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[Posted to soc.sexuality.spanking, 10 April 2002]

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[Image of Mr Impossible]Pigtails and Cowboy Hats: A Shadow Lane Ramble (part 2/2)
by Pablo

[. . . continued from part 1/2]

Fashionably late once more, we change for dinner. For me this consists of throwing on my venerable green linen jacket and splashing some water on my face, though Mija assumes a much more glamorous look. And she looks great. Then J.&J. are ready, and we find ourselves comprehensively trumped. J.(&J.) is wearing a stunning all-white U.S. Navy uniform which (J.&)J. recently surprised him with and which he's wearing for the first time. They both look wonderful, and I know they'll cause plenty of dropped jaws.

M., whose room is also opposite ours, comes by. He's already wandered down to the ballroom and back. He gives us directions to the ballroom, which seem simple enough. As we head downstairs and out across the intricate collection of twisty paths, ponds and palms which form the hotel's gardens, however, we find ourselves rather lost. The directions seem to take us to a brightly-lit glass-sided function suite full of tuxedos and balloons and happy dancing. And a many-tiered cake being cut by a woman in elaborate white. A wedding party.

It's at this point that the extent to which Shadow Lane is a spanking party made mainstream finally hits home. So far, it's seemed as if we have had the hotel to ourselves. And it's easy to feel normal when one is isolated from anything different. But here is the almost stereotypically conventional, side by side with our little world of pervery. It's true that Shadow Lane represents spanking with its most vanilla trappings - little costumery, toys of mainstream heritage, a majority of heterosexuality - and it's a rather more social than practical gathering. But still. Apart from the wedding party (and the Bar Mitzvah the previous night), a 'Sweet Sixteen' party is also in progress here on this night. Normal or not, I imagine all of them mixing inadvertently into a Woody Allen froth.

Mind, the maze-like paths might have been designed to keep the parties apart, I think, as we meet others equally lost. Finally, though, we reach the correct building, and turn down elegant corridors to the ballroom.

The constrast with the previous night is significant. The ballroom is huge, and fancy schmancy, large round tables scattered around the open dance floor. Our misturns adding to our lateness, things are already bustling and the tables are full. More tables are being wheeled out, though, and we grab one quite close to the main entrance as soon as it's been laid. It turns out to be a great position for people-watching; we can see people as they arrive, and also take in the whole of the rest of the room.

There are lots of people here - far more than the previous night - and they seem generally far more confident and relaxed. We'll chat with Tony Elka later, and find out that the number is typical for the Shadow Lane Saturday night: somewhat more than two-hundred. I see familiar faces: M., T.&D., G. I also recognise more than several scene professionals as they arrive. For an evening, this is spanko central.

We grab some food from the buffet. I find that I'm feeling some degree of out-of-placeness, but realise that it has nothing to do with kink insecurity. It's simply that I'm not used to or comfortable with formal social occasions like this one. Being happy with my kink is easy in comparison. Still, I'm happy to watch, and that's the appeal of this night for me. Perhaps the greater confidence I see in others is the flip-side of this: however nervous or not they might be about this being a spanking party, the basic social grammar is one they're fluent with.

There's plenty of dancing, and a little play, both at tables and at the front of the dance floor, but it's gentle and superficial. A statuesque blonde transsexual (or transvestite - it matters, but I don't know which) enters brandishing a crop and looking utterly magnificent in a long ball-gown, winning my prize for Most Intimidating Shadow Lane Presence. We meet K., who also looks great. She explains that she'd intended to wear a black PVC costume, but hadn't because she'd not wanted to feel conspicuous. It's rather more typical of the British fetish scene than Shadow Lane. Mija and I try to convince her that she would look wonderful - conspicuous in all the right ways - and that she should go change into it. She says she might, later.

Apart from J.(&J.)'s Navy uniform - which stands out all the more because of this - very few people are extravagantly costumed. The kink flavouring, where it exists, is mostly rather subtle: plaid skirts, pigtails. And for some reason a preponderance of cowboy hats. The semiology certainly seems weighted towards cowboys and Catholic schoolgirls, though it's not clear what kink scenario would encompass both.

Mija and I smile at the sight of Tony Elka with a girl sitting on either side of his lap. He looks like a man who has found his true vocation. We talk with him for a short while. He expresses a confidence that all of this - gesturing around the ballroom - would not have happened without a woman's guiding hand in the business: Eve's. That he'd have ended up recreating Nu-West. I have my doubts, but there doesn't seem any question that between the two of them they've created an organisation that's women-friendly, even women-centred, without being exclusionary or judgemental of wider orientations. This is what interests us, they say, but all are welcome.

