Friday, January 20, 2012

Observations from First Timer at MAL

Note from BHD: The following guest blog post was written by my friend Kevin who has written guest blog pieces before and comments frequently on this blog. He was invited by a friend who lives in Washington, DC, to visit and drop by to see what Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) weekend was all about. Here are his observations. (Sorry, no photos, but I learned a few years ago that there are some closet cases who get very upset if their image of them at MAL appears anywhere, so for respect of those who don't want to be seen there, I have no photos to post with this message).

My weekend trip to DC was fantastic and I was quite pleased and pleasantly surprised to discover that my friend planned for me to visit this past weekend because MAL was happening and he knew that I wouldn't venture there by myself. My preconceived ideas would have gotten the better of me and I would have missed out on a truly important growth experience. I am indeed fortunate that I can be myself with them and they love me unconditionally. As a result, I'm learning to strip away the barriers I've built over a lifetime. I'm thankful to have supportive and loving friends who allow me to do so.

My friend, a couple he knew, and I ventured out on Saturday afternoon to attend the leather mart. I chose to wear jeans and a pair of wingtip cowboy boots and my friend donned a rubber shirt. Unknown to me, my friend has been to several MAL events over the years and his interest leans toward rubber wear.

We made our way to the registration area and paid the $10 fee to enter the leather mart. I believe the proceeds go to charity. Heading down the escalator I spied my first view of a man wearing a**less chaps. [BHD note: all chaps are a**less, but I digress...] I anticipated encountering this sight at some point during the day and I thought it was good to see that at the very beginning. We made our way through the various rooms of leather and rubber wear and a few demonstrations of how to use some gear were going on as well. The couple we were with tried on and purchased a pair of matching harnesses from a wonderful dealer from Miami. The salesperson couldn't entice me to try one on, however. I was far too anxious for that!

Next we ventured into the ballroom where the puppy pen was taking place. Now that's something I really didn't expect to see. My friend could see that my anxiety level was growing, although I thought I was hiding it pretty well, and suggested that I have a cocktail. I had a couple of beers and calmed down considerably.

The couple we were with had to leave. My friend and I spent some time in the main lobby people watching. It was fascinating. It was at that moment that it began to feel comfortable and somewhat at home. I saw all shapes and sizes of men in a variety of gear and boots and began to see how comfortable they were just being themselves. We pointed out to each other those men who wore their gear very attractively. I also began to realize that for many, their leather/rubber/police/football gear was a form of drag. A few seemed to be more serious sporting various colors of shoestrings, handkerchiefs, and the like signaling their interests in various fetish activities.

We ventured downstairs again for a short while before it was time for us to leave. I suggested that we return to the leather mart on Sunday afternoon and I purchased a couple of items myself.

The lesson I learned from my experience at MAL was that we're all multi-faceted. I can find a man equally attractive if one day he's wearing harness boots, a harness and a**less chaps or dressed in a suit another day. The drag doesn't define the man. Although it may serve to characterize a particular interest that enhances how attractive he feels, it's only clothing and what the man chooses to wear at that moment. And the same can be said about me. And if that clothing choice enhances my feelings of sexual attractiveness -- all the better. I'm learning to appreciate and not fear the part of myself that is a sexual being -- if that makes sense. From watching the puppies and their handlers, I also learned that there's nothing wrong with role-play between two consenting adults. It can provide a healthy and very satisfying outlet.

So, I've marked it on my calendar for next year's MAL and am strongly considering attending IML in Chicago at the end of May. LOL...I might just buy myself a harness at next year's event.

So, my friend, there you have first and hopefully not last experience at MAL. The only disappointing aspect was the lack of cowboy boot wearers. I only saw one couple dressed in matching boots, hats, vests and jeans. But the abundance of harness boot wearers more than made up for it!

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