sleeping together 3

On the fourth day, Gawan took me to the outlook he’d shown me the day before and went beyond for a proper hike, though there were paved paths and steps throughout.

falls

He even brought a picnic: nice thick sandwiches and homemade pie for dessert, which we ate while looking out over a dizzying height. But we had mostly walked down to get to this particular height, and the return trip was up the equivalent of something like 40 flights of stairs. I would have eaten more pie if there had been any.

vista

That evening, Gawan and his roommate’s boyfriend wrestled the soft office mattress upstairs and plonked it on top of the hard mattress in Gawan’s bedroom. It turned out to be just right: baby bear’s bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, we explored each other more, and this time it was not entirely vanilla. He visited the leather paddle upon me again (the first time for that had been at the hotel). We fucked again. He gave me oral, explored with his fingers, and wielded my trusty little vibe on me. Whenever I got close, he sweetly crooned “good girl” until I eventually came. He was unconditionally invested in my pleasure and happiness, and he swaddled me in a blanket of warmth and love.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a notable landmark, one of the sights you really should see if you’re in this part of the country, partly just to have a little outing and partly so I could say “Yes, I saw the famous sights”. I had travelled a long way to get here; if I didn’t see any sights, there would be some awkward questions when I got back home.

So by the fifth day we knew we had a bed that was comfortable enough for me and big enough for us both, but we slept on it only once more before leaving town for the first time, then a couple more days here and there. Otherwise, it was a parade of five different hotel beds over the next two weeks.

***

Throughout the trip, I continued to check in with myself, but less and less frequently as the guilt and anxiety failed to materialize. I did, however, experience some guilt for a while after I got home, in response to Wolf’s moods. He had been consistently supportive of me taking this trip and having fun but had nonetheless found it difficult with me away, and more difficult that I was with another man. This almost certainly hit him harder than it would have otherwise because of his depression and anxiety (which was finally diagnosed only a couple of weeks ago).

But he was still unhappy even after I returned. It pains me when he’s unhappy, so I have a tendency to take more responsibility for his mood than I should, but it seemed clear that the trip was the cause of his unhappiness. And this probably hit me harder than it would have otherwise because of my own depression.

Looking back, I suppose I was projecting my own fears: that non-monogamy would hurt him, and when I saw that he was hurting I unconsciously assumed that was the reason and duly felt guilty about it. While it was unresolved, I couldn’t face writing about this trip. We’ve talked about it many times since: he didn’t expect or want me to do anything differently than I had done, and I’ve let go of feeling like his pain was my fault. I think we’re in the clear now.

sleeping together 2

The fire had burnt itself out during the night. The velvet intimacy of darkness barely kept at bay with firelight had given way to the earnest flat grey light of mid-morning.

We abandoned our living room encampment, still smelling slightly of wood smoke, and returned to Gawan’s bedroom. Third day, third fuck. I hadn’t yet spent enough time with him to be fluent in his body language, but I suspected that to someone who knew him well, he’d appear more relaxed, cheerful, and perhaps satisfied than he had in a while.

One such someone turned up rather earlier than expected: his roommate pulled into the drive, already back from her boyfriend’s place where she’d spent the last few days. I was dressed by now but a still bit cold and had thrown on a bathrobe over my clothes, but I thought it impolitic to meet the woman of the house for the first time looking as though I’d just rolled out of bed — it would bring the unstated assumptions a little too close to the surface ­— so I ditched the bathrobe, put on a sweater, and went out to say hello.

It was a little awkward, though that wasn’t surprising. I’d been nervous about this meeting. She and Gawan are like family to each other, and I knew I was being assessed.

That first meeting didn’t last too long though. Concerned about the unhappy state of my back and neck, Gawan had made an appointment for me with a massage therapist, so that was the first order of business. Afterwards, we ran some errands, and then he showed me the commanding view from a nearby outlook.

falls-2

By the time we got home, the roommate’s boyfriend had arrived for my welcome supper, and the four of us spent a convivial evening chatting while demolishing a roast duck.

