- What are you doing? You do not call. You do not write. You no longer love me?
- Nope. I found this really sexy stapler. We're running off together to Office Depot.
- I'm so sad. What's the bitch's name?
- Swingline. Sexy, right?
- *kiss* But don't worry, we're going to be poly, so I can still be with you and she can finally give in to her lust for post-it notes.
When looking for a job, it is often said that one should not announce that fact to current co-workers until confirmed receipt of a new job.
I don't know what the socially-accepted customs are for announcing the cessation of smoking.
Recently, I went to Dark Odyssey: Fusion. While there has been a perceived lack of posting by me in this old space, I have been fairly reliable for posting several regular posts - my annual birthday post, one after events such as Frolicon, Mid-Atlantic Leather, and International Mr. Leather when I attend them, and my post-Camp posts.
I really haven't felt much drive to write about Fusion either.
It's a hard event to write about. I can't say that I didn't have fun, or that it was an awful event, or that there weren't highlights - because they in varying bits wouldn't be true. I don't want to toss aside the play I did have, the time I spent with friends old and new, the classes I taught, or just the pure camp moments that are always present.
I've been reading a lot of the post-event writings on FetLife, and I see a lot of "best event ever" and other posts like that... and it makes the hardness, well, harder...
...because when I think of the event, it is hard to shake the word "tree" out of the equation.
You see, OINK is home to me. I have a bond to that place, in both its physical and conceptual forms, that has been built over a decade of experiences - love, grief, change, joy, sorrow, laughter, friendship, bonds, etc. I can almost map my entire development as an adult being with experiences that link back to OINK cabin. When I walk onto that porch, walk through that door, I feel just as home as I do as in my apartment. It is my second home, my second skin...
And a tree dropped onto it. A tree fell on the roof, punctured it in two difference places, shifted the entire structure so that one of our doors would no longer close properly. A tree fell on our home, and for the first time EVER, I had to leave camp before it was time to leave, face reality and stay in a hotel, eat non-camp food, drive my car, be a responsible adult, plan real life things.
For the first time ever, my OINK home was not my home.
I am very proud to be a part of OINK. I am very proud of my fellow OINKers. My heart swelled with pride as we banded together that dreaded Friday, how we teamed up and cared for one another, collecting our tentmates out from the storm, keeping our fellow cabin mates dry and safe, banding together and never separating as we regrouped in the cafeteria, and mounted our own Occupy movement within the dungeon. How we caravaned together, an OINK convoy out to Aberdeen for a safe comfy space to rest our heads for the evening.
My heart broke as one by one, we fell apart on Saturday. My mind whirled with jealousy and confusion as the entire camp proceeded to camp away as I was left standing, broken and confused and for the first time ever doubting I even wanted to be standing in Ramblewood anymore.
I stood in front of OINK, watched as workers diligently worked to take a big fucking huge holy motherfucking god we should be fucking dead TREE off of our roof. I stood and looked at my home, with crime scene tape keeping me from touching it, walking in it, keeping me from my stuff inside it... I looked at my damaged home, my pierced roof, my safe space suddenly so not fucking safe anymore and cried my fucking eyes out.
We moved back in to OINK on Sunday. OINK made one last stand, and banded together as a group to take back that space and make it safe again. For a day and evening of real camp, real experience, normality in as much as we could pretend we could make it.
Camp was not bad. I played. I fell in love with my wife over and over again. I grew jealous as she played with someone else and dealt with that jealousy and realized that it came from love and turned it into some sick sense of pride in seeing my wife turn into a bit of the whore I am. Together we reconnected with someone who we love very, very much, even though we nor she acknowledge it publicly, and we're not even sure if she knows how much we consider her ours. I played with new people, I spend time with my leather family, I lived.
But my home was wrecked, and my heart was slightly broken, and it was hard, and I am still not over it, and neither are my friends, and I still hurt.
I didn't have one fucking cigarette during, or since. 7 weeks and counting.
South Plains Leatherfest 2012 Keynote Speech
The Future of Leather
Presented on March 11, 2012
By Phillip Wolf, aka Boymeat
It must be said right up front that I speak to you all this morning with pride and humility in my heart. I must give thanks to Master Jim, slave marsha, and Cougar for bestowing me the amazing honor of this opportunity. I look at South Plains Leatherfest as being one of the largest, most prestigious, and at times one of the most influential events on the national circuit today. I recognize that there has been a lot of trust and faith placed in me today and for that I sincerely thank you.
