Posted at 13:24 on 26 Nov 2010 by Pandora / Blake
I'm on a train moving north through snow-covered fields, and when I think about where I'm going my stomach tightens in anticipation. My suitcase, as well as warm clothes and wellies for a few days in the Highlands next week, contains carefully-assembled items, ticked off the list I was sent earlier this week: smart daywear, white blouse, stockings, ladylike underwear, sensible shoes, high heels, evening gown and demure cocktail dress. I'm going to school, but it won't be like any school I've been to before.
This afternoon myself and a handful of others in need of "finishing" will enrol in Mrs Darling's prestigious academy for errant young ladies. The curious can discover more about this institution through the characterful Twitter accounts maintained by Mrs Darling herself (AKA Northern Spanking's Lucy McLean) and her capable deputy Miss Amelie Hammond-Grant (AKA Amy Hunter).
This will be my first foray into the world of immersive social roleplay, and I feel as if I'm jumping into the deep end. A dozen pupils, four tutors and half a dozen unknown "bachelors" whose role in all this is yet to be discovered. Two whole nights and days sleeping, waking and eating in character. I've only played short, small-scale roleplay scenes three or four times before.
My anxiety over the past couple of weeks has been off the scale. There's the practical concerns: Will I forget to bring anything? Will my health be up to it? (I've had a cold most of this week, but have had too much work to do before going away to be able to rest and recuperate.) How will I, a grown woman who prefers to manage her own schedule, cope with being told when to sleep, when and what to eat and drink? Will we be allowed tea and coffee? (I won't have much fun with caffeine withdrawal headaches all weekend.) Will the unfamiliar constraints be enjoyable, or will I just find the loss of independence annoying?
Then there's the whole reason, I guess, that most of us are there - the CP. My instinct, as a first timer, is to stay out of trouble as much as possible, observe until I feel comfortable participating. Will I have the opportunity, or will our tutors ensure that all of us are dealt with as a matter of course? Normally I strongly prefer unfair punishments to deliberately earning one through misbehaviour; will that be true this time, or will I want to reclaim some control over my fate? If everyone else embarks on a collective prank, do I suffer the embarrassment of being the goody-goody odd one out, or risk earning a punishment before I feel ready?
I wrote on my application form that I had no experience of hand tawsing, and if it were to happen it would be an extreme and intense experience not to be undertaken lightly. But in retrospect, I started to regret not putting it as a hard limit. What sort of behaviour would count as "extreme" in the rules of this unknown academy? The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that I'd set myself up. If I wanted to, say, steal intimate time with any of my attractive fellow students (including close friends I rarely get to see), I could probably expect the worst. With a disappointed sigh and a hard look at my comfort zone, I've decided it's not worth the risk. I'm resigned to being good - or at any rate, as good as possible.
Then there's the theme of the school itself. This isn't the comforting familiarity of a traditional school - it's an aristocratic finishing school for young adults, set in the modern world. Wearing stockings to class, smartphones not permitted outside the dormitory - it's a dizzying mix of old and new, and the unfamiliarity of it is scary and exhilarating.
I decided to apply as myself, Pandora, rather than a character, figuring that it would be easier to cope with assimilating so many news experiences without the added complication of presenting a new persona. My application was filled out with total honesty. Thanks to a privileged education I am, in traditional terms, relatively accomplished, and so the areas in which I need "finishing" are those relating to elegance, etiquette and social graces, the trimmings of class which few real people are trained in these days. Sounds like fun, I thought, and with luck I'll genuinely learn something. But as the event loomed closer I found things to fret about. What about posture and deportment? Would the tutors accept my real-life back problems as a valid excuse for imperfection? Would I be able to deal with a critique of my way of speaking and moving, or would it all be far too personal for comfort? Suddenly I began to regret not having a character to hide behind.
But I'm on my way, now, reassuring myself with the same things I've told myself all along. This is a fun event run my friends, who know my limits and aren't out to get me. I'm hardly going to be on my own, and once I'm there I bet I'll be disappointed if I don't get into trouble at least once.
It's weird, but right now my good girl kink and my eagerness to please feel like my own worst enemy. I may not be very submissive to most people on the planet - which is not proving helpful in accepting the loss of control for two days of my life - but my anxious perfectionism is rehearsing every possible way in which things might not go to plan.
Ultimately, of course, I don't know the plan - and I'm going to have to submit to the authority of the lovely, generous ladies running this weekend if I don't want to spend it champing at the bit. My difficulty in submitting to anyone other than my partners is why I've so rarely indulged in these group roleplay scenes in the past, and if I'm going to enjoy this one, I'm going to have to get over it enough to trust the tutors with my boundaries and person.
As the train crosses through blizzards into snowy Scotland, my anxieties slowly peel away along with the world I'm leaving behind. Underneath them is excitement and the happy anticipation of seeing friends old and new. Deep down I know that all my fears are daft, and I'm going to have the time of my life. Dressing up, shared world creation, watching others be punished - in many ways this experience is a dream come true.
I'm looking forward to getting so immersed in it that I forget my uncertainties. See you on the flipside.