Dockers. And I don’t mean the Lesbians!

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article in the Globe on Ptown only confirmed what I had already noticed in the past few years but it made me sad (and angry) nevertheless to see it confirmed in print. There is an entire world out there for straight people, that they let us gays exist in, sometimes, at their pleasure, and often times not. But for a certain group of them, if they hear about one small exception - one place that might have something they might want - where they are not the dominant culture, they have to set out to claim it for themselves.

It used to be that straight people went to Ptown at night in the summer knowing that they were not going to be the dominant culture, and so only a self-selecting group would do that. I know because I sometimes used to go there with them. They could soak up the atmosphere, the celebration of gayness, the freedom, and appreciate that they were in a place like no other place in the world. But they couldn't feel like they were in charge, unless they were Portugese, who still have a superior claim and deserve that status by virtue of their long-term residence and year-round hardiness.

Now, however, the condo flippers, trophy house builders, guest house operators, real estate brokers, and other Ptown moneychangers - who are never, it seems, satisfied with how much their property is worth - feel they have to tell the straight tourists that they too are MORE THAN WELCOME to this little corner of heaven (and make sure you bring plenty of cash!), that delicate balance has been thrown into chaos.

Just like the South End, there will be a culture clash for a while, probably some little skirmishes, angry letters to the editor of the Provincetown Banner, and maybe even a gay-bashing or two. And then, just like the South End, the gay community will disappear from one of its last outposts on earth. The dominant straight culture will conquer this rogue little town, and everything will be calm again. It will become, if in fact it hasn't already, Nantucket, with a few extra drag queens for the little tykes to get their pictures taken with. Pax Hetero-dominus.

August 18, 2008 at 10:40:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

"It will become, if in fact it hasn't already, Nantucket, with a few extra drag queens for the little tykes to get their pictures taken with. Pax Hetero-dominus."

I nearly peed my pants.

Didn't the SE and P-town evolve because of persecution and bigotry?

Is the Gay Culture of both devolving because of the lack of persecution and bigotry towards gays by the general population?

Are acts of bigotry ("The Long Kiss Goodnight") more noticeable because the expectations of a Gay SE are diluted? Is the hetero SE more or less Gay friendly than the rest of Boston?

Are the loss of Gay enclaves the price paid for broader societal acceptance?

August 18, 2008 at 12:52:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note - one further symptom and something to hasten us all out of Ptown: the days of carefree fun on the OUTER, far-remote beach are over: it scares the kiddies dragged a couple of miles out the breakwater and the nice Dockers-clad folk on whale watch boats:

Now, I've been going to Ptown as an out gay man for more than 20 years now, I was actually one of the guys cited as having been seen from the whalewatch boat (for the record, it really was innocent, friendly fun NOT an orgy...our sin was being a little TOO fabulous with tent-pavilions, and being too close to the lighthouse, which, you know, the straights might want to visit...argh); I've seen little or no shift in the amount or character of public nudity and/or sex going on or where it did in that time - I do agree, if there's stuff going on beyond some covert glances and maybe a couple guys sharing a shower down at the main bath-house, hey, that's not right, because that IS and always has been the G-rated part of the beach...and people used to respect the distinction: families with kids and such near the parking and concessions (easy to change babies, not tire out the kidlets, get them ice cream, etc.), then clothed lesbians, then the topless ones - often playing tackle football...which is always a funn spectator sport, then the boys in ever-skimpier speedos, then the nude beach - WAY out. The citations are way up because 'straight families' are insisting on all locations being 'family friendly' all the freakin' time - it's precisely the same impulse that leads these inconsiderate morons to drag their poor tired kiddies out to a good restaurant at 10PM...treating the child as a lifestyle accessory and demanding that we all pay obeisance. Grrrr.

That beach has a tradition of nudity, gay and straight, certainly among some quite great artists (remember the pic of Tennessee Williams at the Little Bar of the A-House, etc.) for longer than it's been National Seashore. I recall back in the 1980s and early 90s there would still be the occasional ranger foray down, and the word would pass, and guys would put their suits on in plenty of time. Oddly, this seemed to let up in the Clinton years, but there's now a crackdown in the twilight Bush years...and now there's no warning on the ranger approaches - faster ATVs and far more regular. It's working - I was down last week and only took my suit off long enough to change into dry shorts or when I was way out in the water - keeping it in hand - who wants to risk ending up on a sex offender list for enjoying a little freedom and comfort? A look around confirmed that most of the guys felt the same way. Idly speculating whether this was happening on Fire Island as well, I had a friend say it is...not confirmed, but I suspect a coordinated policy memo coming down from above here.

