Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

An Excerpt from Whip Smart

Written by Melissa Febos
 
         
I had never liked parties. Even as a child, I tended to form intense, one-on-one relationships, rather than groups of friends. Unless there was dancing, I didn’t see the point of hanging out in a large group, which made it impossible to connect with any single person and triggered a shyness that I liked to hide. I also typically wanted to get so high that public locations were impractical. At a party, I might have to share my drugs, or talk to someone who’d care that I’d forgotten how my legs worked.

{multithumb thumb_width=400 thumb_height=500}{mosimage width=400 height=500}I had never liked parties. Even as a child, I tended to form intense, one-on-one relationships, rather than groups of friends. Unless there was dancing, I didn’t see the point of hanging out in a large group, which made it impossible to connect with any single person and triggered a shyness that I liked to hide. I also typically wanted to get so high that public locations were impractical. At a party, I might have to share my drugs, or talk to someone who’d care that I’d forgotten how my legs worked.

After a few months of working at the dungeon, however, my interest in social events spiked. I now had the power to hijack any conversation, to commandeer the attention of however many people were within earshot at any given moment. As far as I could tell, no one was immune to the curiosity that the phrase “I’m a professional dominatrix” provoked. I lolled happily in the silence that followed uttering it, knowing the torrent of questions that would follow, the shine of eyes that saw me suddenly new. Knowing that I was likely the sole spokesperson for a subculture most people would never experience imbued me with a confidence I otherwise lacked. I was the reigning expert, the beautiful geek, and I loved their shock at how normal I seemed, how unlike what they would have imagined. With this ace in my pocket, parties became fun. Whether I pulled it out or not, I still had its power, and took comfort in worrying it like a lucky stone.

On Halloween, Rebecca and I went to a party in DUMBO— an up- and- coming Brooklyn neighborhood full of industrial lofts and brick streets— where I was supposed to meet a date. With a vile of cocaine, three bags of heroin, and a disposable syringe folded in a sock that I had tucked in an inside pocket of my purse, I convinced my roommate to take a cab, and had her laughing the whole way there. The giddiness of anticipation always made me funny. I had her in stitches with my description of Gene, the “Sweater Man,” who brought a duffel bag to the dungeon every week, full of knitted clothing. He liked to be completely swathed in sweaters: sweater socks, sweater underpants, sweater mittens, sweater hats, sweater trousers, sweater masks. When he had nary an inch of naked skin bared, I’d immobilize him with rope bondage. That, really, was it. He liked to be tickled sometimes, while bound and sweater mummified, but really, just being sweaty, sweatered, and bound was enough for him. I could just hang out in the room while he gently writhed and cooed in his fuzzy cocoon. Gene made for an ideal anecdote: ridiculous and benign. I also wanted to distract Rebecca from any nervousness I might exhibit in omitting the fact that I had a purse full of drugs. I had become more comfortable omitting things from her, though I suspected she knew more than I told her. We both felt the distance my lies created, and with increasing frequency I would catch her looking at me with worried eyes. Sometimes I’d meet her gaze, in a fleeting moment of defiance, but more often I’d evade her. She hadn’t yet had the courage or the opportunity to voice concern.

From Whip Smart by Melissa Febos. Copyright (c) 2010 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

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