addressing doubts one step at a time

I regularly go for walks on a favorite route that’s cheery and pleasant and fairly quiet. There’s a certain kind of thinking that happens at a walking pace, and I found myself thinking a lot on that route.

At a walking pace, I analyzed my “first date” with Gawan. There were good bits on that trip and bits that were less good. Overall it felt neutral. Our connection via email and Skype was good and strong, but in person something seemed to be missing. Our last hours together were during a long, tiring and stressful travel day, and as I climbed aboard the shuttle bus and saw him wave from the door of the hotel, I checked in with how I was feeling, looking for sadness and disappointment about our parting. There wasn’t any.

I’m sensitive and I absorb a lot of information so when new things happen it takes me time to process; I wasn’t likely to come up with answers during the trip itself.

I’ve never had a relationship start online before. When we finally met for the first time, maybe I was simply flooded with the whole collection of real-life little details and just needed some time to internalize what I would have picked up over the course of months in an ordinary courtship. Physical presence. Body language. The approach–crest–dissipation of a smile. How quickly he walks. Would he steal food off my plate, or object if I stole from his? Bandwidth limitations subtly interrupt the flow of conversation, and Skype’s simulation of eye contact is pure fakery.

We had both already said “I love you” many times, but even though we were, for once, close enough to touch, I sensed a different kind of distance. Why? He had been somewhat ill throughout the trip, so maybe he didn’t seem like himself because he didn’t feel like himself. Also, the location we chose ended up being a lot of work, and a great deal of energy that would have been better spent on each other instead went into the most basic of tasks.

There was definitely still something between us though. Maybe the first meet was always going to be challenging. Maybe when we chose our destination we bit off more than we could chew. I concluded that the first date likely wasn’t representative and that I should give it another try. I wanted to meet again, preferably someplace easier, ideally on his home turf. See who he is when he’s at home, literally.

During moments of play, I had noted that I was only doing things I’d done in high school (i.e. not much), and that this felt oddly comforting. But later I was shaken when I realized that my epiphany hadn’t actually transformed my thinking about sexuality as completely as I’d both believed and hoped. If the hang-ups were absent with Wolf but present with Gawan, then I hadn’t had an attitude overhaul — I’d simply created an exception for Wolf, and sex with anyone else was still fundamentally scary.

At a walking pace, I dissected my epiphany, shaved off slices and put them under the microscope. I recalled that trusting Wolf had come first and intuited that trust was the key here. Even though I already trusted Gawan more than anyone aside from Wolf, it somehow didn’t seem like enough. Why not? Sex makes me feel incredible vulnerable, like handing someone a razor-sharp knife and baring  my belly. I wanted to resolve this issue before our second date, which would give me months rather than the years it had taken the first time, and I fervently hoped I could figure it out in that time. I fed my trust of Gawan by meditating on what he had already shown me: interest, empathy, kindness, support, patience, being unequivocally on my side and never diminishing me in any way. And I eased down my excessively high threshold by asking myself what more I could reasonably expect him to do or say (conclusion: nothing), and questioning whether the feeling of not enough trust was because I didn’t trust myself.

At a walking pace, I examined monogamy. Cheating — unilaterally breaking an agreement you have with someone who trusts you — is wrong. But through respectful (re)negotiation, the parties should be able to agree to any terms they like. I don’t think that sexual non-exclusivity is inherently wrong, but it is entirely unfamiliar to me. I’d been monogamous forever. Wolf agreed that I could have sex with Gawan if that’s what I wanted. But how far could I get by rationally deliberating about something as emotional as sex? What would my gut say in the moment? Or after?

At a walking pace, I asked myself whether having sex with Gawan was what I authentically wanted or what I thought I should want, since I’ve had difficulty with “want” sex versus “want to want” sex before, but one incident gave me some insight. This is sort of a polyamorous arrangement, we hadn’t had sex with each other, and we hadn’t asked each other for sexual exclusivity outside of pre-existing relationships, which for him would have amounted to celibacy. Some time ago he let me know about a BDSM scene that he had arranged with someone new and which would include sex. Rational me understood perfectly. Emotional me punched the wall. (Unfortunately, I know how to throw a punch. It took months before my hand stopped aching.) I rationally examined my reasons not to feel jealous, and then felt jealous anyway. Perhaps it was because he would be having a hot experience with another woman and I wanted it to be me.

What would I regret more, sex or not-sex? Sex would force me to confront long-standing issues about vulnerability, trust, monogamy, and commitment that I may or may not have managed to resolve sufficiently. Not-sex would mean I’d miss out on potentially fun experiences (maybe even adventures), and a deeper connection with someone I love. I decided that not-sex would be the bigger regret.

So, at a walking pace, I picked apart every issue until they lay in shreds at my feet. When these issues ceased to pop up every time I hit my stride, what did come to mind was this: I guess I’m ready for our second date.

