Classes (and new jobs) have started in earnest this week, and they’re going pretty well overall. That said, I’m a recovering perfectionist–my perfectionism is manageable, like a low staticy hum in my life most of the time, about a three out of ten. Today, it was dialed up to about a seven, sometimes blaring over the information I wanted to take in. I think that’s mainly because I’m trying so many new things this week. I know I won’t be immediately good at all of them, and they all require shifts between different modes of thinking throughout the day (from a more intellectual ‘class space,’ for example, to the practical and pastoral headspaces of my new jobs).
Some of it’s the intimidation of the mundane. For example, I’ve never made coffee in my life (it’s just never been necessary to). I’m sure I’ll learn, but I have a feeling that I’ll do it wrong at least once–I already cringe thinking that I’ll forget to fit the lid properly. And I am writing this post in part because I don’t like the number of days that have gone by without writing anything non-academic. I don’t want to lose my commitment to this blog. Are queer, sexy, kinky things happening in my life? Yes. Do I have the energy to write about them right now? No. That will return when my schedule lulls. In the meantime, I’m going to attempt to adjust the dial by chatting with people about impractical things, sharing my anxiety here, and singing along with Steven Universe songs. Those are ways that I treat myself like a beloved friend. I don’t have any major nuggets of wisdom to offer, but I hope that anyone who feels perfectionism creeping up, like I do right now, can treat themselves with kindness (and when that’s hard, reach out to kind people). Be of good courage!
Catch up on the entire series here. I’m exploring some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” using this experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This installment (a bit long for flash) is a response to the Masturbation Monday blog meme.
After a few days’ thought, he washes the handkerchief and hangs it to dry on a tiny shoestring clothesline rigged across the Monstera plant. It seems like the right thing to do. He’s filled the first notebook with writing about anything and everything he can think of. His secretary looked at him like he had grown an extra head when he asked for paper (what she doesn’t know is that he first tried to filch it from the printer, accidentally breaking it in the process, and had to hire a repair worker from his own pocket as a result).
He knows the Dominant will visit this evening. The Agency sent a confirmation message yesterday. He felt relieved–he’d half-expected that they would drop him altogether after last session’s disaster–but somehow more nervous than he was before the first session. He is, as his mother would say, ‘a wreck,’ pacing the condo, fluffing pillows and such. He’s even set out a carafe of water and two glasses. He has a feeling that last week’s behavior won’t go unaddressed.
The Dominant appears in his doorway empty-handed. No implements, but the electric blue streak in their hair today makes the back of his neck prickle. Danger? Arousal? Who knows. He lets them in without fanfare. He wills his hand not to shake as he pours the water. The Dominant makes themself at home, once again going through their papers. He sits stiffly and waits. Finally, they fold the papers and take off their glasses.
“There’s something different about you today,” they say. “You’re all pulled in. Like your wings are folded to your sides.”
He looks down at his lap. He’s never thought of himself as a bird before.
“Tell me what you’re holding in.”
He looks up at the command in their tone. He senses that he has to answer. “I was disrespectful last week,” he says after a moment, in a small, brittle voice. He can’t say anymore, can’t bear to look at that furrow in their brow, so he focuses on the handkerchief, still hanging.
“Yes, you were,” the Dominant says after a beat. “I see that it’s affecting you.”
To his horror, tears spring to his eyes. Before anger can claw its way up through his shame, the Dominant speaks very quietly. “Good.” Good? Unable to trust his voice, he fights to sit up straighter, wills the tears to dry under the breeze of the air conditioner as he stares a hole through the cloth.
“I see that this is hard for you.” He can’t speak. “Here’s what I want to happen,” they say. “Look at me for a second.” He does. They point at the floor between their legs. “I want you to take this cushion and sit here, facing away from me.”
He doesn’t think to disobey. The floor creaks as he fits himself into the small space between sofa and coffee table, drawing his knees up. He feels the warmth of the Dominant’s legs on either side of him, the hard boots bracketing him. They’re a bit scuffed-looking up close.
A soft voice floats down from above. “Lean back a little.” As he does, he feels their hands strong on his shoulders, holding him in place. He swallows, again finding the handkerchief in his vision.
“You cleaned that for me, didn’t you,” the Dominant says, pressing on his shoulders gently. “Thank you. That pleases me.”
He nods. He feels surrounded, enfolded, so close to the ground. He tilts his head back, feels their shirt brush against his hair.
“I want to stroke your hair.”
“Mmyes,” he replies, feeling mellower in spite of the tears starting to track down his face. They cup the back of his head and massage, occasionally catching enough hair to tug on his scalp, just a little. One finger finds its way to his cheekbone, collecting a tear on its way.
“Good,” he hears again as his eyes fall closed. He stays there, resting in that pocket of warmth, for the remainder of the session.
