I grew up in a warm climate, and I vividly remember standing in a department store at the age of 10 or so, staring in awe at the gloves in the adult men's section. No one in this part of the country has any real use for such an accessory--it just never gets that cold--and so I'd always associated them with my favorite heroes. I couldn't wait to be a grownup so I could move somewhere that would justify wearing gloves, and, by extension, to live my life on my own terms, which might well entail wearing a superhero costume for real. This--far more than IRAs, extended mortgages, or anything along those lines--was what adulthood meant to me.
As all regular readers of this blog know, I've pretty much come to live out that childhood dream, several decades later: I have a healthy, happy daylight life (about which you'll never hear much here) AND a fantasy one (that isn't always so happy, as when I fall prey to a mind-warping villain, for instance). True, my anecdote above is proof of what my shrink (let's call him Alfred) told me long ago, when I first started opening up about my long-suppressed bat-fetish: that most if not all fetishes are rooted in childhood fantasy. (He cited the example of the Village People--every one of those gay male types, the cop, the construction worker, the Indian, etc.--comes straight out of little boys' dress-up games.) But he, unlike his predecessors in the field of psychology and psychoanalysis, didn't define this state of suspended infantilism as a bad thing, just a thing. In theory, he pointed out, anything under the sun (and, who knows, probably the sun itself) can become a fetish object if the conditions are right. I didn't exactly embrace his insight at the moment--that wouldn't come for several years--but at this point in my life, I can truly say I cherish this lingering remnant of my youth. (Sooner or later, I'm going to write more about that youth and just how big a role Batman played in it, but let's save further flashbacks for a while.)
The newest stage in my evolution as Ratman has been a more public one. Not in the sense of dressing up with the undie mask on my head and walking the streets, mind you, but I've become--with the Monk's help--more and more proactive in the virtual world, seeking out heroes and practicing my budding villainy on them. In my Bat days (can I truly be putting them in the past tense?) I used to wait for villains to come to me, but now I ask for and then receive assignments from the Monk and carry them out. And, I should point out, people do continue to contact me first, many of them readers of this blog who know exactly what they may be getting into. Suddenly my bat/rat world is far less claustrophobic than it once was. First it was just me, then just the Hub and me, and then just the Monk and me, but now there are other characters. Many other characters; it really is like coming out all over again: when you're in the closet, you think at first you're the only one who carries your dark secret, then you open your vision (through reading or tentative conversation or whatever works for you) and you realize there are others somewhat like you out there, and then--only after you start to go public--you find yourself surrounded by peers, colleagues, friends, even enemies. In my twenties I used to walk into gay bars and feel like I really didn't belong there, felt awkward and out of place. Nowadays, on the few occasions when i go to them, I STILL feel all those things, to be honest, but for different reasons (hey, I'm not really into twinks or body-obsessed guys or Republicans....), but I feel something else, too, a far more powerful awareness: that these are my people. They're not my ONLY people, but I feel a connection to them.
Went through the same process with leather bars in my thirties--fear and self-awareness, followed by a gradual realization that I wasn't a freak among freaks. And now I seem to be going through yet another version of the process, in a different realm, but one that hits far closer to home than either of the last two. (After all, hero fetishists are a minority even in leather bars.) Right now I'm spending 4-6 nights a week in the (virtual) company of lycra-loving, bondage-crazy Batmen and Supermen and heroes whose names are of their own design. These are my people, through and through. Granted, I'm playing the role of their adversary now, which I would never have expected, but I'm loving every sweaty minute.
(PS. The downside of my going more public with the Rat/Batplay is that I'm now less inclined to divulge every little encounter and stage in my decline/evolution/reinvention, delicious though they may be. For one thing, villain or not, I don't want to violate anyone's trust. For another, I'm realizing that to fully carry out my current role, I can't reveal too many of my secrets. More and more readers of this blog are beginning to enter the storyline themselves, and I can't have them knowing what I have in store for them. So forgive me if I start getting a bit more sketchy in my descriptions here. If you really want to follow the twists and turns, it looks like you'll have to hold your breath and jump into the storyline yourself. You know where to find me.)
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