Being Socially Awkward

ggggtt_img_00116This article was inspired by something on social media that got me thinking about the whole concept of being socially awkward, and what it means for me.

Socially, I’ve never naturally fitted in with the vast majority of the people around me. I found there to be two main groups of people, based on thinking patterns. One group contained me and very, very few other people. Most of humanity was in the other group. These other people seemed to have their own social code of conduct — and it made no sense to me. Inside their social circles, certain things were just intuitively understood to be OK or not OK. Well, those things certainly weren’t intuitively understood by me. To me, their behavior was an incomprehensible web of complexity with no apparent rhyme or reason. I initially considered it an ideal to learn about, to strive toward. Mostly, it was exhausting and unpleasant, with high costs of failure during the learning process, in the form of ridicule and ostracism.

I preferred my own company, as in learning about jig-saw puzzles, creative toys, art supplies, guitar and piano — and books especially. As a teenager, I’d read at least two sets of encyclopedias and much of my parent’s bookshelf besides. I could read in four languages. I especially loved reading about anything automotive. I did, and do, remember vast amounts of detail.

When I was 10 or so, I went to school in Britain. That’s not where I had grown up, so British things were fairly new to me. Someone gave me a present: a jigsaw puzzle with each shire in the United Kingdom being a puzzle piece: Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Cornwall and so on. In the beginning these were pretty incomprehensible to me, but I enjoyed learning about each shire, and figuring out what went where. Eventually, I could build the puzzle so fast that I decided to turn the pieces and the frame over, and build the puzzle upside down, with only the shapes to recognize. I built it faster and faster. My mom’s surprised reaction, when she observed such things, made me gradually realize that typical people don’t do things like that.

After I’d read every interesting-to-me non-fiction book in my parents’ bookshelf (which meant, almost all of them) I started reading novels. They were mostly detective novels, murder mysteries or steamy romance novels. I loved the complex thinking of a detective solving a crime, and I loved the sexual excitement of intense novels.

By reading such novels, I learned how adults behaved. That would come in useful in future years. If you saw me function socially nowadays, you’d think I was just one more typical person, adept at this sort of thing. In fact, it didn’t come naturally. I had to learn it, and I learned it well.

Unfortunately, whatever social skills I was learning about by reading — they were not useful to a teenage trans girl growing up in the war zone of South African high school culture. I also liked reading about the adventures of other teenagers, including the books by Enid Blyton, and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. However, the teenagers in those books all seemed to be functioning at a high cognitive level, and that in no way translated into the chaos I saw around me. In the books I was reading, the teenagers had interesting, purpose-filled endeavors. For example, if one of the Hardy Boys found a clue, they’d use it to solve a mystery. By contrast, the teenage boys around me would instead say “let’s throw it at someone’s head” or “let’s hurt someone’s pet with it” or “let’s tie it around a brick and throw it through someone’s plate glass window” or “let’s go to the freeway pedestrian overpass and drop it on a car passing underneath.” I just couldn’t relate to that mind-set. I still can’t.

As a trans girl, I was told to behave like a boy and that meant socializing with boys. Had I tried to socialize with girls, such as I’d have preferred to, they’d probably have been disinterested anyway, since it was a huge faux pas, socially in British Colonial Africa. Besides, that would most likely have gotten me picked on worse yet, by the boys.

High school social life was exhausting and excruciating. The boys I was supposed to understand … they were mean, illogical and destructive. Fitting in with their culture meant doing dumb things. Cigarette smoking was, I learned, supposedly a way to be cool. So, when I went on a camping trip with more than a dozen fifteen-year old boys, we all smoked. I outsmoked them all. I smoked three packs on my very first day — which also happened to be the last day of my smoking adventure.

I finally found and befriended one shy, cerebral, wonderful boy who also thinks as I do. We became friends when I was 14, and he is still a close friend, even now, a thousand years later. As to the other boys, I gradually felt less and less of a sense of loss in failing to socialize with them.

It’s interesting to see the reaction that typical people have to the movie “The Allnighter” by Tamar Simon Hoffs. Its depth seems to be totally lost on them. As a cerebral shy girl, what I see in that movie is the main character being a cerebral shy girl, who has a hard time fitting in socially, including romantically. She knows she’s not neurotypical and it bothers her. For example, early on in the movie, she describes herself as neurotic, which is a good adjective for cerebral shy girls, when evaluated by typical standards. We know we’re different. For example, we’re always thinking — and fittingly, the main character in the movie is told that her problem is that she thinks too much. Because it bothers us that we’re socially different, we also near-constantly thinking with concern about not fitting in. The producer and director of this movie really hits the nail on the head, as to being sympathetic with the cerebral shy girl mindset. By my standards, it’s the ultimate cerebral-shy-girl movie.

As I’m writing, this, I now remember that the movie also has several scenes in which the main character finds herself in several situations that would be socially awkward when these are evaluated by typical standards. I recall reacting to each such scene with quiet and deep empathy. What makes this movie so special to me is that the main character finds herself in these situations in spite of her being logical and admirable. Properly, she is never portrayed as ridiculous.

The movie does a great job of showing to cerebral shy girls: see, you can be valued in typical culture, and you can fit in too; keep trying and things will work out. The mindset of the main character is very similar to mine at the time, even though the main character is straight and I’m not.

Sexually and romantically, I didn’t feel attracted to boys. I was, and am, intensely attracted to girls — especially shy, quiet girls who might (I hope) have the same mental wiring I do. As a teenager, sexually, I’d explored my own body in ways that, I learned subsequently, very few people do. I had also learned a great many things about sexuality and eroticism, from reading. I think I’d already read Masters & Johnson by the time I was 14. All that made me hypothetically ready to go enjoy the mind and physique of a lovely girl and to have her enjoy mine. Problem was, I had no way of translating my information into practical social dynamics.

For lack of a better idea, I went about things logically. South African high school romance social conventions, however, were far removed from what was logical. So, whatever I did logically ended up being socially awkward, excruciatingly so at an emotional level. When I think back at such things, two things happen: I cringe, and I laugh — not that it was or is funny. It’s not. It’s one of the most painful memories of my past. Even so, when I think back to an event when I was supremely embarrassed at something I did, something that was socially awkward, I have a weird psychological reaction: I laugh.

I’ve noticed that some movie-makers have had great commercial success by focusing on that excruciating level of social awkwardness. However, unlike “The Allnighter” these other movies intentionally present the awkward scenarios as ridiculous. The audience accepts it as such, and has the same reaction I do when I think about situations where I felt ridiculous: laughter. One example of such a movie is “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Many movies are visceral, but this movie is visceral in a way that explores social awkwardness. It has me cringing — and laughing. Even though, when I watch that movie, and I laugh — is it actually funny? I don’t know, now that I think about it. It’s certainly a dramatization of the essence of much of my teenage and early-adult social life. For me, it’s a highly unpleasant set of memories. Is it cathartic for me to see other people feel awkward too? Not really. If they think like I do, how could they not find social life awkward, when dealing with neurotypical people? So it’s not really a revelation to me. I’m still mildly puzzled by the connection between awkwardness and laughing.

As to my own awkward social life, there were many lovely girls in the same high school, but I was focused on a girl’s style, which was a hint of how she might be thinking. As to her looks, I basically rationalized them to be hot if I liked the girl’s style and implied mindset. For two years, I had a crush on a slender, slight red-haired girl. To me, her shape and her looks were just about as pretty as I could imagine a girl being. Later, I had a crush on an athletic blonde girl. Again, her shape and her looks became, instead, about as pretty as I could imagine a girl being.

The red-haired girl was socially about as invisible as a girl could be in high school. By general standards, she probably wasn’t all that pretty. I didn’t care. To me, she was the hottest person on the planet and in a sequence of events that personify awkwardness, I pursued her romantically. Nowadays, I realize that my abject failure to connect with her should have been my clue that she’s not shy and quiet because she’s a cerebral shy girl; she’s just shy and quiet. Several years later, after high school, she and I did end up briefly dating, and I found out that she’s nice and sweet but the mental intensity and connection I’d hoped to exist, by reading between the lines … it wasn’t there.

By contrast, the blonde girl was socially the most sought-after girl in high school. By general standards, she was very pretty. Again, I didn’t care. To me, she was the hottest person on the planet. In a sequence of events that exemplify awkwardness, I pursued her romantically too. I liked her but didn’t know enough about her. I needed much more information.

In South Africa, most of us went to school on foot or by bicycle, and based on all of us diverging from school in the afternoons, and observing each others’ general direction, it was pretty much known to everyone where everyone else lived, based on seeing that person walk or bicycle home, over the course of several years. So, no surprise, I knew where the blonde girl lived. I also knew that this girl was going to be at after-school basketball practice on a particular day.

