I Competed at IML and All I Got Was a Renewed Sense of Self-Worth and a Kick-Ass Tattoo*

I’m not going to tell you about getting spanked with a Bible (King James Version). I’m not going to tell you about the extemporaneous Dreamgirls performance in the dressing room, or getting all choked up onstage when the guy to my left leaned over and whispered, “You know we’re in the end of the Tom of Finland movie right now, right?” And I’m not going to tell you why I gave that guy the nickname Olympia.

I’m not going to tell you why anyone yelling, “GET IN THE FUCKING UBER” will forever cause me to crack helplessly the fuck up. I’m not going to tell you about the Incident in the Stairwell, or the late-night recovery meeting that went gloriously south, or randomly bumping into the model from my favorite animated GIF**. Instead, I’m going to tell you about a text conversation I just had with my IML brother Travis.

Travis: “How are you?”

Me: “I am hanging in there. Heading back to the day job this morning, with event-drop kicking in. Hopefully I won’t have too big of a meltdown in front of the vanilla co-workers.”

Travis: “You’ll be fine. And if you do have a meltdown, just tell them your dog passed away. His name was Billingsworth, and you had him for 12 years. He was a poodle.”

Me: “Billingsworth once pulled me out of a lake to save me from drowning and jumped on my chest until I started breathing again. I miss him.”

Travis: “But he humped all the houseplants.”

Me: “Hey, everyone deserves love. #NoLabels.”

I’m sharing this particular interchange, because even after the fact, it sums up my IML experience perfectly. I was terrified of Travis when I met him, just like I was terrified of Ben, and Brian, and Magnus, and Mark, and Scott, and Scotty, and Taliesin, and all of the other beautiful men with twisted senses of humor who just… got me, and who became my closest friends and emotional support during the competition.

Maybe I’ll get around to telling those other stories once I’ve readjusted and settled back into normalcy (except for the stairwell thing; that shit is under lock and key). For now, though, I will tell you that I placed 25th out of 71 contestants, and I am ecstatic — not because of the score itself, but because I was a part of the IML Class of 2018; because even if I’d come in 72nd, I would’ve done so as myself.

I (literally) bared it all in Chicago, and the people around me cheered — not because I was the most handsome or the best built or the smartest or the wittiest, but because I was me.

And I am so fucking proud of me for that.

*Photo and explanation of the tattoo to be posted as soon as it finishes healing. It’s currently in the gory, scabby phase but will be ready for its closeup in a couple of days or so.

**See? He’s not CGI after all. And probably not a hologram.ManagerNP

The Side Hustle to My Side Hustle’s Side Hustle

Ripcord Patron: [approaching while I’m bartending with the Misfits] “Where do I know you from?”

Me: “I work in the leather shop a few nights a week.”

Ripcord Patron: “Oh. Okay.”

[He turns to walk away, then spins around.]

Ripcord Patron: “OH! And you also work in the Forge!”

The Misfits: “…”

Me: Yep, you figured it out.”

He wandered back into the crowd, and the Misfits looked at me for clarification, so I stuck out my thumb and pinky and made the international sign for he drinks. They nodded and let it go, but I suspect they were really just relieved that I hadn’t snapped and taken on a fourth job.

Price Queen

Customer 1: [holding up a chrome cock ring] “What is this?”

Customer 2: “That’s a cock ring.”

Customer 1: “What’s a cock ring?”

Customer 2: [explains graphically]

Customer 1: “Oh.”

[He looks at the price tag.]

Customer 1: “$35?! [glaring accusingly] That is WAY too much for a cock ring!”

Have you ever seen a movie or read a comic book where the protagonists are thrown into an alternate reality, and after they save the universe and things return to normal, everyone magically forgets what happened and is like, “I had the oddest dream…” except for one person who just smiles knowingly? I think the Forge got sucked into a wormhole and landed in a dystopian future, and after we fought courageously in the Great Genitalia Accessory Rebellion, we returned to the present a split-second after we first disappeared with our memories wiped. Customer 1 is the only one who remembers our transdimensional journey, and has now dedicated his life to preventing an apocalypse and ushering in the Aeon of Budget-Friendly Dick Bling.

