In theory aftercare is designed to help the top and bottom to transition back into their normal life. But what does it mean, normal?
There are two main ways to look at aftercare. One is the immediate one, which happens directly after play, often at the same location of the play. Another is lengthier, takes place over days after play. The immediate one can include a hug, something sweet, water, a blanky if the bottom is cold, some cuddles, some hair stroking, some conversation and various other physical things. People sometimes negotiate that the top or the bottom will not play that night with another. Some agree that the bottom will sit at the top’s feet for an hour. They are all good and depend on pre-negotiated terms of play. The lengthier aftercare takes place over days: from a phone call the next day to check on the bottom to being on call for the bottom for the duration of the drop, and anything in between. Again, depending on what was pre-negotiated.
During negotiations, we can ask about medical conditions of the bottom, we can even ask about emotional issues of the bottom, but usually the top does not have the expertise to deal with deep seated emotional issues. Many times neither the top nor the bottom are aware of the feelings play or drop can bring out. Sometimes the top has their own issues. Not to mention that what helps one person differs greatly from another.
I am not just talking about the bottom. Tops experience intense connection during play too and sometimes have drops. They need to consider their needs too. Obviously it is important to negotiate expectations before the play begins. Regardless of unpredictable nature of play and drop, it is important to talk about it. Prepare a plan to deal with things that might come up.
Usually new tops and bottoms don’t know what their needs of aftercare might be. They only find out when they are in the middle of misery and there is no one to talk to. Sometimes they don’t even know what drop feels like and they assume they are just depressed, stressed, blame co-workers, relatives, God. They yearn to hear from the one who they have played with but don’t want to upset ‘the apple cart’ and therefore not get played with again.
There is actually no way to tell what your drop feels like, until you experience it at least a few times. It is only recognizable by pattern. And it is only possible when you know to look for it. Having experienced it enough, you will know what to negotiate for. If I can compare it to sex, people meet, become friendly, either over a few hours or days, and ……at the very minimum discuss protection; at the maximum discuss a relationship. Sometimes the parties begin the negotiation with one wanting to get in, get off, get out, and the other wants an emotional involvement that might lead to a relationship. The negotiations are not explicit, of course. But each side pushes towards what they want. One way to achieve longevity is to postpone sex, manipulate it, and so on. A way to achieve brevity is to push the arousal to such a point that it will be difficult to say no and go home.
In our community we actually verbalize this negotiation. Two people meet, on line or at a party, get to know each other and discuss expectations. Sometimes, obviously, the expectations discussed are not the ones that each actually has, but that is another story. Play is discussed, assurances or references are given and received. Aftercare is very often ignored. It is often treated as off putting. Like discussing ‘will you call me tomorrow’, when you are chatting up somebody at the bar. How many of you ever discussed aftercare with a new top or bottom?
And yet it is very important to discuss aftercare. It helps put play and aftercare in perspective. It helps recognizing the feelings as connected to play rather than your own depression, or loneliness. It also helps, to some degree, to separate between feelings connected to play from these connected to the person.
How do you separate these feelings from the real deal? How do you know what is high of endorphins and what is real love, what is drop and what is actual longing for someone in your life? Are they separable?
Some tops or bottoms often want as little fuss as possible. They prefer playmates who don’t make demands on their time after the play has finished. However, if you need aftercare and they are reluctant, perhaps it isn’t a good match?
Sometimes, very rarely, a request for aftercare comes as means of creating further contact with the other party. At other times one party is assuming that the other is doing it. And then sometimes we do it unconsciously. We don’t often stop and ask ourselves, am I dropping and need contact to proceed with my life, or am I experiencing attachment and just want to hang out with that awesome person more, and perhaps make him fall for me as well.
Be honest with yourself when considering play, is it the play you are after, the sensation, the euphoria, or the person you are about to play with, and the play itself is secondary? If it is the latter, in my experience, play will not get you there. Asking for aftercare will not get you there either. If they are not hot for you, play will not make them so. Knowing this about yourself can help…
Other things that may help is listening. Actually listening. When somebody you are about to play with says: I am only interested in play. I already have a partner, or I am not interested in a relationship right now. This is what I am offering as aftercare. Listen attentively. They usually mean it! If they do not match your own needs, do not play.
If your prospective top or bottom hasn’t mentioned aftercare, you do. Explain your expectations of aftercare and listen very attentively to the response. If they do not match your own needs, do not play.
If you are a new top or a new bottom, ask about aftercare. If the answer is what’s that? Explain. Don’t be embarrassed. This is not presumptuous. It is part of the play. If you don’t know what you might need as aftercare, say so. Explain what you might be available for and what you will not be available for. It may not help when the feelings of drop arrive, but at the very least they will remember you discussed the topic.
Aftercare for someone you played with at a club is different from aftercare for your own sub/partner. For someone you just met and wanted to try something like flogging, or spanking, you explain in short what will be on offer (for me its usually a hug, and a fetlife contact the next day). If a hug is their hard limit, guess what? I don’t play.
For someone who you are assessing as your regular play partner, needs of aftercare should be part of the assessment of compatibility. If they need constant monitoring after play for a week, and you have your own family commitments, you are probably not compatible. If they don’t want any aftercare, and just want to drop in for a session and go home, and you are single and fully available it might not be a good fit either.
For your own partner, if you are deciding to play, plan ahead. After a few play sessions you probably already know how and when they drop. Include that in your plans for play. I know, for example, that my baby will go to sleep for up to 5h after play, so starting play when we have limited time is not a good idea. I also know that when he drops it can take up to a few days. Therefore, I usually don’t plan anything for us to do together for a few days after play.
To conclude, negotiations are important and they can also be lots of fun. If you can combine the two, that’s awesome. If you can’t, negotiate anyway. It can save you a lot of anguish later :)