I am at the mall, waiting for an old schoolmate of mine who I haven’t seen in over two decades. Interestingly, he and I never spoke in school. Unlike my present vocal self, I was shy and demure as a child. It was difficult for me to talk to my classmates, even the girls. Boys then remained a faraway dream. In my private thoughts, I secretly desired some of the boys around me. Most conventional attributes like appearances and academics didn’t matter to me at all- all I longed was that I would be accepted, and in this process, be elevated as an individual and as a woman.
This particular schoolmate of mine watched me evolve- from a young reclusive child, to a firebrand woman who addressed deeply ingrained taboos with no hesitation. Like many men I knew, he too was interested in my unfiltered commentary and opinions. But he always stood apart a little and I found that he genuinely cared for me. His actions spoke volumes, and a connection sparked between us. So when he came to my city for work, it was no surprise that we decided to meet.
As he walked into the mall, I pretended not to see him at first. But the truth was, we recognized each other straight away even though we were meeting after years. We sat together at a bakery, a coffee and cupcake between us and the conversation unraveled. He was understandably curious about my transformation from an extremely quiet child, to someone who talks as openly about sex as I do. I on the other hand was more interested in understanding what my other classmates used to think about me. He told me that since I mostly kept to myself, no one could really approach me.
The realization dawned upon me that it wasn’t my perceived unworthiness, but my reticent personality that stopped my male classmates from approaching me. I could feel an old wound healing, it gave me strength to move out of the classroom of my past.
I fell silent for a moment, in the wake of this realisation. Seeing me quiet, he nudged my arm and smiled, and the conversation inevitably veered towards sex. He was eager for my insights. Of course, I indulged him and told him “You will be amazed to know that the most tantalizing of touches are the subtle ones.’ I demonstrated this by gently pressing his earlobe between my thumb and index finger. “How does this feel.” He was dumbstruck. Not many people know that stimulating earlobes alone can lead to a full climax! I then sketched a long and meandering trail on his neck with my finger, making his hair prick. I pointed out the rising sexual heat between us. “See my thigh is brushing against yours, and that lights up our senses. Do you know why? For me the entire essence of touch is in its softness, it’s so much more electric than the force of thrusting.”
It wasn’t awkward for me to let the other person know that I was aroused by their touch. Touch can be incredibly sensual, I particularly like neck touching, for it is as relaxing as it is sensuous. Rubbing or massaging the back of the neck with an open palm, lightly stroking the sides, and then dipping into the collar bones, can invite a certain calmness while also creating the warmest of sensations on the skin.
Nothing more happened on that sultry evening other than those light touches, and yet it remained unforgettable. The friendly banter, the teasing, gazing, touching. Sometimes I feel like we skip an entire world of sensuality in a desire to arrive at penetration. In a hypersexualised culture, penetration is foregrounded in such a way that other sexual acts (touching, kissing, stroking) are all thought of as incomplete until penetration takes place. But I’ve come to realise that even gentle touches can be complete sensations on their own.
The so-called ‘foreplay’ is a complex geography that can be explored and relished for its own sake, without marking penetration as the ultimate destination.
Later that night after our date, I find my heart so full of love that it draws tears out of me. I sink into my pillow and cry, trying not to wake anyone. I know that is the tenderness of our interaction that has made me so emotional. I think of tenderness as consistent awareness of what your partner feels, and knowing how to heighten those wants and feelings- as gently, slowly, or roughly as they might want you to. This can come forth in the smallest gestures. Tenderness requires us to be empathetic and pay attention to details, and is often what is required to make foreplay incredible!