So, that afternoon, aged seventeen, I dressed up in my best outfit, went to her house and knocked on the front door where this girl lived. I was carrying a bunch of yellow flowers, implying friendship. In truly wishful thinking, yellow is also the color of flowers one gives to the mother of the bride, but I didn’t think anyone was ready to hear that from me at the time. Her mom opened the door, and I gave her the flowers, saying they’re for her, and they were also a sort of bribe because I had a crush on her daughter and I’d appreciate any information the mom would be willing to share to enable me to pursue a relationship. The mom was on board with the idea and invited me in. For the next 45 minutes, she explained what her daughter did and didn’t like, and what would make things a “win” for her daughter, socially and romantically. This included mentioning a movie that her daughter had really wanted to go and see, and that her daughter was struggling with high school math.

I thanked the mom and left, then planned things out. I invited the girl to the movie, and also offered to help her with high school math. She accepted on both counts. We had good interaction but she was more intrigued than attracted. My attempts to win her over to become my girlfriend were most awkward, and they generally were a colossal failure. As it turns out, it was all for the best, because she is not shy and quiet because she’s a cerebral shy girl; she’s just shy and quiet.

At the time I didn’t know what another cerebral shy girl would be like; I had hoped to find one and I was looking for any clues that seemed hopeful. When I finally met one, we were eighteen, and at University. We clicked near-instantly. On our first date, we talked until three a.m. and we mentally connected like neither of us ever had, with anyone else. Not much later, she and I were each others’ girlfriends, and a year and a half later, we were married. We remained so for almost eight years. It was an intense dynamic, totally stripped of the social veneers valued by the people around us. With each other, we were open, candid and logical. For example, when we met, it wasn’t clear to either of us just how feminine I am, and over the years it became clear that, much as she valued me, she also craved some heterosexual sexuality, which I cannot provide. Even though I was born with male-shaped parts and they function: when I’m with a girl, it’s totally a female-female mental dynamic. That’s all I can do. I’m a girl, I think like a girl and I have sex like a girl. The shape of the plumbing is very much secondary to the mental dynamic. To put it bluntly, if a genetically integrated girl puts on a strap-on and has sex with her girl friend, the dynamic will still be that of two girls having sex.

Anyway, in our typically logical approach, we decided to get her a boyfriend to supplement the hetero experience she wasn’t getting from our marriage. She already had someone in mind, and things worked out well. Initially, the guy would park half way down the block and she’d walk from our apartment in LA, on Culver Boulevard, to go meet him, and then they’d drive away to go on a date. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood but I still preferred her to be walked from our front door to his car, and I’d learned by then that it would be extra awkward were I to walk her out to his car, so I suggested he’s welcome to come pick her up at the front door when the two of them went on dates. He did, initially nervous. As soon as we met the first time, I put him at ease. He and I became friends too, and all was well — but by typical standards, it was all very awkward.

IMAG0190gWhen I finally came out openly as being a trans girl, I had two girlfriends at the time, both of them cerebral shy girls, as am I. They were each wonderfully supportive. One of them was really clear on the look I was going for, and she bought me a blonde wig (as shown in the accompanying picture) that looks, not-so-surprisingly, how my hair looks nowadays, a few short years subsequent. Being out and about in that wig, and dressed as the girl I am – I loved it too, living with full integrity, openly as who I am, brain-wise.

Even so, everything about it felt socially awkward and I felt ridiculous: I looked like a strange androgynous mix, with minimal skills as to dress code, make-up and so on. Aside from that, my walk, gestures and speech were very masculine due to decades of trying to initially blend into typical guy culture. However awkward I had felt as a teenager was a mere fraction of how awkward I felt as an “out” trans girl.

IMAG2035I worked hard to learn how to function socially as the girl I am. At the time I was living in a nice condo across from Virginia Lake, in Reno. Walking around the lake requires exactly one mile of walking. So I bought some 6″ stilettos, shown in the accompanying picture.  At 4 a.m. I walked around the lake, learning and practicing.

Trying to fit in socially had been hard as a teenager, and yet I had to learn to fit in socially yet again, this time as a girl. I was highly motivated but it was very difficult emotionally. Most days I just wanted to stay indoors and not go meet people aside from my two girlfriends. But, on days when I went out, I went out bravely. I put on makeup, got dressed in a pretty feminine outfit, put on my wig and went out. I had very little sense of what was socially proper, including dress code. That made things much more difficult yet. Much of the time, what I was wearing more belonged on a street corner on Hollywood Boulevard late at night, or in a strip club or sex club. Sexuality was one thing never in short supply. I seemed to radiate it, and I got approached and hit on openly, by guys and by girls.

One day it all got to be too much for me. I went to the wig store and bought a mousy-colored wig, a sort of brownish color that was about as neutral a color as hair can be. When I told my more-candid girlfriend about my new wig, she gave me the speech that changed my life, to the effect of:

“I understand it’s hard for you. I understand every day is awkward and hard for you, not just being out but looking in the mirror. I understand you want to blend and become invisible, and you think this wig might do that for you. It won’t. You’re a tall, muscular trans girl. You will always stand out like a sore thumb. You cannot hide so it’s pointless to try. However awkward things are, deal with them. Over time, you can improve to make them less awkward, but you’ll always be atypical in general society, and that’s just something you have to accept and confront. That’s your life. Deal with it.”

Especially on that particular day, I didn’t want to hear it, but, I knew she was right. I felt so awkward with myself that if I allowed awkwardness to feature in the math of what I do, then I’d just stay indoors for the rest of my life. So, from them on, I resolved to remove that factor from my math, to dismiss it so that whatever I do, however awkward it was going to be, by social standards, I would not care any more. As long as what I was doing was logical (which of course included being ethical, not hurting people, etc.) then that was good enough.

It was difficult for me to pull that off. I pretty much fell apart emotionally. That included not being a good enough romantic partner. One girlfriend left. I begged the other one to leave me too, for her own good, as in, she deserves to be with someone who isn’t a total mess. Eventually, she left too. Someone else showed up, a cerebral shy girl who saw the merit underneath the chaos and didn’t care about the latter.

This period of intense difficulty happened about five years ago. Along with my morale, and my personal health, the health of my finances plummeted, as did much the US economy at the time. I was almost homeless, with the looming prospect of living in my $1,000 1991 Ford van, in the middle of a northern Nevada winter — a van whose heater and reverse gear didn’t work.

Tough times don’t last, and tough people do. I did. Things are financially much better, for me. I still have the same girlfriend who liked me five years ago, and our loving, open, polyamorous, long-distance dynamic is working well. I look better and I feel better. I function better socially as a girl, even though to most people, I still look and sound like a trans girl. I probably always will, and that’s OK. I AM a trans girl.

As to how I deal with awkwardness, I’ve pretty much learned to dismiss it. I try to multiply it by zero and most of the time it works, and the net result is zero. For example, I used to have masculine facial hair. Boobs, long blonde hair and five o’clock shadow … they don’t fit. I used to wax that hair away, and I’ve literally chipped my teeth from biting down from all the pain; I now know why they give people in Civil War movies a wooden stick to bite on before they amputate their leg without anesthesia. What little hair remains on my face isn’t going away with waxing, and it is too light for lasering so I undergo electrolysis, for which I’m supposed to let the hair grow out first. During a session, every follicle zapped is as painful as a bee sting, but I can prepare by putting on, an hour ahead of time, a thick layer of numbing cream, which happens to be bright white.

So, if you see a tall, muscular androgynous-looking blonde girl, her lower face covered in bright white paste, drive along highway 80 or walk through a business complex on her way to her electrolyis appointment, that’s me. And yes, I look strange before the session. After a session, I look like a pelican, as in: my neck and face are swollen up dramatically. Does it feel awkward to me? Actually, no. I don’t care any more.

The same principle applies to interpersonal dynamics. If I like someone, I make that clear early on, and I also make it clear who and what I am. If that other person is interested in friendship and perhaps one day more, great. If not, that’s fine too. By now I have attracted enough such people that I’m surrounded by high-quality girl friends who are nice to me and who think in the same atypical way I do. It’s a little community of sorts, of cerebral shy girls, and it works well.

Life is good.

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For Websites, Amateur Effort can be a really Bad Idea

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It’s possible that your life might yet be complete without having, or having had, a serious romantic relationship with a travel agent, but you’d certainly be missing out on a great opportunity for gaining a tremendous appreciation for subtlety and cynicism.

I know nice, brilliant girls who specialize in molecular biology, physics or information technology — but I also learned that some nice, brilliant girls choose non-nerdy careers, yet approach these with tremendous finesse and insight, going so far above and beyond that it’s difficult for clients, customers or the buying public to even begin to appreciate all the subtleties involved.

So nowadays, when I see a nice girl excel in a field that I wouldn’t normally use as a synonym for brain surgery or rocket science, perhaps it’s because she’s brilliant and doing things so well that she has left the competition far behind, on sheer merit.

