Archive

Archive for July, 2010

and the time, it flies

July 31, 2010 Leave a comment

My silence here has been due to a slew of activity that’s taken over a lot of my mental capacity these past few days.  There was Max’s visit, which I am even now in the process of journaling about in private (journal can be a verb, right?).  And in the wake of his departure, I am fighting the “drop” from four days of intensity and trying to return to normalcy and be productive, even though all I want to do at times is trace the fast-fading marks criss-crossing my chest and stare at the jar of needle wrappers and casings sitting on my desk.  It’s a wonder I can get any work done at all with the tangible reminder of my second needle scene so near.  (Has it already been five days since he left?)

But work I must, and I’ve now got a couple of freelance gigs going on that I’m pretty excited about.  Just a couple days ago, I had my first column published on Carnalnation.com.  I will be writing for them fairly regularly, and I’m also doing contract Flash animations for another company.

It is rather stressful to be depending on contract work to pay the bills, and I am still struggling with developing strategies to schedule work effectively throughout each day.  It doesn’t help that it’s all on my computer, which is the greatest source of distraction for me.  Not that I wouldn’t find an equal amount of distraction working outside, but the internet really makes it too easy to waste incredible amounts of time and destroy productivity.

Speaking of which, my break was over half an hour ago.  Time to get back to work!

Advertisements
Categories: firsts, life, links, rope

chameleon

July 18, 2010 3 comments

As a high school junior, one of the books I read in English class was The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay.  The main character – nicknamed Peekay – is a British boy in South Africa during the apartheid, and the novel follows him through his various life struggles.  At that time, it became one of my least favorite required reading books.

However, there is one part of the story that has remained with me through the years, a paragraph of self-reflection by the protagonist:

I had become an expert at camouflage.  My precocity allowed me, chameleonlike, to be to each what they required me to be….While this posturing was so finely tuned it was no longer deliberate, it had nevertheless been born out of a compulsion to hide.  As a small child I had discovered that only two places are available to those who wish to remain concealed.  The choices are to be a nonentity or an exception.  You either disappear into a plebeian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow.

p. 472

At the time of reading, I could not have understood how meaningful these words would be, or how closely they have paralleled my own life.

“Only two places are available to those who wish to remain concealed.  The choices are to be a nonentity or an exception.”  This, this I can relate to.  For all of my life up to around 2007, I had chosen to be the nonentity.  I was never happier than when left to my own devices, free to disappear into my books or into the woods behind my house.  Painfully shy as a child, I strove to blend in.  This was in part due to my obvious status as a token minority, but even before I attained the level of self-awareness that I was Different from my peers, I rarely called attention to myself.

In high school, I was quiet, studious, kept my head down, and ignored the hormone-fueled dramas of the other teenagers around me.  If I stay quiet and just keep studying, I thought, nobody will have any reason to look my way, and I won’t get in all those fights everyone else gets into.  There were self-image issues there, certainly.  Every part of my posture and body language aided my camouflage: shrinking into myself, slouching, rarely making eye contact (and never for very long), and only wearing neutral colors and never dresses or skirts.

There are benefits to all of this.  When you become adept at blending in, it’s more difficult to be singled out for harassment – whether while walking alone on a street, or by classroom bullies, or by authority figures.  It’s easier to avoid drama – both becoming embroiled in it and creating it for others.  And when you’re in the “right” demographic, it’s even easier to become invisible while, say, going through airport security.

(At least, until there is a Chinese terrorist attack on American soil.)

It has been hard for me to break out of this shell I’ve built around myself.  This is exactly how I described it to my first partner, Tim: a hard, impenetrable shell.  It was my sophomore fall at college, and my chameleon was entirely too successful.  I made for a perfect casual friend and listening ear – I empathized easily, talked little, and never had any outward personal dramas.  But because of that shell, that mask of aloofness, I never developed any especially deep or intimate friendships.

I felt incredibly lonely.

Peekay continues, on that same page:

My camouflage, begun so many years before under the persecution of the Judge, was now threatening to become the complete man.  It was time to slough the mottled and cunningly contrived outer skin and emerge as myself, to face the risk of exposure, to regain the power of one.  I had reached the point where to find myself was essential.

I had reached the point where the misery of being trapped in my shell far outweighed any risks I might take.  It is the reason I was able to rationalize driving five hours across two states to meet Tim for the first time – and then have sex with him that night.  I felt I’d been passing through the world like a shadow, barely leaving a trace.  I had nothing to lose.

It is hard to remember that version of myself, only a few years younger, and the gratitude I felt that Tim might be the one to break that barrier down.