Gawan: last leg(s)

Outside the hotel, I climbed into the empty shuttle bus, got my bags stowed and settled myself in. I took a deep breath: this was one complication resolved and as I steadily approached my destination, things would continue to get simpler. Well, logistically, at least. The driver recognized me from the trip in earlier and was puzzled that I was leaving so soon. Was there something wrong with the hotel? No it was fine, but this wasn’t my final stop and I still had some travelling to do. Then he noticed that I was alone this time; it amused me to wonder what conclusion he reached about how I’d spent those hours.

I got to the airport easily and promptly, checked in, dropped off my bag, cleared the security scrum: a little cluster of milestones achieved. In my travel uniform – a long-sleeve T-shirt, clingy cashmere sweater and black pinstripe yoga pants – I felt like I looked like I had it together, at least. It was mid-evening, the rush-hour frenzy long over. Quiet, but not so late as to be funereal. I set off at a stride, stretching my legs, for a gate that turned out to be at the absolute far end of a long and rambling terminal, an extension on an extension. I probably clocked a couple of miles.

I only waited for five or ten minutes before boarding began. There were no passengers needing extra time, so rows 1 to 4 were called to board first. I was in row 4. Boarding first? Doesn’t that mean business class? I checked my boarding pass. Definitely row 4. So on I went, with the self-important middle-aged men in their suits, and made myself comfortable. In row 4. Yep, definitely business class. There was a bottle of water waiting for me – bliss! (It’s the little things.) The rest of the passengers filed past in the dimness, filling the plane.

Once aloft, our flight attendant kept asking solicitously if we needed anything — this bunch wasn’t very demanding and she was pleasantly bored. There was a choice of food (food! choice!), and snacks. My rushed supper was hours ago already and it was time to top up. I had a nice sandwich, followed by the best Kit Kat I’ve ever had. Oh god, chocolate! I so needed chocolate. I passed the hours contentedly.

Even though I was one of the first people off the plane (business class!), Wolf was already there waiting for me. There was no need to speak, and no words were big enough to capture the feeling anyway. Wolf had missed me fiercely. I had missed him too, of course, but he had been alone with his thoughts and worries, and our plan to stay in touch daily had fallen through because of connectivity difficulties at my end. We waited for my luggage in companionable silence until the last passengers left and the carousel stopped.

They lost my bag.

I’ve never had a bag go missing before. We went to the nearby desk to report it, and the woman asked me to describe some of the more unusual contents of the bag, just in case they had to open it up in order to identify it. It’s a burgundy duffel bag. Um, strappy black stilettos. Right on top is a black nylon tote bag containing a set of folding travel wheels. Two bottles of rum. Vibrator as long as my arm that looks like a cartoon karaoke microphone.

No, I didn’t say that last one, but I thought it.

Within a few minutes she determined that the bag wasn’t really lost. It showed up in the system, biding its time in the city I’d just left. It just hadn’t gotten on the plane. (Was I that late checking in, I wonder?) They’d send it along first thing the next day. They could delivered it, or if I picked it up myself, they’d give me a $100 voucher. It was easy enough for me to get to the airport, so I chose the latter option. The next morning, the bag arrived before I’d really got going for the day.

And that was my first date with Gawan.

If I were a superstitious sort, I’d find meaning in the fact that things started to go wrong before they even began. His first flight got fucked up when the inbound plane had a bird strike, which resulted in his outbound flight being cancelled, and he was left scrambling to get to me. At our destination we had challenges with money and exchange, and varying degrees of illness for both of us. And then there was the Murphy’s Law Hotel. My getting bumped to business class for the flight immediately after I left him behind could have been read as the universe trying to send me a message. But that’s not how I read it.

It was trial by fire. We handled a ridiculous number of difficulties as well as could be hoped, and we still liked each other at the end of it all. The most important thing was to get to know each other in person; I’m not sure we have a great sense of what an ordinary day with the other would look like, but we do know what a rough day is like, and we managed well. Not to tempt fate, but I’m optimistic that our next visit will be much easier.

Gawan: hotel interlude

The room we checked out of that morning was clean but spartan and worn: brightly painted walls, easy-clean white tile floor, one window that didn’t open and one that didn’t close, a tired air conditioner, and a few sticks of inexpensive furniture including two single beds. The hotel was on a major street, so there was always the hum (or honking) of traffic.

This new hotel room the opposite in many ways: pale walls and sheets, dark carpet, dark fixtures and furnishings, a kitchenette and fridge, a couch, everything clean and new. And quiet. Hell, I was impressed with the mere existence of the bathtub, and a toilet where the lever didn’t disconnect itself from the flapper every other time you flushed. It just felt so civilized, but my enjoyment was tinged with mild regret that I’d be spending so little time there.

Well, almost everything was in good repair. When Gawan decided to run a bath for me, we found that the plug, which should have been screwed into threading in the drain, was loose in the bottom of the tub because the pressure switch was broken. Fortunately it was stuck closed rather than open, so simply screwing it into place plugged the tub.

With the water now running, Gawan took charge of ordering some food since he was hungry and I was starving. He dialled room service but the person he reached wasn’t able to take the order and told him that someone would call back to the room shortly. No call came. So Gawan went down to the restaurant to place the order in person, and came back up to the room with a promise that the food would follow.

