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From formal to cheeky, find a design that is perfect for any group
We’ll admit that deciding to use formal table settings is becoming more and more unusual these days when it comes to party planning.
Sure, for weddings, galas, and elaborate events, a formal table is usually the norm, but for intimate dinner parties and roving-style soirées that have various stations and passed plates, things can get a bit relaxed.
Whatever you decide — formal or not — these adorable escort cards are ideal for any party large or small. Mr. Boddington’s Studio is renowned for its quirky and whimsical paper goods that are just as timeless. Whether you’re seating a party of five, 50, or 500, it’s nice to show your personality in everything that your guests will see — including the first thing when they walk in the door: the escort card.
Choose from classic choices like polka dots, laurels, and peony prints or more whimsical looks with peacocks, stars, and mustaches for you adventurous hosts and hostesses. Whatever you decide, you’ll be setting the bar pretty high when you set the table.
35+ Thanksgiving Cards That Are Equal Parts Stylish and Sentimental
Want to spread some extra love this Thanksgiving? Send the special people in your life a thoughtful Thanksgiving card that outlines how much they mean to you. Whether you want to reach out to a family member who lives far, far away or show some extra appreciation to those who are gracing your dining room table, a nice note is bound to put a smile on your inner circle&rsquos face.
But while the message you write inside will be the main attraction, it doesn&rsquot hurt to send a greeting card that looks good, too. From quirky turkeys to elegant options, punny prose, and fun pop-up styles, these thoughtful&mdashand stylish&mdashTurkey Day cards are sure to leave your loved ones with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Whether you&rsquore shopping around or simply searching for inspiration, take a look at these 35-plus Thanksgiving cards to bring a personal touch to your festivities.
Casseroles to Make for Your Sick Neighbor
When you feel ill, the last thing you likely want to do is cook. That is precisely why the best thing you can do for a friend or neighbor who is sick is cook them a tasty meal. Most individuals and families can eat from a casserole for a day or two, which is one more day they can focus on feeling better. These casseroles are delicious and comforting, straight from the oven. They also freeze well in the event your loved one is overrun with food from other loving friends and family members.
Casserole Freezing Tips
Before delivering the dish, put these instructions on the casserole or in the card so she knows precisely what to do for the best results when she&aposs ready to eat.
- Freezing: Place the casserole right into the freezer for 24 to 48 hours, then pop the frozen food right out of the dish with the aluminum foil around it.
- Storing: Wrap the casserole well with aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Label with freezer tape or masking tape with the dish&aposs name and date it was made. Slip into a freezer bag for extra protection if you have one large enough.
- Thawing: The night before you plan to cook the casserole, place the frozen casserole back into a baking dish, and move it from the freezer to the fridge. Let thaw overnight.
- Reheating: If the casserole is completely thawed, bake per the original recipe instructions. To bake the casserole from frozen, cover with foil and cook at 350ଏ for half the recipe time. Then, remove the aluminum foil, and bake as instructed.
Given its name, it should come as no surprise that this casserole is the king of comfort food. While it has a little kick from canned diced tomatoes and peppers and several types of chile powders, this casserole is great for neighbors under the weather because it&aposs thick and filling, which can outshine any sad bowl of lukewarm chicken soup.
Tuna noodle casserole calls out to people needing comfort, those under-the-weather especially. This version, however, is great precisely because it packs in more nutrition (and filling fiber) from the addition of vegetables, like kale and bell pepper.
When making a dish to share with a friend, you want to pick something universally satisfying. This turkey tetrazzini is one such dish, with its creamy sauce, slurpable noodles, and filling turkey pieces. If you&aposve got the freezer space, double the ingredients and make one for yourself, or give the second to your friend for their freezer.
A classic chicken and rice casserole is a wonderful option for feeding a friend who doesn&apost feel well. This version calls on a lot of convenience products, like instant rice and canned soups, which makes it easy to pull together and cook. For a little color, you could add frozen broccoli or asparagus pieces before cooking the casserole
The classic English casserole has a fond following across the globe𠅊nd with people who are sick. The creamy potatoes are peak comfort food, while the meaty filling is zesty and bold. A secret and untraditional ingredient𠅌urry powders a great deal of tang, which will be welcome for people who may have been eating oatmeal for days on end.
