memories

Safewords…

It’s Friday, and I’m in the mood to overshare again. Well… maybe not overshare so much as remind everyone that we all have value and purpose, and sometimes you never realize what your true value is. You just never know all of whom you’ll touch in this life. And this particular anecdote is big on touching… kind of like this famous song by Divinyls.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of this song, but it fits with today’s lurid topic…

Picture it. It’s August 1999. I have just arrived at graduate school in Columbia, South Carolina. I don’t own a computer. Within weeks of my arrival on campus, it becomes very clear that I need a computer. I go to the computer lab in the library (I think) and order one from Gateway… or was it a Gateway computer from Amazon? Honestly, I don’t remember anything other than the fact that it was an Intel Celeron that came with a printer and cost $999, which was a fortune to me at the time. It definitely was a Gateway computer. Gateway was big at the time.

I was 27 years old and had zero sex life whatsoever. My computer arrived. I unpacked it and set it up. Before you know it, I’m online. I live alone in my apartment and don’t have to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder. Remember… no sex life, and I was bored, lonely, and overwhelmed by the prospect of three long years studying for degrees I hoped would lead to a career more interesting than waiting tables. And I was nearing my sexual peak. Or, so the experts tell us I should have been. It wasn’t long before I started to explore some of the more chocolate areas of the Internet.

I’m not really ashamed about this now, especially considering where my explorations ultimately led me. At the time, it was kind of embarrassing and exciting all at once, especially when I realized I could connect with other people. I have alway loved reading, researching, and exploring subjects that fascinate me. In 1999, I was a little obsessed with sex– and I don’t mean plain old vanilla sex, either.

It was during this time when I stumbled across a Web site run by a guy named Tammad Rimilia. Tammad dubbed himself the “Gentleman Barbarian” and he was an expert in IT (information technology, that is). He was also a BDSM enthusiast.

Tammad made his Web site on Excite.com (an early popular search engine) and it included a number of essays, articles, and stories about BDSM. I also remember that he’d put in a link that read, “If you’re under 18, please go somewhere more exciting.” You clicked the link, and it would take you to the Excite landing page. Yes… a little corny, but kind of cute, too. He also had a little recording of his welcome, so a person could hear his voice.

As a young woman, I had done some reading about the subject and had read a lot of Nancy Friday’s books. I remember very clearly buying My Secret Garden at Waldenbooks and being terribly embarrassed about it, even though that book is about as old as I am and is very tame by today’s standards. The Internet was something different, though. For the first time ever, I had a whole world of information at my fingertips. Pretty soon, I was knee deep in new terminology about BDSM, learning terms like “Domme”, “Dom”, “sub”, “switch”, “safe, sane, and consensual”, and “safewords”.

Tammad Rimilia came across as a very friendly guy who would never hurt anyone. He wrote professional grade articles about the BDSM lifestyle, as well as goofy short stories about bondage that were more silly than scary. He explained his name Tammad was of Nordic origin and that he was seeking someone to share his interests with him, although it was plain to see that he and I could never be a match. For one thing, he was significantly older than I am and lived in a different part of the country. For another thing, he was a neat freak. I got the sense that it would be like a cat person trying to be with a dog person.

I probably read Tammad’s goofy stories more than his articles about Japanese rope bondage. I was more interested in escaping the rigors of school than learning how to safely and properly bind someone in an intricate rope harness. Actually, that kind of thing isn’t interesting to me, anyway– maybe if I were skinny and more of a submissive type. Still, he put kind of a friendly, harmless face on what was always a taboo subject for me. He made it seem less sinful and dirty, and more about fun. In a strange way, he vastly improved my sex life without ever having known me personally. He also helped give me the courage to share my own writing online. After all, if I could read and enjoy his cornball stories about BDSM (and they really were cringeworthy in an entertaining way), I could certainly write stuff that people might like.

Tammad was an anonymous guy who had once shared a picture of himself from the early 80s in a barbarian costume. I “met” Bill a few weeks after I discovered Tammad Rimilia. It turned out we were compatible, in all of the ways it matters. Besides being super easy to talk to and very attractive to me, he also liked my fiction. Although we instantly had chemistry, we were meeting through the computer and not in the vanilla areas of the Internet. It took awhile before I felt comfortable enough to meet Bill offline. But you can see where it led me twenty years later… I could thank a lot of anonymous people for helping me get together with Bill, but I would probably start with Tammad Rimilia. His was probably the first presence I encountered from the “less vanilla” part of the Internet.

I wish I could thank Tammad now for putting a friendly face on that world… which I’ve kind of left since those days. Unfortunately, Tammad died in a car accident on November 20, 2000. I remember the day I got the news. I was in my second year of grad school, studying first year social work; the year previous, I had done public health. The semester was about to end and we were preparing for exams. It was also my niece’s 8th birthday. Someone had posted on Tammad’s site that he had passed away at just 42 years of age. I was shocked and, to be honest, kind of sad. I’d never even met the guy, yet his life made a difference to me. He was so young to die and, I know, maybe people had been touched by him the way I had. It was even stranger to think I’d never met this guy or even interacted with him, yet here I was sad about his death… Here I was even knowing about his death. The Internet has, in some ways, made the world a little smaller.

Last night, Tammad’s memory popped into my head. I hadn’t thought about him in ages. I went looking to see if he still had a presence online, even though he’s been dead for going on 19 years. His site has been taken down, although I know some of his friends maintained it for awhile. Someone else has preserved some of his writings. I found myself reading, of all things, his article about how to insert a butt plug. I have never used one myself– my exploration of BDSM is really just that, and purely academic. However, I would imagine that if one were interested in learning how to properly use such a device, Tammad’s article would really be handy. I would much rather read clear, concise instructions written by a safe, sane, slightly goofy guy like Tammad, than have some crazy, sex-obsessed jackass shove one into me and tell me to shut up before he gives me something to cry about.

Anyway… it occurred to me that whenever you put something out there for public consumption, you never know how it will come across. I have heard from some people who don’t like what I have to say… but I’ve also heard from many more people who love my blogs. Whenever I think about how I fell into this Overeducated Housewife lifestyle instead of a career, and lament that I won’t be passing on any genes when I die, I remember that some people might remember me by these random posts. Maybe even nineteen years after I’m dead, someone will remember something I wrote or recorded. Who knows?

In the early days of the Internet, people used to refer to offline as “real life”. I don’t really hear it described like that anymore. Online is becoming “real life”, as real as anything offline, anyway. I met my husband online at a time when such a meeting was still considered weird and “novel”. Had it not been for the World Wide Web, I might be a profoundly bitter spinster living in the Deep South. I’m still kind of bitter and perhaps somewhat unfulfilled, but at least I’m not living alone, watching Divinyls on VH1, and reading smut to make the time pass. Thanks to Tammad for that.

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