I came up with this motto to help me deal with being an older rope bottom, but I think it could apply to anyone who feels they are not well-represented in photos or in the overall rope community:
Patience. Persistence. Resilience.
An older body may take longer to warm up and heal. A male body, a curvy one, or one with physical issues may take longer for a rope top to learn how to tie. A gender non-conforming body may be going through stages of changes over a long period of time. Instead of seeing this time needed as a negative, we can see it as a gift that allows us to more deeply experience our bodies than someone who takes the body for granted because things come more easily.
In my 20s I was so impatient and restless that I couldn’t really enjoy anything in the moment—I was always wondering what was next, how the situation could be improved, was there something better/more fun/more worthwhile somewhere else? Two decades later as I slowly and carefully stretch before a rope scene or see marks that linger for months, I savor the joy of just being and offer gratitude for my body that it has taken me so far and done so much, and gratitude for life that over many years has given me the gift of more patience.
Patience applies to our minds when we compare ourselves to others and when self-doubt arises too. I’ve started thinking in terms of meditation: how when we meditate, we treat those random thoughts that wander in as clouds floating by—we notice them and move on, without judgment or self-criticism. When I find myself looking at photos of younger, bendier rope bottoms in amazing poses and comparing myself in a negative way, I notice the thought and then let it float past. I’m patient with my thoughts instead of lamenting them. Those photos have nothing to do with the beauty and magic of our own rope scenes. And amazing poses are certainly not required for an amazing scene anyway!
“Find 12 ways around the word ‘no,’” recommends TMZ founder Harvey Levin in an interview in an in-flight magazine. Sage advice for an atypical rope bottom, and it applies to ourselves and our bodies as well as to things like finding partners.
Persistence might be needed for working around physical issues, whether from age or size or shape or things like chronic pain or limited mobility. Some rope bottoms have found ways around the body’s saying no that will make your heart sing.
Persistence might be needed for finding partners, because atypical rope bottoms may have to work harder at this. Finding ways around no doesn’t mean hounding someone until they give in to playing with us, by the way. It means honoring one person’s no and moving on to someone who may say yes. We may have to do this way more times than someone in the more typical category, but think of it like being an actor who gets rejected over and over before landing a big part. Oscar nominee Naomi Watts made her film debut in 1986 but didn’t hit it big until 15 years later, with Mulholland Drive (2001)1. She sometimes thought, “I can’t handle it. I’m giving up2” during all those years of low-profile or no roles, but did she give up? Nope, and now she’s a celebrity. That’s persistence.
Atypical rope bottoms may have to deal with more challenges, frustrations, setbacks, and rejections than other rope bottoms. Not internalizing those things—learning how to deal with them without letting them define us, rising above them—is key to getting the most out of our rope journeys. We can’t experience the heights of rope joy if we’re stuck in the muck of feeling regret, self-pity, bitterness, or any other feeling that doesn’t serve us.
My resilience as an older rope bottom comes from reminding myself that my body has done amazing things, like given birth to a child, climbed a mountain in Switzerland, held the hand of a loved one as she passed from this earth. Other people’s resilience might come from remembering that they’ve changed even one person’s stereotypical perception, or had the courage to be true to themselves when no one else they knew was like them, or did a challenging rope scene after they were told it wasn’t possible. Whatever renews and reaffirms our confidence and sense of self-worth in the face of challenges can help our resilience.
And resilience may be helped by reminding ourselves that the more we’ve been through, the more we’ve grown and deepened. All of our experiences, whether we consider them positive or negative, have been our teachers. They’ve taught us compassion; they’ve given us a greater understanding of ourselves and the world. They have made our lives richer and more meaningful. They have allowed us to live our lives more fully.
With patience, persistence, and resilience, we can all celebrate what makes us uniquely us, and how we make the rope community as a whole richer, deeper, and more vibrant. A single musical note doesn’t make a song, let alone a symphony.
All of us, with every unique note we contribute, make the rope community a symphony. And that’s something to celebrate.