Somebody should make the case that the constant ranger ATV and SUV traffic out the beach is far more problematic environmentally than a bunch of nude sunbathers...but, methinks 'tis all in vain. This is a sign of the times, and we're really powerless to resist - what, even, are the terms to enter this in public discourse without ridicule or worse?

Something has been lost...I know I'm seriously reconsidering bothering with Ptown as a vacation destination - it's so expensive, I might as well go to Sitges or Ibiza if I want a gay beach resort, or actually go someplace with more cultural depth if not.

Sigh...RIP Ptown, been nice knowing ye!

August 19, 2008 at 7:55:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, and, bless ye, good blogger for the post!

Oh - here it is, from the Globe article, in a nutshell:

"Provincetown isn't turning straight. No one's trying to make it straight," said Don Knuuttila, executive director of the Provincetown Business Guild, which promotes the town to gay and lesbian tourists. "But we've always been trendsetters. There's a long history of gay men going into places, creating fabulous things, and then people coming and joining us. . . . Look at the South End."

Need ANYONE say more?!

August 19, 2008 at 8:00:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wsjevons said: "Are the loss of Gay enclaves the price paid for broader societal acceptance?"

Not really. The loss of Gay enclaves is the price to be paid for their being overrun by the other 90% of humanity, who have 99.9999% of the world as their domain but wanted the South End too. Younger gay guys can't live in the South End, or even vacation in P-town, because these places have been "discovered" by everyone else, with the concommitant rise in prices that increased demand brings. Almost every gay person I know who moved out of the South End did so because they couldn't afford it anymore. The only one's who have stayed, like me, are the one's who bought early. Watch for the increase in gay retirement communities in the coming years to see what I mean - it's not that we don't want to live near other gay people anymore since we are now so universally accepted by everyone else (?!), it's that the places we created as gay neighborhoods have been broken up.

And the case of Ptown, that's exactly what happened, and the guest house owners and merchants will someday regret it. In their desire for more, more, more, the tourist trade and others overlooked the uniqueness of what they were benefitting from all those years and decided to throw over their fellow gays for a larger audience. But it's fast becoming just another Ye Olde Cape town with a Black Dog and Cuffie's store and all the rest of it.

But I'm glad I was able to almost make you "pee your pants." Always happy to amuse.

August 20, 2008 at 1:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger thesouthender said...

Anonymous, you couldn't have said it better. Sometimes there's more to life than flipping for profit.

Also, since when have we become more accepted? How many states have anti-gay marriage legislation pending? Alot. What about the latest teenager who was killed because he was gay (not to mention the latest teen gay suicide). That's acceptance? Acceptance is more than just Ellen or Will & Grace.

August 20, 2008 at 7:50:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wsjevons, does this make you pee your pants?

Maybe you would if you were chased down and brutally beaten for walking home at night.

August 28, 2008 at 3:19:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Peter said...

wsjevons, you haven't responded to anonymous' question? Did THAT make you pee your pants? Do you still hold to the truth of your statement that the South End and Provincetown are no longer "needed" because gay people have been so thoroughly embrassed by the dominant culture? Are you watching the Republican convention? Could you pull your head out of the sand?

September 3, 2008 at 2:22:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like that..."life ain't Burger King, you can't have everything your way." I gotta remember that. Thanks for your posts. I always look forward to them.


September 4, 2008 at 7:35:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

Excuse me, but I thought anonymous made a very funny comment that actually isn't really far from the truth. (Pax Hetero-dominus is my favorite.)

Anywho, my point was that in the near past homophobia was more prevalent and than it is now. (I did not say or even imply universal acceptance. No group will ever be universally accepted as long as bigots exist.)

There was a time when the South End was the small slice of Boston where gays were accepted. Now that gays are integrating into the broader society does this lead to dissolution of 'gay neighborhoods'?

The answer seems to be yes, but it is not voluntary because the heteros are overrunning (co-opting ?) the gay culture. That implies that gays are becoming more accepted and people aren't afraid to have them as neighbors - OR - the attributes of a (formerly) predominantly gay community are so fabulous that people overlook the gay population. Perhaps it is a combination of both.

The South Ender makes excellent points. But the "Will & Grace" comment is probably the most prescient for this discussion or at least for my purposes. (Not to denigrate the others. They are clearly more serious.) I think desensitization to gay people is interpreted as acceptance. In a small, perhaps superficial way, it is, but is that meaningful? True acceptance will be when someone finds out that another is gay and there is no suprise! behind it.

"Also, since when have we become more accepted?" That statement is indefensible. Are things the same as 5 years ago, 10? 20? Since Stonewall? Nothing has changed? Nothing is better?

