How Did You Know You Were In Love?

I’m pacing around my bedroom at a manic clip, one night in January, ranting to my new beau over the phone – because I’m falling in love and I don’t know what to do.

“I want to say it, but I don’t know if we’re ready to say it,” I explain, my heartbeat skittering as fast as my words. “How do you even know if you’re really in love? Do I even want to fall in love in a long-distance relationship? How do you know if it’s too soon? How can you be sure you really mean it?”

I’ve been in love three times before and this is the first time there’s been an open dialogue about it. We’ve read the Wikipedia page for “love” together over the phone. We’ve said “I like you so much” and “I adore you” and “I treasure you” and alluded to the painful inadequacy of those phrases. We’ve lapsed into tense silences where one of us would ask, “What? What are you thinking?” and, both of us knowing the answer, the other would sullenly respond, “I can’t tell you.” “I don’t wanna say.”

Normally when I get to this juncture in a relationship, it’s a private stewing, an internal tug-of-war, an embarrassing call to action that I might or might not rise to meet. It’s never been out on the table like this before. And even now that it is, we still can’t say the thing itself. Or rather, we won’t. Not yet.

“I would rather say it to him in person,” I read to him aloud from my scribbly journal entry on the topic, “because it’s so weighty and I just think that would be the appropriate and right way to do it.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely better to do it in person,” he agrees, “because when you say that for the first time, you wanna touch each other. Real bad.”

A silence passes wherein we both imagine what that will feel like. How we will say it, and where, and then how we will touch each other, and where. I don’t have to ask him if he’s picturing it too. I know he is. And that makes me want to say it all the more.


The first time I fell in love, I was nineteen, and I knew because I simply wanted to say it. It felt natural. The same way I might tell a close friend I loved them, so too did I want to say it to my then-boyfriend. It wasn’t a sweeping passion or a roiling lust; it was a slow warmth that had gathered and grown over the two-plus months of our nascent sweet springtime romance. At first I wasn’t sure, and then at some point, I was. When I said it, in the dark in my twin-sized bed, he hugged me tight and said, “I love you too, and you’ve made me a very happy man.”

The second time was an unrequited accident. This man didn’t want me and I knew it; I knew it for an entire year or more, just like I knew I loved him. It took months and months for me to call it “love,” even to my best friend or in the confines of my journal, because love is embarrassing, messy; there is a permanency to it that makes it so much more of an emergency alarm than just calling it a crush.

But I reached a point where I felt chemically dependent on this man, mired in depression whenever he would leave and espresso-peppy when he was within reach, and that’s when I reluctantly began calling it “love.” Never to his face, never where he could hear it, but that’s what it was to me.

The third time, it built up like water in a dammed fountain. My introverted, reserved boyfriend played me hot-and-cold so thoroughly that I wasn’t sure I was allowed to feel love, wasn’t sure he’d accept my love even though he’d accepted me as his girlfriend officially. Hanging out at his apartment after lunch at his favorite ramen restaurant, I kissed him tenderly in bed, wanting intimacy, but he just wanted to play video games. I got so frustrated by him ignoring me that I announced I was leaving and did so, forgetting my ramen leftovers in his fridge.

The next day, I came back “for the food,” wounded and contrite, and cried into his chest as I mumbled, “I wanna tell you something that’s gonna make me cry even more: I love you.” He held me tighter and said, “I love you too. I’ve known that for a while. I just didn’t know if you were ready to hear it.” It was exactly the kind of backhanded, confusing comment I had come to view as normal in that relationship. Knowing me, I probably made some kind of “ramen-tic” pun.


When my current beau first told me he might be falling in love – by invoking late-night Google searches and Wikipedia trawls – I wasn’t sure how I felt on that front. “I feel like I should have more to say about this,” I wrote after relaying the episode to my journal. “Do I want to fall in love again so soon after getting my heart broken? Do I even feel like it could happen with this boy? (…Yes.) Do I feel safe getting to that point with a long-distance person who already has other partners? (…Maybe.)”

