I realize, dear reader, that you don’t need me to finish this thought for you. However, your ability to complete it on your own raises an issue that anyone considering a walk on fall fashion’s wild side should contemplate. Which is that, even if you choose these trappings on the basis of style, others will interpret them on the basis of sex—a truism that, alas, I can corroborate through personal experience. Once upon a time, a younger, sillier woman than I am today was on a pub crawl with girlfriends in New York’s East Village. En route from one bar to another, we happened to walk past one of that neighborhood’s famed fetish boutiques and trash-talked one another into venturing inside. There we were greeted by a middle-aged sales associate clad in an oversize cloth diaper—a man who, for reasons that I can only chalk up to my height (five feet eleven), my looks (Teutonic), and my luck (terrible), singled me out of the group for a full-on erotic makeover. Before you could say “mistress mine,” he pulled me into a changing room, stripped me naked, doused me with cornstarch (“So the rubber won’t snag on your skin”), and jimmied me into a black latex minidress no more substantial than a dishwashing glove. While I scowled woozily in the mirror at the resulting sausage-casing effect, my pals confiscated my street clothes, handed the adult baby a credit card, and announced through peals of laughter that I would now have to spend the rest of the evening thus attired.
Outfoxed and humiliated, I complied, but concluded that only blind drunkenness was going to get me through the ordeal. At the next bar, I duly downed several tequila shots purchased for me by a dark-haired, shifty-eyed stranger. Even more recklessly, I agreed to let him cook me dinner at his place the following evening. “You’re having a rough night,” he purred. “Let me wait on you hand and foot.” To their credit, my now remorseful girlfriends urged me to decline the offer—to no avail. “The creepy dude was right!” I yelled. “I am having a rough night, and it’s all your fault! Fine, so I don’t know him from Adam, but what harm could come of a nice, home-cooked meal?”
As I learned the next night, if my new suitor had any say in the matter, a whole world of harm would come of it—harm to himself, that is. My naïveté and my hangover, though, prevented me from realizing this right away. I didn’t figure it out when he greeted me at the front door of his town house not with “Hello” or “Nice to see you,” but with a curiously vehement expression of disappointment at my not having worn “that hot rubber thing again.” Nor did I read between the lines of his subsequent patter, despite the incongruous leer that played on his features while he talked. (“I slaved all day to make this chicken for you”; “I’m such a bad boy—I didn’t add enough salt!”; “So, you’re a professor? Are you really hard on your students?”) And I definitely wasn’t prepared for him, after we had finished eating, to violently sweep all the glasses and dishes onto the hardwood floor, hurl himself down amid the broken shards, unzip his fly, and entreat me to “punish” him by trampling on his “wiener.” At that point, I fled the scene. But I had learned an invaluable lesson: Sometimes a black rubber dress is not just a black rubber dress. Correctly viewed, that thing was lewd.