Balloon fetishists refer to themselves as balloonophiles, loonies, or loonatics. I learned these names soon after the group’s moderator, Olive Branch, made a call to order. I would later learn, from those that were kind enough to stay for an after-meeting conversation, that Baloonophiles enjoy blowing up balloons and watching others blow up balloons. They enjoy popping either latex balloons, or the more high quality Mylar balloons when they have more disposable cash on hand. Segments of the balloonist community enjoy popping the balloon with a pin, others enjoy using a flame, but some of the more specific loonatics use a shoe heel for maximum impact. Non-poppers also like to bake their balloons in an oven to make them stretchier. Needless to say, except for a few anecdotal examples provided below, most balloonophiles engaged in these activities in conjunction with various sex acts.
After the brief, tedious introductions were conducted for the newcomers, Olive opened the floor for the discussion of the day.
“I like the image of a rough and tough man, idly and gently playing with a large, tightly inflated balloon, bouncing it gently around and roughly scraping his hands across it to make it squeal,” said a man that went by the name Buster Steve. “I like to imagine him wrapping his rough, hairy hands around it, distorting it out of shape and bursting it with sheer muscular force as if to prove his masculinity.”
Throughout the course of this evening, I would learn of a philosophical conflict in balloonville between the popper and the non-popper factions. In some cases, the discussions grew heated. In others, there was an undercurrent of tension between the two parties. Poppers, it appears, prefer to have their explosion occur in conjunction with the balloon’s. Non-poppers, on the other hand, prefer to use the same balloon over and over again. They view the poppers enjoyment of popping a balloon as unnecessarily violent and even a little sadistic. I also gleaned from the many comments made, that non-poppers also tend to believe that more can be attained from a balloon through what could be termed a more monogamous relationship, and this is more often than not the case when that balloon is made of Mylar and filled with air as opposed to helium. The definition of the word more in these descriptions was never explained to my satisfaction, and it was not a word that they used, nor was the word monogamous. Those ideas were approached in many ways, however, by many in the non-popper community, and they left those ideas as a standalone that I implied to be a self-evident proposition of theirs.
The popper community, appeared to regard the non-poppers as inferior in the balloon community, and some even went so far as to imply that non-poppers are complete wusses for their aversions to loud noises.
“The loud noises are where it’s at,” said a man named Jim. (Jim would later inform me that if this piece was going to see any form of publication that he would prefer to only be referred to as Jim.) “There is something exhilarating about rubbing your fingers along a balloon that is inflated to maximum capacity. The sounds it makes does something those with an aversion to loud noises will never understand. They’re like screams or something.”
“There are a number of theories,” Olive Branch said scanning the room with an experienced speaker’s ease, “As to how a balloonophile is created, and I know we’ve discussed them ad nauseum, but I thought we’d discuss them again for some of our newer members.” Olive didn’t look at me when she said this, but the energy of the room turned towards me.
I wasn’t sure if I was the lone, new member, or if I stood out more than any of the other ones to the point where I attracted most of their attention. I still don’t know the answer to that question, but if the various speakers weren’t looking at me when they spoke, their energy appeared to be focused on me.
“Some have suggested that the orthodox balloonophile may have been borne of a castration anxiety,” Olive continued, “or a denial of breastfeeding. They also suggest that some balloonophiles may go too far in their endeavor, and that they may advance to a stage in their pursuit of therapy where they manage to replace the natural need for human contact and become irretrievable in a psychological manner. How many of us think these theories hold any measure of truth?”
The “No’s” went around the table, but as with most denials on such subjects the ballonophiles didn’t feel a great deal of need to back up their rejection of such theories with constructive refutation.
Terrance Gill, a non-popper, chuckled at “The very idea that the ‘castration fear’ was even a theory.” A few others joined him with soft chuckles of their own.
“What about the Freudian, breastfeeding theory?” Olive asked.
One balloonophile informed the group that they may have been breastfed too long, according to what their mother told them. This led the group to decide that that anecdotal attempt to refute the Freudian, breastfeeding theory, meant that the theory itself must be anecdotal. Various members began offering other theories that they’d heard, or read on the internet. These theories appeared to be placed on a tee for other members to bat out of the park. It wasn’t long before each member offered a theory, and another batted it down with what appeared to be a rehearsed answer.
I was nothing more than a quiet observer at this point in the meeting. I smiled at many of the descriptions of the fetish, and my smile was polite. I even allowed most of the rejections of theories to pass by without comment. It wasn’t in my nature to remain silent for long periods of time, however, and this aspect of my personality was even more difficult to maintain as the attempts to defeat what these individuals believed to be anecdotal theories were so anecdotal.
“Everyone is not a damned anomaly!” I said.