But for all my hemming and hawing about being unsure, certainty whammed me over the head in the coming week. I’m a linguistically-minded person: I organize my thoughts and feelings by articulating them in words, as you may have noticed. So although I’d agonized about how to know love when you see it, ultimately I recognized it by what I wanted to say, and how often I wanted to say it. The words “I love you” stagnated in my throat when we talked on the phone, and buzzed in my fingers when I texted him. Maybe it’s simplistic to suggest, “I think I love you, therefore I do,” but I don’t know of a better barometer. There is no scientific test for love (well… romantic psychology researchers like Helen Fisher might disagree, actually) so for now, I know it’s true when it feels true and I want to say it. That’s good enough for me.


We finally say it on our third date. That sounds ridiculous, unless you know how many hours we spent on the phone between each in-person rendezvous. Long phone calls stretched four or six or eight hours into the night, entire emotional journeys of their own, with laughs and tears and phone sex and warm cuddly mumbles. We fast-tracked our relationship on those phone calls. We rushed toward love, exhilarating and good.

Our third date is a mottled mess of feelings: a tender kiss in the lobby of the Wythe Hotel, a collaring and sweet sex in our second-floor room, Italian food and philosophical discussions at Leuca, and hours of dancing to my favorite band at Brooklyn Steel. We cuddle in the Lyft back to our hotel late at night, and as we pull up, he says, “Can I show you the roof?” I nod, he takes my hand, and we get in the elevator to The Ides.

The bar is dim and ornate, like so many places he’s taken me, with a stunning view of the big beautiful city where I met this boy I think I love. We cuddle up in a corner booth, and he orders me a drink like he always does, and it feels so comfortable and cozy, like we do this every day. But we don’t, and that uncommonness feels cozy too.

At some point he goes silent and presses a kiss against my shoulder. “I wanna tell you something, but I’m scared,” he says. I didn’t see it coming, and also I did. I smile and hold him tighter because I want him to feel supported in this brave thing he is doing. I want him to land safely on cushions when he makes this leap. “Kate…” he says, slowly. I listen harder. “Kate, I love you.”

I say, “I know,” because I do; I can feel it radiating off him, have felt it over the phone and via text and just generally in my periphery, the sensation of being loved, the sensation of loving. I press even more of my body tight against his in that little booth and tell him, “I love you too.” We kiss and we touch and we laugh about how long this took us and how perfect it turned out to be.

The candle on our table casts a glow on his face that is as golden, precious, and ephemeral as this love I hope will last a long, long time.

My Favorite Kinds of Blowjob

The first blowjob. The phrase “knock your socks off” is too mild and clichéd for what I plan to do to you. You’ve probably read my blog posts or tweets where I profess my oral enthusiasm, but I don’t want you to mistake those for boasting; I’m no more skilled than the average cocksucker, I’m just preternaturally excited about the act. So lay back and let me figure out what you like, through minuscule experiments of tongue and lips. I want to map your tastes like a cartographer of cock. Let’s depart on this voyage together.

The drunk blowjob. Sloppy and slurring, we grin and giggle, thick as thieves. If you were a stranger, I’d be nervous, but you’re not, so I just laugh and laugh. “I kinda wanna go down on you,” I mumble in your ear. Our bottles clink together, inadvertently punctuating my sentence. “I kinda want that too,” you mutter back at me. I take another swig before replacing my beer bottle with something even more phallic.

