For gay men in New York, summer often means one thing — Fire Island. Even with the boycotts, expensive drinks, and actual fires that so often consume Cherry Grove and the Pines these days, there’s simply nothing like a weekend amid all that sand and sex. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a Fire Island flame-out.
1. DO get a head start on planning the weekend’s activities. You’ll be too busy cruising at Penn Station before your track number is announced to organize a brunch on your phone.
2. DON’T forget to bring cash. The ATM-to-human being ratio rivals that of most Third World countries, and many places don’t take credit or debit cards.
3. DO consider what your train/ferry/beach reading says about you. Gone Girl? “I’m a basic bitch who may or may not finish one book a year.” Foucault’s The History of Sexuality? “I’m only here collecting research for my thesis on the intersection of class privilege and outsider sexual practice, and I’m probably judging you.” Try something like Tab Hunter Confidential, which says, “I’m fun and not overly serious, but aware of a world before 1990.”
4. DON’T try to flirt with the hot straight townie teenagers working the ferries. They’re so over it. They just wanna like, do their job, man.
5. DO be rich or beautiful or both. We're teasing (a bit) of course, but as in most of life, being pretty and/or monied will make the experience far more pleasant.
6. DON’T be guarded. Say hello to strangers. Fire Island is like Mayberry, if Andy and Opie and Aunt Bea were hot, privileged circuit queens. Embrace the opportunity to drop your urban armor.
7. DON’T feel too guilty if you cave and drink at Pavilion. Your six vodka-and-sodas aren’t going to be the decisive factor in who wins the 2016 election.
8. DO drink until you can barely pronounce the word “boycott” — in case you weren't paying attention, some are boycotting Fire Island properties owned by Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, who hosted a dinner for antigay prez candidate Ted Cruz — much less feel guilty for breaking one, if your conscience is still bothering you.
9. DO avoid discussing the Middle East, though, for the love of God. There’s always Provincetown if you can’t take a weekend off from politics. Buncha hippies up there.
10. DO make rich friends. There are many wonderful poor people in the world, but outside of Russia and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, very few of them have second homes.
11. DON’T catch a case of goodgirlitis. Your new friends may expect you to put out in exchange for future invitations. Remember, being a courtesan means never again searching the dunes at 3 a.m. for a missing room key.
12. DON’T eat at the restaurants around the Pines Marina. They’re a bit pricey for food that can best be described as “utilitarian,” and you’re not going to faint before you get to Cherry Grove.
13. DO go shirtless to dinner. This is one of the few places where you can relax the “No nipples at the table” rule.
14. DON’T stay at the Botel. The Bates Motel had more charm and better amenities, and didn’t cost $300 a night.
15. DO stay at the Belvedere Guest House. Like a Venetian wedding cake rising from the sea, it gives high vulgarity a good name, and its clothing-optional policy does the same for low vulgarity.
17. DO remember your tanning oil. Or your not-yet-FDA-approved-smuggled-in-from-France SPF 100 sunblock. You know your skin better than I do, but mine thinks it’s always 1976 on Fire Island.
18. DO live at the gym Monday through Friday. Your fragile sense of self-worth will thank you when you’re stripping down at the beach. (Disclaimer: The author may not actually follow all of these suggestions.)
20. DO have a beach mantra, perhaps something like “I’m not as fat and gross as I feel right now. I’m not as fat and gross as I feel right now.”
21. DON’T let your insecurities show, though. Best err on the side of too small with your swim trunks. Board shorts? What are you, Amish?
22. DO leave Fido at home when going to the beach. We know you think his excited scampering through the sand is adorable, but we don’t find sand being kicked in our eyes, nose, mouth, and hair at all cute.
23. DON’T shave your chest. It’s 2015. Only straight bros and homos in Ohio bother with that anymore. (And drag queens, but they have their reasons.)
24. DO show some love for the drag queens. Every year on the Fourth of July, they stage the Invasion of the Pines, a symbolic reenactment of Fire Island’s own Stonewall moment. It’s more fun and less earnest than that sounds.
25. DO try to do something that has an end goal other than bronzed skin and orgasms. One hears there are beautiful … national parks or a lighthouse or something? I’m not sure, really. Maybe explore some wooded areas other than the Meat Rack?
26. DON’T forget the Meat Rack! You deserve some kind of reward for schlepping out to that boring lighthouse.
27. DO try to subtly insinuate yourself into any group that mentions heading to a house party later. That’s often code for “orgy.”
28. DON’T ask anyone how much their house cost. It’s rude, and you don’t really want to know. You came here to have a good time, not a Marxist awakening.
29. DON’T avoid Fire Island just because I’ve mentioned wealth and beauty one too many times, or you have nowhere to stay. Everyone is friendly, and even just a day trip wandering around what looks like the most beautiful summer camp ever can be restorative.