The particular girl mentioned in today’s article contacted me yesterday, and thus inspired today’s article. She is the most savvy travel agent whom I can imagine to exist.  She’s the girl on the windsurfer. I took the picture from my own windsurfer, somewhere inland of the reef, in Waikiki Bay,  perhaps 15 years ago.

She is, and was, my travel agent before, during and after our ten-year-long romance. We spent New Year’s Eve of 1999-becoming-2000 in front of the fireplace, thinking and talking about life, and what we wanted to experience in the next century. One of her concerns was that the Web was helping people buy into the misconception that booking one’s own travel is as simple as pulling up a Web page, entering some data and clicking a button. Mechanically, that was indeed true, and many people had started to book their own travel as such, but the problem was that they were unaware of the many subtleties that a good travel agent would manage.

Much as I enjoyed booking my travel arrangement using with this girl’s professional services as such, it was much more fun when she also went along. For ten happy years, she did. Not just was she a delightful traveling companion, but she also would point nuances out to me as she was observing them; things that I, and probably most people, would have completely overlooked.

For example, initially I didn’t understand the complex set of business rules underlying flights or hotel rooms being overbooked, but nowadays I do. I’m vastly more empowered as to avoiding this situation, or in dealing with it well, if it happens.  This girl has also guided me as to identifying situations when I can reasonably go ahead and make my own bookings, because I’m by now well aware of the subtleties relevant to simple arrangements.

Much as I enjoyed getting the benefit of this girl’s travel agent insights, I also enjoyed seeing her do her magic to the benefit of others. In one example, two medical doctors had fallen in love and were getting married, and had booked a very expensive honeymoon. It included flying to Maui, staying at (literally) the Ritz and so on. Thank goodness they had booked the package through her. The best-deal and most-convenient-for-them flight, on which she’d booked them, was with a reputable airline (United) and even so, that flight ended up being overbooked. One of the couple contacted the travel agent from the gate at the airport, and it was wonderful to see how she explained the issues to this doctor, including the politics and the psychological subtleties, including who the decision makers were and how to deal with the problem so as to get the desired outcome — in this case it being that, whatever happened, the two doctors would be on that flight to Hawaii. If someone was going to get bumped to a later flight, it wouldn’t be them. As extra reassurance, the travel agent also offered to keep the hotel apprised of developments.

Things worked out as if a master chess player had controlled the events, and all was well. The couple made the flight, had no worries about the hotel even though the flight had been delayed, and they were most grateful.

I saw, and experienced, many more examples. If I kept going with them, this essay could become a book.

I can imagine that if the couple had booked their own travel, they might have chosen that same flight, the one that ended up being overbooked. Without the additional insight and guidance from a very savvy travel agent, what was intended to be a nice vacation could have become a miserable experience for them.

In the same way as this girl’s travel agency has been handling my travel arrangements for the last twenty years or so, I’ve also been hosting and maintaining her travel agency website, for twenty years or so. She recently emailed me and announced a few changes she’d like to have made, and she reminded me that if it’s a bother then she’d be open to remaking her own website on a free, do-it-yourself platform.

My reply to her was that I’d be happy to make whatever changes she needed made to her travel website, and that I would strongly urge her to avoid making her own website, for parallel reasons why people who book their own travel are missing out.

One of the vendors who offers a free, do-it-yourself platform pitches their service or product on the premise that it’s easy to make one’s own website. Indeed it is, in the same way as it’s easy to cut and style one’s own hair, book one’s own travel … and really, if all we’re focusing on is the mechanical action, then why stop there? For that matter people can do their own dental work, and even surgery too, plus certainly auto repair, spaying or neutering one’s pet and so on.

Even though we live in history’s most sophisticated example of a division-of-labor economy, it’s fair to say that its benefits are underappreciated. Many people seem to totally overlook the point that specialization tends to endow people with additional insights and productivity, including an appreciation for subtlety which most amateur effort overlooks.

Being able to do things mechanically — that’s the least of what makes things work, as the Soviets found out just about a hundred years ago, after they fired, killed or imprisoned the smart people and then watched productivity and morale plummet.

There’s a time and place for amateur effort, and it can be fun. Also, many careers and new ventures have started that way — including mine. I’m all for being gung-ho and exercising some initiative. Regardless, subtleties abound, they will either be handled or they will exact their toll.

When it comes to websites, the main issue to which I object is when the vendor of a free, do-it-yourself platform implies that there are no subtleties. I’ve been managing a professional-grade website company for the last 20 years or so … and I can assure you that this particular field of endeavor is rife with subtleties.

When a free, do-it-yourself platform encourages the clueless to dive in with amateur effort as if subtleties don’t even need to be considered, then it lowers the general standard of such things to, well, the sort of result one might expect from amateur effort — and it also creates the perception that websites are trivial to make in every respect. As such, it becomes much harder for skilled people to make money in the business, because so many potential clients have heard “you can just do it yourself.” Yes, you can — but that doesn’t mean it’s prudent.

Anyway, the travel agent girl has a long history of going above and beyond, and thinking beyond the obvious. So do I. On that premise I would love to keep maintaining and hosting her website, with professional-grade effort.

Proust Questionnaire, Question 2

This is a quote from an article from one of my favorite websites:

A century before today’s popular personality quizzes, Victorian “confession albums” served essentially the same role, presenting a series of simple questions designed to reveal the respondent’s sensibility and aspirations. In the 1880s, teenage Marcel Proust was given one such questionnaire by his friend Antoinette, the daughter of France’s then-president, which he promptly answered. The original manuscript, titled “by Marcel Proust himself,” lay dormant for decades, until it was discovered in 1924, two years after the writer’s death. Half a century later, French television host Bernard Pivot resurrected the questionnaire as a backbone for his literary interviews. In 1993, Vanity Fair transplanted the tradition to the last page of the magazine, which began featuring various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire.

And so, today, i started answering the questionnaire. It is taking me a long, long time — not least because I want to revise my answers shortly after formulating them. And so, this questionnaire has become a very helpful introspective tool.

I started with “What is your greatest fear?” Well, that one seemed easy enough. Something I figured would be the worst imaginable thing for me, personally, was clearly the answer to that — not least because I’d experienced that horror in the past, in one variation, so I would never, ever, want to … wait. I handled it well enough to survive it well enough the last time, and then afterward I processed the emotional chagrin that had been a consequence. To my amazement, the horrible scenario I’d been dreading for decades … it evaporated to something no more unpleasant than paying a speeding ticket. If I landed in that sort of situation again, and I handled it very badly then I’d end up in a very bad place, but I knew how to manage my way out of the situation, and last time I did, and next time (if there is a next time) I’ll handle it better yet. That said, by now I am so risk-aware that I’d probably be able to recognize the situation from a long way off, and preempt it.

Wow. That was so surprising – delightful but anticlimactic. It was like having nightmares about a space monster and then meeting it, vanquishing it but not killing or hurting it, and then making it an adoring pet. I almost felt cheated, in a weird way.

Okay, well, no problem. I had a long list of fears. I’ll simply go with the next one on the list. The next was … wait. That next fear had almost happened too — me, going blind. To me, it had seemed so terrifying at the time. My eyesight was clouding over due to a condition called “young person’s cataracts” and by no stretch of the imagination did I have money or insurance to do anything about it. So I simply and gradually was going blind. Then, one fine day, the financial problem was solved surprisingly and quickly, and here I am with clear vision again. Not that I hope to ever go blind again, or anything close to that, but I’d processed that possibility last time, and I’d handled facing it mentally, so if it does one day happen, I could handle it emotionally. Wow.

And so, down the list of “my fears” I went, choosing the worst one and then … seeing it evaporate under scrutiny. Wow. it’s now an hour later and I still haven’t answered the question. Every time I try, I find myself admitting that such a situation would be highly unpleasant — but that doesn’t mean I fear it. I’d try to avoid it if I can, and if not, I’d deal with it.

The ultimate fear to me, metaphysically, is the anticipation of my own non-existence, as in my own death. I continue to find it abhorrent — but it’s something that I know must happen. I can postpone it and make the best of the time I have, and I am diligently doing both. So, does that make it a fear? Probably not. I don’t think so, anyway.

I’ve also thought through situations where I might choose between betraying my own core values in so-called exchange for getting to live a little longer. Even before today, I have thought through how to respond to such situations. Would I be afraid? No, due to how I dealt with a watered-down version of such situations in the past.

I’m still thinking about the question, still looking for trouble, so to speak. So far, nothing — but wow, how freeing an experience this has been, in terms of emotional housekeeping.

 

Nerds who Choose Sex, Drugs or Rock ‘n Roll – or Junkyards

Whenever I go visit my mom, we watch one more episode of the TV series called Breaking Bad. I’ve watched it before but it’s her first time, and she is intrigued. As for me, I’m pondering the issues and drawing some parallels.

The central figure in that story is a chemistry nerd. He’s sweet, detail-oriented, and brilliant. He has a keen sense of justice. He’s vastly savvy as to the subject matter (chemistry). He lives a conservative lifestyle until he realizes that a related sub-culture of chemistry, as in making illegal drugs, is generally run by people with a fraction of his insight and precision. Were he to compete in that market, he’d run rings around the competition by being more precise, more methodical, better-informed and more intelligent. Indeed, he does….

It’s an interesting story, but more so for me personally because I did something similar albeit in a different field. I also notice that several intriguing-to-me girls each did something similar, in different fields of endeavor. That’s what inspired this article…

For me, an important point is that the chemist in the TV series doesn’t just master the chemistry involved in becoming, essentially, a drug lord. He also learns how the culture works, and he learns it masterfully well until he’s more effective and more respected that anyone around. Even so, he never blends into that culture. It’s a learned role that he chooses to play, and he does so very well but he doesn’t naturally belong there — even after learning how it works. His mind works differently than those of the typical people in that sub-culture. Relative to them, he’s a misfit and he knows it, even though he’s highly esteemed and dazzlingly successful.

I relate to feeling like a misfit. It started when I was in school, but I didn’t have to go seek out a drug culture for that. Simply based on the typical kids around me, I felt alien. The feeling was mutual. Nobody explicitly asked me which planet I was from, but they might as well have. I was academically successful, but socially I was clueless, and overly trusting. I was called naïve and they intended it as an insult though I consider it a compliment. Even so, I learned quickly.

Among other places, I went to school in Oxford, England. I recall an incident when I was 10. My mom had shown up to pick me up after school and walk me home, and right in front of her, one of the other 10-year-olds had waited until just the optimal moment when a car was rapidly approaching, and he shoved me into the path of the oncoming car. Although I’d appeared to just be chatting with my mom, I’d anticipated he’d do this so I was ready, and I sidestepped him just-right, and so I was able to recover and duck back out of the way quickly since he’d been able to apply only a fraction of the force he’d intended. Not just did he fail, but he failed publicly and this made him lose status and become less brazen. He was generally feared yet whenever we played soccer, even though I had a tiny stature relative to him, I liked to attack him aggressively. I sometimes prevailed, taking control of the ball away from him, in public. This all helped him become wary enough of me that I survived.

My mom was aghast. She had a hard time processing it. I recall thinking how sweet it was that she was so innocently unaware of the harsh realities of my life. I assured her that this sort of thing was nothing to be concerned about, and that things like this happened as a matter of routine, and I had diligently learned how to deal with these situations. I’d learned the culture well. I couldn’t relate to it intuitively but I nevertheless understood it as a mathematical model of sorts.

Not that I have Aspergers but I do relate to that mindset to some extent, as well as the accompanying techniques of learning a culture explicitly. Two of the most academically brilliant girls I know have been officially diagnosed with Aspergers, and they’re each in their 30s. By now, they have learned how social dynamics work, and they are each as socially suave and charming as I’ve ever seen a person be, in interaction with typical people. However, once each girl knew me and trusted me, she explained that this was 100% learned behavior, not something she would naturally know how to do, since she doesn’t naturally think like typical people do. As such, I relate.

And so it was that, at age 19, I dove into junkyard culture. I already understood automobiles. I knew the history, models and specifications of almost every brand around, plus many from markets half a planet away, and/or that had become defunct. Much of the time I could identify an engine from its sound as it was starting, or as the car was driving by. I understood automotive mechanical and electrical systems, and I’d been driving since I was eight. Others talked about an Alfa Romeo two-liter engine. By contrast, I knew that, more precisely, it was a 1962 cc engine, not 2000cc. I was a walking encyclopedia as to automobiles. Most strangely, I didn’t think this was all that unusual.

At age 19, I drove a car that needed occasional repairs. I couldn’t afford new parts. So, I spent a fair amount of time at junkyards, buying used parts. It occurred to me that whoever was running these junkyards wasn’t doing so with much precision, yet the places appeared to be profitable. Then and now, I enjoy being clean; at the time the backs of my hands were red and raw from how often I washed them. I was not a natural fit with junkyard culture. In fact, at the time I was in the process of getting my University degree majoring in Accounting and Auditing, with minors in Commercial Law and Tax Law, plus I’d taken engineering-level Math simply because I love the subject.

Even so, I understood the automotive field well, and junkyard culture wasn’t too much of a detour. So, in a decision that now seems starkly parallel to that of the chemist in the TV series, I decided I could run rings around the folks who ran junkyards the traditional way. Soon, I had my own little junkyard. It was highly specialized, with more than a dozen cars parked in the back lot of my cousin’s ranch, and with used parts cleaned and identified in cardboard boxes all over my rented three-bedroom house, focused on just one make and model and using a computerized inventory system I’d created from scratch.

My plan worked, and the business did well. It now feels like a thousand years later, and I’ve scaled up. I’m now half a world away, and I don’t own a junkyard but I do make high-volume deals with junkyards. I manage a small used-car-parts empire, very precisely and with clean, well-identified used parts in cardboard boxes all over my rented three-bedroom apartment plus several other locations besides, all focused on just a few makes and models and using a computerized inventory system that my staff and I had created from scratch.

It’s not just the technical aspect that I learned. By now, I understand junkyard culture really well. When I show up it’s almost as it it’s a royal visit, and I get offered deals and special benefits that, I have observed, other people simply don’t get. I’m sincerely nice but as to learning that culture, it didn’t come naturally. I consciously learned it. I also know that I don’t belong there, so much as I enjoy occasional visits, I prefer to be back in my clean, white, precise warehouse with rows and rows of bins and boxes of precisely tracked parts.

So, that covers the nerd mindset diving into, respectively, drug manufacturing (as in the TV story) and junkyards (me). That leaves two more aspects: sex and rock ‘n roll.

The next nerd I am analyzing for this story is a girl whose mind is vastly complex and detailed. She has an intense sense of justice, and she’s sweet — also academically brilliant. She’s currently working on her PhD in Sociology. In a way that to me seems parallel to the two examples so far, she has chosen to focus on sex work and she seems to be doing that with commendable precision and success. The sex work culture, I can safely say, isn’t a field of endeavor where everyone is thinking with a high degree of precision. As a result, my friend is, as far as I can tell, head and shoulders above much of her competition.

She doesn’t strike me as a natural fit, but she does so well that I’m guessing that her path has many similarities to those of the above two examples. My PhD-student friend is, ironically, not the only example of a highly cerebral nerd girl choosing sex work culture in a brothel, and then learning it so well that she excels. Two of my other nerd girl friends did the same thing. One girl did so well that she’s by now a minor legend. The other girl literally ended up running the place. Even so, each of these three girls better fits the nerd profile than the profile of a typical sex worker. Each of these three girls is highly intelligent, very precise, and has a keen sense of justice. For each of them, her cultural level of functioning, when she’s away from sex work, suggests to me that her ability to flourish in sex work culture might well be learned behavior.

Perhaps we should add me to that list, too. A few years ago, I flew to Europe and applied to work at a legal brothel for a while. My first self-imposed task was to go talk to the other girls, to learn the culture. I learned well and quickly.

So, that covers the subject of sex work. That leaves one more subject: rock ‘n roll.

The next nerd girl on whom I’m focusing was, from a young age, proficient at playing the guitar. She was savvy about music in general but her career was headed toward the more formal arts, such as dance and ballet. Then, as a young adult, it occurred to her that the field of rock ‘n roll music provided an interesting opportunity. With inspired aplomb, she embraced it, and she has been rocking the house ever since, and had done so with an uncanny level of success, for several decades.

The band she’d cofounded ended up with multiple worldwide hits, including multiple number one hits. Her personal popularity and appeal were such that one of her biggest career problems was professionally being fawned upon more than the other girls in the band, to the point where she was often considered to be the lead singer even though she, and they, were adamant that she was not.

This is already enough of a success story to earn her a place in this article, but there’s much more yet.

Rock stars are known for hard and fast living, with the health issues that one might expect as a consequence. By contrast, this girl exemplified clean living and ethical behavior, while nevertheless charming vast amounts of audiences for literally decades beyond the point where most rock ‘n roll stars have long since faded from the spotlight and from public consciousness.

Not just is she acclaimed on stage, then and now, but as her interviews make apparent, she also has a vast encyclopedic knowledge of song lyrics, bands, singers, songwriters, music industry gurus, concerts and venues. To call her brilliant would be an understatement. Even so, her skills are not just focused on music. She steadily learned the relevant culture, such as how to deal with a hostile audience that threw chewing gum and other objects at her head while she was performing on stage. She learned on-stage culture so well that she has been charming audiences ever since.

However, she also learned how to deal with music industry culture in general. One of her stories involves how she wooed a local DJ into being a key figure in helping her band toward populairty. Record industry execs were simultaneously pushing her band as well as pushing her toward a solo career.

As one example of her effect on a fan: someone whom I met in Las Vegas last year had flown to the US from half a world away, to attend her 2016 concert series, and he’d attended it every night, spanning perhaps a week all in all. He left little doubt in my mind as to how enthused he is about her, as the main performing artist he’d come to see.

Personally, I find this nerd girl, as in: the actual person as far as I can discern her, to be deeply intriguing. I assumed this went without saying but even so, at some point in the conversation, I asked the gentleman if he shared such enthusiasm for learning about the real person behind the public persona. Nope, he replied: he was happy to focus on her simply as a stage persona on whom to fawn.

A friend of mine, a good guy though not a complex person, is a professional guitar teacher locally. At some point, a him-and-I conversation turned toward rock stars. It’s safe to say that there are hundreds of artists in rock ‘n roll but this guy focused on just one– the brilliant nerd girl described above. My friend went on and on about her, completely unprompted and unaware that, although in a very different way, I could think of much good to say about her, too.

From what I gather based on what she’s written and said, such as during interviews, she exemplifies the nerd girl profile. Even so, she learned to deal with the cultural issues so brilliantly that her success in the field might well be described as peerless. Yet, she doesn’t seem to be a natural fit with the culture. She seems to enjoy the occasional foray into the spotlight and then withdraws again into privacy. I happen to be fascinated by the sort of mind that has figured all this out, but regardless of my own personal enthusiasm, if one were to come up with some objective metrics for spectacular rock star career success, I figure that this girl would rate stratospherically high.

Bottom line: nerds rule. If a nerd chooses a field of endeavor normally devoid of nerds, the competition might well have to contend itself with hoping for, at best, a silver medal.

A Terrified Brunette Reaches Out Nevertheless, Part 7

The brunette put on her make-up, thinking of the blonde, and her strange dynamic with the blonde. Looking in the mirror, she observed how these thoughts inspired the glow of a smile, and how much the smile changed her look. It was not the smile she normally used with strangers; her smile in the mirror had a very different quality. Even though she normally disliked her own look, she liked her new look more, with that smile. She wondered if there would be more of that smile in her future.

She decided she’d put on enough make-up to reach the tipping point where she felt as good about her look as she was likely to. She added some finishing touches and considered her make-up to be completed. She didn’t feel pretty but she felt prettier than she’d felt … she realized … in years. She used to pride herself on looking as good as possible — and then she’d lost inspiration.

Things had changed dramatically after that. In so many ways, so much of what she’d previously cared about passionately … it didn’t matter any more. Letting go had involved an intellectual aspect as well as an emotional aspect. The latter had been much harder.

Standing in front of the mirror, she thought of the lyrics of a song, about things not mattering any more. It was a song about hopelessness, yet not giving up on the concept of love — just giving up on a particular person. Even so, at the time, those two actions had seemed synonymous to her.

She realized how much progress she’d made, recovering from feeling so deeply hurt, by being unappreciated after trying so hard for so long, to make things work with that other person. Before giving up, her energy and her zest for life had seemed boundless, but then the emotional pain had torn these to shreds. For several years she had survived at a bare-minimum subsistence level, emotionally. She had bravely dragged herself onward, through the difficult hours of difficult days, feeling ever more exhausted, yet trying to keep going. It had been like trying to move forward while encumbered with a far-too-heavy burden. Those times had been deep and dark.

She thought about the song lyrics some more. They also mentioned finding somebody new. It had taken several years, but it had finally happened. To be precise, it wasn’t that she’d found someone — instead, someone had found her.

She felt a tinge of pride at having overcome that pain, and more — at feeling hopeful again. The new arrival in her life had inspired that hope. Pondering all this, she felt more and more ridiculous about feeling hopeful. Even so, she did not allow this negative emotion to overwhelm her. Instead, she applied a technique that the blonde had taught her: she made a point of identifying and acknowledging the negative feeling, instead of trying to dismiss or ignore it. “I feel ridiculous about feeling hopeful,” she said out loud. She repeated it slowly, a few times more. Somehow, after that, she still felt hopeful but the feeling of ridiculousness had diminished.

She loved how empowering this new technique was. She always loved how comforting it was when the blonde validated the feelings of the brunette. This technique was similar, though the validation in this case was self-validation.

She collected her thoughts, and focused on the practical task of getting ready to leave, to go see the blonde.

Did it matter what kind of underwear she wore? — she wondered … not that she owned anything that she’d classify as inspiringly sexy. She chose at random. She wondered if that might change soon, too. She felt ridiculous at that thought, too but … not just ridiculous. She noticed a faint glimmer of “perhaps” that had survived the wave of negative emotion that had just washed over her. Perhaps what? — she confronted herself. She consciously and deliberately thought about it: Perhaps it does matter. Perhaps it’s not too late.

Next, she chose a dress. She considered a dress that she normally would hesitate to wear, because it was too elegant for day-to-day wear … yet it had the offsetting attraction of being comfortable. She chose it, and some high heels.

When dressed, she took another look at the mirror. The girl in the mirror contrasted starkly with the way she looked, day to day. She kept looking, critically. She didn’t like what she saw, but she could at least see why the blonde perhaps still might. That was good enough, for now.

She noticed that she still had that strange, glowing smile. She pondered that contrast, too. Normally her smile was like the flash of a camera. Today’s smile, instead, was more like the way the eastern sky looked before a sunrise. Perhaps a sunrise was a good symbol for her life from now on.

She thought about her future, and realized how, until recently, she’d thought of her life as better befitting a sunset rather than a sunrise. People she’d known, loved and looked up to had passed. When would it be her turn? Not for a long time, ideally, was her immediate thought – and yet some of the people who’d passed had been young — as young as she was, far too young to have passed away. For some of them, she realized by reading between the lines of their life story, that the root cause had been a deep sadness, and the secondary cause had been the effects of their coping mechanisms.

She stood there pensively, her smile fading. She felt a rising tide of panic, perhaps too much to face head-on. She called the blonde immediately and told her what she was feeling and thinking, especially how afraid she was of dying before — by her own standards — she’d ever really lived.

“That shadow is not for you — not for a very long time,” the blonde gently replied. ”You have SO much living to do yet. You really have yet to begin. For so much of your life, you’ve been trying to accommodate others, trying to play by their rules. It’s your turn now, to live by your rules, and be truly happy.”

“You’ve said that before, but I still wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“That’s where I come in. I think in similar ways you do, and we can talk about it until, together, we find ways that work for you.”

“I don’t know … it all feels so futile.”

“I understand … and yet, imagine that Beethoven had played piano just briefly and then never again. That would have been a travesty, yes?

“Yes …”

“You’re an artist. How much of your work has been intensely focused on romance, love, sexuality, intimacy, relationships, passion?”

“A lot …“

“Most of it?”

“Yes …”

“Almost all of it?”

“Well, yes.”

“You’re passionate about passion. True?”

“Yes, but it all feels so … so … ridiculous now.”

“I understand that’s how you feel … even so, let’s grade the passion in your art.”

“How?”

“Probably, factors to use would be how much art you’ve created on that theme, and over how long a period of time. That’s a fair choice of metrics, yes?”

“Well, I suppose. Yes.”

“So, on that premise, I’d give you a least an A+” the blonde announced, and continued: “As to the amount of romance, love, sexuality, intimacy, relationships and passion in your life, would you say that this gets an A+ too?”

The brunette was silent for several long seconds. “No,” she replied, somberly.

“So, there’s a gap to be closed.”

The brunette realized that the blonde was understating things, gently and intentionally. She appreciated that, and then said so.

The blonde acknowledged that, and continued: “As to feeling ridiculous, I used to feel the same way about myself. There was much I wanted to do, and I felt it was too late for me.”

“And then?”

“I decided to go for it anyway. I felt ridiculous and I continued nevertheless. Gradually, I felt less ridiculous. And … I’m glad I proceeded as I did. I used to be depressed and now I’m almost giddily happy, and several nice people have mentioned that I’ve inspired them by being an example. You have so much loving and living to do, as yet — and as far as I can tell, you’ve experienced so little of it. Think of how much the world has to offer in that respect. Look past the ways in which you disqualify yourself from being worthy of experiencing all that, and just focus on how much there is for you to enjoy, assuming it all somehow pans out.”

“It’s hard to ignore that some of it seems vastly unrealistic.”

“Some of it might well be, but I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve accomplished by pushing forward even when victory seemed unrealistic. You won’t know until you try. It’s not as if I’m cheering on someone who’s all burned-out. You’re one of the most passionate women I know to exist. You’re just … conflicted.”

“You must be joking. Little old me? Passionate?”

“Yes!”

“Whatever gave you that idea?”

“Your art.”

The brunette was silent. She pondered this. She finally conceded the point. She tried hard, and managed to stop thinking of things as being impossible. She started imagining herself living the life she’d always craved, including deep emotional connections, primal candor, intensity, fun, excitement, sexuality …

Her lips felt dry. She moistened them with the tip of her tongue, absentmindedly — even though this would probably make them dry out faster. Her mind was elsewhere. She bit her lower lip, and then noticed what she looked like doing so. The being in the mirror radiated sexuality, shockingly so.

“I don’t know how you did it, but you have managed to inspire me to look like I belong on a street corner, and feeling enthusiastic about it. That’s what my face radiates, right now anyway. Wow.”

“Good girl.”

She felt a jolt in her tummy, at those words — butterflies, as a figure of speech. She hadn’t felt that in a long time. She almost said something about that but instead she said, “You’re a terrifying person to look up to. It’s like you’re holding out your hand, saying ‘climb up, and be with me’ yet the journey and the heights are dizzyingly scary. What if I fall?”

“I understand,” the blonde said, gently.

The brunette pondered that, then said, “Almost everyone I know would have said: ‘what if you don’t?’ ”

“Better that you figured that out by yourself,” the blonde smiled.

The brunette conceded that point too, and said, “I’d better go before I lose confidence again.” The girls said good-bye to each other. The brunette gave the sexually radiant being in the mirror one more glance, and then strode out.

* * *

Her husband happened to be nearby. He was surprised.

“That’s a very, very different look,” he observed.

Her smile deepened slightly but she didn’t say anything in reply. She picked up her car keys and her purse.

”Scene one, take two?” her husband asked.

She looked at him. Her smile deepened more yet, and she nodded.

He wasn’t sure what to say next. Even so, he knew this was a supremely important moment. She did, too.

Did he want her to succeed this time? — he wondered. He knew what the effect on her had been last time, due to not succeeding. He thought of the classic guy mantra of “If I can’t have her, nobody can.” Her previous failed attempt to leave, and the consequences to her, had exemplified that mantra — even though he had done nothing to discourage her from leaving. Is that what he wished for her? Did he want her with him even if she was miserable, and wanted to be elsewhere?

He knew that he didn’t. He was ready to see her leave and be happy. He hesitated … but then said that out loud.

The brunette inclined her head in acknowledgment. It seemed like a long moment. She realized that it had the life-changing quality of a dramatic scene in a movie. She thought of what the blonde had said, about living her life as if to inspire movies. She knew how dramatic a thing she was actually doing, right then. It was indeed the sort of scene that could be central to an intense movie. She took a deep breath. She calmly smiled a “good-bye” at her husband and walked out to her car. It all seemed surreal to her.

“I feel nervous,” she said aloud. She repeated it a few times – and felt less nervous. Sitting in her car, she texted to the blonde: “I’m in my car, about to drive off. And I don’t feel super nervous, just a little.“

“Good girl,” came the perfect reply.

* * *

An hour later, the brunette was in the blonde’s embrace, sitting in the blonde’s lap, by the hotel pool, under the moonlight. She had her arms loosely around the blonde’s neck.

“This feels like a very happy scene in a movie,” the brunette murmured.

The blonde hugged her, in silent reply.

“I’m happy,” said the brunette.

“You’ve earned it,” said the blonde.

They sat silently; loving life, enjoying the warmth of each other’s bodies, and their joint victory.

“I wish we could sit like this forever,” the brunette murmured.

With perfectly ironic timing, a manager appeared and announced that it was midnight, and that the pool area was closing.

The blonde gave the brunette one last hug, and the brunette took that as her cue to get up. She did, reluctantly. She stood, and the blonde stood up too, then reached for her sundress and slipped it on.

The brunette felt brazen, and said: “I wanted to stare at you, with you wearing just your bikini.” Even so, she felt despair. She’d finally made it to where she was with the blonde, and sitting together had been so perfect, and suddenly it was over. “I’m sad that we have to leave,” she said, with simple candor.

“You’re exiting the pool area, not leaving me,” the blonde said, smiling. She took the brunette’s hand and led her away, not pulling her along but holding her hand as if they were walking down an aisle together, side by side yet with the blonde subtly setting the pace and direction. The brunette felt butterflies in her tummy again.

She imagined herself as a bride, walking down an aisle with the blonde as the other bride in the ceremony. They each had flowers in their hair, and they were each barefoot, walking on a soft, cool lawn in a lush garden, with a small group of well-wishers on either side of the aisle. The light had an odd quality, like sunlight dimmed slightly by wisps of cooling, playful-seeming morning fog. The scene seemed to belong in a dream and in the 60s, both.

For once, the brunette smiled at how her mind went to so many strange places. She dared not tell the blonde of what she’d just thought. Then, she reminded herself that intimacy was about openness, so she decided to speak up, as they ambled away from where they’d sat together.

“You used to be married, yes?” the brunette asked.

“Yes.”

“Would you marry again?”

“No,” the blonde smiled.

“But your intended time-frame for my involvement is …” she hesitated to say it.

“Indefinitely.”

“Wow. Okay.” Then: “Would we ever have a ceremony celebrating our relationship?”

“I would like that. But perhaps not just one,” the blonde mused.

“I just was imagining what such a ceremony would be like,” the brunette said, and described it.

“I love it,” the blonde smiled.

“You don’t think it’s ridiculous?”

The blonde shook her head, with a warm smile that removed all of the brunette’s concerns. The brunette was so relieved that she could speak up, even about such intense thoughts. She used to have to be so guarded. She loved her new freedom, and said so, and added: “I feel so close to you, emotionally.”

The blonde smiled at her protege, and calmly guided the brunette to the lobby, then to the elevator. She pressed the button, waited and then led the brunette into the elevator. Once inside, she pressed the button for a particular floor, and then moved toward a far corner, gently bringing the brunette along. When they arrived in the corner, she drew the brunette closer yet, until they stood in a warm embrace, with the brunette’s arms once more around the blonde’s neck, her face pressed against the warm skin of blonde.

The elevator stopped, and the doors opened. The brunette realized it an instant too late, and she instinctively and guiltily started to draw away, yet with a lack of enthusiasm that was conveyed by how little force she was applying. The blonde resisted gently, as if to say: “Stay. It’s okay.” The brunette loved that. She pushed herself against the blonde again, and hugged her closer.

A male voice cheerfully said, “I’d say ‘get a room, you two’ but I gather you already did.”

The brunette felt the blonde nodding, and she could imagine the blonde’s friendly, confident smile as the door closed and the elevator continued its ascent.

“In my next life, I want to come back as someone like either of you, if it works that way,” the guy in the elevator said smilingly. Then, the elevator stopped again, the door opened, and he said, “Have a good night,” to which the blonde replied with a friendly “good night.”

The man hadn’t seen the brunette’s face, just the back of her head. With their privacy restored, the brunette hugged the blonde tighter yet. The blonde returned the hug. The elevator stopped again, the door opened, and a minute later, the brunette had the blonde’s hotel room key in her hand, and was swiping it, her heart seeming to beat loudly.

The brunette held the door open, and in they went. The blonde put out the “do not disturb” sign, then led the brunette to the large bed, and guided her onto it. The blonde slipped off her sundress, knowing that the brunette had wanted to look at her some more. The blonde had done some modeling and private dancing, and she knew the poses that flattered the best aspects of her physique, so she slowly gave the brunette a show. Finally, the blonde reached behind her and undid the knot of the bikini top behind her neck, and then the one behind her back. The bikini top came loose, and the blonde tossed it imperiously across the room, to land in an armchair. She kept her back to the brunette while doing so. She walked away again, striking a sexy pose, but still with her back turned toward the brunette, who laughed happily. “Turn around already,” the brunette begged her.

The blonde slowly turned, and the brunette felt butterflies in her tummy again. She felt breathless. Her mouth felt dry.

The blonde sashayed across the floor, and slid onto the bed, her back arched. She took the brunette’s hand, then closed her eyes and placed the brunette’s hand on her breast. She heard the sharp intake of breath from the brunette.

Slowly, the brunette’s hands and fingers moved, and explored. She murmured a compliment. Her hands moved up, to the blonde’s chest, her shoulders … down the smooth skin of a muscular yet slender arm, then up again, back to the blonde’s breasts. She moved her hand up the blonde’s neck, slowly using a precise finger to trace the edges of the blonde’s features. The brunette was breathing in an unusual way, more deeply and loudly than she normally would. She traced a finger around the outline of the blonde’s lips. The blonde opened her mouth slightly. The brunette’s finger explored more deeply: white teeth, almost perfectly straight … she swallowed awkwardly. She knew that she wanted to experience the blonde’s mouth on hers.

She put her arms around the blonde’s neck again, and slowly moved her face toward the blonde’s. The blonde’s eyes were still closed. When she felt the warm breath of the brunette close to her, she shivered in anticipation.

When last had she felt this happy and alive? — the brunette wondered. Not in a very long time, perhaps ever. She thought about how magical this was, and how she didn’t want to lose the blonde. She thought of the possibility of things going wrong. She fought that, trying to control her thoughts, trying to simply focus on the present. She lost the battle. Her doubts, concerns and her internal conflict quickly ebbed her happy mood away. She physically pulled away, devastated that she’d destroyed her own magic moment with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

She let go of the blonde, then slumped down and lay down on her back, a bitter expression on her face. The blonde slowly opened her eyes, and saw. She lay down beside the brunette, who turned away in embarrassment, with tears burning her eyes.

“Think out loud,” the blonde requested, gently.

“I can’t believe I’ve ruined the moment. I ruined my own mood by being afraid I’d ruin it.” The brunette curled up into a fetal position.

“You have a complex mind,” the blonde said, in understanding.

“I hate how I think. This is so typical,” the brunette exclaimed in self-disgust.

“You feel angry at yourself, in a way?”

“Yes!! I had the perfect moment, better than what I’d hoped for, and I ruined it by being afraid I’d ruin it.”

The blonde snuggled closer to the brunette and held her in an embrace, spooning her.

The brunette shrugged it away and said, “I should go. You should find someone who won’t ruin everything,” and squirmed as if to get up.

The blonde gently applied counter-force as she’d done in the elevator, and with similar effect. The brunette lay still, knowing that the next few seconds would shape the course of her life. She didn’t know what to do. She hoped fervently that the blonde did.

“So, this moment you ruined,” the blonde asked, “who made it?”

The brunette was puzzled. “I suppose … we did …?”

“I wonder if we can make another one,” the blonde said, mischievously.

With a shock, the brunette realized that, of course, they could. She said so.

“We should try,” the blonde said. “You are welcome to ruin as many of our moments as you like. We’ll just keep making new ones. Until you ruin them they’re enjoyable to me, anyway.”

The brunette felt ridiculous at having made such a big problem out of the issue. She said so.

“You feel ridiculous?”

“Yes!!”

“Very ridiculous?”

“Yes! I feel absolutely ridiculous!!”

“Totally ridiculous?”

“Utterly ridiculous!”

“Turn around,” the blonde suggested. The brunette did, loving the suggestion.

“Okay. I’m about to almost kiss you and I’d like you to ruin the moment as soon as it’s at it’s most poignant. Think of the first person who kissed you romantically, and then focus on that person, and the positive aspects. Then think of the negatives. Then, the next person, similarly. Then, think of ways the you-and-I dynamic can fail. Think of whatever you like, but keep your mouth close to mine, so I can feel your breath. When you’re done thinking about all that, and whatever else you want to think about, move in slowly until your lips barely touch mine.”

“Okay … if you’re sure.”

The blonde smiled, and closed her eyes. The brunette moved her lips closer, and made a point of thinking along the lines the blonde had suggested. She spent as much time as she wanted to, pondering each of those subjects. Then, she thought about the implications of the decisions she’d made, to bring her there tonight. She thought of what she’d have to deal with tomorrow, and how she could leave the hotel in broad daylight yet maintain her privacy. She thought about it perhaps raining the next day. She thought about rain.

She thought about how free she felt, for once, knowing that she could think of whatever she liked, without fear of it ruining the mood or the moment. She thought of the blonde, and how well the blonde understood her. She wanted to have the blonde in her life for the rest of her days. She finally moved her lips closer, and they gently touched those of the blonde.

* * *

They kissed for a long time, their mouths on each other’s. Then, the brunette’s mouth explored more. She stopped at the brunette’s waistline, not going beyond. Half an hour later, there wasn’t much of the blonde, from the waist on up, that the brunette’s lips hadn’t explored. Overwhelmed with happiness, the brunette lay back and simply savored the joy she felt. “I wonder if it’ll always be like this,” she said.

“It won’t. We’ll have our ups and downs, including much better yet and much worse than what you’ve just experienced. There’s also an intense initial euphoria currently, and that will probably fade.”

The brunette nodded, pensively. Then, she had another thought: “We’re in a sort of Dominant/submissive dynamic, aren’t we? As in, you set the direction, inspire me, guide me, and protect me?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ve had many of these, yes?”

“Yes. And two of them, I have currently.”

“Two? Last I heard you had only one girlfriend.”

“Not every submissive girl whom I mentor is a girlfriend.”

“Oh! That hadn’t occurred to me. Are you emotionally close to this other girl?”

“It’s a matter of degree. Yes, but not with the intensity that there would be if she were on track to become girlfriend material.”

“Do you have sex with this other girl?”

“No, but I do set direction, inspire, guide and protect.”

“With a sexually themed element?”

“For me, with me, in a D/s dynamic, there always is. Without the sexual element, it’s not interesting to me.”

The brunette processed all this.

“So, your girlfriend … she is your lover and submissive?”

“Yes, though she doesn’t live with me and it’s currently a long-distance dynamic.”

“I see. As for me, do you think you and I will ever have sex, and will I ever be your girlfriend, and live with you?”

“That is my plan, yes,” the blonde smiled, “and none of those developments are far in the future, I’d guess.”

“Wow.” The brunette lay there, happily and pensively. Then: “I love how it’s OK with you that my mind goes all over the place.”

“It’s not just OK, I like how you think. And eventually, so will you.”

The brunette shrugged, and said wistfully, “That seems so unlikely.”

“More unlikely than you being here, now, as you are?”

The brunette laughed her breathless laugh. “No,” she conceded. Then, “I have a question. I’m of small stature, and slender. Is your current girlfriend also like that?”

“Not as slender as you are, but yes, that’s her basic body type.”

“Have you ever had a tall, muscular girlfriend or submissive?”

“Yes, multiple.”

“Did you call them each your good girl too?”

“I don’t recall, but with each girl, I have the sort of dynamic that reconciles with that terminology.”

The brunette was pensive for a few more seconds, then: “I think I’m ready to articulate some observations, out loud. The way you deal with me is inverted from how others deal with me. Others tend to treat me as cute, charming, and diminutive, sort of like an endearing cartoon character whom they want to take to bed. That image has had its uses, for me, but I’m so deeply tired of that. You … you don’t treat me as if I’m diminutive. With you, I’m just one more girl, albeit one you care about and find endearing – yet not in a way that trivializes me. I like how seriously you take me. So many view me as superficial, quirky and eccentric, yet you see so much more.”

“Good observations,” the blonde commended her.

“Wait, I also realize that even while treating me as cute, so many people treat me as if I were royalty, fragile or both. They fuss over me. I hate that. By contrast, you don’t. For example, I love how you handed me the room key so that I’d be the one opening the hotel room door, and holding it open for you. Almost everyone else would have opened the door for me, and held it open so I could walk through it first. With you, it’s not like that. You like me and value me, but you don’t have me on a pedestal. Most others adore me in the sense that they’re fawning and groveling. Not you. It’s like you’re standing on a mountaintop, and I’m standing slightly below you. You’re looking down at me with a look that says I belong next to you, and you’re urging me to ascend, to be with you. Oh! And I just realized … I don’t even know what the others are seeing when they’re gushing. You, instead… you see the ‘real me’ … the actual person. I can’t imagine why you’d like what you see as a result, but … somehow you do.”

“So … others see you as diminutive, they don’t know the ‘real you’ and they treat you as if you’re on a pedestal, whereas I treat you as someone fundamentally equal … you, the ‘real you’ … and even though you view yourself as being so much less than me, I disagree and I am encouraging you to ascend to where I am and take your rightful place by my side,” summarized the blonde.

“Yes! And I can’t imagine how I could ever think of you as my equal. You’ve done so much, learned so much …”

“Not my equal in every way – just fundamentally. As in, you’re a good, worthy person and mate for me, and I like your way of thinking.”

“Wait, if you already think of me as your equal, then how can I ascend?”

“In your own estimation of yourself.”

That made sense to the brunette. Then: “Once I reach the level you are, will we still be in a D/s dynamic?”

“Yes. We probably always will be.”

“Why?”

“You prefer the role of a submissive, and I enjoy setting the direction, inspiring you, guiding you, protecting you.”

“What about the whips and chains, as in the BDSM books and movies?”

“Unnecessary, weren’t they?”

The brunette realized with a shock that the act of winning her submission was already in the past. “Yes, wow. Then again, I had no resistance that you had to break, so to speak.”

“If you had, whips and chains would not be the way. But as to you not having resisted, are you sure?” the blonde smiled.

The brunette thought about it, and it dawned on her how resistant she had been. “I indeed was resisting you. Wow, I didn’t think of it like that. You sometimes understand me better than I do myself. Often, actually. That used to scare me but nowadays I love it.”

She turned toward the blonde and brought her lips up to those of the other girl again. They kissed for a long time.

* * *

After a while, the blonde lifted her head, looked at the bedside clock and announced: “It’s 2 a.m. I prefer you spend the night but if there’s any announcement you should make to someone else, I’m gently reminding you that time flies when you’re doing what you enjoy.”

“Oh! That did go quickly. Wow! Okay … “ she reached for her phone and sent a text message to her husband, then lay back and said, “I can’t believe how natural and easy that was.”

The blonde waited for the brunette to elaborate. The brunette’s mind seemed to be going a million miles per hour.

“I texted him that I’m not planning to go back tonight or tomorrow night, and that I plan to go back the day after that, physically … yet emotionally I’m not going back.”

Her phone made a sound. She looked at it. The text message reply was: “I figured. Best of success with your new life, but in person, we should discuss how this affects things, officially.”

She typed … “Agreed. I appreciate your understanding. Shall we talk? Tuesday afternoon?”

”4 pm”

“See you then”

“OK”

“That’s that,” the brunette announced. “I just dynamited the bridge behind me.”

“Good girl … but was it ever really there?”

The brunette thought hard. “No … but it seemed to be, and that was comforting in its illusion.”

“I understand,” replied the blonde.

The girls were quiet for a long time. Then, the brunette seemed to have processed her concerns, and she focused on kissing the blonde some more. After half an hour of that, she lay against the brunette, looking at the ceiling. She was happy but her mind was racing. The blonde could see this, and smiled.

After several minutes, the brunette frowned, then thought some more and finally said: “Normally I’d never say this, especially since things seem so perfect but … I just realized something that has been bothering me, these last few minutes. I no longer feel that what we have is fragile, and so I feel OK with bringing up … difficult subjects, like this next one.”

The blonde prompted her to continue.

“I love that you cherish me and want to protect me but some of my fantasies are … “ she turned and finished the rest of the sentence with her face buried in a pillow.

“I didn’t hear that, but let me guess … Primal? Intense?”

The brunette turned around and replied: “Oh, gawd, yes. But,” she hastened to add, “I don’t need to experience them. I just now realized I probably never will and I have accepted that. I’m so happy with what you and I have, but this aspect has just occurred to me and I felt the need to say good-bye to those fantasies — so if I looked a little sad, I wanted you to know why.”

“Wait, I don’t want the you-and-I dynamic to be bland.”

“No, but what I fantasize about is FAR from bland, and doesn’t reconcile to you cherishing me.”

“Are you sure? If you crave something intense and I orchestrate that, wouldn’t that be consistent with me valuing you highly?”

The brunette was shocked. “I … I hadn’t considered that. But what I crave is so … so … intense.”

“Remember, I used to be a professional Dominatrix, and part of the job is not unlike the erotic version of an action movie stunt director. I make viable enough of the elements of what seems implausible. As a result, the watered-down version is viable yet still satisfyingly intense.”

The brunette absorbed all this and then prompted the blonde to continue.

“You probably don’t have just one fantasy, true? Multiple?”

“Yes …”

“So choose one that’s sort of in the middle of the intensity scale, and tell me.”

“Oh, I could never!”

“Okay,” the blonde said, “then let me tell you one of mine.”

“Does it involve me?”

“Not this one. I’ve had it for years.”

“Okay, wow.”

The blonde told the brunette about her own sexual fantasy. The brunette responded with: “Wow. That IS intense. I didn’t realize that sort of thing was a fantasy for you.”

“And it’s totally impracticable, yes?”

“Yes, it seems to be.”

“And yet, someone who loved me very much helped me move towards orchestrating that, and with a few aspects absent in the interest of viability, I experienced that fantasy.”

“Wow! And were you safe?”

“Safe enough.”

“Wow! And those missing ingredients … “

“Ended up not detracting much.”

“Wow!!”

“Yes.”

“But you still have that fantasy?”

“Yes. I’d like to experience it again.”

“So … now I feel OK with telling you one of mine.”

And so they lay in bed together, taking turns with discussing ever-more-intense sexual fantasies. By 4 a.m. the brunette snuggled closer and mumbled, “I feel closer to you emotionally, romantically, then I’ve felt … ever. And yet, we haven’t even had sex. I even still have my dress and my shoes on. Isn’t that strange?”

“No. It’s all fundamentally about having a mental connection.”

“But there’s a physical aspect too, though.”

“Yes, but most people overestimate its importance.”

“Wow. Yes, I can see that. So, now I want to remove my dress and you’ve seen my soul naked, so to speak — yet somehow I still hesitate to show you my body, naked.”

“I’m happy with whatever you’re comfortable with. You can sleep in your dress if you like. Worst case you rumple it. However, I do think you should take your dress off if you would like to do it, and you just need a little encouragement.”

The brunette processed all this. Then she stood up, and said: “Somehow that was the perfect response.” She reached behind her back to unzip her dress.

“Whoa, wait, stop. Slow down … very, very slowly, so that I can savor this.”

“What am I, your stripper girl?”

“Yes.”

The brunette took a deep breath. She looked the blonde in the eyes, and very slowly, she removed her dress. It snagged on her elbow and there was an awkward moment, but she recovered.

“Please tell me that none of your former girlfriends was a professional stripper and that she did this so much better.”

“One of them was, yet she didn’t do it better.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“For you, this was important, and I could see it. For her, this sort of thing was routine. What you just did was much more meaningful, thus more sexy.”

“Even though she is more skilled and prettier than I am?”

“Yes.”

“So she is prettier than I am?”

“Technically, yes as in: she’d be more likely to win a typical beauty pageant.”

“And yet, what I just did was sexier for you, personally?”

“Yes.”

“I’m starting to understand how this all works … I like it. Wow. “ Then: “Do I have to remove my underwear too? And I apologize, it’s not very sexy.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Why?”

“Because you crave to do so.”

The brunette laughed again. “Yes, I do,” and with her mind racing, she absent-mindedly reached to undo her bra. She was immediately asked to stop, and to proceed at a much slower pace. She did so.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized, when she stood there naked. “I’m probably the least sexy girl you’ve ever seen naked.”

“You don’t feel sexy?”

“Well, I DO feel sexy in a way — but I’m trying to sympathize with how disappointed you must feel.”

“Do you know how I feel?”

“Well, no,” the brunette conceded.

“Ask me.”

“Are you disappointed at how I look?”

“No.”

“Be honest … I crave that. I can’t be pretty by the standards of the girls you’ve been with.”

“You’re pretty by my standards.”

“How?”

“Because it’s not just a naked body. It’s YOUR naked body.”

“Well, if it weren’t mine, would you still like it?”

“Less, and that’d be true even if it were shaped like Miss Nevada.”

“You really can’t separate how much you like me from liking my body, can you?” the brunette asked, loving what she had just discovered.

“No.”

“I’m so glad,” the brunette said, feeling intense relief. She kicked off her shoes and walked across the room, naked. She pirouetted. “You like?”

“I do.”

“I haven’t felt attractive, deep down, personally, in a long time …” she paused … “if ever.”

“You like that feeling.”

“I LOVE this feeling.”

“I’m glad. You deserve it. Welcome to your new life.”

The brunette thought about the implications of everything she was learning. They overwhelmed her. She became silent, and stopped moving. Tears formed, then streamed down her cheeks. She stood there, slumped, simply crying. The blonde stood waiting, watching, sympathizing but not intervening. After two minutes of standing there crying, the brunette stumbled toward the bed, fell down on it, and embraced the blonde. She tried to speak through her tears but soon she was sobbing and it became impossible to speak. She stopped trying, and simply gave in, and cried, holding onto the blonde. Many minutes later, she could finally articulate her thoughts, and she did.

“So that’s why my age isn’t a negative for you?”

The blonde nodded and smiled.

“You still want me to look good but more as a ‘be the best I can be’ sort of thing, not as a prerequisite?”

The blonde nodded again, smiling.

“So that’s why ten years or more from now, you’re still likely to want me and find me attractive?”

“Yes,” the blonde replied. “No guarantees or promises, but it seems logical.”

“It does,” the brunette agreed. “I have not felt so relieved in a very, very long time. Wow. My biggest concern has just evaporated.”

She turned, lying in front of the blonde, spooning, and she pushed back against the blonde, snuggling happily. Then, she realized something. “You still have your bikini bottom on,” she said, almost accusingly.

“For tonight, it seems prudent,” the blonde explained. Reluctantly, the brunette agreed. Then, she reached for the blonde’s hand, and placed it over her own breast. She loved how the blonde’s hand explored its new protégé, for a long time.

“I’m so sleepy but I don’t want to fall asleep. I am happy,” the brunette mumbled, the smile and sleepiness both audible in her voice.

“Me too,” replied the blonde. “But we have tomorrow, and every day after that, potentially. Good night, my princess.”

“Good night, my queen,” the brunette responded, sleepily, almost asleep. “I love how you said that … not little princess, just princess … your princess … ” her voice trailed off into a mumble on the last two words. She was asleep.