Don’t Bother. I’ll Write Myself Up.

[Carlisle often keeps me company when I work on Sundays. We were complaining to each other last night about how boring of an evening it had been and how something entertaining needed to happen, when two customers entered the store. Turns out, we are prophets.]

Customer 1: [slithering up to me] “Hello. My friend here is interested in leather but won’t admit it. Please help him.”

Customer 2: “Um… I’m really not.”

Me: “Is there anything you’d like to try on?”

Friend: “Nah. [patting belly] I’m not built for it.”

Customer 1: “Yes you are. See? She looks like you. [reaches out to touch Carlisle’s chest]

Carlisle: “Whoa, careful.”

Customer 1: “What?”

Carlisle: “I don’t know you.”

Customer 1: [with much smarm] “Well, I don’t know you either.” [tries to touch him again]

Carlisle: [firmly] “Please don’t.”

Customer 1: “Ooh, she doesn’t want strangers touching her? Listen, in this environment, you have to expect it.”

Me: “No. In this environment, people get to set their own boundaries.”

Customer 1: [righteously indignant, yet patronizing] “Um, this is the leather world. Have you ever even been to IML?”

Customer 2: “Oh, Jesus…”

Carlisle: “Yes. I’m a titleholder.”

Customer 1: “Oh, she’s a titleholder. Did you hear that? She’s a titleholder and doesn’t want anyone touching her.”

Customer 2: “Hey, seriously, knock it off. The owners of the Forge wouldn’t appreciate you treating their customers this way.”

Customer 1: “Oh, you know the owners, do you? We’ll just see what the owners think.” [flounces out of the store]

Customer 2: “I am so sorry.”

Me: “No worries, dude. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Customer 2: “Well… thank you.”

And then he ran after his albatross friend, who was already holding court at the main bar, literally screaming about how I had maligned him — like, he was going to speak with the owners himself and have me taken care of for being so disrespectful. I don’t know if the bartenders finally had enough or what, but a few minutes later he stormed out of the Ripcord, at which point Carlisle and I were crippled with laughter.

Granted, at its core, this incident is decidedly not funny — in fact, it’s just another reminder that we’re trapped in a society of victim blaming/shaming. In this case, a customer is threatening to have me fired, because I wouldn’t let him harass someone else on my watch; similar to how a Disney executive got fired for filing a sexual harassment suit against a supervisor, or how a black woman got arrested after calling the cops on the white neighbor who physically assaulted her son. This shit happens all the fucking time, and as such it’s no surprise that some douchebag’s immediate reaction to, “your behavior is unacceptable” is “and that is all your fault.”

From this perspective, the circumstances in which Carlisle and I found ourselves were demoralizing AF, but at the same time, the mansplained absurdity of the situation tickled the hell out of us. Maybe we would’ve been more unmoved if we’d been decked out in, say, casual sportswear, but to be dressed in leather while working in a leather store and have someone try to school me on leather culture was just the hilarity I needed to make it through the rest of my shift fancy-free.

PS: I’m also a titleholder and will be competing at IML this year, but, y’know, dude didn’t ask. I feel like that’s probably for the best.

Public Service Addiction

[Ed. Note: This customer was one of the drunkest I’ve dealt with to date, so when reading anything he says, slur it up in your head and mix the consonants around to get the full effect.]

Customer: “What’s the biggest bottle of lube you have?”

Me: “Sixteen ounces.”

Customer: “That’s the biggest bottle you have?”

Me: “Yes.”

Customer: “I need bigger.”

Me: “The biggest we have is 16 ounces.”

Customer: “Bigger.”

Me: “This is the biggest.”

Customer: “BIGGER.”

Me: [shrug]

Customer: “Okay.” [whispering] “I’m a slut.”

Me: “No kidding.”

[five minutes later]

Customer: “What’s the biggest bottle of lube you have?”

Me: “You just bought it.”

Him: “Just checking. How much is in this other lube?”

Me: “Sixteen ounces.”

Customer: “How much does it cost?”

Me: “$28.”

Customer: “WHAT?! Open it.”

Me: “I can’t do that.”

Customer: “$28?”

Me: “Yup.”

Customer: “BITCH.”

Me: “Still $28.”

Customer: “I hate you.”

Me: “That’s cool.”

Customer: “RUDE. It’s RUDE to charge so much.”

Me: “Then don’t buy it.”

Him: [slowly counting out 28 dollars] “Rude…”

A number of sober acquaintances were horrified appalled filled to overflowing with brimstone and judgement very concerned when I started working at the Forge. “If you hang out at the barbershop, you’re going to get a shave,” they chanted, while placing bets on how long it would take me to guiltily slink into a meeting and collect a new desire chip. But despite their hopes the odds, I’ve done remarkably well at both the store and in the bar where it’s housed, and customers like the guy above are major contributors to that.

Even after five years in recovery, I still get triggered occasionally. I can think of maybe one or two times when this has happened at the Forge, but it’s mainly occurred during stressful moments at my day job, or when I’m at a family gathering watching relatives polish off a couple of bottles of wine, or in the middle of a hurricane. Thing is, if a craving hits, all I have to do is look to a customer spending an additional $30 on personal lubricant because he’s forgotten how much he’s already purchased, or getting unnecessarily excited about the painfully obvious, or repeatedly smacking into a display case to remember why it’s best to keep alcohol out of my system entirely.

Novelist Catherine Aird once wrote, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” I definitely don’t think every single dude who ties one on at the Ripcord is a certified (or certifiable) alcoholic, but as a card-carrying rumhound myself, I am grateful for the humility provided by these semi-regular portents of what my life could go back to resembling.

AromAversion Therapy

Customer: “What’s this?”

Me: “That’s leather-scented lube.”

Customer: “Yeah, the smell of leather has kind of lost it’s appeal.”

Me: “Has it?”

Customer: “The first time I got fucked, we used my friend’s mom’s hand cream. That’s the scent that does it for me. Ha ha!”

Me: [weakly] “Ha ha…”

Customer: “Ha ha ha!”

Me: “Um…”

Customer: “AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!”

Me: “…”

And right as he doubled over with maniacal laughter, the bar’s jukebox kicked on and started playing “The NeverEnding Story.”

I wasn’t really using my childhood, so it’s probably okay that it just got ruined.

Status Update: Currently fixating on the following cover in a bid to clear my palate. The kicky dance moves seem to be helping.

Location Locution Loquation

Customer: “What does your shirt say?”

Me: “Oh, this? It says FoLK.'”

Customer: “FoLK?”

Me: “Yes, short for ‘Fellowship of Leather and Kink.’  It’s a local leather club.”

Customer: “Nice! I’ve never been there.”

I started to clarify that FoLK was actually a group of like-minded individuals and not a seedy gay bar, but then his boyfriend wandered in and was all, “Wow, great porn shop! I love it when these places have porn shops,” and suddenly I didn’t feel helpful anymore. Must’ve been the weather or my sinuses or something.