I looked out on the group, and they were shocked. They appeared to have never heard a rant start in this manner, and I presumed that few had. I realized, in the space of the silence that followed that outburst, that I was a bit ahead of myself, and that I had overstepped my station in this group by questioning them in such a manner.
“I’m sorry,” I proceeded, now that it was too late to take it all back. “It just gnaws at me that people invest so much energy on telling people what they are not, and they fail to invest any thought into how they came to be.
“Most people are so much more comfortable telling an interested party that other’s theories about them are either wrong, or that they are anomalous to that theory. They want you to believe that anyone that tries to figure them out is wasting their time. I have no problem with the idea that you think you’re complicated, don’t get me wrong, but let’s dig through those complications. Let’s try and find a truth that lies somewhere between simple logic and a lack of objectivity.”
When no one spoke in the space of the silence the followed, I continued:
“We develop rules of logic, in our studies of human nature, to govern our ways of life. We say that it’s possible that you may become a specific type of person based on upbringing, economic indicators, locale, and various other social conditions, and while there will always be some anomalies to those findings not everyone can be one. The fact that most people believe that they are anomalous to every rule just tells me how poor self-examination has become. It doesn’t, to my mind, say that there is anything wrong with the general rules that we’ve established. There’s a reason general rules are laid out, and that is that they are generally correct. If you are anomalous to what Olive just laid out, you should be required to refute it. You can’t just go around saying all of the rules and theories are wrong. You have to offer a countervailing theory that says you are what you are for the reasons you lay out.”
One is never sure how such a rant is going to be received. We’d like to think that what we’ve just said is such a profundity that the silence that follows is such that it swings the group in your favor, but I had no such delusions. I was, however, confident in the idea that what I had to say was provoked by thought, and that my conclusions should, at least, be considered. They weren’t.
“They just are,” non-popper, Vicki Lerner, explained. She looked around for a brief, pregnant moment. “We just are.”
That gained Vicky some good vibes from the other members. There were no words of thanks, or congratulations, offered to Vicky, but the energy of the room was swung into her lap and against mine.
I smiled at her words and the congratulations that followed. That smile concealed my fatigue. The minute after Vicki said that, I realized I should’ve qualified my statements by saying, ‘and you cannot just say we just are’. You cannot say, and on the eighth day, God created the balloon people.
“There has to be a reason that you are the way you are.” I said. “I can pretty much trace all of my characteristics that led me to being the way I am.”
“Why do you need labels?” Terrance Gill asked me to put me on the defensive. “Balloonville is not about labels.”
They all enjoyed that. Captain Federico, an obvious toucher, reached out and touched Terrance’s leg and pointed to his face, with raised eyebrows, on that one.
“You speak of a lack of examination,” Jim said. “Let’s examine you for a moment. Let’s examine why you need very specific answers to your specific questions. Is there a part of you that abhors chaos so much that you pledge to fight the random wherever it rears its head? Have you always been this way, or now that your days are becoming more numbered, do you need answers to questions that have plagued you throughout life? Some of the times, things are random, and some of the times people just become what they are by a random series of events.”
“That’s true,” I said, “It’s undeniable, but if we all examine those events that seem to be random, we might find some correlations that lessen the randomness of it all.”
The idea that this group had never welcomed dissent into their origin of species discussions was made obvious by their initial, silent shock and the follow up counterpoints. I won’t bore the reader with the details of the counterpoints, as most of them were redundant to previous points and circuitous. The only agreed upon conclusions of the counterpoints was that balloonophiles are what they say they are, and that we could all grew a little closer in the aftermath of the other conclusion that I was the one with the problem.
“The strongest, most pervasive fantasy I have is to be in the company of a woman who is nonchalant and unperturbed while blowing up, playing with, and popping balloons,” a man named Dan added when the group returned to normal proceedings. “A woman who has the ability to handle balloons without fear is awesome and devastatingly sexy.”
Others confessed that their fascination may be deep rooted and psychological. They saw balloons as a physiological substitute that when ingested by a female can achieve excitation, and this is often the case when said female pops the balloon upon total immersion. For those in the popping camp, there is a biological inflation fetish that occurs with sudden expansion of body parts.
“The pop can be violently dramatic when it’s done right,” a stage performer that engages in balloon immersion in her act said to agree with that popper’s assessment. “You have to know how to bring them in though. It’s very theatrical when done with proper attention paid to detail and timing. To those that watch my act and assume it’s easy, I always say you try it!”
Not all non-poppers have a general aversion to loud noises, just like not all poppers demand well-timed explosions. Some non-poppers view the well-timed, loud noises as arousing, as opposed to the ligyrophobic terror they experience with other loud noises.
“It’s a non-threatening way to tweak your fears,” said a man named Brett.
A man named Captain Federico was far more open than any of his counterparts. Captain Federico claimed his name was chosen from a Star Trek character, and none of the members of the group knew his real name. Captain Federico detailed for us the foreplay of the non-popper.
