On being consistent as an Aspie and a Master

puzzle-160515_640One of my challenges as an Aspie is that I can easily fall extremely focused fixation on a topic at a time, almost to exclusion of all other topics. More recent examples? My focus on my Stock Car Racing. That lasted 3 years till Lake Geneva Raceway closed and the economy crashed. My focus on gaming and D&D. That lasted about 2 years till I discovered how nasty the publishing business is and my involvement in the leather community ramped up.

A Master/slave has typically been defined with “consistency.” Consistency can be a problem when that laser-like focus moves to something else. My research has inconsistent results in how this works – most aspies have a core “thing” or “things” that they are almost-OCD about (and in many aspies, OCD is an issue). For me, that’s not the case as I end up with varied interests (going from stock car racing to playing tabletop RPGs is as opposite as you can get) so I guess your mileage may vary.

What is consistent is that these periods of focus will cause problems in our relationship. When this happened early on in the relationship, for me, I still “felt” the relationship, but given that I already struggle with social/interpersonal cues, I didn’t pick up on angie feeling left out. Over time, we’ve developed a way to communicate during those times so that I am more aware of when they are happening. I’ve had to work on how to find some balance in those times. Like most things related to my AS, I don’t have any silver bullets to fixing this. It’s not always easy, but I’ve gotten better. This ability, a slippery slope, it’s always with me, so I find that I have to keep more aware of when something might be becoming the next interest. 
I bet I sound like quite the basket case.
(edited later to add…)
The “basket case” comment was meant to be more self-deprecating in a humorous way. It was a relief to have “me” explained to me by the clinician because things made sense. I didn’t just miss one important day in school where they taught you how to make friends, socialize at parties and be someone who had it together. I was grateful to get the tools to understand who I am. I just figured that it would be helpful to someone else like me who might happen to read about this guy who is in a M/s relationship and has similar behaviors and thoughts.

On the challenges of being a Master with Aspergers

puzzle-160515_640Imagine for a moment that you have difficulties running – perhaps from a permanent disabling injury, perhaps from a birth defect — and your job and home life required you to run. Imagine that nobody can “see” your injury or disability, but it does not permit you to run, easily or at all.

Imagine for a moment that you can’t see several colors or hear specific things, and your entire day is filled dealing with the issues of both understanding the items that use those colors/sounds, and yet nobody can really tell that you can’t see those colors, they just know you don’t understand the whole green/yellow/red light thing.
And imagine that to you, this is the way life should be, the way it makes *sense* – you may feel slightly different, but everything feels “normal” to you – why does everyone else look at you like you have two heads or like you’re the most oddest person in the world?
That’s my life. I have Aspergers.
About 6 years ago, I sat in a room listening to Master Bob Rubel speak about himself and protocol and Master/slave relationships. Prior to launching into his discussion, he spoke a bit about himself and the things he deals with, in that he has Aspergers. He’s very public about it and I’m grateful for that. I spent more time trying to write down what he spoke about in those opening minutes than the rest of the discussion. I was thinking of a family member at the time, not about me.
As a result of his words, about 2 years ago, I went through a process with a family member to help diagnose them for Aspergers. In the process, as I was reading up on the disorder, in reading personal histories and in hearing the clinician explain what was going on with this family member, it was like a veil was lifted from my eyes. My childhood made sense, the struggles I’ve had all my life, the way I’ve always felt out of place, out of sync, at odds with the world around me suddenly made sense. When I spoke with the clinician, he agreed that I could pay the price to be diagnosed, but at the end of the day, it wouldn’t matter. I’d already adjusted as much as I can to be able to navigate life with a reasonable degree of success. I might not meet the diagnostic criteria, but he felt confident that I fall on the spectrum. In my observations since that day, I’d have to agree.
What is Aspergers? It’s a disorder that is autistic in nature. It affects a person’s ability to have social interactions and can have some other symptoms that people see in other autistic conditions. Wikipedia has a good high level overview.
From Wikipedia:“The lack of demonstrated empathy is possibly the most dysfunctional aspect of Asperger syndrome.[2] Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include a failure to develop friendships or to seek shared enjoyments or achievements with others (for example, showing others objects of interest), a lack of social or emotional reciprocity, and impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.[1] 

