At Pitt GRUE 2016, I Was a Free Agent

In 2016, I decided to take a leap of faith and post on Twitter,

“I need to go to GRUE Pitt. I’m gonna be brave and ask if I can crash or room share with any of my ropey friends. Whad’ya say?”

I wasn’t really expecting any sort of response, but I was elated when some friends, a few people that I barely know, and some people that I hadn’t even met, retweeted and/or responded with their support and wishes that I make it there.

And guess what? I did!!

For those of you who don’t know, GRUE stands for Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza. In a very small nutshell, it is based on a conference workshop model in which attendees are the presenters – they propose a topic that they are passionate about and invite other people to join in on a conversation and/or demo of that skill or concept. Some past classes that I’ve seen on the agenda are things like:

  • Nasal Hook Predicaments (mad props to Lizard for this one)
  • Edge Play within Established Relationships (BondageNexus)
  • Dom/sub/switch Fishbowl (Graydancer teaches a class from time to time 🙂 )
  • Service Submissives Roundtable (loniangel last year, lissypins this year)
  • Morning Energy Wake-up (energetic intent)
  • Teach me to Self Suspend!! (I’m sorry, but I’m forgetting who proposed this one!)

Graydancer, who I am very blessed to call friend, acts as the facilitator in coordinating all of these spontaneous outbursts of learning and sharing. It is an event with an amazingly communal feeling to it, and strangers will greet you with open arms upon arrival, smile at you throughout the day, and cry tears of joy over an incredible shared experience at the closing circle.

I have been to the GRUE three times. Once in Columbus many moons ago and twice now in Pittsburgh. Gray and I met at the Columbus one, and it was a magical and interesting weekend for many reasons. One big thing that happened was that I started to sink into a feeling of belonging in the Columbus scene – all of my former kink forays had been in Dayton where I was living at the time, and the (then) overwhelmingly large conventions that AIS holds.

Last year’s Pitt GRUE was very complex for me because of where I was coming from, headspace-wise. There was the sad part: I had just finalized my divorce . There was the annoying part: with my doctor’s help I was weaning off of a medication that was fucking with my cognitive function. There was the happy and fantastically amazing part: I was in service to my partner with whom I had never experienced a weekend trip before. I was in a very strange headspace last year due to the mixed emotions I was experiencing, to say the very least.

This year was an entirely different animal. I’ve shed a lot of extra weight in the last year, emotionally and spiritually. I am no longer in some relationships that were really unhealthy for me, and I have gained a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities in the last year.

This year I wanted to come to Pitt GRUE on my own (save for a roommate and the Columbus contingent) and be ready to openly share and experience anything that came along. I had a feeling that it would almost certainly be the supportive environment that I needed to be in, and that it would be an amazing time with amazing people.

And I was right.

It is the attendees and their contributions that make this event, year to year, city to city. So I feel that I will be able to best illustrate my GRUE experience by sharing little vignettes of my personal interactions from the weekend:

Alia

One of the responders to my aforementioned tweet was an acquaintance, Aliatheknife, from Columbus. I’ve been getting to know her a bit since moving here, and her bright and animated personality very much reflect parts of my own. She had never been to a GRUE before, and had heard ALL of the wonderful things about it from friends. So we hooked up to both carpool and share a room at a hotel about twenty minutes from the venue.

I’ve got to say, Alia is one smart cookie. We talked about everything from kink, polyamory, the community, and rope, to psychology, molecular biology, weight training and diet, Brahms, animistic spirituality, ancient Sumerian mythology, and of course, how fucking scary Donald Trump is. I don’t think there was ever a lull in conversation while we were on the three hour drive there, or back. Save for quick singing breaks for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Tame Impala, and Fitz and the Tantrums.

In the hotel room there were many moments of confiding, interspersed with randomly joyful dance breaks (literally). I kept a loose eye on her throughout the event, and was filled with happiness whenever I saw her grappling (again, literally), or running around talking to old friends and new ones. To paraphrase what I wrote on her wall the day after getting back, I am so lucky to have had her along for the ride, literally and figuratively.

Neuromancer28

Neuromancer28 and I met a couple years ago at an event in Cincinnati. I was demoing for Pink Mynx in a class about putting your bottom into deep headspace After the class he approached and shared a protocol that he was developing for his job as a neuroscientist (seriously, he’s a neuroscientist) that makes a person vulnerable and susceptible to influence in under sixty seconds. He turned to me, this person that I didn’t know from Adam, and asked for my consent to demonstrate it to Mynx.

Now, I’m a rather trusting person, but a lot of what he was saying was way over my head in my post-demo foggy state. I turned to Mynx with what I’m sure was a mildly bewildered look – and she threw me at him (in a loving way).

