In Which I Quite Literally Show My Ass

[Ed. Note: My ass seriously does appear towards the end of this post. Maybe read it on your phone instead of your work computer.]

Is anyone out there old enough to remember the episode of Friends in which Joey unwittingly became the poster child for sexually transmitted diseases?

Mario
OMG white people had the worst problems in the 90s. (clap clap clap clap)

Although this particular moment aired 25 years ago, it was all I could think of this morning, mainly because of the number of texts I received from concerned friends going, “Um… did you know your picture is featured in an article about barebacking?”

IML Queerty
I’m clapping sarcastically at the humanity of it all, while Ben is delighted by the architecture of the ceiling. Never before have two individual personalities been summarized so eloquently in one photograph.

Okay. IML 41 is coming up at the end of May, so naturally there’s going to be a lot of pre-contest coverage and mild muckraking, and of course, as one of last year’s contestants, my image might show up here and there in association with all of that. But I gotta say, folks, I just don’t know that this is the most appropriate picture to go with this article. Are we supposed to be going, “Hooray! The ban on condomless sex has been lifted!” Or are we like, “Hooray! Look at us, supporting safer sex at a leather competition!” The whole layout really leaves more questions than answers.

But speaking of questions

One of the categories at IML is Pecs and Personality, in which each contender comes out on stage in their sexiest gear and answers a humorous pop question. The official point of the exercise is to gauge the competitors on their charm and repartee, but, y’know, it doesn’t hurt that they’re all basically naked in front of a live audience.

While I generally consider myself clever, I was more than a little terrified of Pecs and Personality — not only because I’d be bopping about in front of hypercritical strangers while wearing what amounted to a leather bikini, but because of the possibility of my wit failing me right when I needed it most. Like when I ran for Mr. Texas Leather a couple of years ago, and, in the middle of explaining what duet I would sing with one of the judges, I forgot the words to “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)“.

Let’s just stop for a second and really unpack this incident: The refrain of the song is literally just the title repeated over and over ad nauseum, and I. Forgot. The Words.

It was not my finest hour treading the boards. This time, however, I was prepared.

Everything you’re asked at IML comes off your application, and because of what I’d put down on mine, I knew I was going to get a notary question. I bloody knew it. I’d even included a detailed description of the Notarizer. How could I not get a notary question? I had a snappy comeback for any notarial inquiry the emcee could lob at me, and I’d never been more ready for anything in my damn life.

And then… well, this happened:

Considering I proudly announced myself as a saucy power bottom in response to a question about geomancy, maybe sticking my pic next to an article about gay sex is a little more apropos than I’d care to admit. But I also didn’t panic when the situation made a turn I wasn’t expecting, nor did I shout, “YOU’RE CONFUSING GEOMANCY WITH FENG SHUI, YOU DAMN INFIDEL.” And, as I’ve said before, I got to be me — and despite all my fears and insecurities, the 500 or so leatherpeople packed into the theatre thought that was pretty cool.

I may not have made the top 20, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the moment when I totally won IML.

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I’m changing my scene name from Thumper to either Crypt-Keeper or Das Vampyr.

[Two preppies start to enter the store, but end up just standing in the doorway, holding each other and peering around with trepidation in their eyes.]

Preppy 1: “Are those… are those onesies?”

Preppy 2: “I think so.”

Preppy 1: “Are onesies fetish?”

Preppy 2: “I… I don’t know.”

Preppy 1: “…”

Preppy 2: “I just don’t know.”

[They freak out and scurry back into the bar. Then, later…]

Customer: “May I try on a cock ring?”

Me: “Go for it.”

Customer: “Oh, God… people actually try them on?!”

[He leaps away from the display, flails helplessly for a moment, then runs out of the store.]

So I can’t tell if their fear is actually making me more youthful, or if it’s just giving me a bump of energy like a B12 shot, but either way, I look forward to feasting on the dread of more tourists in the future. It’s a lot more satisfying than dealing with the ones who just come in to giggle.