As the evening progresses, things seem to become more urgent and business-like. Cowboy hats criss-cross the room in a searching mode. Looking for play-partners? For life-partners? Only when J.(&J.) and T.(&D.) independently approach us and pass on room numbers as if they were top secret do I realise what many people have been doing much of the night: networking to find out where the best room-parties are going to be afterwards. This simply hadn't occurred to me. The numbers seem meaningless anyhow, since I know I'd rather spend time with one or two friends than look for parties. But I seem to be in a minority. Suddenly the ballroom is much emptier, as pigtails and cowboy hats head back to begin party-hopping.

Unfashionably late this time, Mija and I wend our way back across the gardens towards the hotel. Finding ourselves lost again, we follow a tall man who seems more purposeful, only to follow him into a dead end at the empty and cordoned-off swimming pool. We have to retrace our steps, but eventually make it back to civilisation.

We're not sure what to do next, though. None of the parties seems particularly inviting to us - we're both quite tired and don't know any of the people involved, so our introversion kicks in again. But it feels too early for bed.

Picking the room number that was mentioned most often, we wander across anyhow. It's not too full but lots of play is happening. We know none of the people there, though, and that makes me feel very awkward, so we make a quiet exit.

The route back to our own room takes us past another party. We see someone ahead of us being turned away at the door. The room is too full, he's told. As we go past, through a crack in the door I can see that this is an understatement. The room is extraordinarily full. I can also see someone suspended from the ceiling, and being flogged. I suspect the latter accounts for the former.

We're heading for our room when we run across K. She has indeed changed into her black PVC outfit, and does indeed look wonderful. Rubenesque doesn't begin to cover it. (Nor, for that matter, does her outfit.) She's a little aimless also. We tell her that we're going back to our room, and that she's more than welcome to come along. She says that she'll come along in a short while.

And then, by the lifts, we meet F.

He's small, thin. And he's wired. On what, I've no idea - quite probably just the excitement of the weekend. He and Mija recognise each other from the last Shadow Lane, and say their hellos. We invite him back to our room. We hadn't planned to have another room-party, but it seems to be happening anyway.

F. wants to be spanked. Badly. No sooner are we back in our room - we leave the door open should anyone wander by - than he's bouncing up and down puppyishly, telling us what a bad boy he is, and wondering aloud how hard Mija spanks and what should happen to him. It's quite a little performance, funny and sweet and entirely disarming. It's not us. He's just greedy for the sensation right now, and is right in the middle of some great head-space.

And why not. Mija jumps in at the deep end, settling down on the side of one of the beds, taking his jeans down, then pulling him across her lap. It's something she only feels like doing occasionally with very close friends, but Mija is a nifty spanker when she turns her hand to it, and she gives her all. Almost as soon as she's begun scolding playfully and hand-spanking slightly less playfully, F. squirms and whines and howls, each response a pantomime of exaggeration. He whines that he can't take it, that he's not brave enough. Soon his tush is genuinely rosy, though.

He begins to wonder aloud how 'the gentleman' spanks, and how 'the gentleman' would deal with him. It takes me more than a few moments to realise that 'the gentleman' he's referring to is me. I suppress some giggles: whatever I am, I'm no gentleman. Whether he'd wanted to play with me first of all, I'm not sure. Possibly. In any event, he seems to want to now. (My first impression had been that he's gay, but Mija later tells me that he's bisexual, and married.)

Mija lets F. to his feet. He pulls up his jeans. I call him across to me. I indicate the chest of drawers sitting on the other side of the room, and tell him that the top drawer contains all of the implements we brought with us. I tell him that I want him to go across and choose from the drawer whichever implement scares him the most, and then to bring it back to me. His eyes get all big. It's adorable.

He stalls, though, and we're both distracted at that moment. K. arrives, with a few others, including J.&J., close behind.

Soon, K.'s preference for flogging, expressed that afternoon, turns into play. She's brought her flogger with her. J.(&J.) flogs her bottom and back (incongruously, still in Navy uniform, while she's in black PVC) - starting gently but building into a deep thuddiness. She glows, and moans, and squirms, and seems aroused almost to the point of orgasm, if not beyond. Her pleasure in the pain is beautiful to watch, and a privilege to share. I'm not sure if I've met such a masochist before.