While all this was going on, I was having a relaxing soak. It was an ordinary soaker tub: deep but built for one. But the idea was to share a bath, so upon his return, Gawan shoehorned himself in at the uncomfortable faucet end without complaint. After a while he got out again in anticipation of dealing with the arrival of the food. But no food arrived. He went back down to the restaurant to scare it up.

I got out of the bath shortly after he left. Dried and dressed, I just wanted to relax but I thought it would be wise to call down and make arrangements for the shuttle before the torpor kicked in. The front desk advised that the shuttles went every 30 minutes, so which one did I want? There were two times that seemed reasonable — 7:30 was definitely early, and 8:00 would get me there on time. I wasn’t feeling too lucky. I chose the 7:30.

Gawan was gone for quite a while and I was beginning to feel lonely — we were spending our time together apart, and I was busying myself with email and catching up on blogs. Finally he burst into the room, triumphant with white plastic takeout bag in hand, the successful hunter and provider. But the hour was late, so I had to inhale as much of the gourmet burger and fries as I could in what little time was left.

And then, the inevitable: it was time for me to go.

Gawan helped me with my bags down to the lobby. There was no sign of the shuttle. After a few minutes I asked the concierge, “Will 7:30 shuttle be here soon?”

“Oh, the shuttles don’t run on a schedule. You have to book it in advance for whenever you want it.”

“Aha. I did book it. For 7:30.”

“I’m sorry, there’s no record of that… Oh wait. Here it is. I’m sorry, it looks like this wasn’t passed along to the driver. Let me call him now and see where he is.” He called. “He’ll be here very soon, just a few minutes.”

Mhmm. “A few minutes.” Because it was the hotel’s error, the concierge was prepared to pay for a cab. And there was a cabbie right there, regarding me expectantly… But it was only about 7:40, so I decided to chance it and wait for the shuttle. The cabbie left. And the shuttle arrived — it really was “a few” minutes after all.

At the door of the hotel, Gawan gave me a hug and a kiss and sent me on my way.

I was anxious to get on the damned shuttle and get back to the damned airport. I’d relax when I reached the gate.

I was feeling so frazzled from the difficult day of travel that it took a while for me to see the forest for the trees: Two weeks makes for an epic first date, but we still liked each other enough at the end of it that we chose to spend those last few hours together, rather than plotting our immediate escape from each other. Gawan felt, and rightly so, that it would be more comfortable (and of course more private) to spend the time at his hotel. In the face of a swarm of irritations beyond our control, and neither of us being at the peak of health, he got me to the hotel, got me relaxed and bathed, got me fed, and generally did his best to take care of me. That’s what was important.

Gawan: escape from the airport

Gawan and I were in transit (I would be in the city for several hours, he overnight) and negotiating how we would wrap up our time together. He could have left me at the airport, in which case I would have toddled off to try to entertain myself in the bustling terminal with food and window shopping and free wifi. But we preferred to spend those hours together.

Since he had to check in at a hotel anyway, his notion was that I’d come along and we’d spend the time together in comfort, and then he’d bundle me off back to the airport to catch my flight. Simple.

Or so it seemed.

He hadn’t managed to book a room in advance, but this was a big city with many hotels near the airport. We found an information kiosk, which allowed him to select and book a room online, and then he phoned the hotel to have the shuttle bus pick us up.

We headed out to the pick-up point and waited. And waited. Having just left a sweltering country, we weren’t properly dressed for the chill. Down the way was a taxi stand, the back end of the line of taxis ebbing and flowing toward us. The queue of travellers, which was slowly zippering together with the queue of taxis, lengthened inexorably until it ran into and then past us. We shuffled ourselves and our bags closer to the curb to try (mostly unsuccessfully) not to be an obstruction. Eventually a security guard came over to ask us what we were doing, since we obviously weren’t waiting for a taxi. When Gawan explained about the shuttle, the guard replied that the shuttles go to a completely different location on a different level. We were baffled as to how the message had gotten so garbled, but vacated the spot.

Having wasted time in the cold, I was feeling irritable. Now back inside the terminal, the early start, the lack of food, the rigors of travel, and the sheer exhaustion started to catch up with me. I was tired and frustrated. I couldn’t think. Everything seemed like a bad idea to the point where I began to doubt that “a good idea” was a thing that could even exist. I was unable to make a decision. So I parked myself on a bench and started gnawing on a cookie from my stash of emergency rations. I didn’t feel hungry, but I often don’t when I’m travelling, and a blood sugar crash had managed to sneak up on me. After about 10 minutes of sitting and snacking, I was starting to feel a bit less wilted.

Gawan apologized: he was on a mission to escape the airport and he was utterly focused on that goal to the exclusion of all else, including food. I was OK. I had gone until I couldn’t anymore and then I stopped. When we discussed it, I understood his desire to push on, and he understood my need for a break. No harsh words were exchanged, no resentment festered. And we learned important things about each other.

