It’s been a long time since I’ve negotiated physicality with someone in a context more intimate than simple friendship. What’s an appropriate amount of physical contact when shifting a fairly intimate online relationship into meatspace? I don’t imagine the etiquette books have devised an answer to this question yet.
I’m not generally demonstrative — I have no problem accepting a hug from a friend but I’m very rarely the one to initiate, and I tend to come across as reserved. Gawan, on the other hand, is physically affectionate and cuddly. Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of awkwardness between us as we began to negotiate these little differences.
On the first flight, we were seated in different rows, but once we were airborne he located a row of three empty seats where we could sit together. He took the window seat while I sat beside him; with my feet up on the aisle seat, I leaned back against him and he wrapped his arm around me and squeezed me happily for the remainder of the flight.
Then we had a stopover and a few hours to kill. In a quiet corner of the airport we claimed a 5-seat bench, which — surprisingly — had no armrests between the seats. He sat. Unsure of the dimensions of our personal space bubbles now that we had so much room, I left one empty seat between us and folded one leg up onto the bench so I could turn my body to face him. It turned out that that was entirely unsatisfactory. He ordered me to sit right beside him. Ah, fine. I suppose this is how it is when you travel with a dom, and it did save me from having to figure out what the right answer was.
(Of course, his being a dom doesn’t automatically give him any rights over me, but we had touched on the subject of D/s a bit previously, without having reached any conclusions or agreements. This was the first time he gently but ‘dommily’ tested the waters during this trip.)
The flight to our destination was, frankly, cramped. It was a sort of discount airline that shoehorned in the maximum number of seats by sacrificing what anyone would consider to be the minimum sane amount of legroom. I’m short and yet my knees were almost touching the seat in front of me — the effect was slightly claustrophobic. This time I was in the window seat and he was in the middle, with someone else occupying the aisle seat. He put his arm around me for a short while but mostly we just held hands. Likewise during the lengthy bus ride to the hotel.
We had bought a package deal, air and hotel, and there was no choice of rooms. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t bother clearly stating the number and size of the beds. I have a bad back and it’s a rarity to find a hotel bed that I can actually sleep on, so I informed Gawan I would be bringing an air mattress and he thought that was a good idea. I considered this to be my backup plan in case of (a) back pain, (b) a too-small shared bed, or (c) disinterest between us.
It turned out that the room had two single beds. I thought this was perfect: we would each have our own bed to sleep in and I wouldn’t have to explain my need for space or decide whether I felt comfortable enough with him to be in such close proximity through the night. Gawan, however, was thoroughly vexed. He wanted a double bed (or better) and for us to share it, and, failing that, he was rather insistent that we share one of the single beds.
So it turned out that I was going to have to give that explanation after all.
I told him that I can’t sleep while cuddling or even touching, and a single bed was definitely too small for us both to sleep in. If I don’t get enough sleep I get very grumpy indeed, and my mood becomes particularly foul if I’m tired for entirely preventable reasons. I don’t do well with sharing a bed, even if it’s designed for two. And even with Wolf, cuddle-time and sleep-time are mutually exclusive. (Wolf and I sleep in two single beds that are right next to each other. We each have our own blankets, and if he turns over in the night it won’t wake me, but we remain within arm’s reach.)
Gawan and I went around in circles a couple of times but eventually arrived at a solution. We would cuddle together on my bed. Because he was nearly impossible to wake up I didn’t want him falling asleep in my bed, so if he was getting dozy I’d exile him to his bed. (I dubbed his bed “Elba” but he thought “[Saint] Helena” was more appropriate — escape was possible from the former but not the latter.) Immediately after the exile, I’d come over and cuddle with him in his bed until I wanted to sleep and I returned to my own bed for that. When I woke up in the morning, I’d come and visit him again. This gave me the sleep I needed so I was satisfied, but I don’t think his attitude toward the arrangement was anything better than resigned.
As the trip progressed, we began holding hands across the table at restaurants and sometimes also while walking. Gawan usually snuck a kiss if we were alone in the elevator. There were other kisses too — at the terrace of the hotel bar when we tired of watching the world go by; in the back (but still well-lit) corner of a sold-out gig, the only likely witnesses being the nubile, bored waitresses dressed head-to-toe (or rather, head to mid-thigh) in white; and in a dark front corner of a cabaret, where the girls’ minimum costume comprised pasties, g-strings, and largely purposeless nude fishnet body-stockings.
I’ve gotten the OK from Gawan before publishing this post, and will do the same for future posts involving him. I’d feel weird reading about myself on a public forum without prior knowledge of what was going to be said, so I’m giving him the same notice that I’d want if roles were reversed. Is that going to affect what I write? Yeah, probably a little.
This blog is not a comprehensive diary of all my innermost thoughts and I’m not here to get advice, so withholding some material is no great hardship. My first goal and responsibility is to be absolutely honest with myself. It’s the rare tidbit of information that I wouldn’t share with Wolf — I tell him everything that matters even remotely, and an awful lot of stuff that doesn’t. Gawan is also entitled to my honesty, though the scope is narrower.
If there’s anything that’s bothering me about events with Gawan that I wouldn’t share here, there are other outlets. The obvious one is to talk to Gawan himself. Or I can talk to Wolf. If I don’t want to discuss it with either of them, then some thoughts may remain locked in my own head, and if they’re straining to get out I can always process them by writing without blogging. (I make rough notes and draft blog posts in a document on my computer, deleting material if I post it. The document already contains a metric ass-load of writing that will never see the light of day — if I have a diary, it’s that document, not the blog.)