Some years into our early 20s, I’m guessing, Mike and I had relocated from the family home into our own digs. Mike was employed as a construction manager for some significant construction projects in the state and I was in a high-end HR job in the medical world. Bottom line, we eventually also came out to each other as gay men, not that we hadn’t figured that out about each other long before.
During those years we both stayed close to home-base, mom and dad and younger brothers, Ryan and Tom, both of whom were still occasionally answerable to dad’s strop, as Mike and I had been, through high school. Visiting home always provided an opportunity for us to discretely note dad’s razor strop still hanging on a teacup hook on the inside bathroom door, where we first discovered it, with the emblem of the strop manufacturer proudly displayed as “Red Imp”. Shortly after the strop appeared on the bathroom door, dad referred to the strop as “Mr. Imp”. It became a term dad used if any of us got too far out of line and might be in need of a “visit with Mr. Imp”. No question what that meant.
It was just after Labor Day, 1980 I think, when I ran into Mike late morning one day at a local bookstore. We made small talk for a few minutes and then I suggested that we head out for some lunch together. Mike agreed. We met for lunch at a fast food place. We ordered some lunch and took it to a table with windows on the street. We sat and dug in.
Mike seemed quiet, withdrawn. I jumped in, “Mike, what’s up? You OK?” He took a deep breath and laughed. He said he was fine, “…sort of.” After a couple of minutes I pursued that. “So what’s up with that?”
He noted that he felt he’d been screwing up in a number of ways lately and that he felt “…like shit” about it. He mentioned a speeding ticket, sloppy timing on important projects at construction sites, etc. “It used to be easy when we were kids”, he added. “There was accountability if you screwed up. It always got me back on track…you know…like…”
I jumped in, “Like…hmm…a visit with Mr. Imp?”
Mike looked up and stared at me very intently. “Yup” he said with a bit of a grin. “I don’t have that anymore. I really wish I did…I guess…I’m not sure.”
I thought back on a number of conversations Mike and I had had as kids about dad introducing a razor strop into our household years earlier, and how dad had very occasionally used the strop on both Mike and me to get our heads around better behavior, and the use dad still made of that strop occasionally on younger brothers Ryan and Tom.
Mike and I had started being pretty up-front with each other at a relatively young age, mostly thanks to Mike. Bluntly, we privately shared strop-talk…lickings we had each gotten, lickings we heard friends, cousins and neighbors getting, lickings administered to friends at school and followed up with more at home. As kids, our talk about this topic happened mostly in our shared bedroom after lights out.
Too funny, we even got into hands-on experimenting on one another with dad’s razor strop, as kids, whenever the “coast was clear”. That was pretty exciting stuff, and by exciting I mean “sexually stimulating”, something Mike and I discovered fairly early on, maybe age 10 or 11. We both knew what was going on, though we didn’t understand why (and pretty sure I still don’t today!). Mike and I also never got into sexual behavior with one another, despite the sexual stimulus we both liked a lot and talked about. The sexual stimulus was something which would figure big time in the fantasies which we both carried into adulthood and personal sexual activity apart from one another…and which we discussed from time to time.
I remember that we spoke that day over lunch. There was more razor strop action to come. Really glad Mike and I discovered this common interest as kids. It helped us both to get OK about it, again, as adults, sooner than later, without shame, and into some safe, hot, spanking/strapping contacts with other guys. We both discovered that there is a lot more of that out there than we’d imagined.
Lunch over, we split and I added, “Hey Mike, call and drop by sometime. Maybe I can help.”