A Gay Man’s first Trip to Provincetown Opens His Eyes

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Gay Voices

men embracing in the surf

Photo by Radek Pestka

Wade remembers his first visit to Provincetown, where a chance invitation allowed him to glimpse a future he hadn’t begun to imagine.

Good Morning, Provincetown!

My first-ever morning in Provincetown, I was with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) Gary, sipping coffee and enjoying the cute shops and cuter boys along Commercial Street. When we ended up wandering through a gaggle of gray-haired gays, I realized something that had never occurred to me before: Gay people get old.

“Are you insane?” Gary asked when I shared this observation with him. “Of course we do. And you will, too.” I realize now how immature I must have sounded then, but at the time I was 30 years old, obsessed with staying young and reclaiming whatever youth I’d lost to the closet. Having never really known any older gay people, I’d never given them much thought before.

Then again, that visit to Provincetown was full of revelations. It was the first time I was in a place that not only celebrated gayness, but seemed waiting to throw its sandy arms around everyone unique. It was the first time I held Gary’s hand without worrying about what other people might think; I even kissed him on the beach.

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One night, we went to a production of Naked Boys Singing!, and at intermission, our waiter dropped off two drinks at our table. “In honor of young love,” he said, nodding back toward a table of white-haired men.

Since Gary doesn’t drink, I had both, which emboldened me enough to walk over to their table when the show had finished and thank them.

“You two are so adorable,” one of the men said. He had twinkling blue eyes, silver hair and a white moustache that twitched when he talked. “You remind us of when we were young and in love.” I smiled, even though I was having trouble picturing them that way.

Another man handed me a napkin with an address on it. “Come for dinner tomorrow? We throw the best parties in town,” it read. I was still trying to come up with an excuse when I heard Gary say that we would be there.

I immediately began lamenting that we’d lose a whole night on the town but could not shake Gary’s excitement. “How better to truly embrace P-town?” he asked.

“At least the party should be over in time for them to watch Wheel of Fortune,” I sighed.

We arrived to find a weathered shake-shingle cottage that sat beyond a white picket fence. Lush gardens flanked the moss-covered flagstone walkway, and the hydrangeas were so heavy with electric blue blooms that they’d begun to droop. With light pouring through windows underlined with overflowing window boxes, the home seemed to smile at us as we approached.

We’re Here for the Party

We heard music, laughter and clinking glasses as we made our way to a porch and yard decorated with sparkling white lights. Waiters passed appetizers; a bartender poured drinks. “You made it!” one of the hosts said, coming down the stairs to greet us in a wide-brimmed, floppy, red-and-white-striped hat. “Something simple, for summer,” he said, touching the hat, before giving us kisses. “Come, come!”

He ushered us around, introducing us to his friends — young and old, gay and straight, male and female — before sweeping us in to see the inside of his home, where more guests waited among wide-planked floors and rooms packed with mementos.

I got a glass of wine and began staring at old photos of the couple and their friends, time capsules of their lives and love. Each one seemed to be a reflection of the pride and power of our people. It was the antithesis of everything I had known growing up, when gay people were invisible — called “maiden aunts” and “confirmed bachelors.” Why hadn’t I known couples like these existed? Why I had I never seen them before?

“That’s why we’re here,” Gary said, answering my un-asked question. “These are our heroes.” And, suddenly overcome, I began to cry.

“Are you OK?” our host asked gently.

“I’m more than OK,” I answered. “I’m just so thankful to be here.”

“We all are,” he said with a smile.

That night, I celebrated my new friends and their long-lasting love. I toasted a past where gay people had been all-too-often invisible and a future where we’d hopefully be louder and prouder. And as I looked around, I could finally see myself growing old with Gary: I couldn’t imagine any better place to be headed.

Want More Wade?

Read more of Wade’s essays about gay life, same-sex love and figuring out family. Here’s how he and Gary went from fearing to loving Game of Thrones. And check out the time he arranged a special holiday surprise for his partner.

Wade is the editor of I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship and the author of four books. Visit him online at waderouse.com.

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Last modified: April 25, 2019

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