[It’s Saturday night, and I’ve snuck away from Misfits bartending to clock in at the Forge and let Robert take a short break. A customer comes in as we’re tagging out and begins rifling through the hankies.]
Customer: “Do you have any rainbow bandanas?”
Me: “… No.”
Robert: “Rainbow? What does that mean?”
Customer: “I guess it means you sold out of them during Pride, right?”
Me: [relieved] “HA HA HA YES THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANS.”
The Hanky Code is nothing if not all-encompassing, and even the most obscure fetishes have their own unique colors, patterns, and textiles. Houndstooth, terrycloth, gingham, and gray flannel are all on the list, as are cocktail napkins, mosquito netting, Ziploc bags and Kewpie dolls. Anything the human body can secrete or excrete is covered as well, from spit (light yellow) to body odor (Kleenex) to vomit, a predilection for which being expressed by (you guessed it) a tasteful rainbow in one’s back pocket.
This is why, whenever deranged Fundamentalists start whining about “reclaiming the rainbow,” I’m like, “You know what? Go right on ahead and take it. I don’t judge.”
I ran into Robert (Helms) later that night and told him about the incident, and in return he shared a story from a few years ago, when a different leather shop was attached to Ripcord. Robert was browsing one evening, when a couple of bright young queens flounced in and started peppering the salesclerk with Hanky Code questions. The store did happen to have rainbow hankies in stock, and Queen 1 and Queen 2 were immediately drawn to them.
“Ooh, what does rainbow mean?” They asked. And before the salesclerk could answer, Robert jumped into the conversation:
“A rainbow on the left means you’re leading the parade, and a rainbow on the right means you’re looking for a parade to join.”
“OH MY GOD THAT IS SO US,” the queens exclaimed. “We’ll take two.”
I doubt these kids ever found themselves in a situation where some random dude was like, “Don’t mind if I do!” before taking aim and gagging himself with a Popsicle stick, so, y’know, more than likely no harm done, and you’ve got to give Robert credit for creative quick thinking. Personally, I’m just happy to have a categorization system that can be used as both an entrée to sex and a Kick Me sign. I only hope that my own humble efforts at weaponizing the Hanky Code are pleasing to my leather progenitors.