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Asexual Awareness Week

  • Posted on October 30, 2014 at 7:07 pm

For those of you who may not know, I am asexual. What this means, in short, is that I do not, and have not, ever enjoyed sex. I can feel pleasure, physically, I can even participate in such a way that it is pleasant. However, Sex is always uncomfortable. It’s roughly, to me, what doing the dishes might be to you, or perhaps cleaning out a toilet. It has to be done, but only when necessary.

According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN for short), an Asexual individual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. For the laymen in the audience, this is where you have to separate Sexuality from Romantic-orientation. They are two different things. It is entirely possible to feel Romantic attraction to someone, while simultaneously feeling no sexual attraction whatsoever. When the reverse happens, that’s usually when you find someone hot, but completely un-dateable.

There is an entire spectrum of Asexuality, ranging from Sex-repulsed, to gray-asexual, to Sex-positive individuals. The common ground here is this: A lack of sexual attraction. This does not mean that an asexy individual doesn’t have a libido. It is entirely possible that an ace individual will choose to masturbate frequently, or only once a month, or never! There is the possibility that an asexy person will choose to have sex as many times as their partner wants to, without hesitation, because they enjoy the closeness. For others, they might not be able to tolerate sexual contact at all, from the gentle brush of fingers down one’s arm to the touch of lips to lips. And then, there are some who even enjoy sexual contact!

For me, my asexual journey has been one of much discovery. When I was young, my mother was a very sexual individual. She had complete control of her sexuality, and was never ashamed of it, that I knew of. Not only that, but she made sure I knew the birds and the bees pretty early. I actually can’t remember when I got the ‘Talk’ so to speak, I just… always felt like I knew it. I feel my mother was amazing in that regard.

During my teen-hood, however, I had several fitful stops and starts with normal teen romances. My very first boyfriend I had for a week, and any time he touched me, I felt nauseous. Not nervous, nauseous, as if I was going to throw up if his hands were on me for more than a mere moment. He left me for my best friend, who would hold hands with him when he wanted. That was fine with me. It was more a relief.

In high school, I dated a very nice young man, who took me to homecoming and to the corn maze before Halloween. He was always very respectful, and when I held his hand, I felt nervous, not sick. So I thought maybe it was all a fluke. But even when he hugged me, I couldn’t let it last for too long. I felt like if I did, something bad would happen. I didn’t want to go beyond holding hands, and spending time together happily. A week after he asked me for our first kiss, and I gave it to him, I broke up with him. I claimed that it was because  my family was moving, and while we were, it didn’t change the fact that, once again, I was relieved not to have to satisfy those needs for more kisses and things that I didn’t like.

Now that isn’t to say I wasn’t normal in other regards. I discovered masturbation, and engaged in it almost nightly. I enjoyed role-playing online with those anonymous people who would, and it was through that that I discovered that I enjoy erotic literature. So I felt that perhaps, there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t want to actually engage in those acts with PEOPLE. I told myself that I was simply trying not to follow in my mother’s footsteps as a teen mom. That it was fear, and not something else.

When I was nineteen, I had my longest lasting relationship. Almost a full year, and it was an unhealthy thing. He was always frustrated, and I didn’t know what to do. I sought help from relationship sites, my friends, everyone. They all said the same thing. In a relationship, Love equals Sex. He thought I didn’t love him because I wouldn’t have sex with him. So, I did. To prove I loved him, I had sex with him, and while it wasn’t horrible, it was uncomfortable, and I was, again, glad that it was over. It didn’t happen again, luckily, because he dumped me a week or so afterwards.

I went back to thinking that perhaps something was wrong with me, and decided that I was better off without boys. Without relationships in general. But I always came back to loneliness, and needing that romantic relationship. I’ve always wanted a partner, to help me through the rough, to keep me steady and stable. I’ve always wanted the kind of marriages that last through decades. But I couldn’t seem to hold a relationship for more than a few months. One particular man, I even slept with every week, because I thought he would stay if I did, and it was no worse than any other chore, really. At least holding his hand didn’t make me feel sick again.

Here, I feel, I should clarify a few things. This sort of contact, holding hands, hugging, leaning against someone, falling asleep near someone, are triggers for this feeling of wrongness only when in a relationship context. I have never had an issue laying on, hugging on, cuddling with, or in general being touchy with my friends, and those that I am close to. It is only when there is this added romantic portion that I find myself sickened. It is that expectation of sex that taints the actions for me.