And it also must be said that while such an introduction is usually expected out of a keynote speaker, I have facts that back up my feelings. You see, in exactly 2 weeks from yesterday, I will be wed to my amazing partner, Kathryn Tact. And when I say wed, I do not mean a casual affair in the New York City Clerk’s office. I mean the great Southern Jewish wedding in North Carolina with over 170 guests that had to be scheduled around International Ms. Leather in order to prevent that event from losing half of its educators and its producer. For me to accept the invite to do a keynote a mere 2 weeks prior to such an event is the act of a madman.
But when South Plains asks, how the hell do you turn that down? And so, here I am.
While we’re on introductions and disclaimers, there are a few other items we need to address before I dive in. We are at an event that is honoring Leather in all its forms – our past, our present, and our future. While the meaning of the word is a fun and fruitful and in the end a frustrating conversation in and of itself, I think one of the few things most people can agree on is that honesty is a part of that definition. So I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all right now.
I’m scared shitless over what I am about to say. Truly, deeply, without any exaggeration, terrified.
You see, when Master Jim reached out and asked me to speak, I didn’t even need to look at the topic for me to know the answer. Of course I’ll speak!
But he’s a good salesman, that Jim. He asked me first, got my attention and excitement, and then followed through with the topic. Such a trivial topic, one that is impossible to fuck up, that is simple and obvious and not controversial AT ALL, no siree bob!
Nothing too grand. Just the Future of Leather itself.
Right. That ole thing. Sure. No problem.
I have half joked in the months and weeks leading up to this event that if I didn’t piss off every single one of you and quite possibly everyone else in Texas, I would have clearly failed. I must ask you again believe me when I tell you that I did not write this speech with that purpose in mind.
So please give me a few minutes lead time before you chase me with pitchforks when this is all over.
The term “Leather” has always been one a loaded one. It comes with the weight of meaning and tradition and identity, making it a very cumbersome word to deal with. Due to this weight, it finds itself in all sorts of debates and disagreements and arguments. This speech comes at a very interesting time, as our history has been called once again into question, the debate over whether or not leather even exists right now is debated, and the future is a murky mess that no one knows how to predict and is generally discussed with moaning, groaning (and not the kinds we heard last night in the dungeon), some choice curse words, usually ending with someone throwing their hands in the air and walking away muttering to themselves, head shaking.
I personally came to this world in a very unique fashion. With 16 years under my belt, I have come to recognize that I and those like me represent a bridge. On one side of the bridge is pre-internet leather & kink… and on the other… the as of yet uncharted post-digital age of SM. Growing up in NYC, I walked into the doors of TES, known then as The Eulenspiegel Society, and somehow walked face first into someone who would become my mentor, my guide, my best friend, and soon to be my best man at my wedding, Lolita Wolf. She raised me as one would in the olden days. She took me under her wing; she taught me how to behave, how to act, how to conduct myself with respect and honor, how to play, how to seduce, how to take a hit and how to dish it out.
It was with her that my first leather vest was bought… and my first pair of leather pants… and my first… well, you get the picture. I was taught how to cruise at a gay leather bar or seduce at a heterosexual dungeon, and I figured out how not to trample anyone in the dark room when dropping to my knees. I knew what it meant to put a hankie in my back pocket, and I wore them with pride in the grand lobbies of IML and MAL. I was taught how to attend IMsL as a bisexual man, how to blend in and how and when to disappear to give the leatherwomen their space. I learned how to bottom and bottom hard, and then learned how to top, and top hard I do. With these and more, I’ve had experiences and lessons that allow me to truly say I have lived fully in that world.
Some have said that I am “old leather,” though I would never say this myself. But I recognize that one of my legs stands on that side of the bridge.
My other leg has been busy doing other things. My other leg found SM through my dial-up modem, first on Prodigy message boards and then in AOL chat rooms. It was in 1992 in a room called Le Chateau that my 16-year-old-masquerading-as-18-year-old self found out about TES. As soon as I could, I dived head first into that group, the first organization of its kind in this country that opened up the doors of SM and invited everyone in to attend. My mentors there were plentiful… every class I attended was a lesson and every teacher, whether they knew it or not, was a mentor. Those who taught masterfully were amazing mentors who taught me and countless others skills and concepts. Those who taught poorly were mentors in their own right demonstrating what NOT to do, an important lesson in itself! Our lab class was the dungeon during the weekends. My friends and I practiced what we saw in class at Hellfire and the Vault and at Paddles and the Crucible… we took what we saw, tried the techniques out, and made them our own.
