I’m putting on my makeup as I stare in the mirror and I do not recognize the individual staring back at me. I’m not even sure she is human. Staring passionately at her refHowlection, she holds up her raspberry nails and places them against her eyes, lined with black, lashes heavy with mascara, and smoky lavender lids. The colors bounce around the small bathroom, glancing off the white tiles in livid streaks, exploding off the black of her outfit. Her dark eyes smolder with—is it excitement?
Source: Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
I saw my psychiatrist on Friday morning and I brought with me the outfit I had chosen to wear on Saturday night, for her opinion. There was no one else that I could trust with my burgeoning secret. I had agonized over my choices, but I had finally selected black leggings tucked into over-the-knee black boots, a black-and-ecru lace tank top, covered by a cropped black motorcycle-style rayon jacket.
“What do you think?” I asked after showing her the pieces. She nodded. “I think they are quite appropriate.”
The picture that was painted by the description of the event I was to attend interested me, scared me, and excited me. This swirling jumble of emotions only served to further exacerbate the inner conflict that I was already feeling about my BDSM proclivities. I wanted to go, I planned to go, I thought I had to be mad to attend—I was driving myself crazy with all the options. I discussed this with my psychiatrist, who pointed out that at any time during the evening, if I felt uncomfortable, I could simply leave.
My psychiatrist had some parting words of wisdom:
“The organization hosting the event values safety and respect.”
“No one can force you to do anything you don’t want to do.”
I shut off the bathroom light, abruptly turn my back on the mirror and leave the room. As I drive from the suburb north of Manhattan where I reside, I am haunted by the unfamiliar face I had seen in the mirror. There is no moon and the blackness of the clothes I chose echoed the blackness of the night; it seems like I am wearing a costume that feels foreign on my body.
I find the coffee shop on a crowded avenue and it is so nondescript that I stand outside for a minute, double-checking the address, wondering if I have the right place. Fumbling hard at the door, pulling when I should push, endangering my luscious raspberry-colored nails, I finally burst through. I don’t know what I expect to see—whips, chains, handcuffs dangling from the walls?
A waiter clad in a white shirt and black bow tie asks if he could help me.
“Um, um, I’m looking for the event, I say. I’m ready for a hiss, for a swipe with claws, extended.
Instead, he says casually, “Oh sure. They’re in the back.” He points to the rear of the coffee shop.
The shop is L-shaped and event takes up the bottom of the L. As I make my way down the aisle, I don’t know whether to walk quickly to avoid the perceived stares from the non-event customers who consist of couples, friends hanging out, and families with children. Children! Am I corrupting young children with my perversion just by being in their presence?
The first person I see is an aging hippie in leather pants and a leather vest who introduces himself as Bo.
“What’s your name?”
This is a question I haven’t considered. “Andrea,” I stammer.
“Welcome, Andrea,” he says heartily. “Have a seat.”
I take off my full-length coat, extremely conscious of my appearance. I look around the room at what other people are wearing. Some people are in jeans and sweaters, some of the men are wearing leather pants, and the women, leather skirts. Having expected everyone to be in some sort of fetish wear, I feel foolish for having obsessed so much about my outfit. The women who are in fetish wear are wearing corset-like dresses with laces pulled tight up the back.
Source: © Photo by Fuu J on Unsplash
Scanning the room, there are men and women are of all ages. I thought I would be among the oldest at 49, and I’m relieved. The members tonight are mostly white and a couple of the women are Asian. There appears to be an equal number of men and women, and most appear to have come on their own.
I sit down and a couple of people introduce themselves to me, but the conversation soon dies and they turn their attention to the others. The waiter comes over and I place an order for a bagel with cream cheese and coffee, finding comfort in my Jewish roots. Bo slides into a chair next to me and saves me, gently asking me questions, educating me about the organization, offering his expertise.
“Is this your first time at one of our events?”
“How could you tell?”
“What do you know about the organization and tonight?”
“Not much,” I admit, “Just what I read on the Internet.”
“We’re pretty much normal people,” he continues, “with a few quirks. Take a look around and you’ll see that we come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are comfortable dressing in fetish wear, and some of us prefer to appear more vanilla.”
It is the first time I’m hearing the term vanilla and it takes me a minute to figure out what Bo is referring to. I surmise that he is referring to those individuals who don’t engage in fetish sex.
“Tonight, after we leave here,” he continues, “we’ll go over to the club Paddles about fifteen blocks uptown.” Paddles? Is that really the name of the club? All of a sudden I picture a room with paddles hanging from the ceiling, paddles waiting, wanting, in everyone’s hand.
Bo gets up to address the group and Lady D joins him at the front of the room. “Welcome to the Novice Excursion,” he says. “I am Bo, Master, and this is my slave, Lady D.” He gestures to a petite, buxom woman wearing a short black corset dress and a lot of makeup with bright red lipstick.
“Why don’t we go around the room and introduce ourselves? You can pass or say as little or as much as you want. First names only, please. You can say whether this is your first time here and anything else you want to add.”
We go around the room and everyone says their name and whether it is their first, second, or third time at this novice event. If they say it is their first, everyone claps. It is a corny but welcoming gesture. Some people choose to add some pieces of information about themselves, such as where they are from. Surprisingly, there are a number of people from other countries, new to the NYC BDSM scene. A lot of people also say whether they are dominant or submissive.
“I’m Andrea,” I barely speak above a whisper when it comes time for my turn. “This is my first time here. That’s all for now.” I receive a round of applause.
We proceed around the room. There are about thirty people present. It takes a good amount of time but it is interesting to hear who is willing to reveal what about themselves.
Finally, it is time to leave for the mysterious club Paddles.
Source: © Andrea Rosenhaft