“I initiate visual contact with the balloon while on all fours. I begin barking at the balloon, until I believe dominance has been achieved. At that point, I lower my head in a submissive gesture and crawl to the balloon, in a cautious manner, for embraces and comfort. I will then roll onto my back, during the supplication phase of this tryst, to allow the balloon full exploration of my body.”
I witnessed one set of eyes pop wide following that explanation. The rest of the group remained supportive. Terrance Gill even returned the touching gesture that Captain Federico had provided Terrance earlier. Terrance touched Captain Federico’s shoulder and held it there for a second, as the two of them shared a warm smile. Terrance appeared to be thanking the Captain for his courage in coming forth.
Many of the balloonists at the meeting, lived stressful lives, in their non-balloon lives, and they considered their acts of balloonophilia very relaxing and therapeutic:
“I work 60-70 hours a week for a company that doesn’t appreciate me for what I do,” said a man named Leo. “I have a wife and two kids that don’t even smile at me anymore. They don’t greet me at the door, and the boy doesn’t even look away from his Gawdamned Playstation long enough to acknowledge me. I’m done screaming at them all. They don’t listen, and, hey, I’m not hurting anyone. Why does anyone care what I do in my free time?”
“The images I enjoy are not sexual and tend to involve fully-clothed people, have both male and female subjects, and show people having fun blowing up or otherwise playing with balloons. It doesn’t always have to be a sexual thing,” said a woman named Tina that claimed she couldn’t find any place that would hire her, other than the “stressful, unrewarding field of telemarketing.”
Through trial and error, an experienced balloonist named Casey developed a few words of warning for present and future loonies to abide by when indulging in balloonophilia.
“Don’t keep a balloon inside you for extended periods of time, as it can cause unintended consequences that may not be apparent at the outset.
“If you are going to pop a balloon, keep it a couple inches from your body, unless you are doing it for the pain. It will hurt you if you put it too close to your skin, and it can cause welts, discoloration, and embarrassing, hard to explain bruising.
“Also, be careful when having relations with a balloon. Once you’re in the nozzle, it can be difficult to get out after the pop. You may need to keep a razor or a knife around to cut the balloon off, and be careful when using these sharp instruments that you don’t cut anything else off.”
As stated earlier, the balloonophiles that attended this particular meeting at a Starbucks weren’t very forthcoming with their predilection, but in my research on the subject I found an internet article from a practicing psychologist in St. Louis named Dr. Mark Schwartz that I think summed up the nut of it all that I was trying to achieve with these people.
“As is often the case, when someone has a bizarre arousal pattern, there has been something in their past that has made them susceptible to something deviant, or something unusual occurred.
“In the first 10 years of someone’s life, there is hardwiring of sexual arousals and then, at puberty, it sort of turns on,” Schwartz said. “Then, over time, the fetish gets cemented through the repetition of self-pleasure to the arousing object and it becomes permanent in a relative manner.”
Schwartz said that when he treats patients with such fetishes, he revisits the original trauma that triggered the fetish.
“By reactivating that original trauma and getting in that high susceptible state, we are able to change some of the core arousal patterns,” Schwartz said. “You can begin to see where the arousal came in and, in the future, when it comes to your conscious mind, you think back to the traumatic event.”
Two days later, I was informed, via email that “although balloonophile meetings are open to the public, and I could still attend if I wanted to, the group has decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I decided not to attend.”
The email stated “that the group decided that ballonophile meetings are intended for ballonophiles, and that I had made it clear that I was not one, and that I had no interest in becoming one.” I realized that I had just been excommunicated, or exiled, from something for the first time in my life.
The email also stated that “Some in the group determined that I could even be characterized as someone that was against balloonophilia.” This email did not call me an anti-baloonophile, or an anti-loonite, but everyone that has read this email agrees that the language in the email is implied.
It was a little frustrating, because I wanted to provide them these quotes from the Doctor. I was also a little frustrated that I hadn’t found this article before I attended the meeting, but I have to imagine that someone would’ve said something along the lines that they hadn’t become a baloonophile until they were an adult, and even if I had argued back, I’m sure that the group would’ve agreed with that general sentiment so much that they wouldn’t have searched deeper.
“So you failed to convince a bunch of loons that you were correct,” has been the general reaction to my complaints regarding this meeting. Another theme to these reactions has been “Is your ego so huge that you can’t take it when everyone doesn’t agree with you?”
After some reflection, I think I can now say that it has so much more to do with where we’re all headed. We are now so attracted to the sympathetic, compassionate, and understanding lexicon that we’re no longer interested in what makes people different. We just walk around saying that they’re different, and you’re different, and it says something about the person that cannot accept differences for what they are. This results in us being so pleased with ourselves that we don’t recognize differences, and that we no longer take the time to understand anything anymore.