We located the proper place for shuttles and commenced waiting again. Here the travellers formed a loose and anxious scrum rather than an orderly queue. One woman down the way had apparently been waiting for a shuttle — our shuttle — for ages, so we hadn’t missed it and that was a bit of relief. But it was getting to be rush hour, time was a-wasting and I was feeling jangly from all the minutia of travel that required my attention. I was starting to fret about how much time I’d actually have at the hotel before I had to turn around and come back and I briefly considered calling off the excursion and parting ways then and there… but [deep breath]… really, there was still a fair amount of time and the hotel wasn’t far.

A shuttle arrived but when it rains, it pours, and a moment later another shuttle bearing the same hotel name pulled up to the curb. Each served a different branch of the same hotel, and both branches were considered to be “near the airport”. Both buses were also in a hurry to be off. So which hotel had Gawan booked? He was fairly sure he knew but he didn’t recall with certainty. I had no idea and was no help at all. He selected one, and I followed, worried that it was the wrong one. We wouldn’t know if we won the gamble until we finally arrived at the hotel — Gawan would try to check in, and, before speaking, the concierge would give his oracular response: a frown and puzzled look would mean bad news, and completion of the transaction with utter obliviousness to the enormity of the moment would mean good news.

On the main road we were immediately plunged into a sluggish knot of terrible traffic. I knew the hotel was close, but how close? A short distance at a crawl is as bad as a long distance at full speed. What if I didn’t get back to the airport on time? What if it was a mistake to have left? Fuck.

We took the first or second exit and it hadn’t taken so long after all. But clearly I was already stressed.

We arrived at the hotel and… the concierge was oblivious. Good news! Now, up to the room.

Gawan: last hours abroad

The trip back to civilization was not overly civilized.

It began at an ungodly hour, but because I was anxious about missing our bus, I was awake about an hour before the alarm. It turned out that Gawan was awake too, but we were both trying to sleep, and trying to let the other sleep. We had done most of our packing the night before and, once mobile, were able to slip out quickly, latching the door quietly in the echoing gloom so as not to disturb the other guests.

Downstairs, a single bulb struggled – and failed – to light the whole of the main floor. We were met by one of the staff but there was little enough for him to do, since all financial matters had been settled in advance. Gawan handed him our one key card. He might have checked us off a list. The lobby was so shadowed that I didn’t immediately see the cook and the waitress silently and sleepily sharing a couch near the door. I’ve no idea why they were even there.

We were the airport bus’s very first stop, so when it finally rolled up about 30 minutes late I was feeling somewhat resentful about lost sleep. The hotel man helped us shift our luggage out onto the sidewalk in the humid darkness. It was too early for speech louder than a murmur, and the rumbling of the engine offended against the night. We loaded up and then rumbled off into the abandoned streets.

The bus route took over two hours. I think I managed to doze off briefly, lulled by the silent highway in the grey dawn. When we reached the countryside, lush greenery butted up to the edge of the road. From time to time we passed groups of optimistic locals waiting at the side of the road, hoping for a lift, but the bus never slowed down.

At one of our stops, there was a bit of a hassle. We were waiting for someone. Waiting a good while, actually. The traveller in question finally appeared in a T-shirt and shorts, but notably without any luggage, and got into a discussion with the travel company rep. His flight didn’t leave for hours, he said, and he didn’t want to go on the bus, it was too early. (Mhmm.) He’d find his own way there. (Assuming he could scare up a cab.) So that issue was resolved, and yet we waited.

It wasn’t long before a dishevelled woman scrambled up the steps and issued a general apology to the passengers – she had been told that she’d be picked up hours hence and, when the knock came on her door, had to dash about in a frenzy of packing. When we were on the road and the rep asked her if she had her passport, she said, “I think so. But you rushed me so much I don’t know where it is.” Ma’am, I’m afraid that argument is not going to get you on a plane. But hey, not my circus and not my monkeys.

We made it to the airport before the plane left, so that was a success. Having been up so early and missing out on a proper breakfast, I was desperate to find some food. What we found was uninspiring but did the job and consumed most of our remaining shekels. Then we sat listlessly but companionably on a metal bench awaiting the plane.

Eventually we were shoehorned into cramped seats once again, and the only thing missing to complete the ambiance was a few tethered and bleating goats and some squawking chickens in cages on people’s laps.

The place we were leaving was a vacation destination, and most of the travellers had just gotten their fill of sun and sand and bottomless watery cocktails at the all-inclusive resorts. Many were in high spirits and travelling in groups rather than pairs or singles. Hence loud. I’m sure there were at least a few shambling hangovers, not to mention some who were still drunk. Or drunk again, this time on miniature airplane booze. It was the sort of flight where you start imagining popping loudmouths on the nose. Or at least I do.

Because I have blood sugar issues and because getting regular meals while travelling is a challenge, it’s my habit to eat whatever is put in front of me. The in-flight food options were announced over the PA system, with one option being described as bruschetta with tomato or some such. When the flight attendant came around, she called it “cheese pizza”. I took it. I had one bite, and regretfully dismissed it as inedible. At least the flight wasn’t too long, and I had eaten well enough on the ground to last me a while.