We wound down and said our goodnights. Where to sleep this time? Not surprisingly, Gawan wanted to use one of the multiplicity of beds in the house instead of the couch (which was no longer private enough anyway), so we went downstairs and tried the mattress in his office. Third night, third bed. It the same size as the one in his room but less of the surface was available. It was also softer and it sloped down slightly on my side.

Since access to the office was from outdoors and the bathroom was a long, inconvenient way away, I took out my contact lenses in the office rather than doing so upstairs and then fumbling about blindly, past the pool, in the dark.

I slept poorly. I was cold and I got bumped once or twice. When I had to pee during the night, I got as far as the lawn and thought, fuck it, good enough. This was even more like camping than the air mattress by the fire in the living room. Not good.

 

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.

wordplay

I’m super excited! In a few days, I’m going on a big trip to a country I’ve never visited before. By myself. I never travel alone. And I’m a little cagey about discussing it with friends and family, but it’s hard to travel to another continent without actually telling anyone. Who needs to know anything about it? And how do I explain it – to others, to myself?

So I try words on for size: some true, some potentially true, and some definitely not true.


“I’m going on a trip.”

“I’m going on a vacation overseas. No, Wolf isn’t coming.”

“Wolf is too busy with his thesis to do any travelling until it’s done.”

“It’s difficult for Wolf to travel these days, what with needing a blood test every two weeks.”

“He’s not interested in this destination. This trip is for me.”

“He can focus on the thesis and I get a break from it for a while.”

“I’m visiting a friend.”

“I have a girlfriend who’s living there.”

“I’m visiting a good friend.”

“I’ll be staying with my friend.”

“…my friend and his family.”

“I’m visiting my boyfriend.”

“…my lover.”

“…a dom.”

“…my dom.”

“…my Dom.”

“We met when I was studying overseas.”

“…online.”

“…through friends.”

“We met… around.”

“Oh yes, I’m taking advantage of a layover to visit some other friends on the way.”

“I planned this trip with a layover so en route I’m briefly visiting a friend, who recently declared that he loved me, and I’ve invited myself to crash at his house. Did I mention I once had a crush on him? And then I’m going to hang out with an ex-boyfriend.”

“Sightseeing? Well, I’m going to a couple of major places but otherwise just hanging out. I don’t really know where I’ll be — my friend is organizing everything. Yes, it’s very kind of him.”

“We’ve discussed the itinerary and my interests. There are a couple of things that we’re going to do because I want to, but otherwise I’m putting myself in his hands and just going along for the ride.”

“I’ve asked permission to do a couple of things, which he has told me that he’ll allow, but otherwise I expect to do as I’m told.”

“There will be local outings. There will be a flight. There will be leather cuffs. Not necessarily in that order.”

“I’m not sure where exactly we’re going, but it doesn’t really matter because the only scenery that’s guaranteed is interior. You know, hotel rooms.”

“I’m travelling thousands of miles for sex. Maybe. Definitely travelling, for maybe-sex. For Schrodinger’s sex.”

“I’m going on a sex vacation. The shows (every hour on the hour) include spankings, floggings, and fuckings, the climax is a climax and everyone screams. Kind of like a roller coaster, or a log ride. No, you don’t get a plastic cape if you sit in the splash zone.”

“Don’t expect me to post many photos to Facebook; the number of photos seems to be inversely proportional to the fun I’m having, or I take loads, get overwhelmed, and post none.”

“I don’t expect to post photos because I’ll mostly be hanging out with my friend.”

“…because we’ll probably be doing things where you wouldn’t post the photos to Facebook.”

“I might post photos, not on Facebook, but on my anonymous sex blog that you don’t know about, and they won’t be of scenery but of my reddened ass, inter alia. A connoisseur will be able to discern whether the marks are from a bare-hand spanking, a paddle, a flogger, a cane, a crop or a single-tail whip.”

“My husband is dropping me off at the airport. During my layover, I’m visiting a man who loves me and an ex-boyfriend. I’m going to get picked up on far side by my boyfriend… lover… Dom. Should be interesting.”

F4TF: mono-poly

This week’s question:

Monogamy – do you think it is our natural inclination?
Are you in a monogamous relationship or do you you live a polyamorous life?
If you are monogamous, is it by choice? Do you find it easy or is it a struggle?