After a few years of these public lessons, I saw that the younger generation was being under represented. TES and Black Rose and all of the groups like it were growing old, led by people my parents’ age, and I quickly saw that something was missing and did something about it.
What would become a very radical step, though I still to this day really can’t understand why, I and 3 others, myself and Josh HighTower from TES and Kyri and Schelli from Black Rose, founded TNG, The Next Generation, groups dedicated to creating a safe space for the younger members of our community. While at first it was probably a selfish move, created in response to us being the youngest people around and feeling a little lonely, we wanted to fill the doors of TES and Black Rose with more of our peers. What it turned into was a deeper step at creating inclusion, inviting the new wave of perverts into the already established SM educational powerhouses known as TES and Black Rose. What came next was astonishing – new, younger blood brought with them new energy, new ideas, and new terminology and definitions and beliefs. What was tradition became yesterday, and today continues to be written.
That was my yesterday. Let’s talk about today now.
Today is a very, very interesting time to be talking about leather.
On one hand, we have amazing new debates on what leather was. Thanks to a guy named John Weal, and a book that he wrote that had a nice subtle title of “The Leatherman’s Protocol Handbook,” and some responses by a strange old man named Guy Baldwin, the myths of old guard are once again being brought into spotlight and debated… to the point that I don’t think anyone knows which direction is up anymore.
This debate has huge implications on what our future is, and brings up questions that truly need to be asked, but will never be answered. What WERE our traditions? Can anyone truly say? Was the bestowing of a Master’s cover, or a leather vest, or a pair of boots, truly a signifying point where someone can say they are a part of the leather community? Did we truly live with rules on how to act, how to behave, how to top, and how to bottom? Was the exchange of power – Master and slaves – the true personification of leather? Or was the simple sound of a belt flying through the air striking naked flesh at the end enough? Is it the gay men that held the standard of what leather was and is? Was the women’s scene cut from the same hide, or was it the same and yet different? Can Pat Bond and Cynthia Slater and all of those het and bi rabble rousers of the 1970’s be considered a part of the leather scene? Did those in NY conduct themselves with the same protocol as those in San Francisco? Or maybe it was the east coast as a whole that acted differently than the Midwest, which acted differently than the Pacific coast. Or maybe it was that the guys in Greenwich Village did things differently than those on the Upper West Side.
I think you get the point.
On the other hand, we have true and honest discussions on what leather is today. I’m a bit of a whore for topics like these, and while I’ve mostly stayed out of the debate, I’ve been a voracious reader. And for those of you like me, you have to admit, the shit that’s out there today is AMAZING.
It’s amazing because the conversation has shifted. We talk about what leather was when we discuss yesterday, and today we ask ourselves, does leather even exist?
Here are just a few examples.
On July 27th, 2011, the San Francisco Leatherman’s Discussion Group hosted a panel entitled “Is Leather Dead? Does it Need to Die?” Including yesterday’s greatest leather luminaries, Guy Baldwin, Race Bannon, Gayle Rubin, and Instigator Magazine’s Michael Thorn representing today, they kick started a national debate on whether leather was dead and what was next. They spoke about all of the changes swirling around – social changes, economic changes, and technological changes. But not a single question about what the future had in store was authoritatively answered.
On August 25th, 2011, there was an article in the Dallas Observer, “How the Internet Killed (Or Maybe Just Changed) Dallas’ Leather Scene.” The culprits in that article? Tourists, straights, women, and the worst, social media.
In September, guest columnists from all walks of life posted pieces on Leatherati.com trying to answer the age old question – “what is leather?” And no matter how many essays you read, you never really had the answer.
So does leather still live and breathe?
Let’s look at the evidence against – the leather bar, dying in some places and dead in others. Recon and FetLife and Bear411 and Grindr rising in its place. GMSMA and many groups like it – dead. Leather contests – heh. Not going there. SM education groups – membership dwindling. The art of the cruise replaced by the art of the instant message or the tweet. The space where all are welcome vs. the secret place that you had to be in the know to find.
That’s what everyone says these days.
Now let me tell you what I see.
I see evolution.
