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Taking a brief respite from 'normal pants'

Apparently, tutus are in. I say this with little surprise; after all, a tutu not only is versatile (a color for every occasion -- pink for a big night out, blue to relax in at home) but also is quite slenderizing (even the largest of hips disappear under enough layers of tulle). While I pride myself on being on top of the latest trends, it wasn't until I saw a tutu being worn in the most unusual of places that I realized this: The tutu is hot. Thank God I have several of them ready (because you should always be prepared, should these sort of situations arise) stashed in my closet.

My tutu encounter was at San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, an event attended by more than 400,000 people, which is put on, according to the Web site, as a "world- class, volunteer-driven leather event."

Yes, leather.

The first thing that my young, virgin eyes were privileged enough to bear witness to upon entering the cordoned-off section of Folsom Street were four retiree-age men wearing leather straps across their slightly saggy flesh, a lot of graying chest hair, and giant grins. This was all. While the straps stretched around their wrinkled bottoms and their not-so-privates, they did nothing to conceal the bodies beneath, which flashed white in the sun.

"I feel underdressed," I whispered to my friend Gina as I watched a woman with a leash around her neck being led by a man with a dog head on his leather-clad body.

"I feel overdressed," Gina replied as we jumped to avoid bumping against the bottoms of the boys next to us.

After collecting "Who's Your Daddy?" paddles from the AIDS lifecycle booth and testing some of the many whips ($50 minimum! Who knew bondage was such a drain on the budget?) on display, we were wandering down the street in search of hot links when we heard a shout from the crowd.

"Free porn! Come and get your free porn!"

"Free porn!?" said Gina. "Let's go!"

We wound our way through a crowd of people in fishnets and heels (some men, some women, some questionable); several minutes and numerous slightly too intimate encounters later, we stood in front of the STD testing booth.

"I want the porn," Gina panted. "Can I have the porn?"

"You have to get tested," the man said. Gina eyed the syringes and cotton swabs set up in the booth. You could see her college-student mind at work -- the need for all things free to be taken advantage of at all costs, and the needles glistening threateningly in the late-afternoon light.

"Just so you know, it's gay porn," the man said.

"Gay man porn," I clarified, examining the artfully decorated box.

"It's free," Gina said, and rolled up her sleeve.

We took our free porn and went to find our sausages, which we ate while watching a group of transvestites perform "Like a Virgin" in costumes that suggested the opposite of a white-clad, blushing bride.

"You know what's weird?" Gina said as we chewed and watched a man in a pair of chaps (no pants, just chaps) dance in front of us.

"What?"

"Tomorrow, that guy is probably going to be wearing suit pants and doing, like, accounting or marketing in the Financial District. These are all normal people who are going to go back to their normal lives and their normal pants tomorrow."

We watched a man with a pink tutu wrapped under his large, naked beer belly jiggle his gut in tune with Madonna.

"But today," I said, "Today, they'll wear tutus."

Liz Moody, a 2004 graduate of Johansen High School, is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. She can be reached at lizmoody@berkeley.edu.

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