Back in civilization, that tightly packed plane finally belched us into the terminal, and Gawan and I would soon part ways. But not just yet. I had 7 hours between the arrival of the one flight and the departure of the next. Lots of time to kill. Gawan was staying in the city overnight then flying out for another short adventure the next day. What to do?

Gawan: Intro to Flogging

As promised, Gawan brought a flogger with him. With black suede falls about 3/8″ wide, black suede covering the handle, and silver hardware, it looked entirely BDSM-y. Surprisingly so, in fact. He’s no slave to tradition (sometimes even actively subverting it), so any color would have been possible. Now, hot pink would be highly improbable, but it wouldn’t have come as a total shock. On the other hand, he recognizes the power of symbols, especially if they tend to increase hotness: if a black flogger contributes to the mood, then that’s all to the good. But I’m guessing that his primary reason for choosing this flogger has more to do with function and feel. Hell, it could be his travel flogger for all I know.

I’m not sure whether it was day or evening, but I have a recollection of the warm and intimate glow of the bedside lamps. Our room was decorated in warm tones: mango and blush on the walls, bedspreads of cinnabar and gold. The room was not cool — the air conditioner was barely up to the task at any time of day.

I was nude, face down on the rumpled white sheets, hips elevated with two pillows, when he gave me a safe word. It wasn’t the standard “red”, or any other safe word that I’d heard before. I repeated it to myself a few times to make sure I’d remember it, especially since it was novel and my mind would soon be elsewhere. It sounded a bit silly, the sort of thing that, if I found myself under enough strain to need it, the mere saying of it would break the spell of seriousness and lighten the mood at least a little.

I’d never had a proper safe word before. Explicitly being given special means to stop meant that we were — that I was — officially starting. This was, at least in some sense of the word, real.

He began slowly, caressing my back with the falls of the flogger. That was… good. Delicious, even. I sighed my enjoyment. Then he began to rain light blows on me. It was heavy enough that it must have started to color my skin, but it still felt pleasant.

After this point, my recollection is hazy at best. I could have been a more objective observer if I had clung to ordinary awareness, but that would have sacrificed some of the fullness of the sensation. Objectivity be damned, I wanted to feel. So I let go.

And I could have reconstructed it if I’d revisited the experience soon after we finished, but it didn’t seem all that noteworthy at the time. It wasn’t until much later, when Gawan told me that I seemed to have dropped to somewhere near subspace, that I tried to fill in the gap.

So, what happened? The blows must have become heavier, no longer pleasant as such but not actively unpleasant. I would have been focusing on managing the sensation the way I do with a deep tissue massage, which feels uncomfortable yet satisfying because I know it’s helping. In those moments when a knotted muscle is being probed with, say, an elbow, I’m entirely focused on the treatment, breathing deliberately through it and making an effort to relax into it because if my attention wanders, it hurts more. I could never doze off during a treatment — in fact, I feel very alert — and yet afterwards I can barely remember what was done. I think this must be what was happening during the flogging.

The details return when it got heavier. Occasionally he threw in a sharper blow. Those stung. I flinched. I gasped. But I never felt like I was getting close to calling a halt.

He went on for some time — how long, I have no idea — but as far as I was concerned it was over too soon. When he was done, he casually put the flogger down. On the bed. In front of my face. I knew the placement was entirely deliberate, and I did my best to hide my smile.

Nothing he had thrown at me had felt terribly challenging. I hadn’t needed the safe word, nor had I expected to. I had been confident that he would have a fair sense of how far to go the first time and to be able to read my reactions, and he worked comfortably within my limits, despite the fact that I didn’t even know where those limits were.

Later he said all my reactions showed that I enjoyed it. That surprised me. All of them? Sure, the caresses and the light blows were clearly well received, but what about the focus and the flinching? I wouldn’t have described that as much of a demonstration of enjoyment. So either he misunderstood my body language (which seems quite unlikely), or he knows something that I don’t. Maybe I should ask.

They say that you should leave the recipient wanting more. If that’s true, then mission accomplished.

Gawan: Intro to Commands

All of the dominant stuff that Gawan tried out on me was calibrated to fall in the happy space between too boring and too challenging. Given that I’m an utter novice to submission, he was working all the way at the light end of the range.

Spanking and flogging are physical activities that take some time, where one person does and the other is done to. In contrast, a command is a brief communication setting out what the desired conduct is and expressing the firm expectation that it will be done. It has a substantial psychological effect, although the content of the command is often physical in that the submissive is either to do something or to refrain from doing something.

The spanking certainly felt like Intro to Spanking (just as the flogging was Intro to Flogging), but the commands felt more tentative in comparison, and I don’t think that was just because of the amount of time spent on each. I’m not sure this was Intro to Commands as much it was the placement test.

