I’ve made no secret that I’ve had some problems with patience and rope. I learned some very important lessons over the course of the last month. Lessons that have helped me overcome my own internal barrier and have finally allowed me to recognize things for what they are, and not for what I thought they were.
I took a five week rope class in preparation for Shibaricon 2010. My original intention was to tie at the Con. I’d thought that perhaps one of the reasons for my ambivalence about rope was because I’d outgrown simply being tied and that learning to tie would solve the boredom I sometimes felt. In taking that class, I learned a great deal about myself, about rope, and about Daddy. And a couple of the classes I took at Shibaricon this year clarified those thoughts.
One of the classes that gave me my “aha” moment was Sophia Sky’s Feedback class. While discussing the ways that a good bottom gives feedback, we started talking about communication styles. Verbal vs. written. Anger vs. Calm. And one of the things mentioned was that even when in a relationship with someone, someone that you think you know pretty well, and someone that you think knows you pretty well....you don’t always hear what they’re saying. Oh..you understand the words....but the context of how you each view them is just ever so slightly askew.
Daddy often used the term “play with rope”. It took me a long time to realize that he’d been using that term to describe his wish to try something, learn something or practice something. He’s a rope top so playing with rope is a way for him to describe the physical manipulation of the medium. What I didn’t realize was that I’d been hearing “play with rope” and thinking “play with ME with rope”. And despite knowing Daddy pretty well...he thought he was being clear, and I thought I’d heard him. Some of my greatest disappointment stemmed from my knowing what he said, but having diverging meanings of the word “play” at that moment.
It also occurred to me that when he asked “how does that feel?” after he’d tied me, he wasn’t looking for how I was emotionally relating to the rope or to him. What he’d really wanted to know was if it was comfortable, if it was pinching, pulling, across places it shouldn’t be, if my hands were going numb. He wanted to know if I could be in the rope for a while. He wanted a status condition. I was hearing him ask me if I was getting floaty or if what he was doing was emotionally resonating with me. He was asking for facts. I was answering with emotion. And given the disconnect with the "playing with rope" part of the equation, it's no wonder that my emotional answer to the "feeling" question didn't quite make things easy at times.
I also foolishly thought “how hard can it be?” and “why does he take so long to tie?” What I learned was that it Is Very Hard when you’re learning this for the first time. When you’re learning the right way to tie something, when you’re learning new knots, new ties. And it takes so damned long because he’s learning it so that later on, I’m not hurt. I’d forgotten (if I even really ever realized it) that the more comfortable he is with tying, the chances of my getting hurt when in his rope are lessened. Repetition creates speed and accuracy. Practice really does make perfect. In my own bottom world....I couldn’t see the mechanics that went into the tying and therefore couldn’t understand why something that looked so easy....seemed to take so long. And Daddy is really a wonderful rope top. He practices so that I can have the emotions on the bottom safely. I can only hope that with his patience, someday I'll be as good as a ropebottom for him.
I learned that practice dummies (or dining room chairs) can be valuable for some things. Learning a new knot, practicing wraps, cinches, and the mechanics of tying can easily be done on a dummy...but in order for us to get to the play with rope, he needs to practice with me. My body, my tolerance, my shape, and the way we use rope can only be practiced on me. A dining room chair won’t complain if a cinch grabs a bunch of air, but I surely will if the same cinch grabs the skin under my arm. A dining room chair can be as lithe, limber, and bendy as you’d like...but I seldom am.
Daddy has often said to me that when he’s tying me, what he wants most from me is to participate. It’s taken me some time to learn exactly what he meant by that. It would have been a lot easier to just ask him what he’d wanted, but I used past experiences and people to try to gauge what he was looking for. I’d heard him, but I’d interpreted instead of questioned. It took me too long to realize this. And I can only thank my lucky stars that Daddy is patient and forgiving. In fact, when he’d asked me in the dungeon on Saturday night at Shibaricon “how does that feel?”...I finally asked him....”what do you want to know exactly when you ask me that”? It seemed like a stupid question. And I was kind of embarrassed to ask it. But it was information that I needed to know in order to participate in the way he needed from me. This was sort of the “duh” moment I guess.
I learned a lot at that five week class. I learned that I didn’t want to tie anyone. I find learning rope from the topside tedious, exacting, and well...frankly...boring. But I’m really glad that Daddy doesn’t feel the same way. I really like rope from the bottom. And I'm grateful that there are people out there who obviously really like rope from the top.
So, because I’m a big fan of learning from my mistakes, here’s my list of things I learned from learning I didn’t want to learn to tie:
1. People often say things that we misinterpret. If something doesn’t seem to be working right, it’s better to just stop and ask “what do you mean by that?” Even if you really think you know what they mean..the fact that "something" isn't right should be a huge clue that maybe the message is being lost in the translation from one brain to the other.
2. Rope takes work. It’s not all on the top to do all the work either. Bottoms have a huge responsibility for helping their tops get better. If you’re going to be in a relationship with a rope lover, even if you don’t ever want to tie someone, learn enough of how to do it for yourself so that you can help. Learn about yourself and your own body. Practice things that you can do as a bottom when your top is practicing. Breathing, stretching, or hell...even making a grocery list or organizing your closet in your mind will make things feel like you're doing something.
3. Realize that tying is NOT as easy as it looks. Learning new ties takes a lot of repetition and repetition isn’t always fun. But it’s what keeps us safer in the long run. And if you ever think that it seems easy...remember that it's an illusion and the result of a lot of practice.
4. Make compromises. Tops have to realize that tying the same tie over and over and over again isn’t just boring for a bottom, but gets really annoying after a while. Rope pulled over the same area dozens of times, knots laid over the same place dozens of times....rubs bottoms raw (and not in a good way). While bottoms are providing this service, perhaps they don’t have to provide constant feedback and could watch a little television or read? Perhaps changing from standing to sitting, or even location can make a world of difference.
5. Ask your top what kind of feedback they want. Specifically. And ask them to describe what it is that they’re looking for. Do they want help with “how things go?” Do they want you to tell them if something doesn’t feel “right” right away or if they’d prefer that they finish the tie first?
6. Talk to each other when tying. Maybe this isn’t the time for heavy conversations about arguments you’ve had, your jobs or taxes. But perhaps talking about an upcoming event, a party, a vacation, or even what you’re going to have for dinner can make this seem more like a partnership and less like one person working while the other is being a dressmaker dummy.
7. Understanding what the goals are for rope for both partners is key. Understanding yourself enough to know that you have to be honest with your partner that something is becoming tedious helps. And tops who understand that being a practice bottom, for all that it is important, is indeed a big service being provided by their bottoms. Be grateful you’ve got a bottom who will let you practice that same tie for the 50th time. Say thank you. Make the practice fun for the bottoms, even if it’s just a pat on the head once in a while to remember that you’re STILL tying a pretty girl. Having a willing practice bottom who will be happy to do it the next time relies not just on the bottom's attitude, but the tops' as well.
And perhaps the most important thing:
8. Make sure that you actually PLAY with rope. Don’t spend all your time practicing that you forget why you’re learning it in the first place.
By learning I had no interest in tying, I learned more about myself than if I'd have actually tied anyone. I learned enough to untangle the ties that had clouded my perceptions and have found my way to rope again.
And I'm looking forward to it.