Well, the rest is an old, battered, and retold story on this blog now, but of course my trust in him was vastly misplaced.  I sought solace in a couple other serial relationships, each shorter than the last, and each snapping pieces of my shell back into place.

A lot can change in a very short period of time, and I’m happy to report that I am still intact and have sloughed the greater part of that contrived outer skin.  Still, twenty years’ worth of skin is difficult to shed all at once.  I still have issues with intimacy and closeness, being honest both with myself and to others when I need help, and expressing my needs.  It is terrifying every time I expose my weaknesses and vulnerability to others.

In short: I am learning to be visible.

I am still not very outgoing or social; I’ve come to accept that as a part of my introverted personality.  I still find it draining and taxing to be with people for a long period of time.  I still hate having pictures taken of my face.

And when I get close to someone – deeply, breathtakingly close – there is still a part of me that recoils, my self-preservation screaming that this will only lead to Bad Things, better to back out now before the inevitable happens.  Look what happened before.  My inner chameleon, hissing at shadows, skin rippling to pull my camouflage back into place.

Here’s to hoping I can win this battle again.  That it will be worth it, and that I can prove myself wrong.

Categories: life, reflection, writing

“thoughtful profile”

July 15, 2010 3 comments

Some conversation came up in our household a week or two ago concerning received messages on Fetlife, when I was suddenly reminded of one that I had gotten some five months ago.  I remember distinctly vacillating between disbelieving hilarity and plain incredulity over this message.  I don’t know why I should have been so surprised; e-mails in the same vein and of the same consistency are sent and butchered by their recipients for public consumption all the time through media outlets.  Yet I almost couldn’t believe that someone wrote something like this in complete seriousness – surely this was a poor attempt at irony?

I suppose part of my shock came from the thankfully low numbers of these kinds of e-mails I get on Fetlife (and elsewhere).  The vast majority of my inbox’s contents are from people that I know, or have met at a party, or are friends of friends.  Even the occasional stranger’s hello is frequently nothing but cordial, a couple times coming from someone wanting to ask about navigating the scene as a newcomer (imagine, me being asked that!)

Then, just today, I came across a Fetlife post titled “A Field Guide to Creepy Dom” – you have to be registered and logged into the site to access that link – that once again reminded me of this one, specific message.  I’ve also started reading a fantastic book called The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker.  All of these writings relate somewhat to the message I received, which I’ve reproduced in whole below, save the hapless man’s signature (bolded emphasis mine – those were especially juicy phrases, I thought):

Hello Nell, I like your thoughtful profile; There is a saying..”Still waters run deep..” so although you may seem sad on the surface you may have deep feelings and emotions underneath. I am a master at reaching those and releasing your full potential. I can imagine what your responses were like. I know and respect Eastern ways, after visiting Hong Kong & Singapore and still practice yoga. We are so close by & I am often in SF. So tell me about your thoughts, a little about where your family is from and the best way to contact you. My best e-mail is via Yahoo, so we can chat & share pictures there.What is your e-mail there? You had better discribe yourself a little too. Are you tall, average shape or slim or what parts are you most proud of? Also which part of the city are you near? We can talk first. Well Nell, I look forward to finding out more and sharing some new interesting parts of your life and feeling you grow as a more fully complete lady as your self-esteem and confidence blossom under my guidance…You will be able to do whatever you want and feel free and strong too! But you have to take that first easy step and reply. You must show willing to learn… Your new mentor, master & guide, [deleted]

Where to even begin with this?  It is almost too easy an exercise to dissect this word for word, and hopefully five months after this writing (I never responded, of course) he has likewise no interest in pursuing me any further – and hopefully doesn’t read my blog.  I won’t even touch the solid, unbroken paragraph of barely acceptable punctuation, questionable grammar, and creative sentence structure.

So, despite being five months late, I do in fact have a reply to my would-be “mentor, master & guide”.

Since I am currently halfway through The Gift of Fear, some of the traits the author discusses as common to potential victimizers immediately sprang up – forced teaming by using the collective pronoun “we”, loan sharking, and having too many details.  However, in this case, it was not so much feeling threatened as recognizing the attempted, barely subtle manipulation in his words.

His assumed arrogance that I would happily fall at his feet in subservience and answer all of these incredibly personal questions is laughable to me, yet the prevalence of these exact types on any social network centered around dating, finding partners, or even just connecting with other kinky, sex-positive folks is disconcerting at best.  The Fetlife link to the Creepy Dom field guide describes it perfectly and clearly, and I highly recommend reading it if you are on Fetlife.