***

His first command (originally mentioned here) was given while we were still travelling. We were in an airport, far away from any people and, when I made to leave some room between us on our bench, he told me to sit right beside him. I interpreted this as him testing the waters, sketching out a bit of the shape of the relationship that he was hoping to establish. The words were in the form of a command, but really he was asking me two questions: Will I sit next to him? And more importantly, will I obey a command for him?

I felt odd receiving the order, but choosing to obey wasn’t difficult. For one thing, it was low stakes. And part of me was grateful: he knew exactly where he wanted me to sit and communicated that clearly while I was still busy doing the math to calculate probable personal space requirements. As a bonus, it created a mild and pleasant frisson.

***

Days later in the hotel room, he delivered another command, as a preface to a sensual spanking. I was on the bed, prone and waiting when he ordered me to put my hands behind my head.

Ah, that wasn’t so hard.

Hands behind the head is a symbol of submitting to an authority; it leans on the type of authority held by police and military (which is underpinned by government authority and physical threat), rather than that of an employer or religious figure (where control has more to do with the fear of the disapproval and the threat, if any, is not physical). I didn’t find this order too difficult psychologically, perhaps because I was already in something of a submissive position. In for a penny, in for a pound, perhaps. In addition, prone and hands on the head are thematically linked, so while the order might feel a little odd, it wasn’t jarring the way it would be in an atmosphere suggestive of, say, the boss’s office.

And it wasn’t entirely unexpected; although I’m not used to receiving commands, he has written things that made this specific one unsurprising. That bit of familiarity helped. In fact, I had probably already imagined myself obeying such a command.

***

Gawan had quite enjoyed my fringe photos, so I brought along one fringe (which first appeared here) to model in person.

I had posed for those photos sans culotte. Reality is always more awkward, isn’t it? Now, in the hotel room, I was taking off my street clothes and had gotten down to underwear. I was wearing a thong and debated briefly whether to strip down any further. It occurred to me that there was a slight possibility that I might somehow manage to get the fringe damp and I didn’t want to have to deal with trying to clean it. And would the dye then run? Cautiousness won out: the fringe is so dense at the top that the panties probably wouldn’t be visible.

“Not expressing an opinion either way on the matter, but is there some reason why you have your knickers on?”

I thought a moment: it wasn’t worth explaining my concern that I’d have to clean dampened fringe. If that became a problem, I’d figure out a way to deal with it. I shrugged. “Not really.”

“Well then, get those knickers off right now, young lady.”

So I did. It turned out that one of my reasons for keeping them on – that not much would be seen through the fringe – worked just as well to make me feel comfortable taking them off.

***

Then there was the time when we were on the bed in a state of undress, kissing. He was lying on his back and I was lying on my side, propped up on my elbow. My other hand was more or less free.

He broke off the kiss. “Touch my cock,” he said.

Aha.

Like the other commands, I took this to be a question in disguise. But this time I found that couldn’t do it. I was frozen, mute. I leaned back and looked him in the eye.

“Touch my cock,” he repeated a tad more firmly, making it clear that this was an order. Testing me.

I paused.

“No. I can’t. I don’t feel comfortable with that.”

I have written before about feeling uncomfortable with cocks generally. It has gotten easier, but it appears that my progress has a very limited application. I was a little surprised, actually.

The progress I’d made in relation to nudity seemed to carry over to Gawan — why not this too? Nudity is an issue relating to my relationship with my own body. If I’m more comfortable in my skin, it would make sense that a certain level of comfort is inherent and independent of context. With cocks, it seems to be about my relationship with the man to whom the cock is attached.

***

While I don’t have official results back from the placement test, he shared some thoughts with me the other day about commands he figures I’d enjoy. Whether through our experiences together or just getting to know me long-distance, he has found something he can work with. The proper Intro to Commands may happen next time we meet.

Gawan: Intro to Spanking

It was virtually certain that, during this trip, Gawan would give me a spanking.

The merest suggestion, barely more than an allusion, had been made very early on in our correspondence. We had arrived at the topic with both of us knowing that the other had an interest in it (I as a novice, he an expert), and when he made his vague invitation it was infused with a certain polite flirtatiousness — that is, he was polite while flirting, and flirting was the polite thing to do in the context.

Later he praised my cleverness and banter (and my breasts — he’s no churl), but I think it may have been my ass that finally got him checking his calendar and booking flights.

To be spanked by a master! I had no doubt that this would be an educational experience at least. I’d intended to be studious and to try to learn some transferable skills.

It didn’t particularly work out that way.

There were at least two spankings, maybe three, but they sort of blur together in my mind. I recall a few isolated details here and there but I can’t reconstruct the experiences in an objective, chronological way. I think that’s probably because my mind disengaged and I was mostly just experiencing.

I noted two distinct tempos (or tempi, for the musicians in the crowd) that seemed to have metronomic regularity. At one point, he observed that I seemed to respond better to a regular rhythm rather than an irregular one. I didn’t have any recollection of his having tried an irregular rhythm. Perhaps he tried it very briefly and was able to reach a conclusion before I noticed. Or perhaps that scrap of information just floated away on the stream of my consciousness.