This 30-minute pasta recipe is typically served as a side dish, but for people seeking creamy, comforting dishes, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate "Feel better!" food. For a more classic presentation, you can sprinkle the top of the macaroni with breadcrumbs and some parsley.
20 Best Sister Quotes That Describe Your Unbreakable Bond
If you&rsquore lucky enough to have a sister, then you understand what an important bond you share. Even if you were the types who fought like crazy as kids, there&rsquos no one who gets you&mdashor your crazy family&mdashlike your sis. That's why this collection of best sister quotes will warm your heart and give you inspiration, should you need something sweet to say in a card or Instagram caption. If you&rsquore the oldest, you probably feel protective about your siblings, but the youngest likely feels grateful for all the help&mdashand outfit advice&mdashshe's received along the way. You&rsquoll find something for both in this roundup of caring comments from ladies like Amy Li, Toni Morrison, Margaret Mead, and many other wise women. They range from super-serious to more lighthearted as well, so you have something for any occasion. We&rsquore sure she&rsquoll love any sentiment you share with her, as long as it comes from the heart, so you really can&rsquot go wrong. And it&rsquos not like we don&rsquot love brothers, cousins, or fathers, by the way. We just know there&rsquos nothing quite like a strong sisterhood to keep you grounded, no matter what life throws at you.
"Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other."
Disney Toys and Gifts to Buy for Adults
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You don&rsquot have to be a kid to enjoy all things Disney &mdash the magic of fairy tales and princesses is still very real at any age. After being closed for the last year, Disneyland officially reopened last week. Because the wonderful world of Disney has no age limit, we&rsquove collected a variety of gifts perfect for the adult Disney fans in your life &mdash or, really, just a collection of items you might want to add to your own wish list this year, whether it&rsquos for Mother&rsquos Day, Father&rsquos Day, birthdays, or more gift-giving occasions. If you&rsquove been missing Disneyland and want to cheer yourself up, this is for you too. For more Disney items, check out the best merchandise for Marvel fans.
Z Create Design Donuts Sign
Even your reception desserts deserve a dash of rustic appeal. If you're serving everyone's favorite round confection, create a fully-fledged donut wall and display them proudly underneath a wooden cutout cursive sign.
What to Write in a Bridal Shower Thank-You Note
A bridal shower is such a happy and exciting occasion. Nothing beats the feeling of having friends and family gather close to shower you with gifts and good wishes as you set out on your journey into married life.
Of course, receiving lots of gifts all at once means having a long list of thank-you notes to write. But not to worry—this is completely doable, even for a bride-to-be busy planning a wedding or a newly married couple working on getting settled. All you need is love…and a little strategy.
Inspired? Create and share by tagging @HallmarkStores.
Below, we’ll get into some nuts-and-bolts tips for writing your bridal shower thank-you notes, but first, it may help to pause and remind yourself why your shower thank-you notes matter. This is your chance to reflect the time and thought someone put into giving you a gift with a little time and thought of your own. It’s your way of saying, “Thank you for caring about me. I’m grateful for you!”
General Guidelines and Etiquette
- Timing:For big life events like a bridal shower or a wedding, etiquette guides give you a longer window to get your thank-you notes written and sent. Aim to get yours in the mail within three months after your shower. And do future you a big favor by getting your shower thank-you notes written before the wedding, which will bring a whole new batch of gifts…and more thank-you notes to write.
- Length:Thirty to sixty words. Three to five sentences. Those aren’t hard-and-fast rules—just guidelines to help you say enough, without going on and on.
- Addresses: In a world where most of us don’t send as much physical mail as people once did, you might need to track down a few addresses. The person who planned your shower will be a good resource, especially if they’ve just mailed invitations to all your shower guests. After checking with them, don’t hesitate to reach out via phone, text or social media to ask for addresses.