But then, after years of complaining and trying to explain to my best friends, a married couple who took me in in the later part of my teenager-hood, it finally came to a head. The husband, he’d watched a documentary on Asexuality, and while watching it, had noticed that a lot of what the main person in the documentary had spoken about experiencing, I had mentioned experiencing as well. So, he asked me to watch it too.

It was like, a revelation. I felt such an immense relief that I wasn’t the only one. That there were others like me, and WE WERE NOT BROKEN. There wasn’t something wrong with me that couldn’t be explained. I was just Asexual. That’s all there was to it! But of course, being who I am, I had to do research first, to find out if that was true, or not. So I found AVEN, and read through forum after forum. I gathered the courage and went on the chat-room, and talked to those around me, and it was like coming home.

Now, that isn’t saying that my troubles were over, upon discovering this. Because I’d also discovered the section of asexuals who ‘compromise’. What compromising means, in this instance, is dating an allosexual individual, or someone capable of sexual attraction, and having sex with, or performing sexual actions with them in order to keep the relationship healthy for both parties. I thought that I could handle this.

I fell into a relationship quickly, with a boy who said he thought he was asexual as well. However, as our relationship grew, it turned out he was demisexual, or rather, a person who only experiences sexual attraction and urges after an emotional connection is established. He asked me to compromise, and I agreed to try. But I just… After a while, it grew too stressful, too much, and I found myself in that situation where I felt sick when he touched me again. So, I broke up with him.

This last relationship has helped me realize that I am sexually-repulsed. Which means sex, and anything related to sex, is something that I cannot do. I am not broken, it’s simply the way I am. A homosexual won’t experience sexual feelings for a heterogendered individual. I can’t have sexual contact. It’s simple. And while I am still an avid masturbator and enjoyer of sex comics and pornographic fanfiction, this means I will never enjoy sex with another person. And that’s alright.

As a promise to myself, and a reminder to never compromise again, I wear the black ring on my left middle finger. This tradition started in 2005, when AVEN user Mega Mitosis posted this on the boards:

You know, a friend of mine wears a ring on her left middle finger. Her explanation being that: your right middle means “currently single”, the right ring means “currently taken” and since the left ring means “taken/married” in a permanent sense, then the next logical conclusion would be that left middle means “permanently single”.

And while I might not be permanently single, I do fully intend never to allow myself to fall into a situation where I feel sickened just by the touch of someone again. I am in control of my sexuality, just as my mother was, and while I am a different sexuality than she, I am no less important. So please, if you know someone you think might be asexual, don’t tell them there is something wrong with them. Don’t ask if they’ve gone to see a therapist. Instead, show them this article, and let them find out for themselves what they are or may be. And if you think that you are, in fact, asexual as well? Welcome to the club, we have cake.

Especially chocolate lava cake. Yum.

By the by, the colors there are the Asexual Flag. Pretty cool, huh?

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Researching Mystery

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Today, I have a guest blog published over on Cindy Grigg’s website. We’ve swapped guestblogs, and her post, 9 ways to fix your Stereotyped Character is informative and fun to read! Go take a look at it! Also, take a look at the article, Researching mystery which you can find here:

If you’re curious, here’s the first two paragraphs of the article, for your perusal.

To begin with, I’m not normally a mystery author. To be specific, when I was younger, I only ever wrote fantasy novels, or romance. Now, however, I’m trying my hand at mystery novels, which means quite a bit of strife. I have a natural instinct when it comes to fantasy, so I find it easy to fall into. With Romance, I have my years as a fanfiction writer and fandom roleplayer to fall back on, which can both enhance and detract from my writing. (No one likes reading author’s notes, I’ve since learned.)

I came to mystery as a genre because I love the tense atmosphere. Maybe it’s less mystery and more suspense that I enjoy. But recently, I’ve found that I want a challenge. And the best way to challenge yourself is to write something you’ve never in a million years written before. But how can you write something you’ve never written before? How can you make sure that you don’t slip back into writing what you know? And worst of all, how do you manage to make it a GOOD manuscript when you know nothing about your genre?

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