The subby blowjob. “Come here.” Yes sir. “Lie across my lap.” Yes sir. “Are you going to take your spanking like a good girl?” Yes sir. “Does that hurt, little one?” Yes sir. “Do you want some more?” Yes sir. “Does that feel good?” Yes sir. “You’re getting wet for me, aren’t you?” Yes sir. “Do you want a bruise on your pretty little ass?” Yes sir. “Had enough yet?” Yes sir. “I think you can take a few more.” Yes sir. “There you go, baby. You took that so well for me.” Yes sir. “Think you’ve earned a reward?” Yes sir. “Do you know what that reward might be?” Yes sir. “I think you want my cock in your mouth.” Yes sir. “And I think you deserve that.” Yes sir. “So get on your knees for me, princess.” Yes sir. “Now unzip my pants and kiss my cock.” Yes sir. “You’re going to do such a good job for me, aren’t you?” Yes sir. “Okay, you can take me in your mouth now, little girl.” Yes sir. “Mmm. You like that, darling?” Yes sir.

The established-partners blowjob. I know precisely what works for you but I’m going to take my time getting there. I love those familiar noises you make, the predictable tensing of your muscles, the telltale quickening of your breath. I love knowing I’m doing a good job for you. I love that this is neither expected nor demanded but instead, freely given: an enthusiastic expression of enduring affection. I am not winning your heart, but instead, showing you how much I value it.

The stoned blowjob. I’m not even sure how I ended up here. Here between your knees. My hands skim across your thighs: the coarse wisps of hair, the familiar scent of your skin, the warmth of the blood pumping underneath. My head in your lap is a comfort to both of us. I slide your cock along my tongue and it lights up every nerve ending, one by one, stacking and unspooling. Everything tastes so good. Your salty skin, normally a fact of life, is now a cascading symphony. I sense a hint of precum at the tip of you and lap it up slow but eager, determined to make that happen again. All my senses just want this, want you.

The morning blowjob. You get so hard in the morning, you could practically cut steel. With your consent, I adore sliding down your body under the bedsheets and taking you in my mouth. A sweet and surprising wake-up call. Whether this blooms into other activities or remains a simple and singular pre-coffee treat, I am content here, with the early light streaming through the window, making these moments feel languid and full of fresh hope.

Magnet

Though I’ve had seemingly infinite crushes in my short, limerence-loaded life, few of them were magnetic in the way often described in pop songs. Usually my physical attractions are clipped onto the sides of more romantic lures; it’s rare for that sexual pull to exist loudly and fully as its own boisterous thing.

But three times in my life, I have met a magnet. I hope I meet many more.


“I wanna touch your knee, but very casually. I’m gonna get so near you, so I can hear you, silently sitting very, very close.”

The cute boy in my improv class is ruining my entire academic year.

His open face and unreserved grin, his sloping shoulders and sharp collarbones, his long fingers and strong arms, his tall stature, his dirty sneakers, his tight jeans, his barking laugh. I can’t handle any of it. I can handle exactly none of it.

He is very fucking distracting, in a molecular and neurological way I’ve never quite experienced before. One day I’m journaling before class begins and find my pen wandering off the page as my eyes drift toward him. He’s not even doing anything important, just goofing off with the other boys using props lying around in the classroom, but my gaze stays affixed to his form. I feel like a fucking creep. I am a fucking creep. I don’t know what to do about it.

Another day, I’m talking to some friends in the hallway, and suddenly he walks by. I absorb a cloud of his teenage-boy cologne through deep inhalations and lose my words completely. “Kate?” a pal asks me. “Kate, you just trailed off mid-sentence. What were you saying?” I can’t fucking remember what I was saying. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is the way his shoulderblades look, pressing sharply through the lines of his sweater as he saunters down the hall. Fuck.

We perform together in an improv set, and between scenes, I sit beside him in the wings. I am infinitely, uncomfortably aware of his warm thigh alongside mine. I can feel my body singing, humming, buzzing at a frequency that aches to match his. My molecules purr meltily and moonily at his. But he doesn’t even notice. I am nothing to him. I’m just some girl he kind of knows. This pull I am feeling exists only in my body and I just can’t understand how that can be true.


“I’m a magnet. And you’re a magnet. And we are pushing each other away.”