- Writing Sessions: You want to sound grateful, not annoyed by writing cramps, so limit your thank-you writing sessions to five to ten notes or two hours—whichever comes first. It will be much easier on you to write five notes a day over six days, as opposed to thirty notes in one day.
- Language:Wedding shower thank-you notes don’t need to be stiff or formal, especially for people you know well. If you use humor and casual language to communicate with your recipient in everyday life, then feel free to do the same when writing them a wedding shower thank-you.
Parts of a Bridal Shower Thank-You
A good general plan for a shower thank-you is to:
1. acknowledge the gift,
2. elaborate on why you like it or how you’ll use it,
3. compliment the giver and make a personal connection, and
4. say thanks again.
Thank you for the “Cooking for Two” cookbook you gave me for my bridal shower. I’ve been flipping through, and I can’t wait to try so many of the recipes—especially the cranberry-orange chicken! I’m so glad we had the chance to talk and catch up at the shower. Thanks for being there!
Dear Aunt Kelly,
Thank you so much for the elegant pair of champagne flutes. Such a fun shower gift to get! I’ll think of you every time Quinn and I toast with them. Cheers! (And thanks for being such a wonderful aunt!)
Helpful tip: Here are a few questions to help you say more than just “Thanks for the wall clock!”: How did you feel when you opened the gift? What plans do you have for it?
Why is this a good choice for you? How will the gift make some part of married life easier, nicer or better?
Thank You For Physical Gift
Whether you truly adore it or not so much, you can still sincerely thank someone for their thoughtfulness in getting you a gift.
Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate your shower gift. I was thrilled when I opened the personalized art print. It’s SO our style, and I can’t wait to find the perfect spot for it in our new apartment. It was great spending time with you at the shower. Thanks so much for being there!
Hi, Laura and Yolanda:
I’m so grateful for the beauty and skincare subscription box! Do you two know me or what? It’s going to be so much fun getting those little surprises in the mail over the next few months. Thanks for being part of my bridal shower. Y’all are great friends!
Helpful Tip: Need a good word to describe the gift? How about one of these: thoughtful, wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, fantastic, elegant, perfect, generous, awesome, amazing, touching, heartwarming, one-of-a-kind, unique, creative, handy, much-needed, practical.
Thank You for Money or Gift Card
Guests tend to give more physical gifts at a shower, but you’ll probably still receive some gifts to spend on whatever you choose. If you have specific plans for the money or gift card, it’s great to mention them, but not strictly necessary. Rather than stating the specific amount of money given, you can just refer to the generous gift or gift card.
I’m so grateful for the generous gift card you gave me for my bridal shower. Avery and I are needing some lawn and garden care equipment to go with our new home, and this will help so much. It means a lot to know you’re thinking of me and wishing me well at such a special time in my life. Thank you again for your thoughtfulness!
Lots of love,
Dear Mrs. Hayden,
Thank you very much for the thoughtful shower gift. I’m touched and grateful. For now, I’m saving it for a rainy day, but I know we’ll be able to put it to good use. Thanks again for your generosity as Jack and I are starting out together!
Helpful Tip: Double-check that you’re using the correct form and spelling of your recipients’ names. When in doubt about what level of formality to use, opt for your recipient’s last name with the correct title (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr.).
Thank You for Hosting/Helping with the Shower
Making your wedding shower happen is a gift in itself, and that calls for a thank-you note, whether the hostess or helper gives you a separate gift or not.
I was beyond thrilled with the bridal shower you hosted for me! Thank you for opening your home, and for all the the time and effort you put into making it so special. From the laughs to the games to the food (that quiche!), it was a celebration I’m always going to remember fondly. Thank you, Friend.
Lots of love,
Wow! I’m blown away by all your help with my shower. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from such a fun afternoon—but one would definitely have to be reading all the warm wishes you had everyone write in the guest book. Just one of your many great touches. Thank you, thank you. You really outdid yourself, and I appreciate it!