I see leather as a world of sexual outlaws, doing what outlaws do. I see a history of people looking around at the world they are in, deciding what parts of it they liked and what parts they didn’t, and building their own lives with their own rules and their own protocols all with the intent of one thing – to get off. Whether getting off physically, or emotionally, or spiritually, or some combination of all of the above, each person and group and community looked around in their time and place, took the resources that they had, and created their own world.
And with the coming of each new generation, that world changes. The new bring new ideas, new ways of thinking, and also the experience of living in the now that brings evolution to the scene. Because humans are social creatures by default, every single one of us has had the experience of searching out others like us. And in each generation we used the technology available to us at that time. From going to a bar you only found out about through word of mouth, to phone sex lines to ads in a newspaper to kinky magazines to books with directories to chat rooms and then to the grand social media world, each served merely as a tool to seek one another out. Every single one of these technological advances was seen as the end of the world to those who lived before them, while those who were new shrugged their shoulders and did their thing.
With each new generation, new concepts were introduced to the world. Each new concept was viewed with a contempt only matched by the coming of the antichrist. Switch was once the dirtiest word in the land… antithetic to all that was holy in the leather world. Then it was the bisexual. Which of course flowed naturally into pansexuality. Pure SMers look at pure DSers with contempt, and some Master/slave couples see themselves as the end and be all of leather, not to mention all of the woo-woo vs. those without the woo. But all of these groups and more hold a thread to the fabric that is leather.
And as each generation passes, walls come tumbling down just to get built again just to be smashed once more. Dykes intermingling with the gay men and then walking to their respective corners once more. Gays hanging with the hets, and then getting annoyed and going away again, and back and forth and so on. And today, the new growing force of queer and trans, bursting through previously conceived boxes of gender and sexual identity and smashing all of the walls down to the point of being unrecognizable.
But no matter the changes, one thing still remains constant. People are still kinky. People still need to get off in ways that are very, very, very much not vanilla. People are still finding happiness and joy when exchanging power with someone else. Pain is still equating pleasure. People still bottom. People still top.
I’m repeating this because it is important. Sexual outlaws are still entering the scene in droves, and like the leather gods and goddesses of yesterday, they are looking around, seeing what they like, discarding what they don’t, and doing their own fucking thing. That is leather to me. And it’s happening. Right now. Everywhere. Leather is living and well – there are just people who choose not to see it that way.
And now, the point of it all. You’ve heard me ramble on and on about yesterday and today, and we finally get to the reason why we’re all here, completely ignoring the fact that you might be here simply because this is where the coffee is. My views on the future of leather.
Here we go.
The future of leather requires us to stop trying to define it.
Leather is not the fabric of your clothing. Leather is not the material of your toys. Leather is not your protocols. Leather is not Master and slave, or hard core SM. Leather is not exclusionary, but it’s not necessarily inclusionary either. Leather is not the rules you keep, or the thing you were taught, or the thing you are teaching right now. Leather is not your gender, or your sexual preferences, top, bottom, Dominant, submissive, switch, femme, butch, trans, two-spirit, gender queer, or androgynous.
Leather is all of those things and then some. Leather has no gatekeeper; it has no board of directors, no leadership committee, and no dictionary definition. Leather is in the hands of the individual, the sexual outlaw, meeting up with other sexual outlaws and doing what feels right to them at that time. Leather is and always will be the exploration of the self as a sexual being, an ethical outlaw charting paths for themselves at their own choosing. Leather is being honest with ourselves and others, it is adults playing with sex and pain and pleasure and power and gender and identity and roles consensually with other adults.
The future of leather defies your attempt to define it, it refuses to be defined, and it laughs at you when you try. Leather doesn’t even always call itself leather. Leather is and always will be a tricky bastard and/or bitch and/or the gender neutral version of those two words that I don’t think has been invented yet but I’m going to go with fucker.
The future of leather is in the hands of evolution. The future of leather is going to be alive and well, and you only need to choose to open your eyes to see it. The future of leather is depending on your letting go of what you thought it was, and being open to what else it might be.
The future of leather believes that the magic of SM/leather/fetish/kink or whatever else you want to call it comes in many forms. That the magic you felt is not dead… it’s just different. And that’s ok.
History and tradition is a wonderful thing. But one has to acknowledge that things always change, they always evolve, and what is true today will almost always be somewhat different than what it was yesterday.