Marjorie of the Living Dead

The property management firm where I used to work was originally owned by a lovely woman with a crippling bipolar disorder. When she was medicated, everything was sunshine and gumdrops, and the office ran like a damn machine. However, she’d occasionally up and take herself off her meds, and suddenly it was every manager for themselves in a post-apocalyptic war zone, which would last until she realized that maybe things might go a little more smoothly if she got the mania under control and stopped screaming so much.

This is a fairly common occurrence for those of us living with neurodiversity. We take our medications as prescribed, and we feel better — so much better, in fact, that after awhile we decide we don’t need the medication anymore. We’re cured! And everything’s great! That is, until the anxiety and/or panic and/or depression and/or delusions kick back into high gear, at which point it’s almost impossible to coax us back to our treatments, because there’s nothing wrong with us, goddamnit; everyone else is the problem.

I ran out of my own medication a couple of weeks ago, which, on paper, is not a big deal. Wellbutrin builds up in the system, so the pill I’m supposed to take daily is really just topping off the tank: If I miss a dose here or there, I’m still okay. And I felt okay, so I made a mental note to refill the scrip and went about my day. And then I forgot about it. And several days later, I was like, “Hmm, still okay,” so I didn’t worry about it, and then it was time to pack up and head to Austin, and I was all, “But I’m definitely still okay, so I’ll just grab the refill once I’m back in town.” And then I forgot all about it again, while deep in the recesses of my psyche, reports of mysterious infections began to spread.

My friend Sarah says that zombie movies are all about how society responds to challenges and responsibilities. Back in our day, zombies were shamblers — one zombie was not too hard to dispatch, but a horde of zombies lumbering down the street would inevitably overwhelm you, no matter how many of them you were able to shoot in the head. When I’m on medication for my panic disorder, the zombies are easy to out-maneuver. When I’m off my meds, though, I’m suddenly up against the modern, wind-sprinting zombies. Panic starts in the body before it reaches the brain, so by the time I realize the zombies are after me, it’s too late. They move too quickly to gun down. They’re stronger than I am. There’s nothing to do but give up and let them devour me.

The attacks started a few days ago, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted from them by the time I made it home yesterday afternoon. For me, bad panic is always followed by depression, so I took some Advil PM and curled up in bed before sunset to sleep through the worst of it. Ben always checks in on his own way home from work, and Mike and Jessie usually say goodnight, and I could hear the notifications as their messages arrived. I wanted to talk to all of them, to let them know that I wasn’t doing well and needed reassurance, to ask them to remind me that depression lies, but I couldn’t reach out. There were too many zombies between me and the phone.

I refilled my prescription this morning. It’ll take another week or so for me to be fully back to what passes for normal, but in the meantime, the zombies are already shrugging their shoulders and shuffling away. And maybe this time, I’ll remember what happens when I don’t take the proper steps to manage my mental illness.

Maybe this time, I’ll feel like a less of a monster myself.

Filthy Lucre

Customer: “I’d like a bottle of Max Impact, please.”

Me: “Sure! That’ll be $24.89.”

Customer: [counting out ones] “Heh. It’s my stripper money.”

[I chuckle. He hands me a wad of cash.]

Customer: “No, really. I’m a stripper. This all came out of my g-string.”

Me: “…”

Customer: “The ladies at the bank openly judge me whenever I make a deposit. And oh, hey, look! Someone tipped me a two-dollar bill.”

You know, I have not led a sheltered life, and I have many wonderful friends who make their livings in and around the sex industry, but still… I really don’t need to know when I’m handling sweaty junk-money. Not even when it’s in unusual denominations.

My novelty hand sanitizer is getting such a workout tonight, you guys.

Keeping the Weird in “Keep Austin Weird.” You’re welcome, Austin.

Dear Holiday Inn Express Housekeeping Staff,

Look, I’m not going to hedge here. I stole the Do Not Disturb sign, and I apologize for that. But in my defense, it’s just laminate paper. I’m sure you have piles and piles of replacements. Besides, most Do Not Disturb signs simply say, “Do Not Disturb.” They’re not witty or droll at all. Yours, however, says, “Hang on! I’m Busy,” which conveys a lighthearted sense of flustered urgency, making it the ideal signal flag to wave at my customers when six of them try to check out at once.