Helpful Tip: If your shower hostess is your soon-to-be mother-in-law or sister-in-law, you could mention in your thank-you message that you’re looking forward to being family.
Thank You for Engagement Party or Couples Shower Gift
Showers, parties and pre-wedding prezzies are not just for brides anymore. For a gift received at a celebration for both of you, plan to share the thank-you-note writing work.
Dear Max and Jenn,
Thank you for the awesome mixology set you gave us for our couples shower! You’ll have to come over soon and show us how to make Jenn’s famous mojitos. We definitely need to raise a toast to the two of you for being such good friends!
Maria and Ash
Dear Mom and Dad,
Just wanted to tell you how grateful we are for the gorgeous engagement party gift. We love the crystal bowl, and it will always remind us of how much it means to have your caring and support in our lives. Thank you for being amazing parents…and soon-to-be in-laws!
Drew and Kit
Helpful Tip: A few possible ways to divide the thank-you-note labor:
1. Each of you write to the friends and family members you’re bringing to the relationship.
2. One of you does all the note writing. The other does all the addressing, stamping and mailing.
3. One of you does all the note-writing work. The other gives on-demand massages and makes dinner.
Beyond “Thank You”
Getting bored with the phrase “thank you”? Here are some other ways to say it:
- “I really appreciate…”
- “I’m so grateful for…”
- “Your shower gift means a lot to me.”
- “I’m deeply thankful for…”
- “You really blessed me [by coming to my shower/with your wonderful gift].”
- “Wow! The [cashmere throw] you gave me is just perfect!”
- “It really warmed my heart when I opened [the quilt you made].”
- “I was touched by your thoughtful gift.”
- “You really outdid yourself!”
- “You couldn’t have picked a better gift for me.”
- “I’ll always cherish [the beautiful vase].”
- “I’m blown away by your generosity!”
- “The [picnic backpack] is perfect! You know me so well.”
- “I love the [weekend bag]! We’ll think of you every time I [travel with it].”
A warm closing before your signature adds a nice finishing touch. Choose one of ours, or come up with one of your own.
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After inquiries from The New York Times in August, the New York State Banking Department requested copies of the original mortgage application from U.S.A. Mortgage Bankers of America of Long Island, which issued the loan in 2002. Those documents revealed that the applicant had provided a Social Security number and a New York State driver's license in securing the loan.
The Social Security number was Mr. Fairchild's. So, too, were the birth date and the physical description on the phony ID. The photograph, however, was not.
To date, the real proprietor of Ebony Passion Escort Service remains a mystery, but a former employee, Kymberlea Durant, who said she worked there as a dispatcher, was found in Brooklyn. She said that at some point in mid-2003, the man who ran Ebony Passion -- who bragged of owning buildings, and who gave her a credit card so she could buy, among other things, Manolo Blahnik shoes for the escorts -- simply disappeared.
"He owes me two weeks' pay," Ms. Durant said.
Dr. Kenneth Wasserman, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Drexel University and the chairman of the skin-cancer screening program for Major League Baseball, considers himself a conscientious consumer. He never shops on the Web, keeps his Social Security card at home, and refuses to use online banking.
"It's my belief that for every system set up to prevent fraud, there's going to be a system created by some smart person to bring it down," he said during an interview in his South Philadelphia office, where he recalled the afternoon of Thursday, April 21.
He was driving to meet a friend for a Phillies game that day when his accountant called his cellphone with some curious news. The electronic tax return they had filed -- the first time they had used electronic filing -- had bounced back from the Internal Revenue Service. The message was: already filed.
"I was thinking identity theft," Dr. Wasserman said. "I did also think back to my wallet."
Dr. Wasserman said he had lost his wallet about a year and a half ago. He got it back the next day, and everything was still there, but he said it had been rifled through.
