The Not So Great Gatsby: Landing on the Right Side of History

Dear Nick,

On March 23rd, I went to the Providence “G” for the Providence Preservation Society bash. The PPS fundraiser is always one of the best parties of the year. Somehow they manage to get people from all walks of life: the young, young at heart, rich, soon to be rich, fashionable and frumpish together under one usually repurposed roof. With the help of a liberal layering of libations, this eclectic group mingles, dances and actually has good old fashioned sincere fun. My congrats to Chris Marsella, Jen Shimkus, Michael Gadzacko and everyone else who put it all together. The music was perfect, and there was just enough merriment to distract you from the fact that you were grooving in a construction site. The theme was prom, and to some degree “a second chance,” and it set me to thinking …

Different cultures vary on when a boy becomes a man, or a girl passes to womanhood. In modern America, for most kids, that moment is unmistakably prom. Nevermind the heightened hormone-fueled atmosphere, the first time most don a tuxedo or gown and ride in a limousine; it’s also the first time most kids have sex, drink alcohol and try drugs. Even if you wore a hand-me-down suit, drove your mom’s mini-van and remained a sober virgin, you still were changed. You made choices and experienced feelings — adult choices and feelings — that were yours alone.


When I was a kid, before I was aware of the rite of passage that teens go through every year, something unusual caused a media firestorm in my sleepy home town. Two guys at the high school had their tuxes selected, the limo on hold and their dates picked out. The only issue is that their dates were one another. I don’t really remember all the details except that the principal did not allow it and they ended up on talk shows. Even then I remember thinking, “Who cares?” I didn’t know what gay was or how important an “institution” prom was to some people. I just knew that these two guys wanted to get all gussied up and dance with each other, and what is wrong with that? Now with the PPS “Second Chance Prom,” some folks got to boogie down with their first choice of gender, and there’s nothing better than that.

As I write this letter, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about gay marriage, and the RI Senate is entertaining a marriage equality bill. The Supreme Court looks like it will end up on the right side of things. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support marriage equality according to a recent poll. Before you start puffing out your chest with pride in the level-headedness of the good ole US of A, 57 percent of Americans have a relative who is gay, leaving only 1 percent openly open minded. The RI Senate is having a tougher time of things. They were able to pass bills naming calamari the state’s official appetizer and making reefer legal, but seem to stumble when it comes to granting basic rights to some of its citizens.

Why do I even care about this? Good question, old sport. I am not gay. I am free to marry whomever I want without my motives being questioned. But friends of both Dorothy and me are forced to falter before the alter. In the plainest of English, this isn’t fair. In a land that has rationalized its use of “all men are created equal” for centuries, we still have an easier time exalting squid rings than doing what’s right for actual humans. The forest for all these happy little trees is that RI does the right thing, gets to be ahead of the curve on the right side history for once, and maybe boosts the economy with some fabulous new weddings coming to town. I am not sure who gets hurt in this scenario, but if anyone claims to be injured, give them a hit of newly decriminalized pot and tell them to relax. Until next time, old sport.



“The Not So Great Gatsby” is an anonymous first person chronicle of one man’s misadventures in Providence. The events, places, and people (except when necessary to protect the innocent) will all be real. The opinions belong to Gatsby and may not reflect those of Motif magazine.