((Hugs))

Struggling to feel wicked today? Go on, click for inspiration…

Sometimes it is the small things that really matter. I once started a short story about the importance of kisses…something that had gone from the relationship. Now, I am watching all my social media feeds missing hugs.

I don’t.

I completed a risk assessment the other day and basically rated as a recluse, and that is despite using my pre-Corona contact levels in the assessment. I don’t casually touch anyone and despite being a parent, I am acutely aware of the disquiet hugs from my children can sometimes bring. They know sometimes mummy is just too prickily to be touched.

That is the thing. Casual touch is just too soft. Too gentle. Makes my skin crawl. And as a strapping girl, getting that pressure just right to give a hug, so it is strong enough to be tolerable and gentle enough to be casual is a social nightmare. So, I just avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

It’s not just the actual physicality or mechanics of a hug. Working out whether a relationship has reached the right level of intimacy for a hug to be appropriate is also difficult. Even when it comes to virtual hugs.

Whilst I was never aware of missing touch, I was a lonely young person. Not participating in the welcoming hugs at college automatically set you aside. Marked you as different. Hugs are such a social marker of acceptance. Of belonging. Where sex often pre-dates mental intimacy with someone, a hug shows emotional connection. Understanding. And when you struggle with these things, the missing hug is often the social distinguishing  feature.

In the last few years, when my children were receiving occupational therapy support for their autism, their wonderful therapist finally helped me understand what my issue was. Hyper-sensitivity and hypo-sensitivity can combine in autistic people so that light touch is unbearable, but deep touch is amazing. It is that way for both myself and all my children.

Suddenly, lots of things made sense. Before I was sexually aware, we used to play a form of kiss chase in the playground. Lots of girls would chase a group a willing boys and drag them to a corner made by two brick walls and we would crush in against them, squashing them and enjoying their giggly screams. But it was also the crushing. The pressure of being squeezed… and there are so many ways of indulging that need more subtly in public, from restrictive under clothes to weighted touch from people who know you well enough.

Body to body, the weight of another person pinning me down, is comforting (or given the right context, delicious!). While not a social hug, the total body contact is heavy enough to be really stimulating without triggering my light touch avoidance. And, if you are intimate enough to ask someone to lie on you, then hugging is probably the well within the intimacy range you’ve reached.

The kink world has so much to offer someone for whom heavy touch is the only bearable touch. It is also comforting because there is also often much more direct consent-based communication before people just swoop in for a social hug. How I wish that was the norm for the rest of my social interactions.

I carry on through my daily life hyper-aware, as we all are at the moment, but with not much affected. I’ve always avoided crowds and can’t bear the supermarket. I work from my home office, and still have “contact” whether in person or online with all my students, but even the ones I’m now teaching daily don’t breach the three feet of personal space around me, and are rarely closer than six feet away. I don’t hug the ever lovely Mr Hunt or my parents, and it’s more likely you’ll find a child lying on me than any other sign of affection.

Right now, I’m glad I’m not lonely without touch. Not missing the hugs of non-familial people. Not even really missing touching my mum.

Currently, the only hug I’ll miss is in last week’s prompt post.

Perseverance

This is an excellent prompt for this week. I don’t know how the rest of you are, but I am still in the “keeping going” crisis mode, trying to support my self isolating parents, my vulnerable students, my fledgling business and children who need structure now as much as ever.

I’m running the church “keeping in touch even though we can’t meet” pages and as part of this a quote was posted on perseverance. Whatever you think of religion, the Bible can be a source of literary inspiration and social commentary if nothing else. To persevere is a quality that is respected and valued by society and this is illustrated and emphasized by the number of direct quotes and perseverance themed stories, in the bible and else where. Anyone else muttering “Keep on swimming” as they battle through this week?

But linked with this, perseverance comes with the acceptance of pain and suffering. You cannot persevere through something easy. It is linked with the values of self control and patience, but also the idea of reward.

That idea of an end reward is not always realistic, nor is it something that is societally valued. We can be very dismissive of sticking something out, especially in interpersonal relationships, of “having another go” and “putting the work in”.

Personally I think the truth lies somewhere in between. You have to acknowledge their might not be some grand reward for your time and effort, your perseverance, but if you gain reward from the act itself, allow yourself to continue.