When I see the word “natural” I tend to go into sceptic mode – though that would suggest I occasionally leave sceptic mode, and I’m not sure that’s accurate. “Natural” is often used as a shorthand appeal to “natural law”, which is a set of moral principles that can theoretically be arrived at objectively. Beware! And it tends to be tied up with a confusion between is and ought, which in this case could take the form of “people in most cultures are monogamous, therefore all people ought to be monogamous.”

I don’t know if it’s actually true that most cultures subscribe to monogamy, and there are problems with definition, such as: does monogamy mean only one partner in a lifetime, or does serial monogamy (including marriage ending in divorce) count as a type of monogamy? and, if a significant proportion of people in a monogamous culture cheat on their spouses, is the culture really “monogamous”?

Humans are complex creatures. There’s a tremendous amount of individual variety, and the family and culture you grow up in have a massive impact too. We don’t have a great deal of instinctive behavior because we are intelligent and learn virtually everything we need to know in order to survive.

I’ve mentioned before that I considered myself strictly monogamous (in the serial monogamy sense of the word) until recently. I much prefer having few close friendships rather than a bunch of acquaintances, and I’d rather get to know someone one-to-one rather than while hanging out in a group. I focus. I’ve never had any difficulty with monogamy, was never tempted to cheat. When Wolf and I started seeing each other, we spent all our free time together for the first, oh, ten years or more. The longest we’d ever been apart was about a week. And then when he started studying in the UK, we emailed and Skyped daily.

But I also felt rather isolated and it turns out that I need more human connection in general. When I met Gawan online, I had no idea where things were going to go, I just let them unfold as they would, and it didn’t take long before I developed an attachment and the relationship became romantic (though not in a familiar form, due to the distance and other circumstances). I wasn’t expecting it nor was I looking for it, and I ended up having some emotional work to do, but I was interested to find that this relationship hasn’t resulted in any diminishment of my feelings for Wolf at all. (If it had, I would have pulled the plug on the new relationship.) I’ve since realized that I suffer from something of a love and affection deficit, and so now having the love of two people feels really nurturing to me. So I suppose I’m somewhat polyamorous now. (It’s complicated by the fact that the relationship with Gawan is long distance, so the practicalities involve email, Skype, and occasional big trips rather than setting up a date night etc.)

I don’t really identify as “polyamorous”, and I’m not sure it’s the most accurate term but it’ll do for now. Whatever this is, it’s a kind of ethical non-monogamy. Are monogamy and polyamory simply functional descriptions of how you arrange the relationship(s) that you have? Or are they entrenched orientations – like being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual – such that you can identify as one or another even when you’re single? I certainly feel more mono than poly, but how much of that is my authentic identity and how much is culture and habit?

Romantic attachment parallels parent-child attachment, and most children have an attachment to two parents. I won’t say that romantic attachment to two partners is therefore “natural” or some kind of should, but maybe it’s not entirely unnatural. We are a social species and we seek connection.

I’m not looking for any new relationships. And if I found myself in only one romantic relationship again, I wouldn’t go looking for someone to fill the vacancy. But I probably won’t look at “friendship” and “romantic relationship” as rigidly defined, mutually exclusive categories anymore either.

review: A Life Less Monogamous

So this is a new thing for me – a book review! I hope you enjoy it.


Cooper S. Beckett
A Life Less Monogamous
Chicago: Hump & Circumstance Press, 2016
318 pages, paperback, also e-book and audiobook formats
ISBN (Paperback): 978-1518685712
Available from CooperSBeckett.com

Ryan and Jennifer Lambert married young and are now anxiously confronting relationship bed death at the ripe old ages of 32 and 31, respectively. Their sex life may have tanked, but they love each other and want to make it work, which is why they’ve been going to couples therapy — not that it seems to be helping. They just can’t find the spark. And truth be told, their lives are rather bland. The Lamberts are the youngest among their circle of friends, three other couples all in their 30s, who are also bland, bored, and seemingly just clocking time until retirement.