Or maybe he overcompensates for ignorance with huffiness. But I’m totally rooting for the time travel explanation.

Burnt Umber Chenille on the Right Means the Kisses are Hers and Hers and His

[A conversation between myself and my friend Mike, which took place after he read my IML bio in this month’s edition of The Leather Journal.]

Mike: “I’m tempted to review each of the IML contestants the way I reviewed all of this year’s Eurovision songs.”

Me: “I support and encourage you in this endeavor. But when you get to me, please know that I tried to adjust the midtones of my picture before I submitted it, and now it has a weird tinge. Everyone is going to know me as that guy with the deathly pallor who is probably dying of consumption.”

Mike: “When you’re on the runway, you should cough and spit blood once you reach the judge’s table.”

Me: “Couldn’t hurt. I’ve done a terrible job of bonding with the other contestants. I barely know any of their first names.”

Mike: “You are not going to win Miss Congeniality that way, Marjorie. And huh, one of these guys flags white velvet. I had no idea that was even a hanky color.”

Me: “It stands for voyeurism. Who’s flagging it? Is he cute? Did he say anything about me? How’s my hair?”

Mike: “You are the worst stalker ever. Did you not even read the other bios? We are so going to have a lesson in gauging the competition.”

Me: “I’m really more into impromptu stalking. But I can’t remember which color that is.”

Mike: “Plaid cordouroy.”

Me: “Love it. I wish I’d made up a bunch of nonsensical flagging attributes before I submitted my blurb. ‘Thomas is a vertical median who flags Post-Its in the front left pocket and elastic around the waist.'”

Mike: “‘When he’s feeling particularly transgressive, he wears a Little Mermaid pillowcase ripped in half as a durag.’ Wait… a holstein hanky means milking? What is miking? Are we talking dick, or turning man teats into cream dispensers?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure we’re talking prostate massage.”

Mike: “Ah. I can see that. Seriously, though, do people really walk around Ripcord with doilies or gold lamé hankies?”

Me: “People usually stick to the primary colors. Although now I want to flag doily, and if anyone hits on me, I’m going to be like, “It means my grandmother just died, asshole.”

Mike: “We should write a skit for IML about hanky code misidentification. ‘Psst. Chad. That guy over there is cruising me. What does avocado green carpet on the left mean?’ ‘Oh, um. I think it means he wants to rim you while you eat a bowl of Booberry and watch Scooby-Doo reruns.'”

Me: “Awesome. He’s flagging my childhood. That is in no way unsettling.”

Mike: “EXACTLY. ‘Say, I can’t help but notice you have a Star Wars bed sheet pocket square on your left. I think I’m the droid you’re looking for.'”

Me: “This is all going on the blog.”

Coincidentally enough, the Misfits do need a new skit concept for next year’s LUEY Weekend. and wacky Hanky Code mishaps would make for an epic farce — like a cross between The Big Gay Sketch Show and Three’s Company. I will get cracking on the script as soon as I have the best obscure colors picked out, and after I decide who among my brothers is most deserving of the nickname Chrissy.

Risk Management, Blanton Style

My Dad: “When do you leave for Chicago?”

Me: “I fly out on the 23rd.”

My Mom: “Please be careful while you’re there. Chicago is a very dangerous city.”

Me: “I will, I promise. But I’m going to be so busy with the contest that I won’t have much time to even leave the hotel.”

My Mom: “Please be careful at the hotel. And wedge a chair under the doorknob of your room.”

Me: “Um, okay…”

My Dad: “No, really. A friend of mine stayed at a hotel in Chicago once, and he put his wallet on the nightstand before he went to sleep, and when he woke up, it was gone. Someone came into his room and robbed him while he slept.”