In that way, perseverance is a type of masochism. You take the hit because you want to. Because you accept the pain and it is its own reward.

Funny how we don’t societally value masochism as greatly as we do perseverance.

Who else is being wicked this Wednesday?

I once sat for hours and tried to pinpoint the moment I fell in love with her. I’ve devoured romances since my first princess story and there always seems to be that point you know you’re in love. And true love is always returned by true love…in romances.

I can’t find it. Not the moment I went from like to love or the progression from love to ‘in love’. The moment I knew… well yes, that was memorable because I only knew she had my heart when it was breaking.

For a long time I assumed she didn’t love me like I loved her. We were so constrained by what we were supposed to say and not say that I never stopped to consider that maybe her throat ached with a tight knot when she spoke to me, like mine did when I spoke to her. All those words that couldn’t come tumbling free because we are not supposed to be.

The memories of each rare touch are stored like precious artefacts in my memory.  Her fragile body and the strength in her arms that had nothing to do with flesh and everything to do with this ‘whatever it is’ between us. The way my body floods with the hormones and chemistry of warmth and safety and lust.  Denim covered legs that shake beneath my cheek as I kneel at her feet and bury my face in her lap and fill myself with her scent. Strong fingers winding in my hair, holding me still. Just holding me until I melt.

A safe place and a trusted ear when I needed to talk became friendship. Friendship warmed to the details of our lives. How her husband drove her mad, how mine did me. Not because we don’t love them, we do, but because sometimes they can’t be the answer to everything.

She needed someone. I needed to be needed. Was it toxic that she could snap her fingers or dial my number and I would be there? My brain, my body were obviously hers long before we whispered anything else, even in the quiet of our own headspace.

We created intimacy without sex, but it is not asexual. There are boundaries for each of us, a demarcated zone neither can enter. But there is mutual respect for this, which is powerful chemistry in its own right. Is worth the testing. The distance. The time. The ache of a relationship that is constant edging and no climax.

I crave her control and she craves my obedience. To have my mouth on her skin or her shopping in my bags. To solve her problems and make her world better.

Her hand on my neck. Her praise.

Life is too short, was potentially catastrophically too short, to not tell her. To give her that power and see what she would do with it. I’d never been in love with someone who was dying before, and all the tightly buttoned up reasons I couldn’t say the words were blown away by the steady beeps of the machines keeping her alive.

She held on. And I will never regret the time we have borrowed since. We persevere, running the race marked out for us, knowing that love shared in whatever form it takes is precious. I receive her gift, and she receives mine and neither of us worry if they are equal. Love is not fair. Our stores are not diminished by loving in multiple ways- husbands, children, each other. Our friendship enhanced by this strange change from friendship to something else.

We talk on the phone and I feel her hands, warm, soft and so very small and delicate. The smooth, dry texture of her skin against mine. Her breath, tasting of coffee and spices and the woman beneath.

She holds on. Realistically, we know every time we part might be the final time.

She whispers to me to be strong, and I am willing her strength. She has told me to be prepared, so I am preparing. Am mixing my tenses because we stand on the cusp of being something closed.

We stand on the ellipses of our love waiting for what happens next.

A love letter to Eroticon

10 years ago I had a situation where I grieved. Something anticipated for a number of months was now not happening, and where there was anticipation and excitement there was now a big empty space. I learnt at the time that writing a letter really helped and I have used it several times as a tool to understand how I’m feeling and let those feelings go.

In comparison, not experiencing Eroticon 2020 is tiny, but for Molly and all the team involved, all the speakers who’d prepared lectures and for each individual left looking at a packed case that isn’t going anywhere, each one of us will have our own feelings, all wrapped up in the sudden encapsulation that this virus is a life challenging event for each of us. As someone said on twitter earlier today, ‘The Winchester is packed’. But even in Shaun of the Dead, the Winchester didn’t stand.

So I write to Eroticon 2020, all the things I hoped it would be, all the joy and experiences it would bring to me and to many, and for the stress and upset it will have cost people I admire and would want to support, even though I don’t know them well personally, but who have made a massive difference in my life.

Dear Eroticon,

I want you to know how sad I’m feeling right now. I woke and saw my packed suitcase sitting in the corner of my room this morning and had a little cry. It is important that I tell you the differences you make to my life.