The connection was instant, and not just “Because SCIENCE!” I fell into a deep state of meditation within the first few seconds of him touching me, and there was something deeply energetic going on in that short, first exchange.

After the convention we began a correspondence. I’m honestly not sure how we got on it, but at some point we started discussing my background with energy work, and how that looks an awful lot like some of the stuff he does in his research in the way it affects people. Granted, what he calls the vagus nerve, I call a meridian, but apparently folks experience very similar things when those things are manipulated.

Our over a year-old, ongoing conversation via Fetmail has led us to the working conclusion that a lot of what can be observed scientifically in a person’s experience of the world can be explained energetically, and vice versa. What can’t be explained by science just hasn’t been figured out yet.

Sorta.

Neuromancer proposed that we bring our findings to the GRUE and discuss them with interested parties, with a particular bent toward explaining how science and woo overlap within rope energy. It went amazingly well and we got some really good participation. I’ve never really felt comfortable sharing my spirituality with so many people I don’t know before. But it felt incredibly safe there, and I was so glad to be in that time and space.

In addition to collaborating on throwing the class together, Neuromancer and I also crafted what turned out to be probably the most unique scene I’ve experienced in my kinky life. It was a series of games he laid out for me to challenge my conceptions of failure and happiness. If that sounds totally weird and you have absolutely no idea how that could be achieved with kink, I totally don’t blame you. I’m still trying to understand how he did it, but through the magic of a set of Jenga blocks, a tens unit, hitachi vibrator, rope, and a whole bunch of PVC piping he has largely transformed my take on what it is to go through the hurdles of life and pursue my own bliss.

I’m fairly certain that our amazing connection helped facilitate it as well. Even though he and I have only ever seen one another in person four times I feel an instant bond with him, and this time I felt it even deeper. If you are reading this, Neuromancer, I just want to say again, outside of our flitting back and forth messages, that I am always astounded by the way that you and I interface not only via writing, but especially in person. You are a profound individual, and we are profound together.

The RigGirls

Here in Columbus we are fortunate enough to have had a group that creates a small and supportive space for female-identified riggers wanting to hone their craft. RigGirls doesn’t bring in presenters; it provides a skillshare environment in which knowledge is traded and ideas are disseminated in a safe space of female-identified tops, free from the threat of mansplaining (it is a thing, and I don’t care who argues with me on that point).

One of the fearless leaders of this project, jumpropeninja, proposed a class that I knew I had to attend, using the same name as our little group. It ended up bringing together eight humans discussing the issues of what it means to be a female-identified rope top, what people expect from us, what each of our communities look like, and what it is that we want from our rope journeys.

We had individuals representing Columbus, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Louisville, some of us being very well-traveled and learned rope folk. It was fascinating to hear the similarities in experience, as well as the differences. Personally, I confided some things that I’ve not shared with many people; mostly my poor experiences with mansplaining, but also a few things from my perspective as a budding organizer.

All of these strong humans were very supportive and kind, and gave me some really good ideas for approaching things in the future. I contributed some topics as well, such as “bottoms being billed as part of the team when presenting,” which I feel is an important issue that needs to be looked at by presenters, organizers, and the general public.

As I spend more time in the rope community, I have found more and more opportunities for promoting enlightened ways of thinking when it comes to gender equality and role egalitarianism. This session helped me think of these things from a broader perspective, and I feel like all of us came out of the discussion with some very useful knowledge. Thank you to everyone who participated and were so giving of yourselves to others – you all inspire me.

Supporting Cast

There were a few people I knew I wanted to seek out and get to know better while in Pittsburgh. While my time with them was too brief, I’m glad we got to rub shoulders at least a little.

  • Murphy Blue – I’m glad I got up the gumption to introduce myself, even though it turns out you approached me last year at the same event after watching a scene I was part of. I’m sorry that I was too fucked up to remember it. I hope we’ll get the chance to rope it up someday.
  • Lizard – It was so good to see you again. I’m really glad we got the chance to sit down at least a little more this time, unlike the whirlwind that was Winter Wickedness. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am going to grow in my admiration of you as a rope person and human person.
  • IPCookieMonster – I’ve been wanting to talk to you more ever since meeting you at last year’s Toronto MBE, but always find myself being too shy for some reason. Must be because you’re so damn smart, and such an amazing rope bottom. I was super stoked that you came and sat in on the class that I co-taught, and loved what you contributed to it. I hope that I will have the chance to pick your brain at some point.
  • pajarolibre – I am so happy I finally got the chance to meet you. You’ve been on my radar for a while now, and when we finally friended each other on Fetlife earlier this year I hoped we would get to meet someday. Your confidence is amazing, and I hope we will have the opportunity to cross paths again soon. Thank you so much for approaching me while I stubbornly didn’t have my glasses on!