Likewise, I found many warning signs to attribute to this email from the Fetlife post: using “master”, coming on too strong and too quickly, and claiming extensive experience and connections (here, to “Eastern ways”).  The focus of the guide centers around Creepy Doms as defined by their desire to control, manipulate, and “prove” their dominion over their fantasy slaves.  These traits are equally applicable to abusers and other victimizers, so I thought it especially timely that I read that right before starting de Becker’s book.

So, lots of academic points there.  That aside, however, I was immediately repulsed and insulted by the implications made at every word.  The man could not have dug himself a deeper pit.  It was as if he was trying to push all of my buttons.

The first sentence clause I emphasized, for instance.  Right from the beginning, I was already aghast at this man’s gross assumptions about me.  Sad?  Oh really.  And, I “may have deep feelings and emotions”?  That is supposed to read as a compliment?  Using “may”, which intrinsically dictates that the opposite may also be true?

In fact, for most of his statements I have to do no more than repeat them with an emphatic question mark appended in disbelief.  He really believes visiting a couple Asian countries and practicing yoga creates a bridge of understanding just because I happen to be Asian?  Yuck.  Just the thought of that makes me feel unclean.  (This, incidentally, is why I have a heavy dislike for “Yellow Fever” pursuers.  Whatever others’ personal views are, are theirs, but my ethnicity is not a fetish.)

Where my family is from?  Where they are from is none of your business, and I was born in the United States, thank you very much.  This brings me back to a speech made by one of my peers to the incoming freshman class.  This upperclassman was an Asian female, and she lamented over a persistent question faced by many minorities in this country, “So. Where are you from? No, where are you really from?”  She talked about the multiple generations of her family that had resided in her home state, and how they were longstanding, devoted fans to a specific sports team in that state.  How she was a full-blooded American citizen who lived in the same section of town her great-grandparents had lived.

And, yet, always that question: “Where are you really from?”

So many questions!  Where to even begin?  But, thankfully, through him, I will be able to blossom into myself completely and feel strong and free!  As long as I take that first step, and “show willing to learn”.

How not to make a whip

July 10, 2010 4 comments

Short of a heel knob pineapple knot, I am finished with the whip that consumed the better part of the past two and a half weeks of my life.  My left hand is incredibly sore, my right only slightly less so.  And the almost-finished product is far, far from perfect.  But, all in all, I’m happy with my new toy, and have been enjoying practicing swinging it around our living room and cracking it a little bit.

That said, every step I took with this project was so completely ineffective to the point of being ridiculous.  From taking apart bullets to get lead shot, to cutting and beveling twenty strands of leather with a utility knife, I made this the most labor intensive process possible.  I have learned, more than anything else, how not to make a whip.

I also have to make a confession: the shotbag, bolster, and braided belly I documented on this blog does not exist in the final whip.  After I completed that part and was waiting to get more supplies to make the overlay, I made the mistake of visiting Mr. S Leather and looking at their signal whips.  They were much thinner and lighter than what I had with just my belly.  So, in a fit of crazed inspiration, I cut out a new shotbag, took apart the old belly, and poured the lead shot into the new bag.  I used the same bolster, trimmed down to fit around the new core, and then, looking at the unbraided strands, decided I wanted to try and bevel them to see what the difference would be like.

I spent an afternoon painstakingly beveling both sides of each of the eight inner braid strands, by skimming my utility knife down the edge at a roughly 45 degree angle.  I would end up doing this for the twelve outer laces as well.  Does my wrist and forearm want to fall off right now?  Yes, yes it does.

But, enough of that.  Here, in photo form, is a rough chronology of the whipmaking:

Part 1: Shotbag and bolster

Part 2: Braiding the belly

The new braided belly

Braiding the overlay

Rounded base for the heel knob done, and wrist strap attached.

And, just for the record: yes, believe me, I’ve noted and groaned over every imperfect braid and lace, but at this point, I just need to accept it as is, because no way in hell am I going back through and cutting new laces.  At least, not until I get my Aussie strander, which still hasn’t arrived.  But, seriously, it would be better just to make a new whip rather than try and fix everything that’s wrong with this one.

Anyway, I’ve accomplished the basic goal for this, which was to prove to myself that I could actually make a whip.  It’s not too bad for my first leather project, I think.

Categories: firsts, geekpost, links, love, photos

Inner Animal

July 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Given that I got only a marginal sexual education as a young adult, and given that sex was simply never a conversation my mother felt the need to have with me (at least until I was 19 and she discovered I’d started taking the birth control pill) I am rather surprised that I was allowed to watch regular, uncensored sex scenes on public television.  My mother even encouraged me to watch these weekly shows.

