Do you read Vanity Fair? I like to read it in the bath, or bed on a Sunday morning, with a cup of coffee. I like to pretend that I earn as much as the people who the magazine are aimed at (ah, aspiration!) I mention it because there was an article in it this month about Catherine Robbe-Grillet, wife of Alain, who is ‘France’s foremost Madam’. Not madam in the sense that she runs a knocking shop above a bookies in Lyon, but Madam, meaning that she is a venerable dominatrix. She is also in her eighties and less than five foot tall, which makes me think that that song about short people by Newman, R. Can go and shove it up its ass. This woman dominates and sets up parties for others to live out their fantasies, mixing suffering and bliss into an art form.
When I first started reading the article I was hesitant, because sub and dom, in my cloistered mind, means ‘kinky stuff’. I have memories of Helga from Allo Allo and dodgy politicians and I can’t take it. But, as Catherine and her acolytes tell, sub dom relationships are rarely about sex, they have impeccable etiquette and no one gets hurt. But still, my mind persists.
Can you un-hardwire prejudice like this? The story resonated with me, because I have a friend who recently confessed that she was enjoying fantasy and roleplay and I think, at the time, that I coped with her confession reasonably well. If I am being honest, (yikes!) My immediate thought was ís she grooming me’? Which is like thinking that every gay person fancies you. I need to get over myself, I know. What I was astounded by was her honesty, and why she felt like telling me.
Truth is, if someone comes out, they’re doing it for themselves, not me. And the test for me is how I handle it, not for them to deal with. It would seem that I’m squeamish about honesty. Real honesty. Most of the time, honesty involves moaning about my day (and is that always true, or just a rather depressing way of starting a conversation? Perhaps people just assume that you’ve had a lousy day, too, so it’s a means of establishing commonality – so sad.) And I don’t mean honesty in the sense of telling someone what you think about them, because that’s nearly always a reflection of how you feel about the world or a situation. I mean when the teller is being honest about themselves, for no reason, just to tell. And I can’t handle it! I automatically try to think of something that I can do with this information, even when the person isn’t telling me for that reason, just because they love me or respect me and want me to know about them. Can I help? Give you something? Offer support? This may make them think that there is something wrong with them, which is not the case. After all, it’s me who has the issue with this honesty malarkey, not them.