I don't usually respond to personal attacks on boards because they are pointless. However, I spent three days in the hospital because four bigots decided that I shouldn't walk through their neighborhood. This was in broad daylight and I still have not recovered fully after 8 years.

You also quoted me as saying "that the South End and Provincetown are no longer "needed" because gay people have been so thoroughly embrassed [sic] by the dominant culture?"

I never stated anything of the sort. My line of questions - not statements - was around acceptance of gays and the progress.

Listen, it is easy to slag people in an anonymous forum. If you want to meet me, send me an email at Blogs are not a place for an intellectual debate.

(If you want, I will bring my brother. He is cute, available and new to Boston. My sister is straight, however.)

September 5, 2008 at 11:55:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

I just told my brother about the post. He is mortified that I "pimped him out" as my gay-friendly bona fides.

I apologize to him and others that were offended. I was wrong.

September 5, 2008 at 12:26:00 PM PDT  
Blogger thesouthender said...

WSJevons: I thank you for articulating the point about Will and Grace and desensitization vs. acceptance. That's an interesting distinction and is certainly food for thought.

I'm not sure that gays have been accepted into broader society - yet. Yes, things are better in most places than they were 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, but it saddens and angers me that there are still brutal beatings against gays, such as last week's on Columbus Ave., and ant-gay hate crimes have been on the rise in the last year. As long as there are bashings like this still happening and even increasing in numbers, we have a ways to go.

By the way, why and where were you attacked 8 years ago? I can't believe that in the 00's this can still happen in our so-called advanced society.

September 5, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous WSJevons said...

Chicago - just south of the loop. Racial epithets were said, but I think I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not a target per se.

Offer is still open to meet.

September 6, 2008 at 9:10:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous just me said...

Some semi-disconnected comments:
I've been in Ptown every weekend (and some weeks) the entire summer since Memorial Day, and I have to say that the reported death of PT as a gay resort town is premature. Yes, there are more heteros, and definitely it is more expensive. The straight crowd tended to disappear the closer it got to 11pm, except for the ever obnoxious bachelorette parties at the Wave bar on weekends, and the number of gay men who insist on bringing their straight gal-pals to the Macho Bar or the Vault to see porn.

But during most of the summer the beach was packed (and I saw lots of nudity and my friend had sex there, for those who care about such things), and gay venues were also crowded. There was a refreshing increase this summer in the number of interesting, creative younger gay men, and a curious decrease in lesbians (why?). What I noticed that was most different was more self-isolation: instead of gays all over the place all the time, we tended to be at certain restaurants, certain bars, certain neighborhoods. Until the bars were hopping, the gay presence on the street was limited. It made me think that all this talk about "we don't need community or ghetto" that I hear in other forums is bunk.

It was a fantastic summer, met a lot of great people and had a gay ol' time, in all of its meanings.

That all being said, my friends and I talked all summer about the increasing presence of straights with kids on the "gay" beach, and the lack of tolerance from many of them in town. If you ain't gay, and you come to ptown, you need to be respectful or go somewhere else. Pretty much everyone's opinion was can't they just leave us alone with this ONE place in the entire state?

The family-friendly mania in our country is completely out of control. If one more person says "we have to protect the children," I'm going to deck them.

September 11, 2008 at 1:23:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous David said...

I guess I'm a little late to game on this blog and your post.

As a gay dad with two kids, I think parents (gay or straight) just need to use a little common sense. My partner and I brought our kids during Family Week -- a terrific week where the kids can meet other kids and families just like them. We took them swimming at the Ptown Inn (they open up the pool that week for the kids) and to the main part of Herring Cove beach or Race Point. When we went out at night we walked down Commercial Street for hours, looking at the Galleries, getting ice cream and people watching. One of the dance places (I think it was Paramount) had a dance party one night as well. That was a little strange watching the kids dance in a place I had been many times overs the years but hey. The kids got to see a wide spectrum of people.

For vacation, we didn't want to take them to "family friendly" places -- we wanted to take them to a place where they would feel comfortable with Dad and Dad holding hands, and seeing other men and women doing the same. We weren't looking to have Ptown change to accommodate us -- that would defeat the entire purpose of the vacation. I think most of the gay families that week would agree. Just image if, as a kid questioning your sexuality, your parents took you places where you could see the gay community without judgment. That certainly would have been nice for many of us.

Now, as a parent, I wouldn't dream of taking my kids into the dunes of Herring Cove, or to the A House, or any place any NORMAL PARENT wouldn't take their kids. We didn't drag them out for dinner at 10 pm at night and demand a kids menu -- we ate out during Tea to avoid the crowds. It's common sense.

Adults need their space and that needs to be respected. I think there is plenty of space for all of us.

November 3, 2008 at 6:55:00 AM PST  
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