People with AS may not be as withdrawn around others as those with other, more debilitating, forms of autism; they approach others, even if awkwardly. For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided, long-winded speech about a favorite topic, while misunderstanding or not recognizing the listener’s feelings or reactions, such as a need for privacy or haste to leave.[8] This social awkwardness has been called “active but odd”.[1] This failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other people’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive.[8] However, not all individuals with AS will approach others. Some of them may even display selective mutism, speaking not at all to most people and excessively to specific people. Some may choose to talk only to people they like.[29]”

Yea. That’s me to a T. I can’t look at a personal or social interaction like someone who doesn’t have AS (I’m going to refer to them as “you”, because it makes it easier for me to say me and you. You might have AS or a similar condition and therefore you might be me. :> ) You see nuances and the flow of social and personal interactions as something you’ve instinctively picked up and developed. I do not. In a very literal sense, I have a flowchart in my head from having learned/observed similar situations. I say “X” to given situation “ABC”. Does that provide the response that I’ve observed is appropriate for this situation? No? Then go do “Z”, otherwise, continue with “Y”. Wait, they are responding in some new and unknown way. “Abort, Retry, Fail”?

You probably don’t see interactions like that, but I have absolutely ZERO idea how you interpret life. Dating for me? A nightmare. Dealing with kids? Heh. That’s a mystery that I’m not good at. Just walking up to strangers in a bar or on the street and having a reasonably “normal” conversation that you might find effortless? I can do it, but each time it works, I have an internal celebration that “I did it!” because it is a major victory to me. More data for me to learn from. 

It might seem odd that someone who is involved in a Master/slave relationship might also struggle with Aspergers, but there’s some basis in how such a relationship could actually work. From what I’ve researched, AS folks like structure, order and defined protocols. That’s because (normally) social and personal interactions are “messy.” In a Master/slave relationship, the protocol is (usually) well defined between the participants. This simplifies a great deal of the interpersonal nuances because they can be put into “safe” structures. Safe is good, because it means these are systems I can trust to work.

That isn’t always the case, especially with the nuances of communication with my slave. What is the #1 thing we struggle with? Not with communicating itself, but the exact words used. The “what” in the words and sentences, not the meaning. For me, the exact words and sentences ARE the meaning, where for you, you know the nuances and empathy of communicating and saying things.

That’s the weird thing about my AS – in S/m, I “see” the energy of the interactions, so apparently for me, strong sexual or strong psycho-sexual interactions I can understand very well. It’s the “normal” stuff – you know, normal conversation, normal interactions, normal relationships that I struggle with. So it’s not a lack of empathy across the entire relationship or interaction spectrum, but more in the interpersonal/interactions that deal with something outside of a sexual nature.

I’m going to close this for now, because I could probably write a whole metric-crap-ton on how AS and M/s work inside of me, but there’s a bigger message I want to say here…

… for those of you who might feel like I do about social interactions, who might struggle with AS and worry about if you can be a part of an M/s relationship – you can do it.

Every time I walk into the LRA, or into Touche, or to an event or to a social setting, there’s a part of me that gibbers in fear and another part of me recording EVERYTHING so I can try to figure out the best way to navigate what are always turbulent, uncharted waters. To many of you, you don’t see it, although you do see me as an odd duck or just “that’s just Michael”. That’s OK. The fact that I’ve learned about 75% of how to interact gets me through most days and the ones that I struggle with (especially with flirting and striking up “those” kinds of conversations)… well.. I just struggle. But I am of 9 years with a wonderful slave who has been patient and kind and able to work with my aspie very well.

You can do it. It’s hard, but then, trying to navigate what the non-aspies go through with seeming effortlessness is always going to be hard. You just have to learn to run when you can’t, or figure out the colors where you can’t see them. Not an easy task, but somewhere, if you’re attracted to the M/s dynamic, you’ll find it.

On dealing with the unexpected

abstract-110985_640Two events that have happened lately to remind me of dealing with the unexpected.