And then at a Christmas party, the Lamberts meet Bruce and Paige Shepard: in their mid-40s, they’re vivacious and have an unfamiliar — and attractive — zest for life. Who are these people? Intrigued, the Lamberts decide to try to make some new friends, so Ryan contacts the party’s host to get the Shepards’ phone number, at which point the host takes it upon himself to warn Ryan that the Shepards are swingers. And Ryan makes the call anyway…

In the hands of a typical writer, swinging would likely be demonized and used as a source of conflict to drive the plot, and so it was refreshing though not surprising that the author (a swinger himself) took a compassionate, insider’s approach instead. This book looks realistically at the sorts of challenges that people may face when finding their way in the lifestyle – mostly revolving around issues of insecurity and jealousy. Such a non-hand-wringing approach to this variety of ethical non-monogamy is welcome and valuable.

That said, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been. It has a very high level of verisimilitude, which (like HDTV) can be both a blessing and a curse. Although the book is billed and presented as fiction, the copyright page contains a statement that the events and stories are true, and I felt a slight tension throughout due to the fusion of novel and autobiography.

The book doesn’t quite stand up to the label of “novel” — the author has to an extent let the truth get in the way of a good story. At times I found the actions of the characters obviously unwise and I shook my head when they subsequently ran headlong into utterly predictable problems. For instance, the Lamberts have arranged to attend a sex party but even before they arrive, it’s apparent that Ryan is not feeling entirely at ease. It comes as no surprise when his mood sours during the evening, and the addition of alcohol to the mix sends things to a cringe-inducing conclusion.

The autobiographer is confined to telling the truth as it happened from his own perspective, while the novelist is tasked with constructing believable characters and crafting a satisfying storyline. In the translation from personal history to novel, the plot didn’t get the makeover it needed.

The issue facing the Lamberts is that their sex lives are boring and so (even though this book is neither romance nor erotica) a focus on bedroom issues is necessary, but it felt slightly disproportionate and at times even unsettling. Did the characters really have no other interests in life? I got the sense that the Lamberts’ lackluster sex was likely a symptom of ennui because their lives were generally uninteresting. But that larger issue was, unsatisfyingly, never addressed. Swinging came into their lives serendipitously and they jumped in the deep end following minimal reflection. While it could be a fun adventure, it’s not a magic bullet.

I’m confronted by the observation that these were the thoughts and decisions and actions of real people, which I have no right or intention to criticize. But the novel comprises a collection of the novelist’s decisions about how to write an engaging story, and for me it missed the mark a bit. All that being said, aside from a few relatively minor editing issues, the quality of the writing is generally rather good. But you might be happier if you think of it as an autobiography rather than a novel.

Before reading A Life Less Monogamous, I was concerned that it would be a book-length sales pitch for swinging. Its honesty made it less of a sales pitch and more of a gently cautionary tale with a peek behind closed doors.

Note: I was given a free copy of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.


EDIT (29 Jun): This review alerted the author to an error. It turns out that the copyright page statement mentioned above belongs to his memoir and its inclusion in the novel was unintentional. The statement should read: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, parties, orgies, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

My belief that the book was essentially a novelized account of actual events significantly affected my experience of it. Now, knowing that it is entirely fictional, I find the hyperfocus on sex and the characters’ lack of insight to be more problematic.

F4TF: cheating

badge F4TF

This week’s question:

Have you ever cheated? If so, what were the reasons behind it, and how did you feel afterwards?

This is an easy one. I’ve never cheated.

I’ve always had a strong sense of loyalty and commitment. Honesty and integrity are really important to me.

I was always motivated to be in a relationship. I’d say my loyalty and commitment were overdeveloped, as they kicked in as soon as I was in anything resembling a relationship, regardless of its quality and whether the guy in question deserved it. I hadn’t yet learned to ask myself “Am I happy being with this person?”

Because of what I learned about relationships when I was growing up, it was never a challenge not to cheat. I feel good about not having cheated because it aligns with my sense of integrity, but it doesn’t really feel like an “accomplishment”. Similarly, choosing not to do heroin isn’t an accomplishment for me – it’s just not my thing.