Of course, they usually looked like this:

I happen to find that kind of thing beautiful and eerie.  Growing up on a diet of nature documentaries (and, of course, falling madly in love with David Attenborough’s voice in the process) and a dearth of adult discussion, I didn’t even have a language for discussing sexuality outside of what I heard on these shows: words like mating, courtship rituals, and asexual reproduction.

Ever hungry for information, I eventually took my curiosity online and discovered sites like Sexuality.org, providing information on everything from anatomy to self-pleasure to bondage.

Now, a Biology degree later, I still find it fascinating how our sexuality is seen as a wholly separate entity from the sexual activities of the rest of the animal kingdom.  I also find it interesting that I personally never made the connection between the sexuality I was seeing on TV to my own burgeoning sexuality.

Humans don’t “mate”. We have sex, make love, fuck.  Our courtship rituals are “dates”.  We can fuck “like animals”, which suggests an inherent distinction between us and animals.  Of course, sex is just one of the many ways we strive to dichotomize our species from the rest.  When I talk to a close friend who is an evolutionary biologist about these kinds of topics, he always mentions his dislike for the differentiation of psychology as a distinct area of study from general animal behavior.

Whether or not you may agree with that sentiment, it is still an interesting thought process.  We are forever making a big deal out of what makes us unique, whether it be awareness of self (which dolphins, apes, and elephants have also exhibited), creating and using tools (Jane Goodall documented chimpazees using tools in the 1960s, and the same kind of behavior can be observed with dolphins and crows), or having sex solely as a pleasurable recreation.

As for that last one, I can only point to my visit to the Museum of Sex in NYC, which at that time had an exhibit called “The Sex Lives of Animals.”  It was fascinating and eye-opening.  There were videos of animals masturbating, photos of orgies, and plenty of evidence for homosexual behaviors and relationships across a wide spectrum of species.  While the exhibit reaffirmed for me the similarities and strong relationship between our behavior and those of all the species we share the majority of our genes with, it also helped me understand how our longstanding persistence in differentiating ourselves from animals are linked to the negative connotations of baser animal behavior, including sexual acts.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be a deep investigation of all the different ways the notions of our sexuality have been altered and influenced.  There are simply too many, and anyway this is all mostly just me thinking aloud and perhaps talking out of my ass (though I like to think even my ass can make educated guesses and hypotheses).  I won’t even touch on religion and politics.

As for me, I love rough, animalistic fucking, of course.  Teeth sinking into flesh, growling and snarling; I love using sex as a vehicle for channeling my inner animal.

Categories: links, memories, reflection, sex

A year ago today

July 6, 2010 2 comments

A year ago today, I left from my first large-scale kinky convention, TESfest, and dove right into a monthlong roadtrip cross-country with two guys – neither of whom I knew particularly well.  It was everything I could have hoped for, and in spite of the risks I was taking in heading out with no specific plan in mind, I found I was richly rewarded with experiences, memories, and new friends.

I was thinking about that journey this past weekend, over Independence Day, thinking how well that holiday melded with my decision to strike out on my own, in pursuit of my own form of happiness.  To stake my own claim for personal and sexual independence.  I had finally finished unpacking my final box that day, one full of tiny, random things I didn’t know what to do with.  It felt wonderful to finish organizing all of those bits and pieces, and, once done, I was struck by the sense of finally being at home.  More so than just physically, I also felt settled into my own skin.  The fact that I am making thoughtful choices about where my belongings are placed and organized in my room may seem trivial, but it’s one of the few times I’ve really felt like I’ve owned a piece of personal space.

All throughout my childhood I was constantly reminded of my mother’s ownership over the spaces I occupied.  Whether it was a room not clean enough for her standards, or the clothes she bought for me left scattered around the house, I never really felt territorial; or, more precisely, that I had any right to be territorial.  And when I was in school, my brief time in each dorm room never inspired me to really personalize it as others did.  I never wanted to become fully invested in a space I would inevitably have to leave, only to move to another, similar room, each year.

That is not to say I wasn’t envious of my peers who completely decked out their room and fully owned that space as uniquely theirs: of being able to walk into that room and instantly recognizing whose it is.  I’m not sure what held me back: what ratio of laziness to minimalism – and not a little lack of confidence – stayed me from letting much of my personality show in each space I occupied.

But now, in my San Francisco apartment, I think I’m finally okay with letting some of myself show, of leaving a mark that says, “Yes, I live here, and this space is uniquely mine.”

I was not looking for any of this when I started driving out of New England.  But I do believe that a lot of what has happened since I left happened because it needed to.  Because some things can only fully develop when you leave the nest for good.