With that awkwardness out of the way, and your generous forgiveness accepted, let me just say that our room was spotless and comfortable — you clearly take pride in your work, and it shows. The walls of the hotel itself are a little thin, though, and while I own that this is a only a minor design flaw and almost certainly not your fault, it does explain why you heard what you did. Should it please you, I’d like to offer some clarification on that incident, because I’d really prefer you not assume I’m not a horrible, horrible person over one innocuous, misheard exclamation.

Our IML brother Scotty had come to the Hill Country to officiate a wedding, so Ben (an upstanding and religious young man like myself) and I decided to drive down to see him. We chose your hotel as our accommodations, which? No regrets. We will both be recommending you to family and friends. Anyway, we were packing up after two days of assuredly not-ungodly activities, and I was telling him about the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” parody that’s all about boundaries and consent, and he mentioned how funny it would be to write our own version involving a BDSM relationship.

So when he softly crooned, “I really can’t stay…” I understandably responded by screaming, “ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES, PIG.” But what you couldn’t see was the mortification on Ben’s face as he jabbed his finger frantically in the direction of the hallway and mouthed, “Oh, my God, the housekeepers are out there,” which probably would’ve helped you view the matter in a much more relatable context.

It’s also quite important to maintain Ben’s innocence in this whole affair. As additional evidence, please find below a conversation we had earlier in the morning.

Me: “Would you like coffee?”

Ben: “Sure.”

Me: “Great! I’ll make some.”

Ben: “Hey, Thomas?”

Me: “Yes?

Ben: “Why is the shower running?”

Me: “…”

Ben: [gently, as if to a toddler who wants to know why his goldfish is sleeping on its side] “Were you going to take a shower, but then got distracted by making coffee?”

Me: “… Yes.”

Ben: [carefully removing the k-pods from my hands] “I think I’ll make some coffee. Why don’t you go take a shower?”

See? Ben is a goddamned saint, whereas I was born with a tragic disorder that leaves me incapable of controlling my impulses or using an inside voice. But I do my best to get by. I’m kind of a saint too, when you think about it, especially when given the opportunity to let my guard down in a judgement-free environment such as your fine establishment.

Which reminds me! I picked up a couple of souvenirs when we visited the Museum of the Weird, including the following gimcrack:

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The ceramic No Face butt plug pin in the background is another momento but sadly not relevant to the story.

It’s not much, but I’m going to have a few bottles sent over as an expression of gratitude, and also so that we can have our own little inside joke, because God only knows what you thought was going on in Room 516, am I right? Ha ha! Again, thank you for your prompt service and attention to detail. I’m not even going to mention the poop someone may or may not have completely unintentionally gotten on that one washcloth, because a) we both know you deal with way worse on a daily basis, and b) it’s not like I have a norovirus or anything — Ben and I just partook a bit too mightily of your fair city’s rich, fiberless cuisine, and there was a situation, and I handled it to the best of my ability.

Your discretion is greatly appreciated as well. I’ll get extra sanitizer in the mail to you ASAP.

I Knew My Background in Graphic Design Would Pay Off Eventually

Ben: “How’s your night going?”

Me: “HA HA HA YES WE SHOULD DEFINITELY HAVE TESTERS FOR THE DOUBLE SCORPIO AND I HAVE CERTAINLY NOT HEARD THAT SAME LINE 75 GODDAMNED TIMES THIS WEEK HA HA HAAAA…”

Ben: “…”

Me: “I may have a resentment.”

In an attempt to give me something constructive to focus on, Ben suggested I make a small, tactful sign for the register, which would hopefully circumvent any trite attempts at humor and/or wearisome questions. Inspired, I put pen to cardstock, and a few minutes later, I had an array of informative options ready to go:

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I feel back in control of my life already.

PS: Ben’s concept for a sign was, “One in 10 Double Scorpio bottles contains an actual scorpion. Please understand our refusal to open them in the store.” This is why he’s the idea guy.