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Anxiety

May 16, 2013 1 comment

I’m socially tapped out. Three social events in five days may not be much for some, but for me it’s almost unheard of. Saturday there was a party. I met new people. Fun, interesting people but new and frightening all the same. I went home with the Techie after, stayed out too late, stumbled through Sunday on no sleep and not enough breakfast. Monday, dinner party. I enjoyed the company, was relieved when they left. Wednesday, the Techie came for dinner, stayed after midnight sleepily chatting at the table.

Today I woke up and something rebelled. I did not make Spouse breakfast (I did pack his lunch). I felt a buzz of anxiety, but it hadn’t found anything to latch onto yet so I ignored it and focused on caffeinating instead. I’m socially exhausted: a day at home alone should have been the most welcome thing in the world but that buzz was getting louder. The apartment was too quiet, I decided. We were out of carrots. I could walk to the store, work off some energy, see evidence of an outside world.

Anxiety hits hard, and it knows how to keep its victims shamed into silence. An employee asked if I was finding everything ok and I froze. Sudden, inexplicable misery at the prospect of having to interact, however minimally, with another human being. I hurried through my shopping and went home.

Anxiety sets up a feedback loop. It takes the smallest thing and zooms in and blows it up to something mad and insurmountable. Was I terse with the employee? Did she think I was rude? She probably hates me. In fact, everyone probably hates me. Always has.

Rational brain steps in at this point, sniffing a fallacy. Wait a second, you’re married. Spouse clearly doesn’t hate you. You have friends, people you’ve known for years, even if they’re far away. The now-long-distance other half of your poly quad. The Techie. Chef and cook and the rest. Family. This is ridiculous, just chill out.

Fine, says anxiety brain. If you’re so sure they don’t hate you, ask them. Make sure.

That’s insulting. Also crazy. But now rational brain is panicky, uncertain. What if they do hate me, if all these relationships are part of an obligate social dance I’m just too awkward know about? What if it’s an elaborate joke? Oh God, if I tell anyone I think like this they will hate me. They should. This is insane.

This is the point where things can break. Panic attack seems imminent. There are options. I can take benzos. They don’t stop anxiety brain from running its mouth, but they make it impossible to give a fuck what it’s saying for a while. I can clean. It would require making a mess first; this place is spotless. I can try to reach out of the anxiety, just a little, just for a moment, and tell someone I need reassurance.

But I’m socially drained. The idea if talking even to my favorite people seems daunting, especially knowing I have nothing to say except “I need reassurance that the entirety of human social interaction exists, is based on genuine feeling, and includes me.” Everyone I know is working except an autistic friend. She cannot help with this problem.

Option D, then. Text spouse something brief and cheerful, wait for an affectionate reply. Lie on the bed reading until Spouse gets home. Demand hugs. Find that speaking still sticks. Wait for that anxious buzz to die down a little bit. Fail, after five nights of insufficient sleep, to get to bed at a decent hour.

It is dying down–a few hours ago writing this even for strangers on the Internet would have been impossible. I just wish it wouldn’t start up in the first place.

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Taking Pictures

May 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I feel a bit ridiculous writing this. See, I’m not a great photographer. I’m not a terrible photographer, but I’m pretty impatient and not very creative. I do have a decent grasp of the theory behind good photography, though, and can offer a few tips to make the sexy self-portrait a little less daunting.

There’s a lot of fancy equipment out there for photography: cameras and lenses, lights and reflectors, backdrops and tripods. I have some of it. Nothing compared to a studio or a semi-pro photographer’s kit, but more equipment than your average person who occasionally wants to take pictures.

photoequip

You don’t need any of it. To take decent pictures you need two things: a camera and light.

First, light. Light light light. Photography is capturing light and shadow, nothing more. Therefore poor lighting can only result in poor photos. I’m not talking about investing in soft boxes and filters and reflectors. Decent light takes no investment at all. The easiest way to get a pleasant, soft white light is to plant yourself near a window during daylight. If you’re nude (or just self conscious) and people can see inside, I recommend a sheer curtain, which helps soften light anyway. The light should come in from an angle, neither directly head-on with your shot nor completely backlit.*

If you have no access to natural light for some reason,** that’s okay. A floor lamp is a better solution than overhead lighting: light from the side or an angle creates more interesting and more flattering shadows than light from directly above (we all know from holding flashlights under our chins as kids that light from below is just creepy). A shaded lamp will give softer shadows, but a desk lamp with an articulating neck is valid, too, and offers a great deal of control in terms of direction and angle of incidence.