Do you understand? If you truly believe that leather is the way we did things back then, and only that, then to you leather is dead. If you believe that leather is the way we do things RIGHT NOW, and only that, then to you I say, leather is dead. But to everyone else who keeps their eyes open and sees a world of orgasms and couplings and screams and moans, leather is alive and fucking well.
You keep saying that leather is the way you are doing things right now, honoring your traditions and your history, and it isn’t that! Because leather is how you interact as a sexual being with other sexual beings, however the fuck you are doing it at that time.
Because leather is in the hands of the doers! Leather people don’t talk about being leather, they do it! They play however the fuck they want to play! They meet each other how ever the fuck they want to meet! And they meet whoever they want to meet! Wherever! Whenever!!!
Not one of us can predict what is going to be 20, 30 years from now. And it is really hard to accept the change that is all around us. To this day I struggle with the loss of GMSMA. How in NYC there is no public place for a gay man to sit and learn about SM and meet others in a space that isn’t a sex party. I struggle with the fact that my local club is no longer what it was to me 15 years ago. I struggle with the fact that there are people younger than me who are doing things that I could never imagine doing when I was that young… that they don’t enter the world in quite the same way I did… that they have leaped past the traditional struggle of top vs. bottom and entered into a whole new world of gender politics and sexual fluidity. I struggle with the fact that the boxes that I knew once contained the leather world no longer exist, and there are new boxes in its place.
I struggle, but I also celebrate. Because once again, history is repeating itself, and the future is as it always was in the hands of the young. They’re creating new groups. They’re creating new identities. They’re creating new terminology. They’re doing the same damn thing that we did and our forebears did before us. And I’m pretty damn impressed with what they’re creating.
The future of leather is right before you. We just need to open our eyes.
My feelings before writing, during writing, and after, can be summed up in two words. Holy shit.
I will post it here and elsewhere after the event. I can't wait to read it out loud. I can't wait for you to read it.
I apologize for vomiting as I am onto your screens.
The NY subways, ever since 9/11, have been regularly broadcasting messages on the train and on the platforms that seek to charge NY'ers to being a part of our overall safety. Just as in airports, much is made of suspicious packages. Every frequent subway rider has without a doubt heard to the point of memorization that common phrase... "If you see a suspicious package, don't keep it to yourself. Tell a police officer, or a NYC transit worker." On the MTA website, there is an entire page devoted to deputizing us into being safety wardens.
It's a good campaign, and illustrates something that we should take heed of. Danger is all around us, and we can't expect the authorities to know about it all. We do need to tell someone when we see danger, because untold danger simply becomes more dangerous.
The trick though is that in day to day life, there is someone to tell. You tell the authorities, and it is their job to investigate, confirm, and deal with said danger. It is what they are paid to do... what we as tax paying citizens charge them with. There is a structure in which these things are handled.
In the SM scene, we have no such thing. There are no authorities, there are no people in charge. Sure, there are event directors, and they can kick you out of their event if you prove to be a danger. But they have no power to stop you from going somewhere else... another event, another group, another city... to cause danger over there. No one has authority in the scene. In a land defined by the power exchanges we get turned on by, there is no true power structure. We are a band of deviants, doing what we want with very little other than societies law to stop us.
In a land devoid of law, I feel it is even more important for the individual to take responsibility for the safety of others. As fellow decent human beings, it is our job to watch the back of those who watch ours. The historical leather scene is famous for the idea of it being self-policing. We (supposedly) guarded our own, and kept dangerous individuals out.
Looks great on paper. Really hard to do in practice.
3, 4, however many years ago, I was strongly tempted to shout out when the shithead I wrote about earlier returned to NYC. I wanted to warn everyone that he was not to be trusted, that he was unsafe, and that he should be avoided. I didn't though, I could not. Because that would have been slander. That would have been me slinging shit at someone and thus I would have been ostracized.
I've written about this time, and time, and time again.
But what if I did?? What if I DID tell people how many years ago? Would we be going through what is happening now? Would people been hurt by him? Would he even still be around enough to come back again like he's trying to do now?
I did my best, I suppose. I told a few people who's confidence I had. I told a group leader about the snake in their midst. I did my little part. Clearly it wasn't enough.
If you see something, say something.
When the fuck are we going to start saying something?
