Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love, Friendship, BDSM, and Facebook

It’s Valentine’s Day, in case you hadn’t noticed. That day when there are hearts and flowers and candy and whips and cuffs and . . . oh, sorry. I kinda wandered off there for a minute. But yeah, it’s that day of the year when UPS issues a notification about extended pickup times and heavy volumes. It’s the holiday the US Postal Service dreads more than any other. A whole year of sentiment concentrated into one day is a logistics nightmare.

Thank you, Sir!
You know how much I love pretty spring flowers.
I got a huge bouquet of flowers yesterday. When I called Sir to thank him, he said they wanted to know if they could deliver it on Friday because Saturday was going to be so heavy. In our household, the holiday is whenever everyone can be together, so dates don’t hold a lot of importance, and he told them sure, deliver away. One extra day for me to enjoy them. How awful can that be?

But since last Valentine’s Day, and particularly in the last week, I’ve had some things happen that, quite frankly, have saddened me in a way I haven’t been sad in a while. Because, you see, despite all the flowers and candy and cards, there’s really only one thing Valentine’s Day is about: Relationships. Without them, Valentine’s Day wouldn’t mean a damn thing.

In the last year, some amazing things have happened to me. I’ve made it to the bestseller list. I’ve found a couple of people who have taken my hands and guided me through the minefield of promotions, and they’ve turned out to be not only a great help, but true friends. I’ve met some women who’ve encouraged me and helped me spread the word about my books, but, most importantly, become people I simply enjoy spending time with, albeit a virtual kind of time. They’re busy people who’ve taken time out of their lives to cultivate a relationship with me, and I, in turn, have done the same with them. No, we don’t talk every day. Sometimes we’re all busy. But when we do, we have fun and share and generally create a family where there wasn’t one before.

I’ve also made some friendships that have spilled over into the world of BDSM, a world in which I thought Sir and I were alone until I found this literary genre, its fans, and other people who practice the lifestyle. It was liberating to know we weren’t alone out there. Fetlife has been an eye-opener in itself, not always a good one, but still an eye-opener. I’ve fielded a lot of questions, asked a lot of my own, and generally found people with whom I’ve bonded because of our mutual love of kink. It may be about individual preference, but we’re sealed in solidarity against a world that refuses to understand. And that’s okay.

But I’ve had some dark days too. One day last year, I found someone I loved and with whom I’d been close for 15 years doing something quite illegal within one of my groups. And when confronted, instead of admitting (because they know I’m a very, very forgiving person – I’d forgiven them for hurting me over and over through the years), apologizing, and taking my advice to get help, they vehemently denied it, pretty much told me I was crazy and a liar, and have continued to this day to slander me and lie about me and about what happened. I was forced to go to the authorities. I didn’t enjoy that. You haven’t lived until you’ve sat in a sheriff’s detective’s office and cried. It’s been months and I’m still sad when I think of how much I miss this person. It was like a death for me; still is.

And just recently I’ve had people I thought were my friends either accuse me of some pretty terrible things, or just simply disappear. I’ve also had someone with whom I had been able to talk about pretty much anything, and she with me, just kind of cut off contact with me. Oh, we still comment on each other’s posts, say hi, that kind of thing, but she won’t answer my emails. She’s gone from someone who said she was glad to have me to talk to, to someone who won’t talk to me. And that’s pretty weird and painful.

I’ve made some friends with people because of the world of kink and, unfortunately, some have made contact with me because they see me as some kind of leader or trainer or guru or something. One even called me an “expert.” Folks, there is no such thing as a BDSM expert. Let me say that again: There is no such thing as a BDSM expert. All BDSM really is, is a simple thing: A relationship. Yes, it may only be for play, and it may be for only an hour or two, but it’s still a relationship. It involves trust and time, two of the greatest factors for a relationship, and, as such, is fluid. It’s different for every person and the person with whom they’re involved. I’m not an expert in ANYONE’S relationships except mine, and I’m not even much of an expert in my own sometimes, at least not as much of one as I think. There may be BDSM practitioners who have particular talents or skillsets in which they’re proficient, but they’re not experts by any means. If they tell you that they are, they’re pretty damn arrogant. But make no mistake: The people with whom I’ve made friends are still friends, even though I sometimes have to answer their questions with, “I don’t know.” At least I’m honest.

One of the positive things that has come of this last year is a deepening of my relationship with Sir. We’re closer than we’ve ever been, and he’s still my biggest fan and most ardent supporter. Sometimes I think he wants me to succeed even more than I do. That means more to me than anyone knows. Sure, we’re still separated a good deal of the time by circumstances we can’t control, but when we’re together, we’re really together. Twenty-four seven. And we love it. Because we’re no longer alone and actually have people to talk to about the lifestyle, we’ve been able to make some real strides in trust and skill, and our time together is even more meaningful and exciting. After thirty-three years, he’s still the one.

Another positive thing is the women who support me. A day doesn’t go by that one of them doesn’t contact me and say hello, or send me something in the mail, or just generally go out of their way to make me feel cared for. When you’re alone as much as I am, no one knows how much that means. I don’t watch TV unless there’s an imminent weather event, so some days go by without me ever hearing a human voice. It’s those times when those women, those amazing, busy, family-oriented, hearts-brimming-over-with-love women are precious to me. To them I send a big hug, kiss, and thanks for finding me and loving me.

I hate Facebook – I think I’ve said that before – but being here in this little corner of nowhere that’s so fucked up as to think it’s a big city, the book of face has become my lifeline. It’s easy for people to hide and be things they’re not, or pretend to care about you and not really give a shit. It’s easy for them to reach out and hurt you unnecessarily, or treat you poorly, or wound you casually, because they figure, hey, what the hell? They’ll never really meet you in person. You’re not a real person, right? You’re just a name on a computer screen.

That’s so wrong. Behind every one of those people is a real, breathing, beating-heart person, someone who laughs and cries and hurts and sings. Yeah, I know, some of them are scam artists. Guess what?  Scam artists have families too. They have friends, albeit probably not very good ones (because what person of any decent caliber wants to be friends with a scam artist, right?), but they still have friends. They scam us because no one loved them enough to teach them right from wrong, or that others are important. They’re to be pitied. Yes, they’re to be exposed and reported too, but pitied all the same. They’ve chosen a way of life that leaves them lesser creatures.

Yes, book pirates, I’m talking about you too, you rat bastards. You’re pathetic. I wish for you now that you’ll find someone who loves you enough to tell you that you’re rat bastards and that hurting others is wrong. But that’s unlikely. It’s hard to love a rat bastard too.

So today, I’m thankful for the people who do actually love me, and yes, there are a few. I’ll look at the cards and plaques and notes I’ve received, not a lot but still enough to change the topography of my thinking, and I’ll be glad. I’ll read the pretty card with the note in it again, I’ll look at the Christmas card with the pictures of the family, and I’ll think about those women, people I’ve never met in the flesh but feel a sisterhood with. I’ll think about the ones I have met, who’ve come to events, supported me, encouraged me, and created relationships with me. I’ll think about my fellow authors who’ve come to my aid, who chat with me and encourage me, who give me tips and ask me for my advice, which I freely give. I’ll think about my friends who’ve talked to me about bondage beds and floggers and wax play.

As I do, I’ll look at the pictures of my kids and think about how lucky I am to have them and their significant others in my life. And I’ll finger the charms on the collar around my neck and remember that I’m never really alone. Someone loves me.

And that makes me the luckiest woman in the world. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. May you feel the love today. Regardless who else sends it your way, you’re getting it from me.