F. hovers in the background, watching the flogging, and watching me. While K.'s flogging is still going on, I call across to him that I'm perfectly serious, and expect him to bring me one of the implements. With what looks like genuine nervousness, he gingerly opens the drawer and looks in. It's a difficult choice, and he takes a long time over it, but eventually he pulls out our two-tailed tawse from Adam & Gillian. I've no idea if it's actually the one he finds the scariest, but it's a nasty little thing, so it might well be. He throws the tawse onto the bed beside me.

I pick the tawse up, and skip through J.(&J.)'s flogging swing to reach the connecting door to J.&J.'s room, which is private now, calling F. through with me. I stand him in front of me, and tell him that I'm going to give him twenty hard strokes of the tawse, and that I'm not going to stop, no matter how much he whines and pleads that he can't take it. I sit on a corner of the bed, take his jeans down again, then lift him across my lap, pulling his underpants down once he's there. His bottom is small and tight. It's a little pink from Mija's ministrations, but not much.

(Aside. Q: I've a bare-bottomed man across my lap (for the first time in my life) and I'm going to spank him. How do I feel about this? A: Turns out it feels like a great deal of fun. He's so completely into it that it couldn't not be. I'm not sure spanking a man could ever be the match of spanking a woman for me, but F. is a spanko, and most of the necessary feelings seem to be present and correct in my head, I'm relieved to discover.)

While F. pleads that he won't be able to take it, that he's too much of a wimp, I hold him tight, and start with the first stroke, hard. He whines and tenses up. He can take it, but I think he's also genuinely scared that he can't - the whining also seems to be part of the scene for him. This is pulling against his hunger for it and making his head spin. I'm not letting go, though. I want this to be hard, to show him that he can take it. Besides, it's only twenty.

Each stroke is followed by squirming and pleading, but I keep them coming. Just on his bottom, though. Moving down to his thighs would be mean. At fourteen, I decide to give him something to remember. Wrapping my arm snugly around his waist, I deliver the last six quickly. He struggles hard and tenses in some sort of quasi-orgasm, then relaxes, breathing hard and babbling a little.

Seeming distracted, spent, F. dresses then excuses himself, saying that he'll be back later. He appears to mean it, but we won't see him again before we leave.

It's midnight.

Our room is quieter now. Most people have wandered off to other parties once more. It feels like perhaps the day is over. G. has come by, though, and her energy is still fizzing off in all directions. Mija picks up on this, and asks G. if she'd like to do a school scene with her and me. Mija has already asked me if I'd like to. It's late, but adrenaline seems to be cancelling out tiredness, so I'm more than cool with the idea. Besides, sometimes tiredness kills my anxieties about playing with new people, and whatever is left seems to be doing that just now.

G. is enthusiastic, and heads off to her room to change back into her school uniform. Mija changes back too. K. - who has already changed outfits several times today - says that she might come back to join the scene. While they're changing, I do what little I can to turn the room into a classroom: move the desk away from the wall for teacher, pull the round table into the centre of the room for the girls.

I need to think of something to teach, though, and my mind is empty. But once G. arrives back I have an idea. She's taking a trip to Britain soon; earlier that afternoon, K. and I were pointing out places and directions for her in a world atlas that she'd brought. I fancy that the atlas might provide some teaching matter, and ask G. to fetch it. Telling G. and Mija that I'll expect them to be ready for the lesson to begin as soon as I return, I head off for ten minutes to prepare some sort of lesson plan.

Sitting on the steps at the back of the hotel, I discover with glee that Messers Rand and McNally have made my job easy. Towards the beginning of the atlas are quizzes about world geography, separated into the continents. The questions are fun but fiendish - the ideal sort of trivia. I head back to the room.

The scene turns out to be a great success, I think. We're all relaxed and tired and wired all at the same time, and it creates a loose and fun tone. As I arrive back, there are various signs of bratty play - things having been moved or hidden, graffiti-ish signs on the door and walls. But soon things settle down. Both Mija and G. actually want to play this straight - that's where the school thing is for them.

After some over-the-knee time for both of them to make the dynamic clear from the start, there's a uniform inspection. Mija's is good (as usual). G.'s is pretty sloppy. I'm busy awarding strokes with the tawse for this and that, when K. arrives. She's back in her bad schoolgirl outfit. Mija and G., already very much in scene-space, gasp sincerely and nervously at how out-of-uniform she is. K. doesn't really know me, so she's no reason to be aware of my strong kink for uniforms to be strict and formal.

