Being IML - December 2003
I'm over half way through my year now and hopefully I've reassured all those Americans who thought that a European winner wouldn't visit the USA very much! In 2003 I've managed to appear in Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Inferno, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Omaha, Palm Springs, St Petersburg and San Francisco, as well as seven European cities. 2004 is shaping up to be just as busy (if you're interested click here to see my travel calendar).
In Reykjavik with my partner Dave, August 2003
Photo credit: Bob Freese
Before winning IML I thought I was fairly fluent in American (as opposed to English) because I've worked for an American company and have an American brother-in-law. I knew the basic differences, such as that the item we call a "waistcoat" in the UK is called a "vest" in the US, what we call a "vest" Americans call a "tank top", and what Brits call a "tank top" Americans call a "sleeveless sweater". I realised I'd need a translator in Europe but the last few months has also taught me to say "two weeks" in America instead of "fortnight", "line" instead of "queue" and "peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the peanut butter" instead of "jam roll".
This has set me thinking about the cultural differences between countries. It's not just language that keeps us apart: one country's national holiday (and well-scheduled leather event) is another country's day at work, whether that's Burns Night, Christopher Street Day, Labor Day or Koninginnedag.
Some countries have a tradition of making New Year Resolutions, which are changes in your behaviour that you promise to start on January 1st and are nearly always broken by January 5th. What would happen if we tried to make collective New Year Resolutions as a leather community? What would they be? Here are three of my suggestions, which I hope might last beyond January 5th:
- SHARING THE LOAD
When I visit an event or leather club I sometimes see that a few organisers are doing most of the work and becoming exhausted in the process. This could be for a variety of reasons: perhaps the organisers find it difficult to give up control of the event or club to a wider committee? Or perhaps they feel that it would be quicker to do a job themselves than to train someone else up to share the burden? Possibly other people are intimidated by how well the task is currently being done, or assume that everything is already being taken care of? Whatever the cause, if people are burning themselves out on a regular basis then the club or event is not sustainable in the long term. Perhaps our New Year Resolution could be to find ways to spread the workload - even if it means some things are not done to their usual standard or take a little bit longer while new members are trained up?
- SHOWING OUR APPRECIATION
It seems to be human nature to be quick to criticise and slow to praise. A simple search of the Web, letters pages of gay publications or conversations with club owners will reveal how many trivial things are complained about by people. Of course, some complaints are valid and need to be made. But do we put the same effort into telling people that something is going well? How about the leather club you go to week after week: do you ever tell the proprietor how much the place means to you? Perhaps our collective New Year Resolution could be to show our appreciation to the good businesses and events we have.
- VALUING GOOD WORKS
One thing that has upset me more than any other this year is seeing how highly some parts of our community value leather titles, regardless of whether the titleholders are doing any good! I hear remarks like: "You're no-one in this town without a title" ;"I've been a volunteer for the leather community for years but wasn't being listened to so I had to run for a title" or "That person has done a great deal for this town but they'll never get the recognition they deserve because they don't have a title." Perhaps our collective resolution could be to value people for the good that they do, rather than the title they hold?
If you have other suggestions for resolutions please email them to me. If enough people send good ideas I'll print them in January's column and that will save me the effort of having to write something for next month!
In the meantime I hope that you all have a peaceful holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year.
Yours in leather,
International Mr Leather 2003