Unexpected Connections

Something quite striking about Pitt GRUE is the friendliness I have felt from everyone that I met there. For example: at the meet and greet, jstfunpgh serendipitously walked up to me as I was discussing a hip harness with somebody that I’ve been wanting to learn for months now, and offered himself as tribute for me to tie. Thank you for being such an open person willing to help me along on my rope journey.

I met a bunch of other really friendly people at the meet and greet and throughout Saturday. One particular stand out from Saturday evening was the gentleman who kindly did a quick massage on jumpropeninja after sustaining a tweak to some muscle on her ribcage, and then accompanied us to dinner. I’m so glad you like Thai food!.

Probably my favorite time connecting, though, was at GRUEcakes Sunday where Meymoon and I got the chance to tie using his very innovative style. It was an amazing challenge and experience, and the cuddling and conversation afterward were first class. Meymoon was one of the brightest spots of my weekend. Quite simply: awesome.

Hometown Advantage

Apparently in past years there has been a sizable contingent of attendees from Columbus, in the range of ten or so. This year there were only five of us, but we were still fabulous and represented the C-bus with pride! Qwksilver, Rosis, jumpropeninja, and Aliatheknife: I was honored to be part of our little cohort. We rocked it!!

  • QwkSilver – You are one of my oldest friends in the lifestyle. You and your new wife are very dear to me, and I don’t know what I would have done without your friendship in the last year. You are deep and kind and wonderful, and I want everyone in the world to know it.
  • Rosis – I was so honored to have been a Person of Honor in your handfasting just a few short days before Pittsburgh. What an amazing way to honeymoon, amongst friends and chosen family! I adore you, and I look forward to many adventures far into our future as friends.
  • Alia – I feel like I have sufficiently embarrassed you earlier in this post, but I’ve just got one more thing to say….. OMG, TINY SINGING BABY FROGS, THAT’S SO GREAT!!!!!
  • jumpropenija – I was super excited when you told me that you’d be going to this year’s GRUE. Knowing you as I do, I had an idea it was going to be the perfect place for you. Probably the most profound time spent was in the hotel room you surprise-crashed in with us. You are an amazingly strong person, and your growing contribution to the Columbus rope community is not unnoticed. Like you said, we all have to build each other up.

Finally, I’d like to thank the people that make this great gathering of community possible. Graydancer, naiia, TwistedView, and BrighidsCross: you guys are what set this thing up to be the success that it is.

  • TwistedView & BrighidsCross – I’m gonna go all LOTR nerd for a moment and use a quote of good ol’ Bilbo Baggins: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” What I do know is that you’ve been great friends to the Columbus community, volunteering and helping to organize events three or so hours from your Pittsburgh, as well as being contributors to education further afield and at home. It is evident that you guys take a lot of pride in what you do in organizing Pitt GRUE because it runs so damn smoothly. Aside from that, you’re just plain warm and wonderful people.
  • Gray – I know we’ve had limited time in one another’s company over the years, but I consider you to be a great friend. Every time we’ve interacted there have been sparks, even when I’m bashfully looking at my feet. I admire you as an educator and a human being, and am lucky to have you as a part of my grand little world. Also, I am incredibly honored and excited to have been asked to be on your podcast. How cool is that!!!!
  • naiia – I am really enjoying getting to know you, even if it is in very short spurts. I greatly look forward to future opportunities to sit down and talk when time is more generous. You’ve been so very kind, and I am certain you’re an incredible person with inner strength beyond what I’ve seen so far.

Closing Circle

While listening to the six or so people in front of me in the closing circle, taking their turns sharing what they were taking away from the GRUE, I started to mull over what I would say. “Thank you for creating a safe space in which I could openly be myself…..” was what I was aiming for.

When it got to me I started to say as much, but then I started choking up.

What came out next was a strong but tearful admission that I was at the GRUE this year as a “free agent of sorts”. I was there without any sort of companion, and I was there for my interests and my interests only.

I know that I am a strong person, and it is okay to advocate for pursuing my own interests above others (ethically). I don’t need to pour myself into anyone to the point where I lose sight of me as a person.

Sometimes I have trouble remembering this idea of me being strong, but I’m much better at doing it these days than some of those not long ago.

This event provided a weekend in which I could shine and re-energize that knowledge, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

Dear Pitt GRUE, thank you for an amazing weekend full of so much fun and joy. I think you may be my new home event away from home!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *