Monday, 6 June 2011

Weekend Musings: The Local Public Scene

I guess part of this weekend is for my benefit.  Generally if I tell people I'm shy and get nervous around new people they don't believe me.  Why?  Generally because it's the build up that makes me nervous, not that actual actions.  I'm comfortable just 'being myself' and I let people take me as they find me.  This usually gives me a bit of a laid back attitude when we're out in public.  I also know how hard it is to put yourself out there and say hello, so I'm usually the first one to do that (I know that may seem counter intuitive, but I try to make life easier on other people not harder).

One of the things that had come up in conversation between me and my girl a lot was going out to 'munches'.  Now the first time she mentioned this I won't tell you what was going through my head.  Saying it's a 'kinky brunch' kind of thing didn't help. I will admit I was picturing plates being naked submissives and some kind of entertainment featuring other kinds of kinky play out in public.  I mean, what do these people do in public anyway?

Where we used to live it wasn't an option, so I never had to 'really' figure that out.  I contented myself in the explanation and did my best to learn from what I could research on my own online (and what I could pick up from my girl, being as she was more experienced than me).  This worked out, but only to a certain point.  It's hard when you don't have anyone to talk with.  Not just for someone to go to with issues or problems, but even to discuss regular activities - they also just might have interests you've never heard of that might interest you as well.

A few years ago we moved, and it's taken a while to get back on our feet after what happened.  Now that we're both in a good place in our lives we've started to explore more of our 'kinky' relationship ideas.  Part of that actually included creating this blog to share our experiences with other people (whenever I protest that I couldn't possibly have anything to teach she reminds me that we've been together in a TPE relationship for 10 years, which is some kind of accomplishment).

She has continued to bug me about getting out a meeting people.  Lately I have actually started to feel a bit depressed, not having friends and not really having the capacity to get out and meet vanilla people.  I think part of it comes from my honesty issues.  I hate having to hide part of who I am from people - it just never feels right.  I have to do that with my family (not that they don't 'know' what I am into, they just conveniently forget or don't want to hear about it so I don't try to force it on them).

So I finally gave in.  We went to a MAsT meeting, which after she explained things to me sounded the least threatening place to start.  A dedicated discussion group with a set of topics that I actually had an opinion on.  On the drive there I remember my stomach twisting all around and having to remind myself that I'm awesome and usually don't have trouble getting along with people.  I think part of my nervousness stemmed purely from the fact that I didn't know where to go, or what to do when I got there.  I always hate not knowing, because I detest looking like an unprepared fool (so I like to prepare as much as possible - practice practice).

The meeting actually went quite well.  We met a ton of new people.  My second problem enters here since I can't remember that many new people's names at once.  I could point them all out on the street, but names - forget it.  Fortunately I'm not the only one, people are direct with me (they say they won't remember my name next time) so I say the same to them.  We all laugh, it's great.

I think this weekend musings stems from the conversations I'd seen lately with people who are uncomfortable with going to these public functions for whatever reason.  Many of them indicate that they do things in private and don't want to do them in public.  I understand more of the people who have had bad experiences and don't want to put themselves out there.  What I really don't understand are the people who play purely online and have no interest in the real life aspects at all.

So - YMMV, but I'd like to describe my experiences as a 'first time ever' attending these things.

Group Meetings:

I'll start here since this was the first thing we did (the MAsT meeting).  This was actually a fantastic place to get started, it was easy to meet everyone.  We arrived early because I wanted to be there while other people were arriving so we didn't suddenly walk into a room full of people who all knew each other and were already conversing.  I think this might be a good plan for you other first timers.  It gave us the opportunity to meet couples one at a time and kind of get used to the experience.

The meeting was a discussion forum so I made sure to speak up when there was something I had an opinion on or when I just wanted to agree with something being said.  I knew it was just as important for me to get to know all of them as it was for them to get to know me.  I think it also helped my girl feel more comfortable because she added some of her own comments as the meeting wore on.

The meeting we went to had no specific 'protocols', basically you did whatever you felt comfortable with.  One of the slaves knelt by her Master's feet.  I think partly to make room (the seating space wasn't that large), and partly because it's something we enjoy (and there are comfy throw pillowS) next time my girl will sit at my feet as well.

Everyone was wearing casual clothing, there were a few collars, but I don't even think anyone was wearing leather.  It was a comfortable environment (not that you 'can't' wear whatever you want, the only requirement is that you arrive in street clothing and wear it outside if you have to leave for a moment).

After the meeting everyone broke up for idle chat time.  Since we didn't really know anyone we started to say our goodbyes and I was on my way out when we were stopped and invited out to more events, one of them was a public play party, and others were munches.  We're both also active on Fetlife.com so we got some names to add to our friends list (which then turned into people to ask for more information about 'where' to go to meet more people).

I think it was a highly successful night all around, and couldn't justify my nervousness on the way there after meeting everyone.  They were all very friendly, open, and non-judgemental.

Munches:

Have you ever gone out to eat with a bunch of your friends?  I'm sure you have.  This is absolutely no different.  Other than some of your friends have invited their friends (who you don't know).  We've met a TON of people at these.  I pride myself on remembering two or three new names each time we go out.

I was again nervous at our first munch, but I had gotten seating directions and we had met the organizer at the MAsT meeting so I knew who to look for if we looked lost.

The second munch we tried to attend we didn't know anyone specific who was going and didn't have seating directions.  So after looking inside and not recognising anyone we went elsewhere for dinner.  I didn't feel comfortable asking around to see where the group who met there was located.  I still chalk this up to my nerves and I still feel bad that I couldn't overcome it, but there you have it.

After that blunder I made sure to get seating directions and know someone who would be there for sure, then know what time they were planning to be there so we could arrive after them and be able to join the group.  Like I said, I like to be prepared.  If you can't meet someone in real life before attending one of these I personally would recommend at least meeting someone online who can tell you where to go and hopefully look for you to arrive so they can introduce you.

In general - these are all at vanilla locations.  It is the same as meeting your friends anywhere else for dinner.  Everyone is in casual attire, there is no protocol, and everyone is quite friendly.  There are also rules in place about ordering other people around so if you're submissive you don't have to worry about crazy Dominants getting in your face.  People are actually there to help and protect you, not prey on you.

Play Parties:

We've now been to a formal one of these and an informal one.  By formal I mean in a 'dungeon' with useful furniture.  The informal one was at a friend's house (that we met at one of the munches).

Again I was nervous about my first one of these, I had no idea what to expect.  I'm not judgemental, but I'm experienced to know that some kinky people are 'really' kinky.  I also didn't know what was going to be expected of me, how things would be set up, who was going to be there, or what I was going to do.  I also have nothing to wear - it's awful.

Since black was acceptable that was what I decided on, I have a nice cotton tunic and dress pants in black.  Not long ago I made my girl a rope collar, which I am quite fond of, so she had something to go around her neck, but is also short on other 'fetish' wear.  Black would have to do for her.

I also wanted to make an effort to appear 'kinky' so I came up with the idea of tying her in a rope corset over her clothing.  Not something you see everyday, so definitely would count as 'kinky'.  It went off perfectly - though next time I think I'll do my rope work at the party so people can watch ... some of them actually requested it.

Neither of us are really interested in playing in public, at least not the type of playing that we do at home.  In general I've heard most of the parties are 'no sex' zones, so that kind of thing doesn't happen anyway.  Some of the furniture is very tempting though - these are things you just don't have at home.  Spanking benches, whipping frames, poles, a rotating circular wheel ...

I mention the public play because one of the things we 'can' do relatively safely is rope bondage, and since that's one of the things I quite enjoy we'll probably be doing it more often.

At the informal party we also had the opportunity to play with some toys that we just didn't have the money (or skill) to get on our own.  Basically I got a 1-on-1 instructor led intro to a few things, that isn't something you can find online, and it's given us some new things to try on our own and purchase when we can.

In general - the clothing varied from wrapped on latex to a (very cute) kitty outfit, to jeans and a leather vest.  There were tables set up to sit at and socialize (most of the reason we were there) and the dungeon area was separate enough that you could see what was going on and not be close enough to interrupt with your conversation.  Everyone was more than friendly, we met a few new people are were not pushed to do anything we didn't want to do.  I think this would be an intimidating place to 'begin' your introduction to the public scene, meeting people first might be a good idea so you're more comfortable with them.  You are also fully protected here from anyone trying to prey on you, and (I've heard) these are fantastic places to 'play' with a new partner.  There are  DMs who circulate making sure everyone is safe while using the equipment.

Workshops:

We haven't been to any of these yet, but there are things I will not do until someone teaches me how to do them.  This included fire play (which we've recently had an intro in), electrical play, and play piercing (among many other things).  Now that we're in a place that we can attend workshops I'm thrilled, these are less of a place to meet people socially as they are somewhere to learn about something new that you can take home and make use of yourself.

Since we haven't been to any of these yet I'll have to be brief, but from what I've heard they're very casual, and everything is instructor driven, from the lecture to the practice.

To Conclude:

I still don't understand why people wouldn't use these avenues of both expression and access to new friends.  I know that being 'online' may seem easier, and the fantasy is great, but there isn't any substitution for real life.  There also isn't any substitution for the comfortable feeling you can get from sitting around a table of people who won't judge you and discussing the benefits of different spanking toys and how they differ in both damage, feeling, thud and sting.  I'm definitely not the most social person in the world, but even I miss that sense of community and belonging.

You also don't have to take my word for it, there are groups everywhere.  Find a local one and just try it, once.  Make sure to stop back and thank me when you have a great time.

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