Before I came to my first Eroticon, parts of my life were disconnected from the rest of me. Who the world saw in everyday life had hidden kinky bits that I didn’t really know what to do with. I wrote, mainly in the privacy of my laptop, but had no confidence to share what I could do. I read blogs, but didn’t know how to comment. The social awkwardness of my autism gave me very little mechanism for interacting beyond models of behaviour I’d observed, and for this part of my life, I had no place to find that modelled behaviour.

I stepped out of the tube station into the swirling chaos of Camden and had a panic attack. But armoured with my online persona I battled through. Unknown to me, I had been spotted by @SexwithRose and later that evening, with @FFSexton she became the first person to talk to me. A year later and I walked down that terrifying High Street to meet the lovely @RebelsNotes for the first time, having written stories for Wicked Wednesday and basked in her encouragement online.

Each year I have met new people behind twitter handles and blog names. And with each new person, and new perspective and a new set of behaviours to learn from have given me the tools to start to fill in my own character and my own feelings about the things I already knew I liked and new things I have been challenged to try. I am gutted not to be renewing these friendships in person this year.

I have been inspired by the speakers in ways they couldn’t possibly have intended. I have attended talks on the craft of writing and have used these not just for my own stories, but incorporated in when I teach writing to my tuition students. I have used the blogging information to help create my business website and I have used the confidence of just being Alethea to help support me through the most difficult start up period.

If I’m a little down, lovely Mr Hunt brings me tea in an Eroticon or Girl on the Net mug. It is a reminder of what I can do and why I should be confident. When I scribble notes for a meeting into a Fetish.com notebook or sit watching the kids play sport, sipping from a Hot Octopus travel mug I remember being in Camden. When I make up my dad’s sick bed, or watch my friend lay out the sheet for home education science lessons, both with @SheetsoSF sheets, I feel warm about sending unintended business that way! When I find myself talking about @GoingMedieval ‘s talk last year in my bible study core group, or referencing the @JetSetJasmine’s sex positive parenting course or recommending Bishuk.com over a mum’s coffee meeting or to other professionals I work with, I know I have grown professionally in my “normal life” by coming to Eroticon as much as in my writing.

@theron_cara ‘s talk last year inspired me to reassess the au pairs I invite into my home as carers,- until that point all white and from very recognisable backgrounds. I had to address why I was making these choices and what impact it would be having on the development of subconscious bias in my children.

I have leant on the generosity of spirit and resource that is Molly and Michael for advice and blog space and for the increase in unusual items in my kink resource box. Mr Hunt would like to thank you in person one day, even though it left him sorting out my self hosting, which is not so much that as spouse-hosted.

And just like a virus spreads, for each person I met and each new thought train a talk provoked, I have made three more online contacts, or grown in new ways. I am now looking to work with someone to help develop more teenage puberty resources for penis and vagina owners rather than boys and girls as my children have developed their own self-help group of similar young teens in our area. Would I have had the confidence to ask them if they were non-binary, explain it to them and support them without Eroticon? Would I be confident enough to raise the question of a support group for parents and carers with dependent young people who exhibit “different” sexual behaviours in our area? Probably not, but it is something I’m working with some existing support groups to establish, as people now sidle up to me in coffee mornings for carers as the person to talk to about these things. I was really looking forward to picking brains about this at Eroticon 2020.

Because of talking to friends about Eroticon experiences, one of my close friendship relationships changed entirely into something neither of us are sure what to do about, but is definitely no longer vanilla. Would I have said anything without the opening? Would she?

In preparation for this weekend, I have increased my self care,- improved my skin, had my hair (which had lapsed into sad and middle aged) punked back up and picked out new clothes. This once a year refresh will last even without the weekend. I have picked up my blog, which had petered out despite the many lectures I’ve attended on the importance of sustaining your blogging to be successful, and remembered that actually this is another really important string to the bow of being me.

So Eroticon 2020, I am sad.

Sad for the people I admire, who have put so much time and effort into the preparation of what would, without Covid-19 have been another successful and world altering event. Even if it was only my world it altered.

Sad for the worries I can see on my twitter feed of people deciding not to travel, and for missing seeing friends who are a short coach ride away. A coach I should be getting on in ten minutes.