Calls to the I.R.S. quickly revealed that someone had used Dr. Wasserman's name and Social Security number -- and an address in Atlanta -- to prepare a phony electronic tax claim, seeking a refund of nearly $7,000. The I.R.S., however, had flagged the bogus claim immediately, noting, among other anomalies, that it had been filed for "Kenneth Wasserman" as an individual, even though Dr. Wasserman has filed jointly with his wife, Anais, for over 15 years.
The agency did not issue a refund to the impostor, and advised Dr. Wasserman to refile a paper claim and send it by registered mail.
"So we were like 'Wow, the I.R.S. caught it, they didn't give a refund. We're O.K.,"' Dr. Wasserman said. "In my mind, I thought, 'I hope it's fine, but I'm not sure."'
On a Saturday in early June, Dr. Wasserman's lingering worries were validated when he received a bill from HSBC Taxpayer Financial Services. He owed $6,407.98 for a "refund anticipation loan" -- a short-term, high-interest loan issued to a taxpayer against an expected tax refund. The bill included a $95 late charge.
Neither HSBC, which immediately ceased attempts to collect the debt after Dr. Wasserman called, nor the I.R.S. were willing to discuss the particulars of Dr. Wasserman's case, citing privacy restrictions.
But it is clear, based on general conversations with the bank and the tax agency, as well as on documentation Dr. Wasserman received from HSBC, that his name and Social Security number were among many used in an increasingly common scheme that takes advantage of the refund anticipation loans that many tax preparers now offer.
An independent tax preparer in Atlanta, operating under the name H&L Tax Service, had registered with HSBC's Taxpayer Financial Services division as a loan facilitator -- a designation that an HSBC spokesman, James E. Pieper, said required background checks and other safeguards.
"It is rare that anything like this would happen," Mr. Pieper said.
Using stolen names and Social Security numbers, including Dr. Wasserman's, the thief created phony tax returns and sent them through the I.R.S. electronic filing system. To do that, the fraud artist would have also had to gain status as an Electronic Return Originator, for which the I.R.S. requires its own set of background checks.
With the electronic returns filed -- ostensibly in the names of real taxpayers -- the tax preparer was able to generate loans through HSBC, with funds placed on a sort of debit card. In repeated withdrawals of $402 each on March 20 and 21, the loan associated with Dr. Wasserman's name was drained from two automated teller machines in the Philadelphia area.
It was by no means an original scheme.
In April, the Justice Department announced the arrest of two people-- Rae Beavers of St. Louis and Joseph Milligan of New York -- who are charged with numerous fraud counts, including 13 counts each of filing fraudulent tax claims and 13 counts of identity theft. The scheme, according to the indictment, involved stealing the names and Social Security numbers of elderly patients at an eye-care center where they both worked. According to the indictment, the information was then sent to a third conspirator, Terrence Edwards of Brooklyn, who filed the fraudulent claims and generated refund anticipation loans.
Mr. Edwards was sentenced in August 2004 to 30 months in federal prison.
Mark E. Matthews, the deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the I.R.S. and the former head of the agency's Criminal Investigative Division, said the I.R.S. had counted about 8,000 instances this year of the information of legitimate taxpayers being used by impostors trying to defraud the tax system. He also said the agency was beefing up its oversight of professional tax preparers.
When she's not working long hours at a local bank branch, Toshka Cargill, 47, is the sole person providing care to her 86-year-old mother, who suffered a stroke last year. They live together on the South Side of Chicago, in a modest, tidy home where the mantle is lined with family photographs and angel statuettes keep vigil.
Ms. Cargill does not own a computer. She does not have a cellphone.
But by the end of January, she found herself deeply in debt to Sprint PCS and delinquent on car payments for a $23,000 Pontiac Grand Am that the bank said she purchased in August of last year.
"I felt like I was going to cry," said Ms. Cargill -- not least because she had spent years taking the bus to work, paying her bills on time and trying to build up her credit, so that she could buy the car that she does own. "I couldn't believe it."
A bulging file of paperwork and correspondence -- most of it handwritten -- now bears testament to her determined effort to set things right.
She called the Federal Trade Commission for advice.
