Diary of a Darklady:

Diary of a Darklady

The strip of white cloth was an effective blindfold. It ensured that I couldn’t see a thing as my hands roamed over the exposed body parts of the brave men who had chosen to compete in the Eagle PDX’s Hairy Chest and Hairy Butt contests. As I blindly searched for — and found — the men’s torso and tushy hair, I realized that there was a lot more to judging this contest than I’d originally anticipated. How, exactly, does one select a “winner” and what is the criteria that should be used in order to do so? Is it based on the overall amount of body hair? Should the hair be evenly spread over the chest or ass cheeks? Are impressive growth patches just as good or even better than full carpets? How does long, straight hair compare to fuzzy, fluffy, or curly hair? How does scent factor into the competition? And what about sweat? Is that a plus or a minus? Or muscle tone and nipple condition? Technically, these non-hair elements shouldn’t affect the outcome of a hair-specific comparison – but personal preferences can influence decision-making, so self-knowledge and self-discipline are important. Yes, even in a Hairy Chest and Hairy Butt contest.

I wasn’t the only person temporarily overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility before me. Sasha from Bear Films (http://www.bearfilms.com) was the second celebrity judge for the contest and during breaks in the action we murmured our excitement and uncertainty to one another. The third judge for each category had been randomly drawn from the nearly all-male audience and was far more concerned about thoroughly inspecting each contestant than he was about determining a winner. Of course, that is not only completely understandable given the context, but also a big part of the fun. We reached a satisfactory judging compromise by selecting between the contestants we’d all particularly liked and — then indulging in a final fondle of the entire assortment just to make absolutely sure.

This is only one of the social challenges that have been presented to me since I became Ms. Oregon State Leather 2004 (http://www.blackoutleather.org) and I can’t claim that it or any of those prior to it have been particular hardships. Let’s face it, there are much worse things to be doing with one’s time than consensually feeling up strange men, cheering on the participants of an under 21 leather competition, presenting awards during an Oregon Bears’ (http://www.oregonbears.org) beer bust, attending queer and leather community board meetings, celebrating the coronation of this year’s Imperial Sovereign Rose Court (http://www.rosecourt.org), and getting cream pies thrown at one during a Kinky Karnival.

I have a tendency to be somewhat hermitlike when left to my own devices. It’s not because I lack an interest in the world around me – quite the contrary, actually – but I tend to get deeply involved in my own work and projects. Socializing or doing anything unrelated to that work seems like a decadent luxury and I wind up spending that time feeling guilty or fretting about not being home working. This results in my being very productive but, obviously, it also limits my exposure to other people and other experiences. If I can convince myself that venturing into the world around me is a responsibility, then my chances of doing so vastly improve.

So, in order to outwit my overly developed sense of responsibility while simultaneously satisfying it, I cautiously agreed to run for the title after Andy Mangels (http://www.andymangels.com/leather) suggested it during an unexpected breakfast encounter at a Denny’s Restaurant. Strange things happen at 24-hour restaurants. People make big decisions there. It’s one of the reasons I love them and respect their power. Plus, they’re open 24-hours, which is a big plus to an insomniac – even a hermitlike one.

Now, my “sash husband” Andy and I will spend the next year thinking of clever ways to raise money for the various charities that we hold near and dear to our hearts, put those clever plans into action, interact with members of the various GLBTQ, leather, and otherwise “alt” communities within Oregon, participate in a wide variety of events including conferences, sometimes speak publicly, sometimes perform, sometimes travel inside and outside of the state – and perhaps even compete for international titles. Andy is dedicated to entering the next International Mr. Leather (http://www.imrl.com) contest and Pandora, the current titleholder, has encouraged me to compete in the Ms. World Leather (http://www.msworldleather.com) competition.

Frankly, I never took it for granted that I would earn enough points to win Ms. Oregon State Leather — so the idea of competing for Ms. World Leather is still more than a wee bit intimidating. I’ve never held a title before and rather delighted to have earned this first one. However, something that I definitely like about the Ms. World Leather competition is that it emphasizes community involvement, volunteer work, and concern for issues outside of the leather community. With both the international and domestic U.S. scenes being as unsettled as they are – and the cultural lines being as draw as they are –it’s vital for people to remember that true power rests in their own hands. The average citizen doesn’t have a tank or a missile launcher at their disposal, but s/he does have the right to vote and to reconnect with other members of surrounding communities. Whether our politics lean to the right or to the left, for too long we’ve assumed that someone else would magically get things done. That throwing money at a problem will make it go away or somehow “fix” things. While money certainly can buy medicine and books and any number of other durable goods, it’s ultimately people who have to get things done, make things happen, and “fix” whatever is broken. If the Ms. World Leather contest encourages, endorses, and rewards this sort of thinking, then perhaps it’s worth my looking into – especially if its board considers my work worthy of its consideration.

If you are interested in becoming a financial or product sponsor — or know someone who might be – please collaborate with me during my year as a titleholder and perhaps even beyond. There is much good work that we can do together.

Whether or not I then earn the title of Ms. World Leather, I am certain that I will meet many people and have many experiences that I would not have otherwise encountered had I stayed home and focused only on my own work and projects. If nothing else, my time as Ms. Oregon State Leather will certainly give me plenty of opportunities to consider what things in life are important to me and what standards I use to reach those conclusions.

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