On February 28 I am heading with a group of boot blacks, leather women, leather folk, and friends to see the US Premier of High Shine. It’s a movie documentary about the 15 years of International Ms. Boot Black title and female bodied boot blacks coming into their own in our leather, fetish, and BDSM communities. The movie is being shown by cinekink:nyc, our cities annual film festival that “recognizes and encourages the positive depiction of sexuality and kink in film and television.” Before the movie we will be meeting up to have brunch. I am going to get a chance to meet a lot of women face to face that until now I have only known of by name or images. I feel a little nervous to meet these women that broke the ground for me and paved the way. I’m appreciative of the invitation and grateful for the opportunity to meet women who have inspired me. This movie and gathering coming up has had me thinking about and remembering a lot of memories of how I found, wear, and owned my leather.
I received an email a couple of days ago from a women I am friendly with here in NYC that runs a group called NY female sub/slave forum, and that email has gotten me thinking more about boot blacking. This woman is in my former hometown, south Florida. She mentioned my name at some event and it seems she got a big response when people heard my name. I was on and off involved in my local community in south Florida since I was 28 and up until I left I was regularly attending a group called Women of Leather Florida (WOLF). The owner of the group is Ms. Rae and she runs it with the support of her partner and pet, chris. In the email I received the women from NYC said that chris told her to ask me about how we met. That made me laugh to myself and smile and so I told her the story…
I always like to joke and tell people something like, “I knew chris before she was kinky, when she was vanilla.” And actually that is kind of true. I say kind of, because I think like many of us she knew she was “kinky”, she just wasn’t sharing that information with other people out loud. Chris and I worked together and we pretty much hit off from the start. We had similar work ethics and odd humor. We became closer and were spending our lunch time inside and on occasion outside together. We became close enough that chris felt comfortable confiding to me about her relationship and some unhappiness and problems. I don’t go around calling everyone a “friend”, but chris was someone I definitely came to think of as a friend. One day chris asked me about my license plate on my car, it said, “NAWASHI”. I usually made jokes when vanilla folks asked about it, like, “It means, ‘Me no Washy My Car”. My car was often dirty and need of a wash and it usually got a laugh. Or as in this case with chris, I told her, “I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you after.” After I joked though I paused, and I took a chance and told her the truth. It means one who makes rope or a rope maker. Back in those times I was married, living poly, and owned a girl that I named bijin, who lived in our home. One thing I loved to do with my girl was rope and specifically rope suspension. Chris confided that she had often thought of wanted to experience some s/m in her relationship and had even asked her partner, but had not had any success in getting her to participate or show any interest. I invited chris with her partner to come to a party and the rest and they say is history. I went through some changes in my work and private life and I took time off from the scene.
A few years later, I emerged again and I was looking to reconnect with my south Florida leather community. The first thing I went looking for was a women’s group. Once upon a time a pretty infuckincredible women I met called PeggyO had a women’s group in south Florida called Dykes n’ Dolls. I couldn’t find it and it seemed Peggy had gone and taken off to Colorado, but I found another group, WOLF, on a website called Fetlife. I sent the owner of the group an introduction letter and asked about attending their meetings. What I got back was an email from chris saying something like, “Hey I knew someone like you that I worked with… and “Is that you?” I was shock and thought, “WTF its chris!” and I was so happy. I was home again. I was home at WOLF. I was home with chris and Ms. Rae and all the ladies that make WOLF.
Time went by, I stayed single, but I continued exploring and evolving. I kept hanging out with my WOLF sisters while holding out for someone more than “Mr/Ms Right now”. I mentioned on occasion to chris, a desire to learn new skills and specifically to learn about leather care. I just couldn’t get the motivation to do it based on solely caring for my leather. Then I met someone really cool in south Florida who owned a lot of leather and I thought, “Okay someone who will enjoy and appreciate these skills.” I called chris, who is a boot black title holder (Southeast Community Boot Black 2009) in Florida and had competed for IMsBB and asked her to teach me some basics. I sat in her house and she walked me through basic care and about the basic hard products needed. I started looking for places to ask questions online, I was reading all I could find to learn more about application and materials, and I was thrift shopping for used boots and shoes to practice, practice, practice! I had the bug. What hooked me was listening to chris tell me stories about her experiences caring for leather. In particular the story she told me about when a certain Sir from our community requested she prepare his leather for a title he was competing for and the joy and tears she felt during that process. And I realize something that day and the many other days since then, about the interactions that happen between two leather people through bootblacking. Bootblacks are more than good listeners, more than story tellers, more than a provider of leather care. We preserve leather history. We connect in a way with people that is personal, intimate, and unlike anything else in leather. And fuck ya it can and often is damn hot too!
Women’s Leather Photographic Documentary exhibit @Pleasure Chest NYC. That’s a little piece of jade standing beside one of the images of me.
There was a time that I did not allow myself to claim myself as part of the Leather Women pack, but bootblacking help me feel I belonged. A long time ago Sarah Humble was traveling through south Florida and offered to record the history of leather women in our community for the LA&M as part of the Women’s Leather History Project. I passed, because of my ideas, my standards, of what a leather women was. I felt I hadn’t done enough and given enough of myself to my community to be included or have somehow “earned” any right to proclaim myself as a notable leather women. I remember wishing I could be a part of that group that called themselves leather women. I knew a lot of very incredible women who ran groups, munches, big events, and title holders. I hadn’t done anything like these women and so I didn’t ask to have my history recorded. It seemed wrong in my mind. I wonder how many other women have felt this way? I am sure many just like me. Last year a friend contacted me and said she knew a woman who was doing a Leather Women’s Photographic Documentary and that she had given her my name. There are a few things that happened here, the first was that I was embarrassed after seeing the faces and names of women so far included, and those old feelings of not being worthy to be included. I second thing happened though and that was related to the person saying to me that I should do this, and when someone you respect, admire. and look up to says, “You’re a leather woman. Do this.” You do.
It was through my bootblacking that I came to own myself and feel myself as a leather woman. I thank chris and credit her often when I speak about “how I feel and wear my leather”. I put myself in the hands of a bootblack and I found myself. I am a leather woman. I am a bootblack.