In Xanadu did Kublah Khan a stately pleasure dome decree

In the Beginning

The time has come to write about ethan, who popped up in the blog last week, late in the writing process, a dot that connected at the very end of a long thought. Since then he has been on My mind, and I marvel a bit that eight years has passed since the awful July day he died. It no longer feels like it happened to Me, it feels sort of like a very intense movie I remember clearly.  I've been told that unreal movie feeling is because I’m no longer the same person, and that's certainly true. It will be hard to write about ethan, because to do that, I have to step back out of who I am now, and all that I have learned, back to a time and a place in life when I didn’t know what I know, when I didn’t understand who I would become, when – to be perfectly candid – I was coming out of floundering about the dark, but I was taking the essential fork in the road that has led Me to the Me I am today. ethan travelled with me the first section of the new path, a sweet and gentle guide as I entered a strange land, and I will always be grateful to him.

Are you noticing the inconsistent capitalization?  When I write about that before-and-just-after-I-came-out-into-the-kink-community version of myself, I don’t feel I can use the capital M.  That came later.

But before I can write about ethan, I have to write a little about Daniel, because Daniel was my last vanilla boyfriend.  I had worked with Daniel’s brother for some years. The brother had spotted the compatibility and once tried to set us up, unsuccessfully, so I first met Daniel a few years later, at the funeral of my former boss who had died fairly young of leukemia, leaving a wife and two kids. We started talking at the post-funeral gathering at the house and never stopped. By evening’s end, the bereaved wife had asked Daniel's brother:  Are they dating?  

Daniel and I were together about six, maybe eight months and I liked him immensely. We were, indeed, compatible in many ways, I enjoyed his company immensely, and we spent a lot of time together very fast. Neither of us was ever interested in leaving. He introduced me to the beauty of Georgian silver through his exquisite small collection of chocolate pots, and extensive collection of silverware.  He gave me 19th century silver spoons with special engravings. He took me to see Wagner operas. He lived in an English basement and entrusted me with making it a home for him, based upon what I had just learned in an interior design class at the local art school.  He was just on the cusp of paying off his giant, soul-sucking student loan, and he was very slowly recovering from the death of his mom and beloved aunt several years before. Daniel made me feel a part of the Big City and part of an interesting family, in something like a power couple. He gave me a sense that on some level I had arrived after a long struggle. He made me feel OK about still living in genteel poverty in my late 30s. He drove a temperamental Saab convertible in a transitional neighborhood, and gave wonderful, touching, insightful gifts unlike any I had ever received: a special old book about Vikings that he knew I would enjoy; an antique map of a place I cared about; a fantastic custom Italian gesso frame to contain the map and display it and the north-wind-blowing angels in the upper left corner to best effect; and the nicest piece of jewelry I own, even to this day. When we were in his big cozy, fluffy bed together, we read, and read to each other.  It felt like we could do that contentedly for the rest of our lives.

There were a few problems, however. Chief among them, Daniel was depressed and wouldn’t admit to it. He had plenty good reason to be: a crazy stressful, all encompassing East Coast job that felt like indentured servitude to student loans; multiple recent deaths of parent figures; living underground and working in a darkened building; and the fact his physical living space was gridlocked with the beloved furniture of beloved dead relatives. I once counted that he had 15 antique chairs in his tiny apartment; all were too fragile to sit on. The sofa was also antique, lovely, but wildly lumpy and sleeping on it was out of the question. He had a kitchen table you couldn’t actually sit at. And the tiny living room was consumed by a magnificent baronial dining table longer than the bed. Most of the contents of what should have been in a closet or bookshelf tended to live piled on top of it.  It was a really powerful symbol to me of his existential aloneness. Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink. Beautiful, fabulous, valuable antique furniture everywhere, nowhere to rest, nothing to support him in daily life, nothing that actually met his basic needs. Even in his own home he was on some level homeless. My instinct was to tell him what to do to fix it all the way it needed to be.  That hasn't changed.

When I first went to his home, I found he had a physical answering machine that blinked constantly on the floor under the sofa, to indicate he had a message. After some visits, I inquired about this persistent blinking and learned he was keeping the machine and blinking light, because it was the last message his mother had ever left him, about three years earlier. I was at the end of recovering from major depression myself, and could feel that his depressive energy was pulling on me. I really wanted him to get treated, so that we could be together in a happy, healthy way. He wasn’t a complainer, but he seemed to feel much put-upon, and I always felt the undertow. Daniel’s romantic history was one of being involved deeply with a woman, but never making a commitment, for years. He seemed to have trouble saying no to women who wanted to be with him, even when he wasn’t enthusiastic about being with them. He was also infamous for leaving his belongings with people and businesses, not retrieving them, and assuming they would remain safely wherever he had left them years earlier. It was a magical, entitled, strangely trusting kind of thinking I’d never seen before. Daniel drank socially, which I couldn’t do on the depression meds, and that left me feeling left out when he was buzzed or paying a heavy price if I joined in.  But the big problem in my mind then was that Daniel didn't fuck unless he was drunk. When he was sober, sometimes there might be cuddling, but the only times he really seemed to be into it, he had to be ripped.  I found it impressive he could stay hard with that much alcohol in his system, but I knew this was a red flag.  And the bigger red flag was he wouldn’t talk about it.