Event the first, we are standing on stage in front of the judges and audience. We’ve started our class.

Back up a step. At GLLA, the class/demo is 10 minutes long and given in front of the judges, who sit up front, and an audience – aka, the shark tank. Once you are done with the class, the floor is opened for questions. This is where the sharks can come out, if you’ve not won over the audience. The times I’ve watched these classes given, it has gone well… and bad.

So fast forward to our recent contest. We think we’re going to give our class to just the judges, but there are only 3 contestants. Guess whose class just became part of the evening’s entertainment? Yup… ours. We found out a week before the contest, so that gave us time to prepare. We feared the worst. Giving what is essentially a relationship class to an audience that might have been drinking for a couple of hours and might not want to hear two straight people talk about dealing with the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

We threw in a bit of humor, a bit of pantomime and prayed for the best…

… except that having practiced to where we knew when to segue to each other, during the contest on stage, I said the magic key words, looked at my lovely slave in the full leather corset and dress… and she looked dreamily at me and said nothing, just smiled at me and looked at me as if I was the most interesting thing in the universe.

Time slowed down… stood still and I felt like I was screaming when I whispered a queue line to her … “Illness”… (we were talking about the causes of a relationship to hit an “ebb”.)

Later… after having an after-class, private meltdown (“CRAP! We just tanked and we’re going to lose again!”) and that proving not the case, I found why she was missing her lines. Apparently having the corset so tightly cinched threw her into subspace… a most unexpected subspace!

(Note to self – ALWAYS practice your on-stage activities in the outfits you’re going to wear.)

Event the second… two days after the contest and the wonderful weekend, we had a family event of titanic proportions that will reverberate for a long time to come. Years. It was that significant. Our granddaughter was coming back to live with us and this time we knew it would be a permanent thing – there is no going back and there will be no way she’ll get to live with our daughter.

So many things get changed in an instant, it’s almost impossible to realize. So many plans that now are radically changed. Our living space has to change, with the need for a fourth bedroom out of a three bedroom home. Our ability to just come and go at a moment’s notice – gone. The issues that we’ll deal with in raising our granddaughter with her challenges and disabilities are many-fold.

In both of these unexpected events, lessons to be learned. Whether innocent and funny, or sad and life-altering, they serve to remind her and I that at the end of the day, we have to lean on each other, depend on the yin-yang of each other and get through what life throws at us.

On becoming IL Master/slave 2013

Last weekend (Sept 14/15), we were honored to be selected as the Illinois Master/slave for 2013. It’s a privilege to be selected to represent and serve the Illinois Leather and Fetish communities and we are going to have a wonderful title year along with the Illinois Leather Sir 2013, Jeff W (CigarSir) and with the Illinois Community Bootblack, Pup Astro. Congrats to you both on your titles!

We wanted to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who supported us. The Chicago Leather Club, who are our brothers and sisters in leather were there supporting us and the contest. The LRA Chicago and our friends from there, that’s our “leather home” where we like to be. Touché, for supporting the contest and always welcoming us.

We want to give a heartfelt thanks to all the judges this year who worked hard to make sure we were ready and prepared: Rubberwillie, Sir Luph, Sir Don, slave Garrett, boi Jen, boy Robert, Pony and Pup Snuggles. We learned a lot from your questions and in sharing the weekend with you all – thank you!

And finally, we want to thank Sir Bear and Ron for putting together a great contest and giving us another chance to seek the title. As well, all the volunteers who made the weekend go great, it was a really fun time!

Congratulations to the titleholder class from 2012, we hope you guys enjoy the rest now and for CherriesJubilee and Master Peter/slave evangeline, good luck on your International title runs.