My second magnet is someone else’s boyfriend. Nothing to be done about it but feel it, and try not to feel it.

This time, at least, I am certain he’s feeling it too. We sit close together at a party, our chairs side-by-side so our eyes don’t quite meet, because that would be Too Much. Other partygoers engage us in conversation and we laugh and talk and sip our drinks, but the inches of air between us are warm and whirring. I want to get just a little closer, feel him just a little more, but I don’t. I can’t.

Flirtatiously, tipsily, I admit to him in a low tone, “I really want to make out with you, but I don’t think that’s allowed.” He smiles like the sweetest little imp and neither confirms nor denies – which is, of course, a “no.” I figured as much. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.

Once or twice, I get up from my seat, beer in hand, to totter to the bathroom. Opening the door afterward, I half-expect to see him just outside, forehead pressed to the doorjamb, mumbling, “I just had to come kiss you.” But he doesn’t. He is good. For the most part.

Past 3AM that night, when I’ve long departed the party and am half-catatonic in bed, I get a text from him: “I really wanted to make out with you tonight too.” I know he did, is the thing. It radiated off him like waves of heat. What an awful, wonderful, terrible thing.

I start avoiding parties where I know he’ll be, because resisting that magnetic pull is possible, but not pleasurable. I’m tired of torture. One evening of aching was enough.


“What is the centre between two centres of attention? Is there a centre between two centres of attention? Or only tension between two centres of attention?”

Sometimes you don’t recognize a magnet right away when you meet them. Sometimes the magnetism has to sublimate, stagnate, before it roars to life.

I meet my Sir in a Manhattan coffee shop, before I know he’s going to be my Sir, before I know he’s going to be my anything. He’s wearing a blue button-down that sets off his cornflower eyes, and the excited-but-guarded smile you flash at your Twitter crush when you’re nervous they’re not gonna like you IRL. I suppress my swooning, because we are in public, for fuck’s sake.

We’ve been talking animatedly for almost an hour before I realize the boy across from me is, indeed, a magnetic forcefield. “Would it be too intimate,” he begins, slowly, watching my eyes widen, “if we traded phones and looked at each other’s podcasts?” And then he leans across the table, ostensibly to show me his screen, but really it’s to dial that electric current up to eleven. My eyes want to slam shut as he gets that close to me, because I feel it, I feel the pull, and it’s such a rare and marvelous thing that I want to savor it in every fizzing atom of my little body.

“Love a good table-lean,” I say to him weeks later, over the phone, making fun of him for those perfect flirtations on our first date. But I know it wasn’t so much purposeful flirting as it was his desire to get closer to me. I know this because I wanted that, too.

Our second date comes after weeks of planning, sexting, flirting, and dirty-talking over the phone. I’m so nervous, I sweat through my winter coat. I’m so nervous, I swill his peppermint tea from a paper cup I’m clutching with trembling hands. I’m so nervous, I start exhibiting actual goddamn panic attack symptoms at dinner. He talks me through it all, and holds my hand, patient and forgiving and endlessly kind.

After dinner, we wait in the restaurant’s entryway for our Lyft to arrive. It’ll take us to the hotel where we’re going to fuck each other’s bodies and minds all night – but all moments until then are torture. He steps toward me and gives me a soft kiss, quick, like he’s releasing a little air from a valve so the whole machine doesn’t fucking explode. I whimper and keen and swoon forward against him, my whole body wanting the kiss to continue, but it doesn’t. Not yet.

“I feel like a magnet,” I mumble, and it has never felt more true. The heat of my skin and the knot in my gut and the twinge in my heart are all insisting: Touch this boy. But I am good, and I wait.

“Me too,” he says, the bridge of his nose pressed into mine, and then our car arrives, and we get in, and I pray for the invention of time travel solely so I can skip this goddamn car ride and be naked in bed beside this perfect boy in an instant.