But okay, you don’t own a lamp, and despite its many perks your secret laboratory has prevented you from seeing the sun for many years. You are paler than pale and have only overhead florescent monstrosities to light your home.***Turn them off. Use anything–anything!–but that. If you’re reading this, you’ve got a computer (or are making someone in a library very uncomfortable right now). You can use the light from a computer monitor to light a shot. It’s easy to angle, you can set a background to glow bright white or in a variety of colors, and at least it won’t provide the flattening effect of a flash. This does risk some graininess, but it should be manageable. Light some candles if you have them handy. Bonus points if you take this opportunity to photograph self-inflicted wax play.

Whatever you do, do not use your camera’s flash. It’s never been good for anything.

Next, think about how to pose and frame your shot. You’ll have to frame it first, but that’s easier if you’ve got a plan. Are you going to be standing, sitting on the couch, lying down? Is this a full-body shot, a close up of some portion of anatomy, or something in between? What angle do you want your viewpoint to come from? This needn’t be complicated. I’m lazy and frankly not artistic, so I go for very straightforward shots 90% of the time. The idea (for me, anyway) is to go from “I want to take a sexy picture” to having a set of 10-12 pictures to choose from in just a few minutes. Sometimes they are all disappointing and I start over. Sometimes there are several good ones.

The first thing people seem to want to do, especially with a camera phone, is stand in front of the bathroom mirror (or another large mirror if they’re lucky enough to have one). To all of you: stop it! Unless you’re trying to show off your bathroom, in which case, carry on. It’s unnecessarily limiting, bathroom lighting tends to be unflattering, and your toiletries are distracting. Why not go to a room with a window and/or a non-distracting stretch of wall? All digital cameras and every camera phone I’ve seen have timer settings. Set it to 5-15 seconds (however long it takes you to position yourself), prop the camera up at the height and angle that suits your intended shot, and play around. It looks better and is hands-free. If you use an iPhone, there’s a lens on the screen side so you can even see what your shot is going to look like and adjust during countdown.

Again, no need for a tripod. If I’m taking pictures with my phone, I’ll throw together a stack of books or board games and have at it.

cameraphone

Not sure how to pose? Do you tend to stand or sit stiff and awkward and wonder what to do with your hands whenever a camera comes out? Don’t stress over it. Surely you’ve looked at sexy pictures before? If you have a collection lying around, check out some favorites and look at it from a photographer’s perspective. Where is the light coming from? Is the camera angled up, down, level? How is the model posing? Is it a pose you can emulate? (If your entire nude photo collection is comprised of contortionists, maybe not, but otherwise, surely there are a few.) If you don’t have any pictures of your own gender, just tool around the sexy posing men and women compiled by hardworking persons on the Internet for ideas.

The first few attempts may go slowly. It’s easy to take a few pictures, hate them all, and decide “I’m just not pretty/photogenic/good at this.” Photography is a skill, and you may have to screw up a few times to get the hang of it. If you can look at an unflattering photo and say “this angle is not flattering to my face” or “I need to move to the left or the picture looks weirdly cut off,” Work at giving yourself constructive criticism, you’ll get better fast.

Personally, I take pictures using the Camera+ app for iPhone. When I have a few photos to go through, I open them in the editor and adjust for imperfect lighting using the “scenes” options. Then I often convert the images to black and white. Everybody knows that converting your homemade smut to B&W makes it automatically classy, right?

This was taken with the phone propped on the chair/board games you see above. Normally I’d use a reflector, because it’s a cheap and easy way to reduce shadows. For these two shots, though, nothing but the cameraphone and piles of stuff were used.

selfportraitj

For this one I set the phone on the floor, tilted it up with my foot, and hit the shutter. I find the AC vent in the background annoying, but not enough to spend an extra ten seconds to move over a few feet and shoot again. (I did tell you I was lazy.)

selfportraitn

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to offer on the subject. The brief version: no flash, no overhead lights, no bathroom mirrors, think about the sort of image you’re going for, and play around.

*You can use unreflected backlighting to create a silhouette, and good luck to you, but that’s way past my skill level so I have no advice.

**Maybe you live in an underground bunker or are at work basically every daylight hour. Maybe you have a nosy roommate and have to take pictures in a closet. Maybe you’re a vampire and natural light is therefore contraindicated. Or maybe you are trying to document and share your reactions real-time during a conversation, and it’s night.

***Dear God, that’s horrible. Why don’t you move?

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Ice Cream

“I thought you wanted ice cream.”