She also filed a police report, which landed, in early March, on the desk of Cindy Serafini, a nearly 20-year veteran of the force and one of about 20 detectives assigned to cases of identity theft in Chicago.
Ms. Cargill herself demanded title documents from New Rogers Pontiac on South Michigan Avenue, which sold the car to the fraudster. Those revealed photocopies of a driver's license with Ms. Cargill's name, but a different picture.
Detective Serafini, meanwhile, used a reverse directory to get names associated with the phone numbers listed on the bills Ms. Cargill had received from Sprint. She then crossed those names with a database of arrests. One name, with at least three previous arrests for identity theft, jumped out -- and the mug shot matched the picture on the fake driver's license.
On Aug. 10, Tabitha Nash, 39, pleaded guilty to two charges: possession of a stolen vehicle and financial identity theft. She was sentenced to four years for each, to be served concurrently.
The judge asked Ms. Nash if she had anything to say.
When the judge said she should tell that to the victims, Ms. Nash replied that she was sorry she had hurt them and sorry, too, that she would be leaving her children behind as she went to prison.
According to Detective Serafini, Ms. Nash had said that she got Ms. Cargill's personal information from a rogue salesman at Rogers Pontiac. When the police inquired with the owners, the detective said, they were told that the salesman had been fired for "questionable sales practices."
With Ms. Nash behind bars -- and with roughly 800 identity-theft cases expected to cross her desk in the next year -- Detective Serafini said she considered the case closed.
And yet in August, as Ms. Nash was being processed at the Dwight Correctional Center in central Illinois, a man with a tow truck arrived at Ms. Cargill's home seeking to repossess the Pontiac. Ms. Cargill pressed her handwritten affidavit, stating that she had never had the car in the first place, against the glass until he went away.
Ms. Cargill did not get a chance to face Ms. Nash in the courtroom, but she read her victim's impact statement to a reporter from her living room sofa, her voice rising with indignation.
"For years, I had to walk and catch the bus before I was able -- O.K.? -- able, to buy a car," she said. "Not before then."
"If you can't afford something, then you don't get it," she continued. "You don't buy it and you don't steal it. And you damn sure don't steal someone's identity to get it either."
Correction: October 7, 2005, Friday Because of an editing error, an article in Business Day on Saturday about victims of identity theft misidentified the Brooklyn neighborhood in which an apartment building was financed with a mortgage taken in a victim's name. The building, at 8 Stuyvesant Avenue, is in Bedford-Stuyvesant, not downtown Brooklyn.
Inside the Life of a Dominatrix
Seeing Mona Rogers on the street, you might assume she's a ballerina. Her movements have grace and purpose, her energy is calm and collected. She's immediately likable. And she's a professional dominatrix.
In a candid interview, the 33-year-old New Yorker provides astounding insight into her fascinating, surprising, and misunderstood world.
Marie Claire: How did you get your start in BDSM?
Mona Rogers: When I was about 24, going on 25, I was having a lot of pivotal moments in my life. I don't know what the exact trigger was, but one day I was sitting in front of my computer and I was like, "I'm gonna look up BDSM," and I did.
I had always been kinky, but I didn't really understand that some of the stuff I had been doing could qualify as that. But it was kind of like everything that I read I just inherently understood. I have a dominant personality, and researching the BDSM situation helped me understand myself.
MC: Were you nervous at all, going in?
MR: There was definitely trial and error&mdashwhen I first started, I thought I was gonna be very, like, kick in the door, "lick my boots," this and that, and I was totally not like that. It's part of why my clients liked me: I was real with them and there was something genuine about me.
I was also a little bit familiar because I'd been doing foot fetish for a little while, before BDSM. That's how I actually got my foot in the door [laughs]. I mean, who doesn't love getting your feet rubbed? I was like "Oh, you're gonna rub my feet for an hour and you're gonna pay me? What? That's awesome!"
MC: What does foot fetish really entail though?