I’m letting myself be sad today, and if I had any unasked for advice to offer, it would be that although for most of us this is just a ripple in our ponds, it’s ok to feel sad for the lost opportunities.

Goodbye to this Eroticon.

When the world has re-settled, I look forward to seeing you next time.

Allie x

Curves

Who else has been being wicked this week?

Once a week or so, my children and I sit down for a lesson in body confidence well hidden in a tv show. We watch Botched (American Plastic Surgery Show) or Naked Attraction (UK naked dating show), two of the most accessible “naked people on television” programmes I can find. With Botched we listen to the woes of the prospective surgery seeker, and their aims for their own bodies. In our house, it becomes a lesson in accepting your own body, however imperfect it is. The conversations are along the lines of “If that was my friend at school, I would do ___ to help their confidence.” or “Why does she think her breasts are more attractive like that?” and they often, with my older two, talk through the idea that there are wide variations in what individuals feel is attractive, but there is a central image of a healthy, ready for reproduction body that underlies what is a mainstream portrayal of “attractive bodies”. Naked Attraction is great for this, watched with the sound turned off, as some of the commentary is not appropriate for their age. The children all use appropriate words to describe the bodies of the willing participants, weigh up the body language of the person choosing, and wonder at the huge variety of bodies out there. This show usefully has a range of age and body types on show.

10 years ago, if you had asked me about my plans for parenting, it wouldn’t have looked like this at all. My eldest became terrified of nakedness following some unsuccessful counselling following sexual abuse. Teaching my eldest that nakedness is not shameful or disgusting became a very valid aim but even professionals we were working with found it very difficult to find resources for this. Both of my elder children are non-binary and seeing a range of bodies altered to make the person inside them feel comfortable and analysing this is part of getting them comfortable with their bodies and giving them opportunities to consider how they feel. With their autism, like every other life lesson, body confidence and how it affects self- esteem, has to be taught.

Then there is my daughter. She is going to be tall like me, and probably, like me, carry extra weight at some point in her life. Even as I have grown to accept my body for all that it is, I am still working my children towards a more healthy, sustainable body type. All three are encouraged into sports which suit their autistic differences- individual rather than team for the older two- and support their body development. My daughter is more able to play team sport, but we have worked her into teams already that support her height, so that as she grows there is hope she might not equate being tall with being big, which is such a common problem for pubescent girls.

5 years ago, when I first started looking at the blogs of others online, I never considered that I would become so much more confident in my own body through the things I saw and read online. Despite having a loving and supportive partner who had met and married me while I was overweight, thinking that my body might be attractive to anyone including him was a completely alien thought.

I never would have described myself as curvy. Big,- yes. Fat, -yes. I stopped seeing any good points at all and thought accepting this was all I ever could be was a really positive step.

The children watch in fascination at Brazilian Butt lifts and fat sucked from here or there to be placed elsewhere. The idea that people might, in effect, make themselves fatter to increase their attractiveness is a difficult concept for them to square with other body image messages they absorb through school and media. To be fair, I find it pretty weird too. Body image preferences are as much as changing fashion as hair and clothes, just as fickle and with people who want to be fashionable and people who feel they can buck the trend.

Curvy is on trend at the moment, if by curvy you mean a slim waist and generous hips and breasts.  I am the other sort of curvy, – made entirely of curves. But I am more accepting of this now, more accepting of this beauty in others in a way that just highlights to me how intolerant I was of this in my younger life.  How intolerant I was of myself. How impossible it was to screen out media messages and concentrate on opinions that mattered.

As unconventional as it is, I hope that being open with the children about bodies and how they feel about about them, the language they use to discuss them and the power of that language, might be something that gives them confidence and courage in their own bodies.

Because, to quote more required watching with my gender non-conforming eldest, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

Believe

Believing something is the difference between knowing something and being prepared to trust it in practice.

I know in words I am loved and valued, but putting that into practice and taking risks knowing that those who love and support me will catch me whether I fail or fly takes courage. I know I am an excellent teacher and a pretty good advocate, but putting money and hours behind turning it into a business, which is what I have mainly been doing this year, takes an entirely different type of belief. I knew that after an initial rush, things would settle and there would be time to write again, but their have been weeks where I have been pulling my hair out over missing meme deadlines and failing to develop ideas, to the extent I couldn’t keep looking at this other life I couldn’t have, I just had to trust you would all be here when I could come back.

