Lolita opened her laptop. “Look how small and shiny it is!” she beamed. “I love my new toy. It makes me say ‘Eeeee!’”
“Viviane says it’s really great,” I nodded. “Wow, such a tiny keyboard.”
“I like it. It’s perfect for my six-year-old hands.” She playfully typed in imitation of Chico Marx at a piano. I pulled up a chair as she walked me through the laptop’s features.
I needed a new computer for my children and Lolita offered to stop by to let me get a look at the one Viviane had recommended for her. Shelby was also looking for sales and thinking I should consider buying an Acer. After playing with Lolita’s new toy for a while, we found ourselves talking about red flags.
“You really need to pay attention to red flags.” Lolita adopted her educator’s tone. “They’re very important. If you pay attention to red flags, you avoid a lot of bad stuff.”
“I know, I know. I mean, it’s not like I’m not cognizant of red flags. It’s just my instinct to, you know, try to make people happy. So if the red flag is that a person is unhappy, or even irredeemably miserable, I feel like since I’m generally pretty happy, it’s my duty to try to . . .”
“Fix them.” Lolita finished my sentence. She shook her head. “Not a good instinct.”
“Don’t I know it.” I clucked my tongue. “I mean, I’d like to think I learned that lesson in my marriage. You can’t take on the miseries of others in an effort to make them better. You can’t be responsible for the happiness of others.”
“You can only be a nice person and be careful. That’s why paying attention to red flags is smart.”
“Lesson learned.” I grimaced. “Again. This reminds me of a conversation I had with Charmeine, back when you and I were both dating her. You know, she’s a heavy bottom and she kind of took me under her wing as I was growing my abilities as a dom. We didn’t really play that way—I mean, I’m not even sure I was in her league for that . . .”
“Oh, you could’ve handled her,” Lolita laughed.
“Hmmm, maybe. We found our level. At any rate, we would have these long, rich conversations, and once she told me something like, the reason a top should be really selective in choosing partners for heavy play is that you want to be sure you trust the person. She said that if a bottom got angry, she could, you know, go to the police claiming abuse or some such. Charmeine pointed out that a consensual bruising doesn’t necessarily look different than a nonconsensual one.”
“That’s right.” Lolita nodded. “But that’s not just true of heavy play. Trust is really important.”
“Right. I was mulling that over recently and thought it’s true of my sex life as well. I mean, anyone can get upset and make outrageous claims or do things later regretted. But if someone is so motivated by misery, or obsession, or gossip, or drama, then geez . . . I really shouldn’t be messing with such things.”
Lolita pursed her lips. “How many years have I been telling you that?”
“I suppose I’ve had my ears cleaned. So, in considering partners, I’m going to keep in mind Madeline’s refrain: be nice. If someone isn’t nice, I don’t want anything to do with that person.”
“Hey, I always say ‘play nice.’”
“That you do. You and Madeline are a philosophical matched set.” I thought for a moment. “You know, I was talking to Madeline the other day, and I was telling her about some blog drama. You know a great thing about Madeline? She doesn’t care about sex blogs. She thinks they are mostly pretty ridiculous, which, of course, they are. She reads the ones that are well written, but she is never up to speed on blog drama because, you know, she has a life.”
Lolita nodded, listening.
“I don’t usually bother her with such things, because we talk about things like, well, life. So anyway, I had to give the backstory for the blog drama for her to understand what I was trying to explain. So she listened quietly, and then she said, ‘May I ask you a question? Why do you bother with such people?’ I said, ‘Well, you know’ . . . and I realized I didn’t really have a good answer.”
“You want to fix people. That’s your answer.”
“Right. Well, and obviously, Madeline gets that. So she says, ‘Jefferson, you know some amazing people. You know Lolita.’”
“That was nice of her,” Lolita smiled. “Madeline is amazing.”
“You both are. I adore you, Lolita.” Lolita made a shy face and raised a finger to her lip. I grinned. “So anyway, Madeline goes on. ‘Who was that photographer we met in Williamsburg, with the new baby?’ And I said, ‘Harvey.’ She said, ‘Harvey. His work was great and he thinks you’re a genius. When was the last time you saw him?’ I said I hadn’t seen him since that day. She said, ‘You know that was two years ago.’”
“Right? So she goes on, listing a few of my friends she’s met, non-sex friends, and asking when I last saw them. And I realized that in some cases, it had been some time. Madeline was getting a little stern; I could hear it in her voice. Then she said this: you have wasted too much time on people who do not deserve your time.”
Lolita tapped a finger on the table. “Good for her. You needed to hear that.”
I nodded. “She was really giving it to me, too. She was breaking it down for me. People who call you names are not nice people, she said. People who blog mean things are not nice people. People who gossip and write stuff about you without asking you about it, or even telling you about it, are not nice people. Why would you waste time on them? You can totally trade up.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s harsh, Madeline. People aren’t disposable.’”
“I don’t think that’s what she was saying,” Lolita interrupted. “It sounds like she was saying, you can be more selective.”
I tapped my forehead. “Yes. She explained, and yes, that was her point. She said, ‘If people are mean or disrespectful to you, you are perfectly within your rights to cut them off. You can do better.’ And I was, like, ‘Smart lady, where were you when I was getting married?’’
“You’re lucky you know Madeline,” Lolita smiled. “She’s smart and she’s nice.”
“Yes. Easy on the eyes, too.”
Lolita laughed. “She’s bee-yoo-tiful.”
I shrugged. “If you like that type.”