It’s now a lost part of London, back then it was a simple forgotten backwater. I loved the area when I visited. R had a pokey little flat on the south side of the river, just a bit down stream from Woolwhich. The view from the lounge was surprisingly magnificent, looking over towards the City Airport with the towers of the commercial City looming behind it.
This tired and forgotten part of the old East End was quiet, you could hear bird song. It ran at it’s own slow pace, about 20 years behind nearby boroughs, and nature was reclaiming parts in a slow and genteel way.
And this was where I enjoyed the company and friendship of R. She was everything that should have intimidated the wannabe sub I was back then. She was a well known domme on the London scene and I was a non-entity curious sub from way out in the sticks.
We never had a D/s relationship and I’m not sure to this day why, or how it happened, but instead of closing the door, that door opened wider on to something far more important, friendship. An open and honest thing because there could never be under currents of trying to make it D/s. We had some wonderful trips to art galleries and great nights out in the West End, plenty of late night conversation where she talked openly and honestly about things that made my naive jaw drop. Oh, and she was a really good cook, too.
R was as lifestyle as you will ever find. She was out in so many ways. She was a domme, she was lesbian, she was poly, she was very large and a proud beacon for feminist politics and she wore all her emotions on her sleeve.
I was substantially more male back then than I am now. R was the first in a phenomenon I’ll write about elsewhere. She instinctively knew there was nothing dangerously male about me, I don’t think she consciously copped to me having female vibes – hell, I didn’t back then, either. She just knew there was someone she could talk to and trust in a way she was more likely to do with female friends rather than male.
By tenuous extension I was part of her lifestyle, all of it. And it could be very ‘in your face’.
The living room was crowded with only a small sofa suite and a coffee table, there was no hiding the magnificent padded St Andrews cross dominating one end of the room. Neither was there any hiding the plethora of rambant rabbits, dildos, harnesses, ropes, cuffs, crops and whips spread around and under the coffee table and whatever space there was in the other rooms. There was some interesting artwork, too. There were lots of conversation pieces in that flat, all of them potentially uncomfortable for anyone not prepared to deal with R’s lifestyle on her terms.
I should have been completely over-awed, I should have done the traditional wannabe sub thing of running a mile when confronted with this much BDSM lifestyle reality.
But what an education !!
R talked about so many passions in parts of the lifestyle I’d barely heard of, let alone had any knowledge of. What she really did was show me that friendship transcends that YKINMK moment, that moment when the disengaged brain is about to let the mouth run riot. It’s easy to pay lip service to being non-judgemental, R challenged me to really think and question before deciding it’s ok to have an opinion, even if it might be judgemental.
I was never going to be a lesbian, I was never going to be her sub or part of her poly family. I was never going to go on demos of feminist politics and back then body positive politics were barely a gleam in the eye of feminism. And none of that mattered one iota.
Occasionally R showed me some big doses of reality, too. A couple of trips to LAM come to mind that boggled the eyes of an occasional cross-dressing sub encountering his first out trans people.
In our long discussions she taught me to expand my mind to encompass so much alien to my upbringing and limited world view. To disassociate questions about the activities from questions about the person. That just because someone is involved in stuff so far outside your own experience doesn’t mean you can’t have compassion and be supportive of the brilliant person and friend.
That was a special time, the era is fixed in my mind because she was eventually evicted due to all the landlords getting ready for compulsory purchases because of upcoming developments for the Olympics. R moved to Sutton and for a time we continued some of those wonderful weekends until the passions eventually broke her.
These days, to my surprise and embarrassment, other people can seem to consider me lifestyle. If I am, I owe much of that to R who introduced me to so much long before I knew what I was in the world of BDSM.
R was my first “Big Sis”, a role she took on with unexpected glee and responsibility. Now I think about it, I actually was a small part of her poly family.