I believe I should meet people where they are. I shouldn’t judge them but see if I can add anything positive. It is amazing how many times in a week I catch myself thinking “Your kink isn’t my kink, but that’s ok,” whilst actually considering the parenting or teaching styles of someone I am supporting. I believe, as my Girl on the Net Eroticon mug states, “Your words can change the world” and I take that into my teaching practice everyday, with far more warmth than any of the trite little teacher memes I see on “best teacher” mugs. I believe that being open and conversational about my experiences with autism, gender and sexuality and sexual abuse (where appropriate) have led me to be better able to support some of the families I work with, to help them to feel accepted and normal in a world that typically makes them feel other.

I believe accepting myself, even the bits I don’t like and even the limits I can’t seem to break through, makes me a better human. The kinky bits, the Christian bits, the strong parts and the works in progress… trying to hide any of this holds me back. That doesn’t mean I have to show all my hand all the time, but that I have to know it is there, even if it is an aspect in reserve or shadow at any given point.

So, I’ve written something about I character that has had to do some practical work towards self-acceptance. Two people who have to put belief into practical action.

I’m rusty, but I know you’ll be gentle.

“See you Sunday?” I shout-whisper after the last departing shadow disappearing into the darkness. A sodium orange hand waves back in acknowledgement. Don’t disturb the neighbours. Be polite. I close the door carefully. Security is important.

The weight of Kate’s eyes follows me as I walk back into my living room. I wonder if she can see the thick, syrupy something in my blood. My body doesn’t feel like my own, each movement stilted by the feel of my skin against my clothes. Her empty cup sits on the coffee table. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone drink a cup of tea so slowly and still make it look natural. She spoke to everyone, her constantly moving hands a good excuse not to hold her cup.

“Would you like another?” Be a good host. Why should my voice catch in my throat? I ‘d been talking all evening and suddenly I was too loud, my voice too scratchy and deep. I join her on the other half of the sofa, perching awkwardly.

Kate smiles, and soft crinkles framed her warm eyes. “That top looks great on you.”

The non-sequitur is so her. I want to preen a little and still a tiny part of me worries. “You think? Not too tight?” Not too low, not too busty? I feel bare without my usual collared shirt. Dress to impress. Keep it modest.

“Perfect. Frames you here.” Her hand sweeps through the air across her breasts and of course my eyes follow. She is full where I am scarce. Her hand rests on her exposed skin, fingers dipping just into the furrow of her cleavage. Nails painted a soft pink just a shade or two darker than her skin. I don’t make any effort to move my eyes back to her face, just watch those nails grazing skin in a slow motion I feel through every nerve in my body.

We’ve been here before. Danced this dance. And I have always shied away.

It’s taken a while for me to be sure I have permission to have this. To feed my soul and accept this path is the one I can take. She is my best friend. My partner in more ways than my ex husband ever was and yet that relationship would never have been questioned. I’ve come to realise I am denying myself more from fear than piety.

Touch. Her other hand warm on my upper arm. I want to lean in the feeling. Want her to hold me.

Pray that I’m giving clear enough signals, because there is no way I can form words to express what I want.

“This line,” she says, and the rest of the words fade to white as her elegant fingers leave her chest for mine, pale against my darker skin. I am so full of sensation, my eyes filling as though to cry, throat tight, and yet each individual finger tip is registering as a different point of radiant heat.

“I thought it might be too much skin, too low.” God, why am I talking? Her thumb is tracing the inside curve of my breast, burning through the fabric as though it was gone. My nipple is hardening against the gentle pressure, insistently reaching for her.

“You are beautiful. Fearfully and wonderfully made.” Kate echoed the incantation of tonight’s psalm study and I wait for the waves of guilt or fear or something… but it doesn’t come. A hot wash of peace both surprises me and feels completely natural. I am blessed by her touch.

Swept up in so much of everything, I don’t know how our lips meet. Can’t think beyond the softness. The sweet pull of need in my body and the feeling that this is right.

I want to tell her. I want to tell her my soul is singing. That I’m glad we’ve waited until I was sure “love is love” was not just a saying for others but applied to me as well. That I can be me and be this as well.

This is home.