My biggest problem with Fire Island is that Patrick is an International Male catalog brought to life. It’s not that I hate Patrick. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s that I pretty much always agree with what Patrick has to say but, at the same time, find him exhaustingly ridiculous.
Maybe he’s just young and intoxicated with the very specific kind of gay fame that comes from having a good body and being a bartender. He feels the heady buzz of being popular, and that allows him to indulge every whim as if that is some kind of personality trait. But deep down inside, I think there is a reasonable person who just needs to grow up or get over himself or, I don’t know, cover his skin in an acceptable amount of fabric for public consumption.
Just look at his fight with Cheyenne. I don’t agree with Patrick taking swipes at Cheyenne in someone else’s kitchen about him being dumb. But I do agree with his basic premise, which is that Cheyenne doesn’t think about other people and can’t take a minute to even consider their feelings. When Cheyenne blows up and says, “You’re not the people in my life; you’re the people in my house share,” it exposes how focused he is on himself. These are the people in his life, even though they’re new people, and if he wants them to care about and respect him, then he needs to care about and respect them.
Patrick, and the rest of the housemates, say they just want Cheyenne to own up to what he did and apologize. Cheyenne thinks he didn’t do anything wrong, because he only cares about how many likes he gets on Instagram photos of him in questionable outfits with far too many embellishments and (just like Patrick) not enough actual cloth. If he wanted to avoid all this drama, as he says he does, all he had to do was text Patrick saying he couldn’t make the drag show. No one would want him to choose the drag show over his $30,000 styling job (which, a billion eye roll emojis); they just wanted him to acknowledge that he couldn’t go and show some concern and support. Seriously, that’s not too much to ask?
Maybe the worst thing about Fire Island isn’t that it tries to make me like Patrick. Maybe the worst thing is that, as a veteran Fire Island denizen, so much of what happens on the show is totally wack. Take, for instance, when Justin offers to bring everyone’s bags back to the house. What you don’t know is that their house is approximately a 38-second walk from the ferry. It’s not like he’s trudging through hill and dale to get there. Yes, he has to carry the bags up the stairs, but it isn’t that big of a sacrifice.
None of these boys have really done Fire Island before, so they don’t know the absolute basics, which is why they have a half-full party that starts at 8 p.m. No one has a party at 8 p.m., at least not if they want people to attend. The schedule on Fire Island is rigid. Trying to fight against it is like trying to out-jump a kangaroo or attempting to wear a better wig than Wendy Williams. It just is not going to happen.
A typical Saturday on Fire Island goes like this: After attending the underwear party on Friday night in Cherry Grove, everyone rises around noon to sit around the house and gossip with their housemates. Around 2 p.m., they either go to the beach or hang out by their pool. At the beach, they take a walk to run into friends and find out where all the parties are going to be that afternoon (if they didn’t already find out at tea the night before). Around 4 p.m., everyone goes to house parties. These are typically around a pool and, in addition to hamburgers and hot dogs, feature enough Svedka and sodas to drown the waves of lava on the surface of Saturn.
After the party, everyone heads to “tea.” This is not the “tea” of “no tea, no shade,” where tea means gossip. This is tea like a “tea dance,” which means it starts around tea time but no one really shows up until 7. On Friday, when the cast got off the ferry, they went to “low tea.” There are essentially three different teas, and they’re in three different spaces all surrounding the ferry dock. They all involve standing around, drinking, greeting people you already know, and answering the same five questions: “When did you get here?,” “Where is your house?,” “Who are you staying with?,” “What are you doing tonight?,” and, “When are you leaving?”
“Low tea” is on the first floor, “high tea” is next door on the second floor, and “pool tea” (or “middle tea”) is between high tea and low tea, around a pool. And then there is “the tea formerly known as Lina tea.” Lina was the longtime DJ at a very popular tea until she left the island two summers ago. Now the music sucks and no one knows what to call it, but everyone still shows up. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the Fire Island schedule, as old and merciless as the phases of the moon.
The crowd moves very precisely from one tea to the next, but they’re all essentially the same. It’s like the difference between shopping at CVS and Walgreens: They look slightly different, but they sell all the same stuff. (And by all the same stuff I mean vodka sodas.) Everyone leaves tea around 9 p.m. and heads back to their house while someone drunkenly grills chicken breasts for 10:30 dinner. After another vodka soda, it’s back to the Sip N Twirl, the home of Lina tea, and one of two bars open late. Eventually, after possibly hooking up and maybe some tomfoolery in a hot tub, everyone passes out around sunrise.
This is a long explanation to justify why no one is at their stupid party. Everyone is still at tea, and then they’re at dinner. If the guys wanted to have a party, and they really seemed to, they should have done it in the afternoon. Patrick has been out there all summer; shouldn’t he know better by now?
The other bad move they make at the party is letting in someone with a backpack. If you ever go to Fire Island, do not wear a backpack. It’s even worse than showing up to a concert wearing the band’s T-shirt or ever buying something from Contempo Casuals. The only people who wear backpacks in public are day trippers, and no one wants to talk to them because they have no place to go, and they will try to crash at your house.
Brandon lets someone with a backpack into the party and later offers him a beer. The day tripper answers, “If I have another beer, I’ll miss my Cinderella moment.” He means the last ferry. If you don’t get the 12:30 a.m. ferry on Saturday night, you have to stay on the island until about 6 a.m. Basically the choice he’s offering Brandon is, “Yes, I will have another beer, but if you give that to me, you are taking responsibility for my care and lodging until the next morning.” Typically a backpacker who is going to stay the night will find other ways to pay the rent, if you catch my drift, but that isn’t guaranteed.
Brandon is not up to the task of discerning this because he seems to have a very hard time expressing his feelings. He wants to end things with Jallen but instead tells him he wants to “see how things develop organically.” That is not ending it; that is encouraging it. Brandon says that he was drunk and couldn’t find the words, but that’s no excuse. As Justin correctly points out, Brandon is cute and charming, but he needs to be very clear about his intentions and not have these sort of “weekend boyfriends” if he’s going to keep breaking their hearts.
And Jallen is the worst kind of guy to screw over. Not only is he friends with Brandon’s housemate, but he works on the island. If Brandon ever wants to get a drink at any of the teas, he’s going to have a hard time when every service employee absolutely hates him. Without a vodka soda, all of these people will dry up and die. Someone will put them in a backpack and ship them back to the mainland where, eventually, their ashes will blow back to Manhattan in a state of utter disgrace.