“I do want ice cream.” His voice is muffled by my skin. “We’re making ice cream. Is there a problem?”

I shake my head and pull away to lean over the stove. I need to focus: I’m tinkering with the methods in this recipe, cutting a step that’s meant to take an hour down to seven minutes. I have an excuse: it’s hot and humid, not good weather to hold cream at room temperature for long. Mostly I’m just rushing, anxious to get my hands on him again. The infusion is steaming well, but not boiling. I worry it’s too hot anyway, so I reduce the flame just a bit. He brushes his fingers down my back. It’s a warm day. I can’t feel the heat of him standing behind me. Can’t hear his breathing over the sounds filtering in from outside. I stop stirring, close my eyes, inhale. I can’t smell him. Steam redolent with ginger masks every other scent in the room. If not for his fingers sliding down to my hips I wouldn’t even know he was there. His grip turns firm, pulls me tight against him.

“You’re going to scald the milk.”

“Am not,” I say, but I turn my attention to it anyway, pluck a slice of ginger out of the mixture to see if it’s softened at all. It has, and I decide it’s infused enough. Scooping it out is trickier than I expected: some of the smaller slices keep slipping away and disappearing under the surface.

“Anything I can do to help?” I worry he’s asking because I look clumsy and incompetent chasing slices of ginger through the pot.

“No. Wait, yes. Bring me the eggs?” He does, and I separate them (too slow!). Whites go back in the fridge, yolks get a vigorous whipping with a fork.

“Here. I need you to pour about a quarter cup of this over the yolks.” He pours, I whisk. I thank him and take back my place in front of the stove. I start talking, something about the properties of eggs and preventing custard from curdling or forming a skin. I’m rambling. If I just keep talking I won’t be distracted by his breath in my hair. I won’t lean in to the too-light touch of his fingers on my spine. I won’t turn around and find his mouth with mine. Dear God, I’m talking about curd cheeses. Someone should make me shut up.

His fingers brush my hair to one side. His lips touch my neck, just behind the ear. They move slowly, back and down. I close my eyes, just for a second, blocking out everything but the trail of his mouth down the back of my neck. I feel teeth, gentle, teasing. I stop stirring and rest my hand on the lip of the pot. It’s hot, but not quite hot enough to burn. This damn custard will burn if I don’t get back to it. I stand up straight, pulling out of reach.

He peers over my shoulder. “Is it done yet?”

“I put the eggs in five minutes ago. It takes time.”

He groans, gripping my hips through too-tight jeans. “Try a higher heat.”

I duck down to check the flame. Just where it should be. (I can’t help but covet his gas stove.) “Nope, can’t. I don’t want the custard to break.”

He doesn’t answer. His left hand slides under my shirt to rest on my stomach. His right fumbles with the button of my jeans. I lean back to press against him from shoulder to hip. His teeth find the back of my neck. I’m taller than he is, much taller in these boots. To nip me there he must have his head back, throat exposed…

I roll my shoulders back, shake my head to clear it. I focus on the stove, this custard and its infuriating need for attention. If I weren’t so damn proud of my cooking I’d abandon it. His fingers work their way down the front of my jeans, pull them uncomfortably tight against my hips. He pinches my clit ring between two fingers, tugs it lightly. “These fucking jeans couldn’t be any tighter if they were painted on.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Nope. Is it ready to go in the fridge yet?”

I sweep a fingertip through the custard. It’s thicker, but not enough.”Not yet. Two, three minutes.”

He drops to his knees, hands moving down, pulling denim to bunch around my legs. I stumble, trying to keep my balance in stilettos while he pulls. He slides his body between me and the stove. His breath reaches my cunt an instant before his mouth does.

“Oy, hot stove. This seems like a dangerous idea.”

“Don’t care.” His voice is muffled by my body.

I grip the counter with my left hand, stir with my right. Three clockwise circles, a figure eight, repeat. I want to grab hold of him, pull his mouth even harder against me. “You can’t wait ninety seconds?”

“I can, but…” he doesn’t finish, just presses the heat of his mouth against me, his tongue moving firm but slow, too slow. Fuck it. I swipe a finger through the custard again. It’s not as thick as I’d like. It’s thick enough. Somehow I turn off the flame, add white chocolate and stir it smooth. “Done. Make room in the fridge.”

I have him backed into a counter with my legs wrapped around him before we even close the refrigerator door. He fumbles for it, awkward and sideways while I start pulling his clothes off. He laughs. “Now who’s rushing?”

“Hey, we’ve got a time limit here. Still have to make ice cream, remember?”