Springtime awakenings

poppy-115436_640It’s been a long time since we’ve updated here, and a lot has happened since October when we last posted.
What have we been up to? Recovering from the personal shake-up we experienced after being a runner-up to the Illinois M/s contest. Not winning ended up pushing a lot of negative buttons for me personally, and it took awhile to get over that. Right after that, we experienced a lot of personal/family issues and then work became crazy for me. Slave angie had a bout of illness due to lupus and it was just a rough stretch from about late October through the holidays.
All hasn’t been bad though – Chicago Leather Club is celebrating their decade anniversary and we’re planning a 1 day run (“dash”) on Labor Day weekend. This has taken up time, as has teaching Master/slave topics at local/regional venues. We gave a presentation on “Ebbs/Flows in M/s relationships” in October at the Greater Chicago MasT group. In January, we braved the unpredictable lake effect snows of Lake Michigan to visit GRALE in Grand Rapids, MI and teach about long-term 24/7 Master/slave relationships.
The unusually warm winter/early spring also means we’ve been busier around the house and busy riding the Harley when we can. We traveled to Nashville in mid-March to celebrate with the Conductors LL on their 30th anniversary run. What fun!
After really struggling for awhile, I’ve also regained my confidence and I’ve decided to give the M/s title run another shot with angie. We’ll be competing this year at the IL contests again, which should happen in mid-September. It is going to be a busy time though, between CLC’s dash, the Corn Hauler’s run and the contest, we’ll be busy as all hell. But we’re hopeful that our experiences from the previous title contest will help us for this one.

Teaching and travel coming up

pacific-ocean-172370_640Slave angie and I have started teaching and sharing our experiences. We think this is probably the best thing for us to do after the Master/slave title run in September.

We spoke at the October Greater Chicago MasT meeting about ebbs/flows in a Master/slave relationship. We call them high tides and low tides. It was a really good discussion on what ebbs/flows are, how they affect the Master/slave dynamic and (most importantly) what we learned through our experiences in how to get through the low tides/ebbs. We were really thrilled at how well the discussion went! Thank you to Greater Chicago MasT for the privilege!

Tentatively scheduled is a trip to Grand Rapids in January to speak on “Service – Giving and Receiving 24/7.” We are going to share how we’ve managed our service relationship while also dealing with “real life” like kids, dogs, house, jobs, finances, stress, family… you know, all those things that really get in the way of a good erotic fantasy! Haha!

We’re also hoping to submit our application to teach at venues later in 2012, like at GLLA and perhaps CLAW. Woof! That would be fun!

Identifying as a leatherman

black-72926_640Understanding my background is my best way of explaining what leather is for me and why I call myself a Leatherman. My history is one of not feeling like I was “entitled” to call myself Master SuchandSuch, but to earn that right. One of looking at the various people and admiring the leatherfolks and learning from them, emulating them, reaching out to them and serving the community as I could. Whether that’s with money, support or sweat equity.

I call myself a Leatherman because I identify with the sex that comes with leather. I feel more of a connection with how leatherfolks cruise and play than anywhere else. In this respect, though, I probably come up a bit short with my shyness and my other aspects that make socializing difficult for me.

I feel that my service and dedication to my leather club (my tribe, my family) makes me a leatherman. It’s been my experience and observation that most of the general kink/BDSM community will gladly come together for munches or the play parties, but that seems to be the limit. Most of the leatherfolk I emulate give back a lot to the community, including sexual activism, sweat equity and the sense of community that comes from that.

I feel a sense of safety and connection with those who “earn their way” into the scene. Starting at the bottom may be the most-oft quoted way, but it wasn’t the only way and isn’t to this day. That being said, “earning” your way, accepting that you’re “junior” until those you respect and learn from tell you otherwise makes a lot of sense to me. It requires for me to be humble that even after 10 years, 15 years, I still have a lot to learn, to earn and to give back. I contrast this to those that seem to feel entitled to call themselves “Master/Mistress SuchAndSuch” just because they can, and form “Leather families” because it’s newest fad to look cool.

This topic is so difficult to explain in a post. Learning what my leather is has taken me 16 years and continues. Identifying one’s self as a leatherman or not I think depends on what someone has learned, HOW they have learned, where they want to go. If leather calls to you, then you’ll find it. It’s one of those things that a person doesn’t *have* to be leather to have fun or be authentic. If someone doesn’t identify with leather, that’s awesome! Go forth, be your kinky-bad-self and enjoy the space you have and the people you share it with.