I noticed that he started with a cupped hand, which is milder and makes a distinct ‘clop’ sound. Cupped or, later, flat, the sound rang out through the small room, bouncing off the terrazzo floor and out into the empty hallway. I felt a bit self-conscious about it but not to the point of distraction.

These were sensual spankings and I didn’t find them challenging. That will have been a deliberate concession: I’m certain that he could have had me crying if that had been our goal.

The regular rhythm, the even progression from my ass down-down-down the backs of my thighs, and the gentle crescendo of intensity was pleasant, even a little soothing. I relaxed into it, but that relaxation was limited and conditional, not transferable. My ass was warm and pink, and I was wet, content to go this far and no further. And so it was.

I had expected that I would color rather easily. Rather disconcertingly vampiric, he found it, when I seemed to pale and heal in the few moments it took for him to locate and ready his phone for photos. He was good-naturedly frustrated with my rapid recovery. It seems that he wanted the evidence of his handiwork to last a little while. To put his mark on me.

spanked
Photo courtesy of Gawan, who apologizes for the quality. He was “too distracted by other matters to get particularly arty.”

This is about as good (i.e. red) as it got.

There was one incident of hand-to-ass contact that was not a spanking. We were waiting on our floor for the aged elevator to arrive. In front of the elevator there was a good sized space (on every floor but the main), into which had been shoehorned some configuration of rather tacky overstuffed chairs and loveseats. It was like a miniature lobby, smaller and more private than the one at ground level, and the rooms themselves were small such that handy sitting area wasn’t a bad idea. I supposed that one could enjoy the breeze through the open windows, and perhaps a smoke. (What a cross-cultural experience it was merely to see ashtrays in a public building!)

So, we were just going down to breakfast. It was early-ish, sunny and cheery, and we were unencumbered. With mischief in his eye, Gawan led me the few steps to one of the chairs and, after a quick peek back down the hall to ensure that the coast was clear, jovially manhandled me over the oversized and overstuffed arm and proceeded to deliver a couple of quick swats to my bottom. When the elevator chimed, he grinningly rushed to right me. I was grinning as well, and on my feet again before the door clattered open. And I’ll bet my cheeks were a bit flushed too.

body hair*

I’ve had my share of insecurities about my body, and like many women I’ve spent unnecessary energy being self-conscious about my body hair and how I “should” groom myself. I’m happy to say this issue no longer concerns me.

I shaved my legs for a couple of years in high school 1, and again for a span of months in university to please a dickish boyfriend 2, but I’ve been au naturel for a couple of decades now. I’ve always preferred wearing pants and shorts rather than dresses and skirts, but I’ve started wearing knee-length skirts over the last few years and I found that I was still a bit self-conscious about leg hair with a skirt. Eventually I realized that the hair is actually quite fine and can’t really be seen unless you’re close and looking for it. I suppose my legs aren’t red-carpet ready, but I can live with that.

Another realization I’ve had in the last few years is that I just don’t care about maintaining perfectly bare armpits. These days, I choose among shaving, trimming and benign neglect, as the mood strikes me. If I have a dance performance, I would trim, or even shave if I was feeling really motivated. For dance class, my strategy is wearing a T-shirt, or wearing a tank top coupled with “not giving a fuck”.

The place that I groom most carefully is the one that’s most hidden. I’ve always shaved fairly generously inside the bikini line, and about a year ago I started completely shaving underneath on a weekly basis. The remaining hair (on my mons) gets trimmed from time to time.

Which brings me to my trip with Gawan. I had planned to shave the hidden bits on arrival at our destination, but Gawan got to me before I did. 3 Though I’m not sure that ultimately made much of a difference to him.

He remarked — entirely without criticism or judgment, mind you — that it was more pubic hair than he’d seen on a submissive girl in, oh, five years or so. Now, what I’ve got is nowhere near full bush — one-third bush, maybe. More like a quarter. But it seems that the subby girls in his neck of the woods raze the bush completely. 4

Apparently I’m something of a novelty — or perhaps I’m revealing my lack of cred as a submissive. 5 I wouldn’t know. My cunt is the only one I’m familiar with.


1 The summer after I graduated, I was in the chorus of The Pirates of Penzance along with many other girls of a similar age. One day at rehearsal, it was reported to me (by Drift, a guy who would soon be my boyfriend, if he wasn’t already at that time) that the topic of conversation among them that day was the hair on my legs. Seriously. Fortunately I was secure enough at the time not to be unduly bothered by such natterings.

2 Surprise, surprise, this was Bad Boy. I had held out for months in the face of his whining. Eventually, I said I’d shave my legs if he shaved his. And so he did. I felt honor-bound to fulfill my end of the bargain. Which is a nutshell demonstration of my character — and his.

3 I much prefer a bath, especially for shaving, but our room only had a shower. And even to call it a “shower” is a bit generous, at least by first-world standards. The water pressure on our floor ranged from unenthusiastic at best to something more like a leak at worst, and there were only two temperatures — “unheated” and “if I’m not mistaken, I think the water might be slightly warmer than it was”. But the weather was very hot, so un-hot water wasn’t a total disaster.

