Dateland: Oboe! I’m In Love


Yesterday I met a gang of harbor seals; an ancient, braless woman with very long pink eyelashes; and a professional oboist. I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, Jennifer, why do you have all the luck?”

Well, my friends, this is what happens when you spend two weeks in Provincetown, MA. Interesting things happen!

Let’s start with the seals. We were kayaking in the bay when suddenly several slick black heads popped out of the water around us. Pop! Pop! Pop! Soon, we were surrounded by seals who either wanted to make friends with us or attack us. Frankly, I was fine with either option. It was their neighborhood and we were the invaders.

“They look like street toughs!” my girlfriend said. “Let’s beat it.” (I’m not sure when my girlfriend started speaking like a minor character from West Side Story, but I suspect it was yet another magical effect from rubbing up against Provincetown.)

Of course, I’m not the type of person to let a challenge from a posse of marine mammals go unmet. So, I countered their adorable menace with my best weapon: my terrible singing voice. I began singing Cole Porter’s “Tale of the Oyster” thinking it would scare them away (the typical effect my voice has on other creatures), but instead they inched closer and bobbed rhythmically. They stayed with us all afternoon, serving as a pack of plump honor guard, occasionally barking in appreciation for my atonal vocal skills.

As if that wasn’t charming enough, as we headed from the harbor into town we spotted one of my favorite oddballs—the aforementioned old dame with hot pink eyelashes and a bosom that hangs down to her ankles. This sight isn’t as shocking as it would be in, say, Des Moines. Provincetown is an artist colony that’s packed with freaks. America’s very first freaks—the Pilgrims—landed here in 1620 before heading to Plymouth, and things haven’t changed much. It’s actually the straight, white tourists who are out of place here. They are bussed in for day trips and clutch each other in terror as they navigate Commercial Street, which is choked with drag queens, musicians, S & Mers, art goons, and the occasional monkey.

I’ve seen the old lady with the eyelashes on every visit for the past 24 years. She serves as a harbinger for a charmed vacation. As soon as I spy her scurrying across my path, I know something wonderful is about to happen. She’s never spoken a word to me, yet always manages to conjure up enchantment for me on each trip.

And this year was no exception! Shortly after she materialized, I met the professional oboist. As regular readers of this column (are there any?) know, it’s been my dream since childhood to meet an oboist. I don’t know why. I don’t even know what an oboe is. I think it’s like a flute but longer.

Anyway, my girlfriend and I were sitting at a waterfront bar and an oboist walked in with a trumpet player. And, no, this isn’t the start of a bad joke. This is real life in P-Town! These guys sat next to us, and after a few moments of pleasant small talk, one of them mentioned he plays the oboe in the New York Philharmonic. He said this so casually, as if he didn’t realize that this was the most momentous moment of my life! I immediately began hyperventilating with delight.

“Is she OK?” the boys asked with deep concern.

“She’s fine,” said my girlfriend as she held a cool compress to my head.

If I was able to speak at that moment, I would have said: “I’m better than fine. I’m in Provincetown!”

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