One night we were messing around in bed, and I suggested that he spank me.

Now, in the kinky-cocktail-party version of this story, when I tell it, the story goes that I suggested spanking *him*.  But the truth is, I wasn’t that brave back then. No, I had learned to suss out in a safe, progressive way, how to tell if a boy had interest in the sorts of sexy things I wanted him to have interest in. I had figured out that my chances of successfully corrupting a guy were better if I didn’t lead with wanting to spank him. Or tie him up. Or penetrate his ass. No, saying I wanted to *be* spanked, just a little, just while I got off, that was the winning way to open the conversation.  It was the honey that baited the trap. I’d had enough success with it that *that* was my go-to opening gambit in the chess game of shifting sex toward what I wanted, which was never the same thing as the guy’s default. It hadn’t yet occurred to me to talk about what I liked before the clothes came off, or before the hearts engaged.  I didn’t yet know that was the right choice.

But when I suggested Daniel spank me, he did something no man had ever done before.  My sweet, genteel, map framing, Georgian silver chocolate pot collecting, refined, well heeled, exquisitely-unfailingly polite Daniel… laughed at me. He straight up laughed. In my face. While I was naked. Hard. And he couldn’t stop. It was fucking hilarious. To him.

For me, it was epiphany.

I had been corrupting boyfriends since the first one, at the age of 15, with long whispered phone calls tormenting him with the specifics of how I was eating my Jello pudding pop.  Over time, the importance of a guy’s willingness to Do Certain Things had oscillated.  If I liked him enough, I might forego that stuff, might not press my luck.  But I really wanted the guy + The Things. When Daniel laughed, something clicked.  Snapped, maybe even. It was audible. At that point I realized, that Doing Certain Things had just gone from a nice-to-have in future boyfriends, to a Must-Have.  I found myself aware that there was now a sign over my metaphorical bed which read:  You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride.  I wasn’t going to dump him for it, but I made a big mental post-it note for the next time around, whenever that might be.

In truth, I never asked to spank Daniel at all. His laughter told me there was no point, the rejection was resounding. And spanking wasn’t what broke us up. In time, it was the combination of his sadness and his unwillingness to escalate the relationship to something more permanent than, “whose house are we sleeping at tonight?” that brought us to the end. I pushed for treatment and I pushed for acknowledgement, and when all I got was two hours of “I don’t know”, I said I needed for us to untangle our partial-cohabitation within a week.

At least that’s what I thought the breakup was about then. Now, looking back, I see other things. I started asking for a small piece of what I wanted, Daniel laughed his un-spanked ass off at me one night, and I decided that with the next guy, I wasn’t going to look in the vanilla dating population for someone kinky.  It was time to look in the kinky population for someone to date.  I didn’t know how, but I knew it was time to start.

After we broke up, I took myself to the good sex shop and bought myself a lovely brocade corset because I felt beautiful and strong in it.  After I paid the very considerable amount and received the black plastic bag in hand, the clerk said:  Hey, if you’re going to buy stuff like corsets, you really should join BR.  They get a 15% discount.

I took the card. Found BR. Joined. Showed up at their monthly intro-to-the-scene meeting, held on a Thursday in a hotel conference room, everybody still dressed in their go-to-work clothes.  I participated as we went around the conference table and talked about why we were there, eating Chips Ahoy and sipping soft drinks. The next night I went to Dungeon 101, sat on metal folding chairs, and spent an hour learning scene etiquette, and how to negotiate a scene with a stranger, illustrated by examples involving a hypothetical bottom and Top named Dufus and Domly.  I dutifully practiced saying the Magic Phrase we learned at the end of Dungeon 101: Do. You. Want. To. Play?  Then I stayed for the Exploratorium in the dungeon, and saw the equipment, tried my hand at hitting the stunt bottoms the dungeon provided, got some coaching.  Decided that for a while, I would flog people only with the flogger made of soft, polypropylene rope, because I couldn’t possibly hurt someone that way.  I would take it slow with the floggers.

Not long after, maybe the following week, I attended an afternoon meeting of the Crafter’s Guild at the dungeon, and we made our own leather paddles. I still have Mine and it’s a hideous hack job that makes Me smile. After the amateur paddle making meeting broke up about 5pm, I hung out down in the social area, chatting with the attractive blond man selling sodas and water and snacks, who gave off interestingly inconsistent signals I couldn’t begin to decode. I was making friends, holding my shit together, proud of myself for being in a God's honest dungeon, for not having run away, for starting to realize everyone I had met was a really nice person rather than a monster, for beginning to feel this was all going to be ok, maybe. I was conscious that Daniel would die before willingly stepping foot in such a place, and he already felt very far away.

After a long and flirty chat, Blond Bar Guy leaned in and said to me, very kindly, smiling gently:

“Look. You’re new and you don’t know me. You have no reason to trust me. And that’s ok. But I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know what I know. So if you’d like a little unsolicited advice… (me nodding)… upstairs there is a ClubFem meeting about to start. I think if you would go, you would find that you fit right in.”