One of the side effects I've found that has come along with aging is my patience. Or should I say, my lack thereof. In the past, I was very good at keeping my words inside, allowing the idiotic, dangerous, and lunatic fringe pass alongside me without a word or grunt. I would hold my tongue, wait until Lolita and I were in a private, sound proof space, and there we would mouth off until the cows came home.
Now that I am older, and the sheer quantity of idiotic, dangerous, and lunatic people that I have come across has hit such a large number, I find that I can no longer hold my tongue. I can no longer filter my words. Words and vitriol spew out of my mouth at the very point of inspiration, with no 5-second delay so that the people upstairs can scrub them first before they are released to the public.
The solution? Well, I go out less. If I go out less, I'm exposed to less trash and garbage, and then my desire to lash out like a holy demon of hell is less.
But really, one of the main solutions has been my lovely bride-to-be... Kathryn.
Because she stops me from typing. It's a very... very... VERY important position in my life.
And when she's not around... you get posts like this one. She's at work right now, and thus can't softly and sweetly kiss me away from the keyboard. And I need to type this somewhere, or I will quite literally explode.
Explode like boom. A very nasty explosion, natch.
I just read something terribly frightening on the great mass of intelligence known as FetLife. A certain abusive, vile, disgusting individual who I have had the misfortune of dealing with may back in my distant past, who not surprisingly had recently dropped out of the SM scene again due to flagrant accounts of abuse, has decided to pop his head back up again.
He's sorry. He's done work to fix himself. He has delved deep within himself and finally (with the help of doctors and friends, of course) has been deemed worthy of coming back out into the SM scene anew.
Once upon a time, I took this worthless excuse for a human being under my wing. Almost 10 years ago, I brought him places. I took him to parties, to events. I introduced him to people. I answered his questions, and was his friend.
He returned that favor by seducing someone who was very close and dear to me, who was already in a relationship with me, and then proceeded to verbally and emotionally abuse her. And she wasn't the only person she did this to. Over the years I've heard story after story of others he was a prick to.
He left NYC at one point, and I thought we were finally rid of him. Nothing to worry about, he's gone, another city's problem. But... much to my chagrin, he came back. And when he did, he was greater than ever. Now, he was SUPER DOM, he was a big KINK EDUCATOR, he was a FEMINIST, he was the great shining example of a cis-gendered male eschewing his privilege and seducing little girls left and right!!! He was a bag of skittles on top of a unicorn who never shat a day in its life!!!
And then he hurt people. Again. He abused them. He took advantage of them. He broke their trust, crossed their limits. Again.
And now he's back.
I want to respond to his post. I want to write with great fury how I feel about his return. But of course, I can't. That just wouldn't be proper.
So I write to no one here.
One of the few benefits of being in the scene for 15+ years is being able to see patterns. Seeing people over long lengths of time, observing their behaviors, and learning just how much of them is their true selves, and how much is simply subterfuge, costuming so they can be portrayed however they please. I've learned things in that observation.
I learned things about you.
Leopards don't change their spots. You have not changed. You were an abusive asshole 10 years ago, you were an abusive asshole 5 years ago, you were an abusive asshole last year, and now you're back to sell us another fucking paint job on the used piece of shit car that you are.
You wrote to me years ago when you came back to NYC that you were sorry. That you know you had hurt people, that you had changed. Asking me to take you back into my life and introduce you to my friends again and get you involved in everything I was involved in so you can be right back where you were before you left.
I was very polite in my response. I said no... and then I wished you luck, and I went off on my way.
And look where we are now. Same place as 3 years ago. Can't say I'm surprised. Because I never for a fucking second believed you had changed.
Because you hadn't. Because you still haven't.
Sell whatever you want on FetLife. But know that there are those of us who have truly known you for years. And we know better.
- Current Mood: angry
Now, while I am a self-identified sci-fi/fantasy geek, I actually have to shamefully admit that I have never actually read any of her novels. But her death fills me with sadness, as she was part and parcel to an amazing memory I hold from my younger years. It's an embarrassing story, and directly due to that, I clearly must write it here.
When I was in 6th grade, just starting out in Junior High School, I had befriended a pair of 7th graders named Jules and JulieAnna. They lived directly across the street from one another in Brooklyn, and were basically attached by the hip. Jules was wise beyond her years, always thinking and seemed to have both eyes set to the future. JulieAnna was the eccentric one, wild red hair, thin as a board, always getting herself into funny situations out of pure innocence that others would be embarrassed by, but she would just stride through them laughing her way. In Sandman parlance, Jules was Death, JulieAnna was Delirium. (One vivid memory burned in my mind was a subway trip to the Met, and somehow her shoe wound up in someone else's hand, and there she was traipsing around the subway car barefoot.) (Of course that's a vivid memory...)