Me: “Jesus. If it’s that bad there, I’m just going to push a dresser in front of the door every night before I go to bed.”

My Mom: “Well, I mean there’s no need to overreact.”

Me: “…”

My Mom: “But you’re probably going to get mugged.”

And yet they wonder why I’m on medication for anxiety.

A Clusterbubble of Raspberries

We tried so hard to have a serious Facets of Leather this month, you guys. Right out of the gate, we tackled the issues of consent and conduct within the Leather community, and we were sort of staying on topic and everything — and then suddenly it was two hours later, and I was doing an impersonation of what it would sound like if Carol Channing competed at IML, and our producers were either laughing hysterically or weeping uncontrollably. It was hard to tell with their faces buried in their hands.

Oh, and Robert almost cursed on the air again, but he caught himself when the rest of us lunged for the delay button. We didn’t end up having to push it, though, since he managed to replace the “fuck” that was about to fly out of his mouth with the first word that popped into his head. And that’s the story of how “clusterbubble” became my new favorite expletive and/or drag name.

In a stunning time management upheaval, we were finally able to play every song on our list, including Magic Dance from Labyrinth. After the show, I mentioned to Robert that the lyrics were a lot creepier than I remembered, and he was like, “Well, yeah, but still not as creepy as that Carpenters cover in MirrorMask.

I had no choice but to agree. And now, my lovelies, neither do you.

My Name Is Not Bubba (or Susan)

Customer 1: “Hey there, bubba. Let me have a big ol’ bottle of poppers.”

Me: “I’m afraid we don’t sell poppers, but we do have a fine selection of solvents and polish removers.”

Customer 1: [unamused] “You know what I mean, bubba.”

Me: “Yes, I do. Which solvent or polish remover can I get you today?”

[He makes a selection and pays.]

Customer 1: “Okay, bubba, now you just open up that bottle and take a big ol’ whiff.”

Me: “Sorry, no can do.”

Customer 1: “Aw, c’mon, bubba.”

Me: “Nope.”

Customer 1: [even less amused] “Fine. G’night, bubba.”

[He exits. Then, later…]

Customer 2: “Hi, lover.”

Me: “Hello.”

[He makes a lap of the store and heads back to the door.]

Customer 2: “Thanks, lover.”

And I’m just sitting behind the counter, pulsating with resentments and silently screaming, “MY NAME IS MARJORIE.”

Which… really doesn’t convey the righteous indignation I was hoping for. I may need to find a more aggressive nickname — somebody do some research and let me know if Leonidas is available. Or Caligula. Or pretty much anything Greco-Roman and stabby.

ETA: I have since discovered that the Greek translation of Marjorie is Margaritári, which sounds both drunken and stabby. Referring to myself in third person from here on out, Margaritári will be taking the rest of the afternoon off to execute Phoenican emissaries and snuggle Gerard Butler. Hold Margaritári’s calls.

But technically it’s not prostitution, on account of the motivation being anxiety instead of profit. Case dismissed.

A series of texts I sent to an attorney friend who hired me for a mobile notary assignment:

Notarization complete! The total for the notary service is $32, but the client’s condo was slightly warmer than I prefer, so you owe me an additional $10,000 in workman’s comp and emotional damages. Thanks!

Oh, also, the client had a friend visiting, and I get nervous around strangers, so I gave everyone handy-jays. I know, I know, “old behavior,” but still a viable business expense.

You know what? Instead of me trying to do math, why don’t you just send me a blank check? Or a credit card! (But NOT Diner’s Club. I have standards.)

He hasn’t responded, but I’m sure we possibly still have a healthy working relationship.

ETA: He just wrote back all skeptical, like, “Are you sure you gave everyone a handy?” Well, of course I did, but want to know who won’t be getting the steak-and-shake special? People who doubt my professionalism and attention to detail, that’s who.

This is seriously why most mobile notaries don’t even bother having pimps.