So I went to my first femdom meeting. And I fit right in.

The format was potluck, followed by play in the dungeon that was just our group for a while, and then later in the evening the dungeon was available to everyone, for Open Play. It must have been at that ClubFem meeting, the details are blurry now, that I was in the dungeon. It must have been just at the point where ClubFem-only play ended, and Open Play began. I hadn’t yet brought myself to utter for the first time the Magic Words of Dungeon 101. This sweet looking young man, fresh faced, friendly, muscular, cute, came up to me. Not casually, not wanderingly. Came straight up to me, made a good approach, got me talking, I told him I was new, and really, I expected him to walk on. But instead he said the magic words, “Do you want to play?” and I said yes.

I had to ask one of the ClubFem Headmistresses for help with the equipment and the negotiation (God bless Her), but I got him bent over a padded horse and started hitting him, maybe with toys he provided. Lord knows I had nothing except the crappy home made paddle, and maybe I had brought the riding crop I’d been keeping under the bed for several years, but I was afraid of canes at that point and unclear how to use a crop properly. I was a rank beginner, moderately terrified of fucking up, and felt it acutely. I really didn't want to harm the guy, even though it was clear he had considerably more experience than I did. I knew I had very little ability to accurately gauge any of these risks. I was checking in a lot, making sure his hands weren’t cold in bondage cuffs, making sure he wasn’t thirsty, making sure he was OK. I was a total nervous nelly and lucky, I felt, to have this willing victim doing me a giant favor at that moment.  I have honored his gift many times over by being someone’s helpful first as well.  I was concerned that he was probably bored, but I took comfort in the thought he might be happy enough to be in a scene with a lovely, tall, blonde that he didn’t care I was underplaying. I wish I could ask him what he was thinking.

In time, I found my footing in the scene and began actually hitting the boy properly, probably much to his relief. From what I can piece together, it must have been a combination of hand spanking and leather paddle on his beautiful muscular ass.  Eventually, I was comfortable and in the groove, and I had built up a head of steam.

I was hitting a cute boy! 



And He Liked It!!   


And suddenly there I was, hitting another human being as hard as I had ever wanted to, in my entire life. And he was a naked hottie to boot.

I leaned in, and asked the Good-Beginner-Top’s essential question:  “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being red, what level of intensity are we at?”  I had been taught to play up to a 7 or 8, at least until I got some experience.

ethan replied: “Maybe a Three?”

At that moment, I had a bizarre physical sensation, as if I was surrounded by a bubble, with palpable edges about three feet away from my body in all directions. When it sank in to my scene-energy-addled brain that “the hardest I ever wanted to hit another human being” = “3 on a scale of 10”, and I grasped how much *more* was therefore possible, the palpable edges of my personal Horizon Of The Possible just… WHOOSHED from my fingertips to what you can see from an airplane at 38,000 feet. They went wide.

I don’t remember much after that, except that at some point I took a break, offered the boy something to drink, went to Bar Blond guy and bought two Sprites and a cup of ice. I came back, popped one open, took a long chug, then took the ice and quickly pressed it up against the boy’s balls and taint, which got me a nice reaction. Pretty sure I slipped a piece of melty smooth ice inside him too. Now that I think about it, it was probably more like three, or five. Once I got the hang of consent, my inner Sadist showed up pretty quick. Then I slowly rolled the second can of Sprite all over his hot ass until it cooled down.  Only then did I pop it open, free one hand, and give it to him.

Over the boy’s shoulder, I saw Blond Bar Guy watching, and give me facial expressions of being pleasantly surprised and impressed with the rookie improv move.  He gave me a thumbs up and smiled. Another duckling, guided into the water and well on its way. I'll never forget he did that for me. It taught me just how supportive an environment a good dungeon is.  He's the one that told me that after you've been in the scene a while, it will take 45 minutes to arrive and 45 minutes to leave.  He give me the first inklings of Community.

When it was over, the boy and I must have done aftercare, probably cuddling on the big sofa up in the loft at the now-closed dungeon. If I got his name or a phone number, I definitely didn’t retain it. Driving home that night, I wasn’t far down the freeway, when I had the thought that my car was wonderful, and it was interesting how we were standing still and the scenery was moving, and I would just close my eyes until it took me home.  Somewhere deep in my brain, something primal and unaffected by what I didn’t yet know is called top drop replied:


When I returned to the dungeon for the next Open Play, I stood at the balcony of the loft, looking down into the dimly lit play area, trying to spot through the darkness the sweet boy I really wanted to meet again.  I waited a long time, and I didn’t want to play with anyone else until after I found him. I had the strange realization that although this very important thing had happened with him, I didn’t know his name and probably couldn't recognize his face. In fact, the only way I was sure to spot him was if he was naked and bent over, because I would know that beautiful ass anywhere. Fortunately, just as he had spotted me the first time, he looked for me again that night, and things began to move with us.  

I didn’t know it, but ethan was a young man who knew he had no time to waste.

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