With Gawan, I’m doing some things that others might label “cheating”. But Wolf still has my loyalty and commitment, and – critically – my honesty and integrity. Gawan is entitled to honesty and integrity too; and he also gets some loyalty and commitment because I consider him to be “my people”. For us, this makes it ethical non-monogamy rather than cheating.

Gawan: hands and mouth

We were lying on the bed, clothed, kissing. Gawan’s hand reached down, only one possible destination. I stopped him: “I’m not ready for that yet.” And he abandoned the quest.

Later in the day, from much the same starting point, he shifted down the bed and put his hands on my hips, the tips of his fingers curling inside the waistband of my snug, yoga-pant style shorts. The gesture was a question in the form of a statement. This time, my answer was wordless too: I lifted my hips, allowing him to tug down my shorts and underwear. As far as I was aware, the only thing that had changed was the passage of time. Perhaps that was all I needed.

He settled himself between my thighs and leisurely began to explore me with his tongue. Licking and sucking contentedly, he occasionally gave a deep hum of appreciation, savoring me.

Occasionally, he would punctuate his attentions by slowly and very deliberately biting that fleshy spot at the top of my inner thigh — first on the right, then on the left — just to the point where I’d suck air through my teeth or gasp a little as it started to register as painful. In those moments, leading me to the edge of pain seemed to be his goal.

He left me in no doubt that he was happy to be where he was. And a good thing, too.

I don’t come easily. For a long time, oral sex was the only way a partner could get me off, and even then it was never all that reliable. Buying a vibrator (first a We-Vibe Touch, then a Hitachi Magic Wand) has changed my sex life rather significantly for the better. A vibe offers consistency, so once I figure out what works, I can replicate it. Also, it’s a lot easier to find what works when I’m both experiencing and controlling the sensation, rather than trying to give directions when I can’t explain, or don’t know, what I want.

Gawan subscribes to a sort of chivalry that includes the premise that, on the matter of orgasms, it’s ladies first. I had brought the Hitachi*, but his sexual pride eschews electric methods: he much prefers “acoustic”. And to a certain extent, I can see his point: especially when you’re establishing a new connection, mediating the experience with a tool creates a bit of distance and might feel impersonal. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised when we didn’t get there on the first try — he’s a new lover, and we weren’t using the technique that works most reliably for me.

In addition to his oral skills, he also paid attention to my nipples in a broadly experimental way. He rolled them slowly between his fingers, pulled, and twisted them until I groaned. He pinched, trying different levels of intensity until I gasped. He sucked on them lavishly. He grazed them with his teeth and bit gently, but discovered that the sharpness was too much for me.

Fortunately, he is a fan of cunnilingus. He had set himself a task, and he returned to it with enthusiasm. He managed to get me right up to the edge many times, so he got to hear a sampling of my range of appreciative warbles.

The man’s tongue has incredible stamina, and while he took a couple of well-deserved breaks, I never actually sensed him tire during all that time. After a tremendous amount of work on his part (and a tremendous amount of wishing myself over the edge), Gawan finally got me off. As we were later to discover, he had in fact licked me a bit raw.

At another time, despite the fact that I don’t get off on being watched, I decided to be brave and demonstrated how I use the Hitachi to give myself an orgasm in about 5 or 10 minutes. He didn’t have a role in the process and we weren’t really connecting, so the result was more awkwardness than shared intimacy in that moment.


*Note to self: The Touch, which I guess would be considered a bullet vibe, would have been the better choice to bring on the trip. It’s purple and curvy, with a wider handle end and a narrower business end. It has been described as looking like a potato, but I think it’s more like a meaty thumb. Odd as it looks, it’s still reasonably subtle. The Hitachi is good at getting the job done, but it’s huge in comparison — about as long as my arm from elbow to fist — and looks like a cartoonish karaoke microphone. Subtle it is not. Mostly I think I succumbed to the temptation posed by having lots of room in my bag.

Gawan: nudity

When we arrived at our destination it was past bedtime and we were both drained. Immediately upon entering the stuffy space, I crossed the room to the air conditioner and turned it on, willing it to work. It did, thank goodness. We discussed sleeping arrangements and then crashed.