Anyway, Jules and JulieAnna were huge fans of the Dragonriders of Pern. They would talk endlessly about dragons, and holds, and the boys in the books that they were in love with. They spoke about it so vividly... in present tense. It was probably my first encounter with true fandom... how they brought these characters and places to life. They would sit me down and show me the Pern atlas book, describing to me all of the places in the books, swooning over the beauty and the magical nature of it. I listed to it all with rapt attention... sucked in due to their obvious love for this artificial world.
Yet in the back of my mind, something was a bit off about the tellings. I slowly realized that JulieAnna was completely enraptured by the Pern world. Her voice would take on more than excitement... there was hope in her voice... expectation... as if this world would suddenly escape from the pages and come to life. And Jules was the story weaver, subtly feeding into JulieAnna's obsession and speaking about Pern as if it was fact. It was never, "the books say this about this hold." It was "oh, and the hold looks like this, and these people lived there, and this dragon was so beautiful!" All present tense, making the words come to life.
I think I avoided reading the actual books because it would ruin the magic of their versions of the world of Pern! I was swept off my feet, hanging on every word that Jules uttered, and sharing in the pervasive delight emanating from JulieAnna. They had me... hook, line, and sinker.
This went on for months.
I went over to Jules' house one afternoon, and found her consoling JulieAnna who was in her arms, sobbing almost uncontrollably. Her mother had ignored her once again, choosing to leave for the weekend with her boyfriend, leaving JulieAnna all alone with an empty refrigerator and little money. Sadly, this happened often. Jules was rocking JulieAnna in her arms, whispering to her sweet things... I was struggling to hear them... and then I caught a few words.
"When we are home on Pern, you will be able to forget them forever."
I think I was leafing through a book at the time, which quickly fell out of my hands hitting the floor, matched by my jaw. The next hour or so is a blur in my mind. The girls explained to me in rapid, hushed voices that Pern was real, that the books Anne McCaffrey had penned were actually chronicles sold to the public as fiction, but in reality described a true world. They spoke about it with such passion, such intensity...
...that I believed every word that escaped their lips.
Jules was actually from Pern. Somehow "shipwrecked" in Brooklyn, waiting for her family to come retrieve her. JulieAnna was her friend and connection with this world. And when Jules' true family came, she would rescue JulieAnna from her horrible home and take her with her to Pern.
I was the first person they had ever shared this secret with, and as such, special enough to be invited along.
Here is the part of the story where I reiterate (in a doomed-to-fail effort to somehow stem some of the embarrassment that will undoubtedly come my way) that I was in 6th grade. 12 years old, puberty kicking in hard, two amazing, intelligent, older girls had taken me into their world, and here I was listening to a tale of a beautiful world and a potential escape from the drab Brooklyn junior high world I was mired in.
Suffice to say, I was now convinced of my destiny to become a Dragonrider of Pern. Having not even gazed at a single page of Dragonflight, I was ecstatic about my new future life on Pern with two of the most beautiful and amazing girls I had ever come across. I thanked them profusely... and...
...and ran home to tell my mother the good news. Only to meet shock, dismay, and threats of a psychiatrist.
So, there were a few stressful days in my household, as my mother repeatedly tried to convince me that I was living in a fantasy world, and me arguing back how my friends are so amazing and she should be proud of her future Dragonrider and I'd always come back to visit.
Finally, after four days of Pern-obsessed insanity, Jules grabbed me for a walk, saying she needed to come clean about something. She admitted to me how Pern is of course just a fantasy world from a series of fantasy novels, and that she was not Jules of Pern, but instead Jules of East 16th Street.
Jules had conjured up this world and all its magic because she wanted to give JulieAnna something new to focus on. The poor girl had so much suffering living in her home, almost forgotten and certainly neglected, that Jules took the girl under her wing and decided to create something else for her to believe in. She filled JulieAnna's life with hope, instead of dread, borrowing off McCaffrey's words to escape the doldrums on life on Earth.
Two years later, this was all a wonderful story to look back on for all three of us. JulieAnna had shed the fantasy life and lived squarely on Earth, and Jules reverted back to just being Jules.
