from on high

I like to be comfortable. I’m flexible and my clothes need to move with me. I prefer to have bare feet indoors and I routinely pick things up off the ground with my toes. I walk a fair amount and insist on wearing sensible shoes. I live in flats. In fact, I don’t generally use the word “flats” because it’s simply my normal, the uninflected category. I’m practical.

Over the years I’d bought some heels in neutral colors: black, gold to go with a particular dress, deep red because I love deep red. (I’ve discovered that in France, deep red is a neutral, just FYI.) But flashy, vertiginous, and/or sexy was something I could never justify buying. Do I need them? No. Where would I possibly wear them? No idea.

But recently, when I became more comfortable with the idea of dressing up to look sexy, at least at home, it occurred to me that I could have a pair of killer heels and they wouldn’t necessarily be wasted just because I never intended to wear them outdoors. When I came across a pair of 4″ stilettos that actually felt comfortable, I allowed myself to buy the ridiculous things.

If I was ever going to wear them standing up, however, I was going to need a lot of practice, so I got in the habit of wearing them around the house. Eventually I got fairly confident in them and they started to seem a little less frivolous than before. I have now worn them outside of the house a few times and impressed friends with how surefooted I was. (In the context, I think that just means that I didn’t visibly teeter.) I’ve since bought a pair of gladiators: same brand, same height.

The main thing I like about my stilettos is that they make just about everything look hotter. I like my older heels less now because they are in fact less comfortable than the stilettos. So comfort is still key but that doesn’t necessarily translate to runners. The stilettos have become my most practical dressy shoes given how much wear they’ve gotten, and the fact that most of that wear is at home is irrelevant.

I never got the handbook on How to Be Girly, and heels don’t make me feel more feminine. But they do make me feel sexy.


back talk


My back is weak.

I have a slip between two vertebrae of my low back. Everyone thinks it’s from an injury, like a car accident or something, but it’s not. I don’t know what caused it but I first noticed it when I was about 13 or 14. As far as I know I’ve always had it.

Eight years ago, I was doing too much sitting and not enough exercise and the slip got worse and pinched a nerve. I was in excruciating pain and walked with a cane for a week. Since then, back health has been top priority for me. I’ve seen doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists. I once spoke to a surgeon about the possibility of surgery; it was the doctor’s idea, not mine, and fortunately by the time the appointment rolled around, I was experiencing only discomfort and not pain, so the surgeon didn’t want to touch it. We agreed on that point.

I still have some symptoms from the pinched nerve, but it’s referred pain or discomfort elsewhere along the nerve but not actually in my back.


My back is strong.

My daily maintenance routine involves traction, walking, and targeted exercises and adds up to about an hour a day. I feel obliged to do it but it keeps me feeling better than merely status quo. To keep my back stable, I must stay reasonably fit.

I’ve done yoga, and I’m still dancing. In dance, arm movements telegraph movements of the back, which can’t so easily be seen. Strong arms, the desired result that is visible from stage, require a strong back. The back itself has a subtle beauty, accessible to those who know how to read it.


My back is sensual.

I’ve had courtships begin with requests for or offers of massages. I love getting massages (and am fairly competent at giving), but I know that sometimes it’s a transparent excuse just to touch. And I’m OK with that.

I’ve recently discovered that the top of my back just below my neck can be very sensitive, almost erogenous. A light touch there can make me shiver.

I’ve had a gentle flogging on my back once and would like to try that again, please.

KOTW: needle play? no way!

When it comes to kink, they say you should never say “never”, and I get that. After all, the only constant in life is change, and I’ve got first-hand knowledge of that: my own sexuality changed radically less than two years ago, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it. I’m still just starting out in my explorations and there are things I’d like to try that, until fairly recently, could have fairly been called hard limits.

Needle play is most assuredly not one of those things I’d like to try. It is and will remain a hard limit. I’ve always disliked needles. No shock there, and I’m in good company. But a collection of experiences leads me to believe that for me at least it goes well beyond simple dislike.

When I was 19, after wearing a fake nose ring for months, I took the plunge and decided to get it properly pierced. I felt kind of spacey afterwards but put that down to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much that day.

Two years later, I got my bellybutton pierced. The clamp went on – hard! – and it hurt a lot. “How bad could the piercing be then?” I rationalized. Very bad, as it turns out. It hurt like hell, worse than the clamp, but mostly what I remember was the distinct sensation of nausea. I didn’t throw up, but I’d come quite close.

A friend of mine had gotten her nose pierced, and after losing the ring or otherwise having it out for too long, she got it re-pierced twice, for a total of three times. Ugh! I vowed that if any piercing grew over for any reason, that would be that, and I’d content myself with not being pierced. And I wasn’t getting any new ones either.

A number of years later I was at a small, alternative bar that had live music. My belly dance group was performing with the opening act, a local death metal band. Despite being tired after dancing, I stuck around to see the headliner (a theatrical sort of punk group), and freak show performances interspersed among the songs: I’d never been to a freak show and was curious.

I was far from the stage and couldn’t really make out what was going on, but this particular routine involved two people and seemed fiddly. It took me a moment but I worked it out: one woman was sticking needles into another. Not threading through, in and then out, so the needle would lie flat, but rather straight in like a pincushion. Lots of needles. Bristling.

The unusual circumstances controlled for so many variables that it was effectively an experiment. I found my reaction to the scene interesting, mostly because of what it wasn’t, and what I wasn’t experiencing. It wasn’t about pain or even discomfort because I wasn’t feeling anything. It wasn’t about empathy for the pain or distress of the person getting stuck because it was voluntary and she didn’t seem distressed or in pain. It wasn’t about blood because there wasn’t any. It wasn’t a medical procedure. It wasn’t about how it looked because I couldn’t see details. The sole element was needles.

And yet despite all of the things the experience wasn’t, my vision started to cloud and go dark, and the sound seemed to be coming from a great distance. I was standing and began to feel unsteady on my feet. I had to look away; at first I kept looking vaguely in the direction of the stage and just unfocused my eyes because I didn’t want to be seen to be having difficulty, but then I turned away completely and focused on my companion. It took a while to pull myself together and I left the bar as soon as I could. It took me a while to realize that I had almost fainted, something that’s never happened before or since.

Since then, I’ve had to have IVs twice. The first one was unsuccessful because I got nauseous and couldn’t handle it anymore; they gave up and fortunately I didn’t need it after all. The second (when I had my wisdom teeth removed) worked, but only after I had nitrous oxide and was off my head: they had wanted to insert it before the nitrous kicked in, and I flat-out refused.

Looking back, I can recall only one needle that didn’t bother me. I had gone to emergency because of a mysterious, excruciating pain in my abdomen, and was finally feeling the effects of some blessed Tylenol 3. Between the pain and the medication I was exhausted. Someone came to draw blood, and though I looked away when the needle was inserted, I watched calmly while the blood filled the vial. But again, I was high.

I have needle phobia. It’s not a classic phobia resulting from a bad experience in my childhood, which could be overcome with therapy. What I have is a vasovagal reaction (hence the pronounced dizziness), which is entirely out of my control. It’s not about being weak or overly sensitive. It’s just a physiological fact. I’m not aware of any treatment that can overcome a vasocagal reaction, and so for me, needle play will always be “no way”.