*I would like to preface this post with the following statements:
-I did not attend the Fetish Fair… I am only recounting what I saw in my place of work and taking a few highlights from online research.
-I am very accepting of all types of people, lifestyles, sexual habits, etc. But if one is ballsy enough to wear a ball-gag around the mall on a Saturday, one should expect that at least one person would write about it. I tried really hard not to stare. But I think that is kind of what they are going for, right?
Every year, the Rhode Island Convention center hosts the FFF, the Fetish Fair Fleamarket… which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a chance for folks of alternative sexual practices/lifestyles to come together and let their freak flag fly. Funnily enough, the convention center is massive enough so that the FFF only takes up half of the convention center for Presidents Day weekend, leaving the other half available for the busy holiday weekend. So who inhabited the other side for the weekend? In an awesome twist of fate… it was parents weekend for the local Catholic College. Irony or amazing? They actually put a giant black sheet at the top of the escalators so the buttoned-up Catholic parents don’t have to see the fishnet/corseted awesomeness going on above them.
The whole clashing of full on conservative Catholics vs. people walking their spouses around on leashes (no joke) could be completely missed by the naked eye in the city of Providence since most people remain indoors. But since the mall is attached to the convention center and two massive hotels… this is one of my favorite weekends to work and have a front row seat to the show.
So the first customers of the day on Saturday are a couple of unusual nature… as to be expected. He is a good-looking guy in his early 20’s wearing a ridiculous ensemble of a fake fur vest, chains, and baggy black jeans. My first thought upon seeing him was “I am an advocate against animal cruelty but they have got to make better fake fur than that monstrosity.” He is accompanied by a rather unattractive woman probably in her early 50’s who could easily be his mother. Think Kathy Bates in “About Schmidt” but with acid wash jeans and a pink T-shirt (and no full frontal nudity… thank God). Just lovely. They wander around the store for a bit while my co-worker and I show them this and that… when this gem comes out of the mouth of western Rhode Island style Kathy Bates:
“So what do you have for a dominant like me who likes to have my feet rubbed?”
And that is when it clicks in my head. Riiiiiiiiight… You dress this poor dude up and parade him around like a young girl would a pony (insert your own inappropriate “riding” joke here). So my thoughts for this poor guy jump from cruelty-free fake fur… to the questions that all women get asked on their annual trip to the gynecologist:
“Are you in a safe relationship? Do you feel that there is coercion in your relationship? Do you feel safe during sexual intercourse? Has anyone ever made you do something sexually that you didn’t want to do?” But I guess he likes it. Because I can think of no other reason that a relatively attractive man in his 20’s would spend his spare time FOR FUN acting out the movie “Misery. “
But instead of saying any of those thoughts out loud, I start babblinig about Foot Cream and foot scrubs (but definitely not offering to use them on her feet)… while they eye each other lasciviously. It was like “50 Shades of Gray” but with role reversal and terrifyingly unattractive people. My co-worker did give the submissive an arm massage and then western Rhode Island Kathy Bates threatened to take her back to the hotel with them and utilize her skills. It is going to be a looooooong day.
And after watching crowds of people wearing alternative stuff wander around all weekend… I was left with these thoughts:
*Why are there so many people in Kilts? Is this an homage fetish to “free-balling” or did the Scottish have a really kinky lifestyle that I an unaware of? Easy access perhaps?
*Yes we noticed that the dog collar your wife is wearing matches the pink and black leather leash that is in your back pocket. We got it.
*Just because your kids are in their 20’s does not mean it is ok for them to attend the fetish fair with you. In fact… it is kind of creepy that you and your daughter have on matching bustiers. Paging Maury Povitch….
So this random mashup of life forced me to do some online research about the FFF. Turns out it is hosted several times a year and around the United States. And while the website is quite informative about what all goes on at the event itself, the FAQ was probably the most entertaining. Here are some highlights:
In case you are curious what to wear:
“Is there a dress code? What should I wear?
Fetishwear is not required for most events. You will see people in cardigan sweaters and others in head-to-toe spiked latex. You choose your comfort level, but for shopping and classes put on a pair of jeans and a black turtleneck/T-shirt and you will fit right in. (Sometimes the night time parties such as masquerade balls may require a costume, fetish wear, or formal wear.) In all shared areas of the hotel such as lobby, elevator, and restaurants, we require people to be PG-13 in their presentation. No G-strings or pasties, and no bare buttcheeks. No nudity is allowed at the FFF. (Note:Wearing something see-through that shows your pink bits is considered nudity.)”
I should have probably put the rules first, but these seem pretty straight-forward right?:
What are the rules? Anything I should or should not do?
The rules are pretty simple:
No nudity. No unauthorized cameras/photography. No cell phone camera use. (Those made sense. No one should probably let those pictures of people in turtlenecks out into social media… soooo 1980’s ski chalet).
No smoking and no open flames (Because as it turns out, both turtlenecks and full-body latex are not flame retardant).
No live animals or non-human pets. (Thanks for clarifying… ewwwww… and I don’t mean the sheep).
No food/drink in the vending area. (Because edible underwear is usually kept in hotel room fridge next to the $18 peanuts).
You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. No children, not even infants. (Which is a bummer because everyone wants to see the result of the last fetish fair… 9 months later).
No sex in event areas. Get a room! (I cannot even imagine what those poor hotel maids had to deal with all weekend…).
Remember you are in a public building, and respect the privacy of others. No drunken behavior. No refunds for those asked to leave the premises for breaking the rules. No refunds on pre-sales within 30 days of the event.
And by far my favorite… some counseling tips for unexpected situations:
“I just saw my boss/neighbor/co-worker at the FFF and I’m freaking out! What do I do?
Stay calm. Remember that if they are there, their reasons for being there are probably similar to yours. There’s nothing wrong with having some curiosity about alternative sexuality. Whether you choose to mention it to them is up to you. If you do mention it to them, though, do it in private — they might have been as freaked out as you were, at first!”
All joking aside… it is kind of cool that this exists for people who like to experiment in a safe environment. I feel like Providence is a city that provides a little something for everyone… and this weekend… I feel like it provided everything to everyone (and if Grandma got lost while looking for the bathroom at the college parent’s weekend, she got to see a lot more than she bargained for).
All in all, being in the store this weekend is fabulous because our customers feel that they can really be themselves, even if only for a weekend. This means that they are having tons of fun and spending freely. And if nothing else, a transvestite told me I was charismatic… and despite the nebulous nature of that being a compliment or not… I am taking it as a win.
And in case anyone is interested… here is the website:
Let your freak flag fly!
*As a post-script, I apologize to Kathy Bates… she took a bit of a beating in this blog. No pun intended.