Hey, it’s story time. I started telling this story in the comments of Rogue Bambi’s blog, but it seemed like it needed its own post. It’s about an old friend of mine, and a relationship whose meaning I didn’t understand until years later. Enjoy!
When N and I met, I was 24 but young for my age. He was 10 years older and seemed like a Real Grownup, one of the few I knew that wasn’t a boss or a parent.
We needed a new roommate for my slightly chaotic, slightly hippyish shared house. N wasn’t really what we were expecting – we were all in our early twenties, recent grads treading water at post-collegiate placeholder jobs, or still students – and expected to find someone similar. He was also a student – starting business school – but he had been married and divorced, and had actual savings, having worked in the corporate sector for years.
Every shared house needs an alpha – the person who deals with the landlord, makes sure the bills get paid and calls house meetings – and N quickly slipped into that role. Some of the other housemates grumbled about this but me? I loved it.
Despite our differences, we clicked right away and became fast friends. I looked up to him and sought to impress him. He took care of me and never took advantage of my admiration. We shared a sense of humor and enjoyed each other’s company.
I still remember the time I had the flu. I woke up in the middle of the night with a high fever, in pain and unable to find any painkillers to bring the fever down. I told him about this in the morning, joking that I’d been tempted to break into an unopened bottle of scotch he had in the dining room.
“Why didn’t you wake me? I could have taken you to an all-night pharmacy.” The idea hadn’t even occurred to me – I wasn’t used to asking for help, ever. He insisted on taking me to the doctor right then and there, after making me promise that I would never hesitate to ask him if I needed help.
At the time, I couldn’t quite place my finger on how I felt about him. I looked up to him, I found him attractive, I felt both comfortable and sometimes pleasantly off-kilter with him, but it wasn’t a crush. I didn’t imagine we might get together. I didn’t daydream about him. I talked to him about my boy problems and gave him advice on his girl problems. It was friendship, but something else too.
I think I thought of him as “out of my league” at the time. Partly because I was horribly unconfident and he was good-looking and successful with women. But partly because he just seemed like such an adult. I was still chasing boys with half-hearted bands and obligatory substance abuse issues. The differences didn’t bother me – I liked that he seemed so much older and more mature. But it meant that I also didn’t see him as a potential boyfriend.
The summer before I myself moved away for grad school, N spent a few months abroad with his new girlfriend. I subleased his room because it was so much nicer than mine.
He kept most of his clothes in his closet, which was big enough for a dresser. We’d agreed that I would use a dresser in the main part of his room so that he didn’t have to empty his closet. But of course, I had to snoop a little, and on my first day in the room, I went into the closet and discovered a big leather and metal collar right there on top of his dresser.
Of course I was fascinated by this. I snorted a little in laughter at his exhibitionism, but how many times did I go into the closet and look at that collar? How many times did I pick it up and think about how it could be used?
I should make it clear that, at this time I still didn’t really realize I was kinky or submissive. Sure, I got off exclusively to rape fantasies, but I still didn’t think of BDSM as being for me. I hadn’t gotten up the nerve to learn about D/s. I didn’t have any context for a collar, and I thought of it as simply a “kinky sex thing,” which it may well have been. But still, I was drawn.
Would you believe I didn’t go through his drawers at all? I also didn’t look under his bed, where I’m sure there was a toy box. What a good girl through and through – and an eminent respecter of privacy. But I kept coming back to that collar, and wondered at its possibilities.
I didn’t see him again until the next winter when I visited during a break from school. I went to see him at the bar he worked at. While I was there, his new girlfriend came in – cute and young, even younger than me. I was taken aback.
When she stepped outside for a moment, he gave me an apologetic smile. I was so humiliated by that smile. At the time, I took it as an apology. I read it as “I know you’re secretly in love with me, I’m sorry.”
With a little more life experience and empathy under my belt, I now realize that’s probably not what he was saying. Maybe he was saying “bummer, we could have had something nice if the timing had worked out.” Maybe he was just saying “yeah, I know she’s obscenely young, please don’t bust my chops about it.”
However, my pride was hurt and we never really talked much after that. I went back to grad school and we lost touch. Young and dumb.
When I first finally realized what I was and started doing a lot of reading, I flashed back on N and had an enormous “ohhhhhhhhhhhhh” lightbulb moment. Of course! N was kinky too. And I’d known that, but I hadn’t really realized what that meant beyond “adventurous sex.” I was such an innocent. During the first few months, I’d occasionally have a flashback to N – for instance, I read a joking comment about doms and their love of black boots, and flashed back to N and the enormous, shit-kicking boots he wore.
And now that I’ve been thinking more about my emotional needs in terms of BDSM over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about our relationship, and how it’s not the only one I’ve had like that. In fact, I’ve almost always had at least one male figure in my life like N, usually older, always platonic. I would give him admiration and try to please him; he would give me approval and guidance.
(I know what you all want to say, and yes, there’s a reflection of my relationship with my father in there. And that’s ok with me – my relationship with my father isn’t perfect, but I’ve always felt loved by him.)
It’s actually amazing how easily I fall into these friendships and how comfortable they always feel. Like two pieces sliding into place, *click.*
Is this something I would want in a romantic relationship? I don’t know. I have to think there’s a reason all of these relationships have been platonic. But maybe that reason was that I just couldn’t see the sexual possibility in it, as glaringly cliched and obvious as it might be.
I do still think that, for me at least, I need to feel like the equal of any partner I have, regardless of the roles we choose. And so I don’t think N and I would “work” as romantic partners (although i’m guessing we could have some really hot sex).
But I do think there’s a bit of a clue for me as to how I might feel about a bit of outside-the-bedroom D/s – something I’ve been increasingly curious, but still very nervous, about.
I may be nervous, but I can’t say I’ve never done it before.