The next day, after a leisurely late breakfast, we headed out to explore the neighborhood and get the lay of the land. Upon our return to the room in the mid-afternoon, Gawan stripped nude without preamble.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that. I hadn’t spent any time imagining the scene, but it seemed that I had a kernel of an expectation — that this particular first would likely apply to both of us at the same time, and would have been preceded by kisses, caresses, meaningful looks, etc. Yet this nudity was unilateral and businesslike.

We had been out in sunny, hot and humid weather, the room air conditioner barely up to the task, and we were tired and sweaty. Eventually I twigged: he wanted to cool down faster, he’s very much at ease with his body, and whatever his criteria for feeling comfortable being nude around me, they had already been met. (Newsflash: nudity doesn’t necessarily mean sex.)

Despite the impression that this blog may give, I’m not actually in the habit of wandering about the house naked. But following Gawan’s example, I quickly got into a routine of stripping down to bra and panties to cool off after being out in the heat. After having a shower, I didn’t bother dressing or even trying to conceal the important bits with my towel, and not just because the towel was small enough to make such an effort essentially futile (unless held to my chest vertically, in the Japanese style).

I was also aware that there was really very little of me that Gawan hadn’t already seen either on the blog, or in a handful of images that I’d emailed. That was a little odd, and another first for me — that such thorough exposure had happened before I decided that he might be more than a friend and well before we ever were in the same space together. But it also helped me feel like it wasn’t that big a deal because, in one way, I’d already made the decision to be nude in front of him quite a while ago. (I suppose the oddest thing for Gawan may have been seeing my naked body with my head attached — the nude photos were headless, and the full body photos were clothed.)

It turns out that I’m much more comfortable with my body now than ever before, and that’s mostly because of this blog. The nude self-portraits have gotten me into the habit of looking for positives instead of flaws, and kind feedback, especially from the Sinful Sunday community, is tremendously encouraging.

I got used to my own casual nudity in Gawan’s presence quite quickly, and I developed an easy familiarity of the sort that I would ordinarily associate with a long-term relationship. My level of comfort with being naked shows that my change of attitude in that respect may be fundamental. And that’s a good thing.

my mind is in a tangle

My mind is in a tangle. As expected.

I just got home last night after being in Gawan’s company for about two weeks, almost all of which we spent on vacation together.

We live very far apart and if we wanted to meet, significant travel would be required. Taking a trip together really did make the most sense, but it was also trial by fire. The destination we chose was challenging, advanced-level travel: different language, different culture, difficult weather, no credit cards, and cut off from the outside world. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best choice if we wanted an experience that was guaranteed to go smoothly. But dealing with challenges also reveals character, so perhaps we learned more about each other than we would have at an easier destination.

During a travel adventure, time behaves oddly and seems to pass at a different rate because it’s filled with more than the usual number of new experiences per day. The sensation of the passage of time doesn’t relate to hours but experiences, and you learn to associate a certain number of experiences with a certain length of time. When you have more experiences, it feels like more time has passed. I’d say that those 12 days felt more like 3 or 4 weeks — ages to be spending with someone I’d never even been in a room with before.

My sensitivity means that I absorb a lot more information from my surroundings and experiences than the average person does. In effect, I’ve gathered a tremendous amount of data from the trip and I’m now in the processing stage. It seems that I’m able to sort information and make connections mostly without really thinking about it — it’s like a program that runs in the background and when a pattern is detected it pops up into my conscious awareness. (To people who don’t work this way, it looks rather like ruminating, but I assure you it’s not. I keep getting new information and I’m not just going around in circles.)

From time to time, specific issues bubble up to the surface without an accompanying conclusion. I might find a raw nerve or some other puzzle, which I will think on to see if I can discover what’s happening below the surface and gain insight.

In those 12 days I learned a tremendous amount about Gawan (which I expected), and about myself (which was a bit of a surprise). I had had a persistent and unsettling feeling of having major gaps in my understanding of him, and a lot of those gaps have been filled in, which is all to the good.

There were ups and downs, but on the whole I had a good time and am glad I went. Details to follow once I’ve done some more processing.