Where beauty is measured in the size of one’s trust fund and plaid rules men’s fashion …
Where outsiders are silently judged and fine dining options are defined by the choice between the grill room and the dining room …
It is a world few can infiltrate, and even fewer escape. It is up to one man to enter and return to tell the tale.
This is the story of that man.
OK, hi, melodrama, but I did recently have an exciting and adventurous foray into the heart of old Grosse Pointe.
"Mistletoe Magic" is a formal holiday party held at the old money Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms. It’s a highly anticipated annual event that draws primarily Grosse Pointe twenty-somethings for an evening of preppy holiday cheer, and by that I mean booze (Grosse Pointers love their hooch). I was invited by a new friend, whom we’ll call Trip. He’s been a really good sport about being dragged to events all over downtown lately, so I could hardly decline his gracious invitation (despite my concerns about being an outlier on the demographic bell curve of the evening).
Full disclosure: I was raised in Grosse Pointe, and while not necessarily to the manor born, I concede I bought into the preppy thing back in the eighties (hey, who didn’t?). I even took The Preppy Handbook seriously for a few years in my youth, parody being a little beyond me at age 13. By the time I graduated from high school, however, I was ready to head to the east coast seeking places with urban character and an environment where I could come out of the closet and be part of a gay community. (I suppose in fairness I should note that I was fleeing Michigan in general as much as GP, but GP was home). Grosse Pointe had come to represent an inward-looking, insular place to me, and I was looking for a more cosmopolitan and diverse world.
In recent years I’ve mellowed on my aversion to Grosse Pointe. I like how GP’ers tend to have a connection to downtown Detroit and aren’t afraid to drive in for social, professional and cultural events. And now that I’m older and I’ve got friends with children, it’s turned out to be the landing spot for some awesome people who grew up there, moved on to live the world, and have returned to roost. But it is still a very unique and, sure, strange place at times. As was evidenced by this party.
It was actually just like every movie you’ve seen about privileged youth, but not in a creepy “Less Than Zero” way and more in a benign “Pretty in Pink” way. You could not have made up the fashions, which were of course tuxedos for boys and eveningwear for girls.
The young women of GP have their own style, less influenced by contemporary fashion than you might expect, certainly somewhat conservative, but really fun in its quirky way. While most were able to pull it together, there was a somewhat chronic problem of shoes not working with the dresses. But what GP really needs is someone to come in and educate on hair and makeup – it doesn’t need to be Birmingham glam, but the concept of layering could revolutionize the overall aesthetic of Grosse Pointe. This is a problem that transcends generational boundaries, by the way.
Speaking of, it was the gentlemen of the older generations who really stepped out with the preppy formalwear. Holiday plaids and cardinal red were in fine form on the males who weren’t necessarily looking to score that night.
I have no idea how many other gay people might have been there (ok, I know of one because he grabbed Trip's ass). Truth be told, GP guys can be a little effete. It’s just the way they’re raised. Tennis, yachting and golf are all acceptable sports for teenage boys, so there is less of that macho bullshit that gets bandied about by traditional sporties. And if you decide to avoid sports altogether, there’s really no stigma. Bust out with theater or chorale, you can still go to the cool parties. It’s really quite nice, although probably a big reason the Grosse Pointe Gay phenomenon goes relatively unquestioned.
So obviously Trip and I had a hassle-free evening, and even managed to sneak off for a little making out. Although come to think of it, even if someone had a problem with the gays they wouldn’t make a big deal of it to our face – it’s just not the Grosse Pointe way.
GP is probably not an acceptable landing spot for a fully-actualized gay man in the new millennium - it’s just a little too much about living a very specific lifestyle (and thanks, but I’m busy with the one I’ve already got). It sure is nice for a visit, though. It’s pretty. Everyone is fun and likes to booze. And sometimes you can score with your friend’s dad.