I had a couple of epistles in progress that I hoped to have posted by now, but it’s not happening. Tonight, I’m just sad. My home church met this evening to discuss a congregational survey that we took a few weeks ago to assess our strengths and growth areas for the future. Overall, that process was uplifting and helpful. Unfortunately, the last page of our results (the extra feedback about how we can make our church distinctive) contained a nasty surprise.
Someone in our very small church wrote something like, “We shouldn’t be so political. We need to stop talking so much about LGBTQ issues as if they’re the only thing that matters. We need to love everyone, but the Bible is clear.” It hurt to read. I know not everyone in my church is affirming, but the fact that someone whom I surely love decided to sound off like that was…painful.
The answer didn’t even make sense. The question was about our distinctiveness as a church; not talking about LGBTQ issues isn’t an unusual trait in my corner of the rural South. I spent the remainder of the discussion time wondering who wrote it–was it someone who raised me, or was it someone I grew up with? And what a pity that is, because so much good came from the discussion overall.
I had already been feeling vulnerable because I do talk about LGBTQ issues a lot in church; I believe it’s important to help my church family understand why I advocate. And then this person said I shouldn’t, I guess because it makes them uncomfortable to have their bigotry challenged. They prefer to think of my rights as ‘political’ and thus not worth discussing. I know I wasn’t the only one in the room who was hurt by the statement–while I was the only out queer person present, several of the older adults have grown LGBTQ children whom they affirm. But I felt that if I said anything negative during the discussion process, I would be seen as derailing it with my hysterical hurt feelings. I held them in for quite a while, even when one of my grandfriends pointed at the page and frowned in commiseration.
My mom came in to check on me tonight. I promptly burst into tears. She held me and let me talk. I also talked to some friends who reminded me that I’m loved and that my work matters. Additionally, one of my cats came in and purred on my chest for a while. He seems to have a knack for knowing when someone needs comfort.
Will I stop loving the person who wrote this ignorant statement? No. It is their loss if they can’t open their mind, and I can’t save them. I need to take care of myself. I’m fortunate to have a strong sense of self and confidence in my identity as a queer Christian. But it still hurts when people don’t want to understand, so tonight, I’m just letting myself hurt and be comforted by people I trust.
More on my church family and my spiritual journey here Therapeutic music: “Change Your Mind” from Steven Universe
Read all installments here. I’m exploring some concepts that I started to work through in my essay “BDSM is Not Repentance” using this experimental semi-fantasy flash erotica series. It is not intended to model realistic and healthy approaches to penance, sex work, or even BDSM, but to inspire thought about how we use BDSM and what role, if any, it can play in true repentance. This installment is a response to the Friday Flash blog meme.
He slams the microwave shut. He braced for days for this night to leave him bruised and welted. Instead, he’s remarkably…unmarked–maybe a bit saddle-sore from the stool. And now he’s fuming again. No whips and chains today. ‘You’ll have to earn them’? The Dominant left not long after saying those words, sliding that notebook toward him with a knowing smile. Like a perverse Mister Rogers, they re-laced their boots, rattling off instructions for ‘self-aftercare’ or something in dulcet tones. As if they’d actually done a scene, and not just sat there drinking water.
The stool slides with a horrible screech as he shoves it back under the island. He eyes the notebook with suspicion but doesn’t pick it up. He hasn’t used anything like that since the eighties. Nice joke, but why go back? Seems his laptop updates every other day. That’s how he likes it.
His hands shake as he puts the empty water glasses in the sink. He scowls at himself. Time to get a grip.
The space fills with the smell of buffalo sauce, steaming and popping with heat. He throws himself onto the sofa and bites into the first wing, not caring how hot it is. The notebook still sits on the counter. He soldiers through the wings, letting their untempered spice overwhelm his anger.
By the time he’s blotting the cushions where juices have splattered, he’s more curious than anything. All but jogging back to the island, he opens the notebook. His stomach gives an unpleasant flip when he sees writing inside. “Welcome, Penitent,” it reads in fine, slanted writing. “Here’s where you’ll write about what brought you here. Write something every day until our next session. I won’t read it unless you ask me to, but you will write. Buen Camino!” They want him to keep…a diary? He flushes. ‘Diaries are for girls!,’ a little voice pipes up in the back of his mind. ‘Travel journal’ is more apt, he thinks, even though this is unnecessary.
He will write? A new surge of anger wells up at the thought. He doesn’t need diaries or journals; what he needs is good old-fashioned corporal punishment. He’ll just put the notebook away somewhere and give it back next time. He pauses. Then, he pulls out the pen tucked in its binding. In glistening purple ink, he writes “I don’t need to write in this.” After a beat, he adds “sir.” Signing and dating, he claps it shut. He knows what to do. He’s going to show that Dominant exactly what he needs.