I meet his eyes in the dim backseat, and I can see my smoky desire mirrored back at me. I can feel our pulses pounding in sync. I know what’s going to happen. And I know I’m going to like it.

5 Things I Love About Erotic Hypnosis

Have you ever discovered a new kink and instantly wanted to know everything about it?

This happened to me with age play, it happened to me with bootblacking, and most recently, it’s happened to me with hypnokink. What’s interesting is that these salacious fixations aren’t necessarily driven by genital stirrings – I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool fetishist, mostly just a kinky dilettante – but where my brain goes, my junk will often follow.

Not only is erotic hypnosis fascinating to me intellectually; it also appeals because I’m dating someone new who’s deeply, deeply into it. When I’m super attracted to someone and desperately want them to want me, my service kinks make all their kinks seem much more alluring all of a sudden. Aren’t brains strange?!

Here are 5 of my favorite things I’ve discovered about this unique kink in the couple months I’ve been exploring it…

It’s a completely new sensation to me. Remember when I told you I wanted to try electrostimulation because I thought it’d be utterly different from any pleasures or pains I’d felt before? Being in trance is like that too. The first time my partner tranced me was actually an accident (that’s a wild story for another time!) and I immediately noticed that it felt like sleepiness, but different; like subspace, but different; like post-yoga relaxation, but different. When I’m in trance, I feel warm, comforted, lulled, and thrillingly malleable.

There are times now when I actively crave trance, just like I do with any other sexual sensation. I miss it when I’ve gone too long without it. And then when my Sir drops me down, it feels all the more delicious.

It loosens my inhibitions. Being a sexually anxious person, I’ve found lots of tricks that work to reduce my anxiety – such as wearing a blindfold, telling my partner what I’m nervous about so they can reassure me, judicious use of weed or booze, or enduring pain so intense it clears my brain.

Being tranced makes me feel a little loopy, like being drunk, high, or super sleepy. This makes it easier for me to ask for what I want and to genuinely enjoy myself in the moment. But beyond that, a partner can also specifically plant a suggestion while I’m in trance that’ll make me feel more confident and less inhibited. A few weeks ago, my Sir used hypnosis to temporarily remove my verbal filter so I would just spout whatever filthy shit entered my mind while we had phone sex, and I monologued at him for like 40 minutes about thigh-grinding, boot-licking, blowjobs, and exhibitionism, among other things. As someone who’s normally pretty shy about dirty talk, I was amazed this could happen!

You can do it without even being physically together. Unlike most “standard” sexual activities, hypnokink lends itself well to long-distance relationships. Many hypno-tops cultivate a mesmerizing voice they only use when hypnotizing someone, and oftentimes, their voice and their words are their primary tools. My Sir’s tranced me many times over the phone but only once in person so far, and I didn’t even notice much of a difference between the two, in terms of the depth of trance I was able to reach.

I’ve long been resistant to long-distance relationships because I felt I needed the intimacy and satisfaction of regular sex with a partner to feel fulfilled by them, but the combination of polyamory and distance-friendly activities like hypnosis has helped diffuse this problem for me. My darlin’ may be 500 miles away from me, but when he’s easing me down into a warm, relaxing trance with just the power of his voice, it feels like he’s right beside me in bed.

There are tons of resources about it. When you’re doing something precarious and scary like messing around with someone’s brain, you’d better know your shit. And fortunately, there’s lots you can learn on the internet, in books, and at workshops about this kink.

My Sir recommends the books Mind Play (which I read and loved; it’s a thorough and titillating introduction to erotic hypnosis with lots of actionable tips) and Hypnotic Amnesia. There are plenty of hypnotists doing good stuff on YouTube if you want a little taste of what trance can feel like; I particularly like Alicia Fairclough. And finally, you should poke around on Fetlife to see if there’s a hypnokink group in your local area; I’ve discovered cool people doing interesting hypno things in my city that way, and you’ll often learn more from seeing an in-person demo than you ever could from a web video.