MR: There are things like smothering with the feet, putting them all over their face. Kissing and licking your toes, sometimes shoe worship. Ball busting can fall under foot worship activities, so that's, like, impact to the testicles, trampling, walking on the person.
MC: Does it get sexual? Like. with orgasms?
MR: Oh no. If I'm touching your junk, it's not going to be pleasant. Either I'm tying it up, putting clothes pins on it, piercing it, whatever, do you know what I mean?
MC: So even now, as a dominatrix&mdashno sex?
MR: No way. We're mistresses&mdashwe should be unattainable things. They're not here for their pleasure, they're here for our pleasure. I know some mistresses who do, but it's not one of the things I offer. That's a hard limit for me. I always say, "Your dick, your problem."
MC: Did anything really gross you out in the beginning?
MR: In the beginning I wasn't sure exactly what I was doing. There are certain things, like edge play&mdashwhich is anything that kind of has a little bit more of a risk to it, like knife play, cutting, piercing, stuff like that&mdashthat took me a while to learn. I spent more time being mentored in those areas because it was kind of nerve-racking. But gross me out? I'm not into your bodily fluids. showers and things like that. No no no no.
MC: What do you offer? What's your "thing"?
MR: I'm all about sensations, so impact play, like spanking and flogging, things like that. I love electrical. I'm into sensory deprivation&mdashblindfolds and hoods and gags. I love bondage. Anything that is either, like, adding to your senses or is taking away your senses or is physically stimulating you in some way. I'm an excellent spanker.
MC: What happens in a normal session?
MR: I like to start out with some sort of impact play, because that kind of gets the blood flowing. Then I'll segue into a little bit of bondage and then add sensations over that. I like to work between pleasure and pain. They have this thing called a "vampire glove" that's got little spikes, so I'll brush with the rough and then come back over with something soft. If you have a blindfold on and you can't see what's going on, then all of a sudden you're like,"Oh!" It's really interesting. I like to make you ride the roller coaster.
MC: Is there a safe word?
MR: "Mercy" is the default safe word. but, my personal safe word is "ice cream," because everyone screams for ice cream.
MC: How long does a session last?
MR: I would say my average session is anywhere between an hour and three hours.
MC: Three hours?!
MR: It all kind of depends on what their needs and wants are. Some people are very, like, "I just want that brush with it, real quick, just to make me feel something exciting or help me blow off some steam," and then other people are like, "Create an experience for me."
MC: So how do your clients find you?
MR: I have a website, and there are specific places you can advertise. But I see only who I want to see. I'm super selective&mdashif I don't like the way you email me or the way you address me, or if I'm on the phone with you and I don't like your tone of voice, I'll be like, "Sorry, not interested,thanks."
I also ask for references. You have to give me references for other people you've played with previously&mdashI vet people that way.
"For me it has nothing to do with sex or being turned on sexually."
MC: Where do the sessions happen?
MR: I rent space in a commercial dungeon.
MC: And how many do you do a week?
MR: Some weeks I could have none, and then some weeks I could do six or better. On average, it's about three.
MC: Do you have another job on the side?
MR: I don't. I don't live extravagantly, but I'm comfortable. I go on vacation, like, once a year. And I plan for the down times.
MC: Down times. does that mean there's a "BDSM season"?
MR: From April to the beginning of July is usually the busy season. The middle of July into August it starts to get slow because people are taking last-minute vacations, or it's just hot as balls and nobody wants to do anything. Then January and February are pretty slow, because they get the credit card bills from all the Christmas shopping. I'm a luxury item, so I have to plan accordingly.
MC: What's the riskiest part of your job?
MR: Actually it's bondage&mdashit can cause permanent injury from nerve damage. Think about it: If you're putting knots in certain places and they're digging in, you can cut off circulation. You have to be really mindful of the temperature and the color of the skin, if their hands start to get tingly. You have to check in with them and be like, "How are your hands feeling?"
MC: Why do you think people are drawn to BDSM?