Still to this day, I have never read a single word of the Dragonriders of Pern... never thought I really needed to after my flight of fancy. But I do thank Anne McCaffrey for providing my friend escape when she most needed it.
The best part of my day, hands down, was when Kathryn came home from work. We didn't do anything really special, as we have plans with friends on Saturday night. Instead, we ordered in a yummy Indian dinner, and we sat together, and lived.
I think that was the best birthday present of all. And the best part is I've had it every night for more than two years since she moved in with me. I get to spend my days with Kathryn, my partner for life. I get that present every single day. And I will so for the rest of my life, as the wedding oath goes.
So happy birthday to me. It is somewhat fitting that my birthday coincided with Rosh Hashanah. On a day in which we celebrate another year, and ask God for a year that is good and sweet... I truly got to enjoy another day of a good and sweet life.
Not too shabby.
To say that my birthday tomorrow fills me with some trepidation is putting it mildly. I've always been excited about my birthday in the past, but now that the number is getting ever higher, not so much. I've been trying to figure out why aging has been so scary as of late, but today I think I put my finger on it.
I was never happy with childhood. All of my memories of elementary school, junior high, even high school, are tinted with the notion that I was always looking forward to being an adult. Feeling as if my inner self was being held back, and I couldn't wait to blossom into the next phase where everything I wanted to do would suddenly be possible.
All of those forward looking thoughts truly came to pass when I found the SM scene. My discovery of TES opened the doors to the world, and I really thought that I was finally becoming self-actualized. Of course, there is a heavy bit of irony laced into that as well. Once I got my foundation settled in the scene, I went from being Phil (no comments please from those who know some of the other names I used back then - I will hunt you down and kill you)... to Boymeat.
Boymeat. Boymeat! The irony is amazing! I went from always looking to being an adult, to becoming defined by my youth! In those formative years at TES, I was the youngest one around. And I thrived in that position - I loved being the youngling in the crowd, low in number but increasingly high in experience and passion. Boymeat was known for wild abandon, running around and playing and mucking about and living all the time and doing things he really shouldn't be but damn it was fun because he was Boymeat!
The formation of TNG added another layer to my definition. With my role in founding it, my identity became fully locked into being a representative for the younger generation. And in some ways, that identity still has not changed. I am still involved in TNG politics - I serve as a resource for other groups, and I still defend it whenever arguments against TNG surface (and they always do.) I have also took on a role of TNG historian, seeing as so little of its history is known or recognized.
So here I am, having lived this whole life of being defined by my youth. Over 15 years in the SM scene, yet still Boymeat. Years past from running a TNG, yet still working on it.
But SM is surely not the only thing on my mind when I think of tomorrow. This will be my last birthday as a bachelor. This time next year, I'll be a married man, wearing a ring signifying my bond and commitment and partnership with the best partner I could imagine, Kathryn. I am entering my 35th year not as some kid with a job not sure of his way in the world, but as a Vice President in the midst of a career. And before I'm 40, there might even be a child in my life.
There have always been jokes throughout my adult life about the name Boymeat. People asking what would happen when I've grown to be too old to be truly called Boymeat. Susan Wright once declared that she couldn't call me it anymore, that I was too old... that I would have to become Daddymeat.
I dunno how to feel about the name these days. Sometimes I don't feel like it accurately describes me anymore. I'm not a boy anymore. I don't have that kind of energy anymore... I feel quite perceptibly older than the TNGers of today. Instead, Boymeat has become more of a running gag in my life. Now, my home wireless network is called Webmeat. My old bike was Bikemeat. Kathryn is Girl Vegetable Side Dish. We joke that she will in March become Wifemeat, and our future spawn... Embryomeat.
The other side of that coin is that Boymeat is my continued attempt to hold on to my youth. The thought that I could still shave off my beard and mustache and look like I am 12 all over again. That even though I will be 35 tomorrow, I can still be 21.
Maybe. Guess I'll have to try. When I was 13, 15, 17... I couldn't wait to be an adult. I'm 34 right now, only half a day away from being 35, thinking wow, I guess I'm an adult now. I'm no Peter Pan, but I'm also no longer constantly hoping to "grow up." If anything, I'm trying to enjoy the now as much as humanely possible.
So hello to all of you while I am still 34. I'll talk to you tomorrow, a little older when I'm 35, but hopefully still the same.
- Current Mood: contemplative