It requires deep trust and vulnerability. This is my favorite thing about most kinks, and hypnosis is no exception. You can’t – or at least shouldn’t – attempt it with someone unless and until you trust that they know their stuff and would not harm you. Once that trust is earned and established, it opens up so much space for play and exploration.

Sometimes when I watch hypnosis videos on YouTube, part of me feels a little reserved – “What if this person is evil and plants a harmful suggestion in me while I’m under?” – and it makes it trickier for me to go into trance, even though I know mind control isn’t really a thing. But I never feel that apprehension with my Sir. I know that whatever he says to me or does to me, it will be in service of fun, pleasure, and intimacy for us both. That level of trust is not only electrically hot, but also deeply nourishing to me in a way I can’t even quite articulate. That is what’s beautiful to me about any kind of consensual power exchange, and I’m so glad to have found yet another manifestation of that feeling in hypnosis.

Have you ever experimented with hypnosis, in either sexual or non-sexual ways? What did you think?

Take Your Sweetheart to a Sex Shop

Sex shops feel drastically different depending on whether you’re there alone, with a friend, or with someone you like to bang. Some sex-shop trips are meandering, some are matter-of-fact, and some are mushy as hell. If you want to learn something new about a person in your life, whether they’re just a friend or something more, try taking them to a sex shop (with their consent, of course) – you will see a new side of them, I guarantee it.

Taking romantic partners to sex shops is a unique experience, truly. And it doesn’t have to be as simple as “show up, pick something out together, take it home, and try it out.” There are lots of ways to jazz up this relationship milestone! Here are five suggestions…

Pick out a surprise for each other. I helped a couple do this when I was working in sex toy retail and it was such an adorable joy. They each separately crept around the shop, surreptitiously sleuthing out a secret token of love for the other. Agree on a budget beforehand if you like, try not to peek at what your partner’s picking out, and keep your treats concealed from each other until you arrive home and swap ’em. It’s like Secret Santa, except more specific, special, and sexy!

Attend a workshop. Some sex shops host classes that’ll teach you new sexual skills. I’ve attended local lessons on handjobs, blowjobs, butt stuff, squirting, fisting, and much more. Some classes are specifically designed for couples; some aren’t but offer discounted pricing for pairs. If workshops like this exist in your area, you and your sweetheart should flip through the calendar together and choose a session that excites you both. Go, take notes, ask questions, exchange knowing glances at relevant moments, be cute little astute pupils together, and then go home and try out what you learned.

Make it a date. When my friend Bex was working in sex toy retail, they often recommended that customers buy their partners a gift card rather than a toy, because it’s hard to shop for someone else in this area, even if you think you know their tastes fairly intimately. Throw in another gift card to your partner’s favorite restaurant, and maybe a small indulgence like a massage candle or a good-quality flavored lube, and you’ve got a fun date night on your hands. You and your darlin’ can dress up fancy, go for dinner, drop by the sex shop to pick up a pleasurable new treat, and then go home and debut your new treasure. Fun!

Try on lingerie. When visiting a shop that sells sexy apparel, there are few joys more satisfying than modeling something strappy or revealing for your paramour (or being the audience for such a spectacle). It’s so so sweet to see someone’s eyes light up when you step out of the fitting room looking devilishly divine. And then you can buy whichever ensemble revs your honey’s engine the most, and take it home to try it on again in a more private setting.

“If we had [x], I would [y]…” You don’t actually need to spend money at a sex shop to get an erotic charge out of visiting one. Take a look around a shop with your babe, mentally select a few items you’d love to use on/with them, and then whisper those filthy fantasies in their ear later when the two of you are home and canoodlin’. Injecting freshness into sexual relationships is always a good idea, and there are so many ways to do it!

Have you ever taken a partner to a sex shop? How did it go?

 

This post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.