We need an extra chair for K., so I head down the corridor to G.'s room to fetch one. I'm gone perhaps two minutes, but the transformation is extraordinary. When I get back, K.'s uniform is exemplary. She looks quite different: suddenly the good girl. Still, I'm awfully picky, and find reasons to bend and tawse all three of them for uniform violations.

Finally settled in their seats, they all groan when I tell them about the lesson. Ten questions about North America, and ten about Europe. One stroke of the cane for each incorrect answer. They're all quickly into the scene, though, and interacting as if they've been classmates for years.

I read out the questions, and they write their answers. And they're trying (at least it seems so). Though some of the questions are horrible. There's lots of laughter and joking, yet it's taken seriously too.

Their results, though, are quite awful. Mija (teacher's pet), does the best. Both K. and G. do very badly, G. in a way that's both funny and jaw-dropping. She claims at one point that 'Iran' and 'Haiti' are two of the former Yugoslavian republics. Whenever stuck on one of the European questions, she's answered: 'Minsk'. Soon, this word has the power to make us all collapse into giggles. They all get their cane-strokes, bending over the bed. Hard but not too hard - it's not that sort of scene.

In the midst of all this merriment, though, there's an unexpected and serious moment. Suddenly frustrated at the questions, K. explodes at one point with: 'Oh, for fuck's sake!' I call her to the front, reach for the tawse, and tell her to hold up her hands, one under the other. She does that, the frustration and anger still there in her eyes.

Since I barely know her, and she joined the scene a little late, after it had already started, we haven't talked about limits and such. This isn't best idea, I know, but the scene already had momentum when she came into it. Besides, it's just a playful school scene. What could go wrong?

So. I give her a couple of not-particularly-hard strokes of the tawse on her hands. She seems not to be able to keep them up. One of the strokes doesn't land all that well, as she moves her hand away just as the tawse lands. I would stop now if she had managed to taken these few strokes properly, but I'm pushing a little, trying to find a bit of genuine response. One or two more with her hands kept still and that would be it.

She's had maybe four or five strokes - none very hard, most not very accurate, since her hands keep moving away - when I see that she is starting to tear up and shake. Then she starts to cry. I'm completely taken aback. It definitely looks like an out-of-scene reaction. This isn't K. the schoolgirl crying because she's been tawsed for swearing; it's K. the human being crying because something hurts like hell and just isn't right.

I ask her if she's okay. She nods but says - actually rather whinily (much more an in-scene reaction) - that she thinks the number of strokes I've given her is way too many. I make some comforting gestures, which she doesn't really want. She gathers herself together and says that she's okay. I think maybe at this point that we'll have to end the scene, but within a minute or two she's fine again, and we carry on.

The whole thing is really intriguing and unsettling too. As well as not having time before the scene to set out limits, we don't have time afterwards to do a little debrief, which I'd like - it's 3am by the time we finish the scene, and I won't see her again before we leave.

I've no idea if her response came from some bad memory, or just the wrong sort of pain, or something else entirely. Part of me thinks that it would have been really interesting to have taken that moment and pushed further, rather than pulling back. I'm not entirely sure that it was wrong for her; just way more personal and intense and scary than she'd expected to happen then. But that wasn't at all the sort of scene that we were doing, so it would have been a terrible idea. Besides, I was pretty spooked by her reaction.

It all reminds me how much I'm still learning. We all head to bed happy and exhausted, but there are some deeper resonances too.

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Sunday. The day after.

We sleep late, then pack. Taking our things out to the car, we come across J.(&J.). He's been across to Jerry's Deli to get a table for breakfast, but the wait is ridiculously long (mostly Shadow Lane people, I'm guessing), so we all end up in the hotel's cafe, nine of us around a small table, making conversation loud enough and kinky enough to attract some odd looks: Mija and me; J.&J.; T.&D.; G.; M.; P.

Some of them are staying on a little longer, but Mija and I have to go. We're heading up to her parents' place that afternoon. It's not far, and we're leaving some good friends, but we both feel like some quiet.

We find it amongst the ramshackle shelves at Dutton's, a wonderfully foxed second-hand bookshop not too far away - one of Mija's old childhood haunts. We browse for a couple of hours, happy to have had a great weekend, but suddenly relieved to have the silence to process it all.

By the time we point the car up to the Hollywood hills, I'm already thinking about what I'm going to write.

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