An Empty Smile

Note: If I misquote you, do not stab me; I am, in fact, a harmless piece of origami.

My first party in Seattle is one that is most interesting, not for the context of the activities, rather due to the company I find myself in. Although the only form of entry comes from registered members of the center, one of the pins labelled on the flap of my jacket is from a reciprical organization recognized – grounds for a discount and a fist pump for savings. The first step towards registering is a consent form that is widely used at the parties, primarily aimed towards acknowledgment of consent and geared towards the basic rules and etiquette.

A surprising element to the DM’s duties here in Seattle comes from their added precautionary measure of detecting anybody under influence (naturally induced endorphin and adrenaline being the only exception). Here in the Seattle center parties, the Dungeon Monitors – men and women trained to detect forms of abuse or hazard during play – reserve the right to intervene or bar anyone from engaging in scenes if under influence of drugs and alcohol.

“According to city laws,” One person informs me, “As a private property, we were given a choice between sex within the play space or serving liquor, which requires a license. It seems obvious what the choice would be between the two.”

In accordance to the government laws, the people responsible for the center’s existence pay close attention to the regulations in Washington state. “We had the fire marshall walk in once,” Someone explains to me, regarding the lack of fireplay. “Apparently the use of fire inside our facilities would be considered a safety hazard – here, imagine that, of all places! While people are allowed to play with fire, they are also required to pay the $980 fee for the permit access required. Per session.”

“Its one of those crazy topsy-turvy laws that Americans are notorious for,” They add, regarding the prohibition of fireplay and liquor in the center. “Washington has really tough alcohol laws due to congress and politics.” The irony of restricting fireplay in a place where people can actively pierce their skin and indulge in blood-letting scenes is, to say the least, remarkable.

Another person tells me, “Pretty much anything that doesn’t fall towards the toilet category is up for grabs, so as long as two people have agreed to it.” They add, laughing dryly, “Besides the volunteers would NOT appreciate having to clean up that particular mess.”

“Whenever two people meet up and share the same interests, chances are they will find an excuse to get together and do naughty things to one another.” One woman said to me. “We’ve held a party here once for all sorts to join in and between kinksters, swingers and the LGBT group we had a contingent of furries and even diaper players walk in. It was absolutely insane.”

Within the TNG group in Seattle, known also for the presence of major gaming companies and its art culture, the presence of geeks varying across every category can be found practically anywhere. One woman immediately quizzes me about my knowledge on the Firefly series, which I promptly lose brownie points for not being able to mention any other of Joss Wheadon’s works. Momentarily I overheard, amidst the setup of a suspension, a conversation about fantasy boardgames.

As the saying goes, ‘Where there’s brains, there’s bondage’, and here in Seattle the kinksters are fond of intellectual conversation and debate. The younger crowd readily engages in quick witted conversations and share a mutual fondness for other interests in counter-culture such as literature and the gaming-industry. Conversation can be found practically anywhere amongst the party members.

Despite such an atmosphere of interaction and activity, like any other scene across North America, there are those that opt to refrain from being part of a cheery atmosphere. The most logical issue for the new generation may stem from a combination of work and school obligations, perhaps even social anxiety and solitude. While not always a missive within any one scene, there are times in which doubt would exist between people and, disheartened, some may rather fall towards obscurity.

“I’m actually kind of glad Seattle have nights like these,” A young man informs me, sipping his drink. I try to ignore his nakedness. “A lot of the time, at least from my end, I feel a bit overwhelmed when some member of the old guard, like, stands there watching my every move.”

I ask around about the sentiments of the TNG to the older generation, which one woman replies: “No offense, I’m reminded of my own grandmother or my dad whenever they’re around. It kind of puts me off.” I try to raise a point about how they have grounds for simply having been there longer. “True, I respect them and everything, but I don’t mean to come across as sounding biased – just my own personal taste, that’s all.” Fair enough.

What about the newcomers though? I approach one man standing in the corner throughout the evening and am pleasantly surprised by his response. “I’ve been here close to a year,” He tells me. “Though more and more, I don’t feel like I’m able to find a place here.” Why do you say that? “You ever get the feeling that while people do talk to you, ask how you are, your presence there is only tolerated?” In other words, people talking behind your back or gossiping? “Not even that, its just that you feel…out of place.”

Here? Out of place? “Yeah, out of place, like they’d prefer someone more experienced and that’s perfectly fine, it just feels a bit overwhelming in that you don’t have what it takes.” I gently pat him on the shoulder, explaining that it sound like self-doubt. “Oh no, don’t get me wrong. I’m still new to all this but I just don’t feel like I have what it takes to be involved. I’ve spoken to people yet I just don’t feel it.” My friend, I tell him, there’s always a place for everyone and no matter what, you will never be alone.

You do know the rules and basics right? He nod slowly, “I do.” Have you hurt anyone or interrupted anyone? “No,” He replies solemnly. “All I did was try to talk to people.”

Gently I offer him a hug, regardless of his sexuality and sweat, if only because it felt like the most reasonable thing to do. “Thank you.” He replies. That’s really all you need to say, I tell him, but be brave and be patient – these things take time to develop, so don’t be discouraged because people who will look down on you for being new aren’t worth your time. Fuck ’em, I say, but not literally of course.

He flashes me an empty smile and it is a painful gesture. I can tell that this man is struggling to maintain his self-confidence, an issue that most newbies can experience, and even the people prevalent in the scene (including myself) can be subject to its effects. It is a brave gesture, not unlike someone laughing off an injury, but I wish him and others like him only the best of luck. The most comforting thing one can do is to provide support, regardless of the individual, as should any deviant do for their fellow kin.

As the evening draws to a close, I bid my goodbyes and depart for the rest of the night. Against the sea of orange streetlights across the bay and the industrial work area, Seattle earns its pseudonym fair enough, and here in the Emerald City – no matter how seemingly far away it seems, one can find a place for anything.

 

Side Note: I have a craving for gummi bears still.

Next Update: The Mellow Suburb of Georgetown

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