I’m either going to win “Most Changed” or “Least Surprising”

My 8th grade graduating class is organizing a 30-year reunion this summer. That may seem like a weird generation to reunite, but we went to a small, private, Episcopal school, and many of us had been classmates since kindergarten. Additionally, the majority of us ended up going to public school for 9th through 12th grade, so 8th was the last time we were all together.

It also seems weird to ascribe any kind of nostalgia to my middle school years, since I was a big nerd and was picked on fairly relentlessly. I suspect seeing these people now is going to be a lot like those talk shows where adults confront their childhood bullies, in that the bullies can’t recall any of the tortures they inflicted on their peers, while their victims are seething with lifelong resentments. Long story short, they’re probably not going to remember what a colossal dork I was, and as such, there is no reason to seethe.

So rest easy, Class of 89. All is forgiven.

According to Facebook, pretty much everyone else in the group grew up to be a Republican and/or captain of industry, whereas I grew up to be a gay, Pagan leatherman, so a big part of me is convinced this whole thing is an epic bashing waiting to happen. At the same time, I will have just returned from IML and a spanking convention, so there’s also a very good chance I’ll have run out of fucks to give by the time the reunion rolls around. Plus, if I panic at the last minute and don’t want to attend by myself, I can always bribe my trainer to come along. I mean, he once offered to stand in the doorway of the Forge and bark at customers to keep them away from me, so I figure pretending to be my life partner for one night only is well within his repertoire.

Bracing Myself

Customer: [poking at a pair of leather suspenders] “This looks like it’s supposed to be part of something else.”

Me: “Oh, those are actually suspenders.”

Customer: [indignantly] “That’s what I said. It’s part of something else.”

In retrospect, I should’ve agreed and sold him three pairs as a customizable web harness, then explained that the wrist and ankle restraints in the BDSM starter kit would transform it into fashionable evening wear. But then he would’ve dug around in the kit and been like, “Well, what am I supposed to do with this bondage rope and this blindfold and these nipple clamps?! These are all parts of other things. WHY WON’T YOU SELL ME A WHOLE THING?!

So yeah, it’s probably best that I just shrugged and smiled inanely. Anything else would’ve led to verbal warnings and a disconcerting note in my personnel file.

Straight on Through to the Other Side

Straight Girl: “I have a question.”

Me: “Yes?”

Straight Girl: “Is this a bar for, like, men?”

Me: “Yes. The majority of Ripcord patrons are gay men.”

Straight Girl: “Oh, that’s fine with me!”

Me: “Good, because it’s going to have to be.”

Straight Girl: “…”

Me: [single raised brow]

Straight Girl: “I understand completely.”

Now that caught me off-guard. I’m used to eyerolls and attitude when I remind the straight customers that they are stepping into a cultural minority’s safe space and therefore need to treat it respectfully. (“You’re not making me feel welcome,” one of them once shrieked at me.) Awash as I am in defensive paranoia, it never occurred to me that a heterosexual tourist might actually comprehend the situation at hand without any frustrated explanations on my part.

The straight girl dawdled around a bit more before wandering out into the bar, and later, as I was schlepping overstock across the patio to the rear entrance of the main shop, I overheard her calling a friend to say where she was. “Welp, more fool me,” I thought. “She’s a scout, and now she’s giving the all-clear to the bachelorette party that’s about to invade.” But as I headed back inside, I overheard her again, this time chatting with another Ripcord patron.

“I’m not… really attracted to guys,” she said. And immediately I was like, “QUICK! FORM A HUMAN WALL TO PROTECT THE LESBIAN SEEDLING.”

I felt like a right proper douche-nugget for making assumptions about her orientation, but hopefully she will find her tribe, if not in the leather community, then out in the greater gay world. Sadly, I’m not aware of any lesbian bars in Houston, but if she sticks around Ripcord (and if she doesn’t believe me to be an irredeemable asshat), I will do whatever I can to make sure she understands that this is her safe space too.

ETA: Nuke just pointed out that there actually is a lesbian bar in Houston, which rocks, although I’m pretty emotionally invested in this girl becoming a Ripcord regular. Maybe the other bar can have custody every other weekend or something.

Crash Test Demos

My Misfit brother Dean and I went up to Dallas this weekend for a fundraiser, which, incidentally, was put on by the leather club to which both of our ex-boyfriends belong.  We ended up having a very good time regardless, and to reward ourselves for making it through the event without drama or formal charges filed against us, we dropped by Mecca Shangri-La Leather Masters, where we basically just ran around like happy little kids in a Roald Dahl novel.

Along the back wall, we discovered an extensive display of paddles. A few of them caught my attention, so I pulled one down and turned to Dean with ill-concealed glee.

“Can I try this out on you?” I asked.

Dean shrugged affably and stuck his butt out a little, and I gave him a light but solid swat. In response, he jerked and straightened up, surprise and confusion roiling across his face.

“That… made my balls tingle,” he said.

“Hmm, interesting,” I replied, grabbing a different paddle and swatting him again before he could stop me. “Does this one make your balls tingle more or less?”

“Definitely more.”

“Okay. What about this one?” [swat]

“Less.”

“And this one?” [swat]

“More.”

“Let’s try a lacquered one.” [swat]

“More.”

“Ooh, this one has a triskele etched into it.” [swat]

“Less.”

“Fascinating!”

With this new litmus in place, we went through most of the paddles in stock, including a frosted acrylic one shaped like an inverted cross. (I was hoping for good metrics based on the blasphemy alone, but Dean’s balls barely reacted.) A leather ping-pong paddle ultimately garnered the most tingles, so I ferried it up to to the front counter, where the salesgirl running the register was all, “Great choice! This one’s my favorite.”

I was pretty psyched that Dean’s balls were able to accurately identify the best paddle in the shop, and now I’m starting to wonder what other powers they might have. Could I dowse with Dean’s balls? Could I use them for divination? The possibilities seem limitless. I may have to take out a patent.

PS: The only rough patch of the trip occurred on Saturday evening, back at our hotel. It turns out that we both suffer from sleep apnea, which means we both snore so loudly that we woke each other up every twenty minutes or so. The following morning, Dean was like, “I can’t believe how insane your snoring is,” and I was all, “Really? Because it sounded like a wildebeest was getting raped on your side of the bed.” So Dean was like, “Well, next time we’ll bring earplugs,” and I was all, “And an extra pillow, because I’m going to smother you with it.”

I was totally joking, of course. I seriously have no idea what a wildebeest sounds like.