4 A friend of mine — who is hot and blonde — was once asked “does the carpet match the drapes?” Despite being a very sensual if not sexual person, she somehow hadn’t heard the expression before and didn’t understand it, so she answered literally according to how her house was appointed. “I have hardwood,” she replied. The asker thought this answer was hilarious, and it does rather effectively and creatively suggest that she was in fact bare below.

5 This is a joke, by the way. Invocation of the idea of A True Submissive (or A True Dominant, for that matter) is bullshit but remains a common fallacy among people who think in black and white terms — there’s no rule book, no “one true way”. Also, while I’m interested in submission (and not dominance or switching), I don’t identify with it so much that I’d describe myself as “a submissive”. For one thing, I haven’t been inducted into the Sisterhood yet — I think their review of my use of capitalization may be holding up the process. 6

6 This is also a joke.

* Alternate titles: “I trim my quim according to whim” or “I’ve little care to spare for the hair down there — or anywhere”.

Gawan: adventures

The whole trip with Gawan was an adventure, start to finish. For me, the most significant adventure was meeting him in person, getting to know him and seeing how we got on together.

But we also had some more conventional adventures of the travelling variety. Sometimes the adventures were rather modest, like exchanging money or finding a restaurant.

security bars
Stylish security bars on a building near our hotel.
beets & carrots
Colorful vegetables at the market.

Sometimes just walking down the street felt quite adventurous all on its own.

urban decay
Urban decay.

We also had an adventure that was planned and booked: a day trip into the lush countryside. I had expected that we would be part of a group, but no, it was just the two of us and our guide/driver in a new, air-conditioned SUV.

The first place we stopped was a classic tourist trap: parking lot, toilets, and a cluster of booths selling a variety of tat. The guide informed us that we were at the highest bridge in the country, which appeared to be the only justification for the placement of this miniature capitalist ecosystem. From our vantage point, the bridge looked like just another stretch of road, which was the last thing I wanted to look at.

countryside
Countryside. Not pictured: some reputedly special bit of road, swarms of people checking out a variety of pointless tat.

Then we visited a modest little farm and met the couple who run it, their daughter and baby granddaughter. They served us tart passion fruit and tiny portions of strong coffee, black as sin. Except for our guide, none of us spoke the others’ language. It was a brief visit.

patina on a tank at a modest farmhouse
Rust and peeling paint on a tank beside the farmhouse.

The highlight of the day was snorkeling in the ocean! It was my first time and I had some trouble: I’m not a strong swimmer, and trying to breathe with my face in the water was making me panic a bit even though I rationally understood what I was supposed to do. We had another guide to lead us safely through the little coral reef, and upon seeing how hopeless I was, he just took me by the wrist and swam me around the circuit. Fortunately I was able to relax into it fairly quickly. I had a prime seat to see lots of fish, since the guide had a bottle of food to attract them. There was one that looked like a night sky, with stars of electric blue (yellowtail damselfish juvenile). And there were lots of fan corals and massive brain corals.

Gawan had hoped that I’d swim with him and was a bit disappointed that we didn’t really experience the reef together. We did have one shared experience in the ocean though: once we were back near the shore, Gawan accidentally knocked into me and gave me flipper burn on my knee.

After the reef, we went to a cave with a deep freshwater pool. The silence was broken only by a woman in a snorkeling mask swimming quiet laps in the clear, dark water, while her boyfriend watched patiently from the edge of the pool.

We had masks too, and given my eventual success at the reef and the fact that this time I wouldn’t have to contend with waves, I was feeling confident. But once I got my face in the water the panic returned, and beyond that my mask leaked. The pool was so clear that I could see sharp stalagmites deep below me but no sign of the actual bottom, which kind of freaked me out. Experiencing a fear of heights while swimming is an odd feeling.

grotto
The cave and its pool were photogenic but there was nowhere near enough light to take decent pictures, so instead I took this one on the way out.

The last stop was a former coffee plantation where we had lunch, a tour of the grounds, and then a short horseback ride. I’ve always liked horses. When I was a kid, I used to go on nature rides that lasted up to an hour, and I even took a few riding lessons. So a 7-minute ride seemed a little pointless and I was willing to pass it up. But Gawan wanted to try it, and if he wanted to go then I was happy to go too. It was fun, I’ll admit. But it would have been better to have a longer ride, fewer obnoxious tourists with us, and any gait faster than a walk.

One other cool thing that wasn’t in the brochure was simply talking to our guide about his country. As a tourist, it can be difficult to connect with locals. I suppose tourists who go to sun destinations are generally looking for fun and so prefer to turn a blind eye to unpleasant realities of the places they visit, and where we were, residents are (ahem) encouraged to conceal those unpleasant realities. So the opportunity to hear some truth was really interesting, if also somewhat depressing at times.

The travel part of the adventure was fun all on its own, but over three weeks later and the flipper burn is still there. And I told him no marks!