MR: There are a lot of neurological processes that happen in the body when you're aroused&mdashyou have adrenalines and endorphins pumping, which mean you can take more. But some people are just predisposed to liking pain because they're wired that way. There's a neuro peptide called Substance P, and that is actually what's in your brain that influences how your body processes pain. So, for some people, it is pleasurable&mdashfor other people, it just feels like pain. And then, there's also the fact of subspace. So for some people, when they're experiencing pain or just really intense physical sensations, and there's a release of endorphins&mdashthe body's natural opiates, which work to anesthetize pain but they also cause a feeling of euphoria&mdashcombined with adrenaline, you can get this really euphoric sensation. For some people, it's almost like a spiritual kind of feeling. For other people, it's just this very release-type of feeling. For other people, it could be a sexual thing&mdashbut BDSM and sex are not necessarily synonymous. For me, when I'm receiving on the receiving end of that, it's a very cathartic release. It has nothing to do with sex or being turned on sexually.
MC: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your work?
MR: A lot of people don't understand humiliation and why people would want that. But let's say someone was bullied about something in high school&mdashthey might come to me and ask for a role play, and have it be within the same vein of what they were bullied about. So what they're doing is they're recreating that scenario, but within their control and their own outcome. It's kind of like they're having a therapeutic way of working through it. That said, if I really feel like someone's behavior is self-destructive, or I feel like they are pushing it way too far, I won't participate in it.
MC: The clients you see&mdashmany of them are married, probably?
MR: Some of my clients have the "don't ask, don't tell" policy&mdashtheir wife knows, but they don't really talk about it, and as long as they're not, like, spending mortgage payments on coming to see me or missing their kids' soccer game because we're in the dungeon, it's okay. As long as they're being responsible, they're kind of okay with that.
MC: Do you ever feel persecuted for what you do?
MR: No, I really don't. I've always had a very eclectic group of friends, and when I first started saying, "Hey, so, I think I'm gonna be a dominatrix," they were like, "I could see you doing that." Like, nobody was judgmental at all.
MR: Do your parents know about your job?
MR: I came out to my parents about it when it became more than just a hobby. My dad was hilarious about it, actually. One day we were watching TV and I said, "I've actually been meaning to tell you about this." I was like, "I'm a professional dominatrix." And he said, "Oh, all right." And went back to watching TV. [laughs] And I was just like, "Just so you know, you know, I'm not, like, an escort or anything like that." He turns to me and says, "Oh, yeah, I know, I saw it on the Real Sex."
My mother was a little more reserved&mdashshe had the motherly questions she was concerned with safety and stuff like that. But now we can joke about it.
MC: When you're meeting someone new, do you tell them outright that you're a dominatrix?
MR: It depends on who I'm with. At a cocktail party with my friend's colleagues, I said, "Oh, I'm a disciplinary consultant." [laughs] "I'm a behavior modification specialist. I offer guidance for people who need a little direction, kinda like a life coach."
MC: In some ways, it seems like you kind of are! Do you get close to your clients?
MR: There are definitely people over the years I see regularly enough and they're just cool people&mdashyou have conversations before of after the session. Like, I'm cleaning up, and "Anything good going on this weekend?"
"I call myself a disciplinary consultant or a behavior modification specialist."
MC: Do you have any female clients?
MR: I have yet to have a woman reach out to me, actually. But I'm an equal opportunity sadist!
MC: How does your job affect your relationships outside of work?
MR: I am not a huge dater, but that has nothing to do with my job. I'm a little bit of an introvert, so, I actually kind of prefer to be by myself.
MC: An introverted dominatrix.
MR: Well I have a very full life in general! My life is very stimulating.
MC: Is beating up guys all day kind of like stress relief?
MR: Yeah&mdashif I'm in a really pissy mood and my session calls for humiliation, I get to be an asshole to you, but I get to do it in a constructive manner, like, in a consensual manner instead of being totally horrible to somebody on the street who doesn't deserve it.
MC: Do you feel a sense of pride about what you do?
MR: I do, I really do, because of the fact that number one, I do what I want, and it's a very liberating feeling to be able to make your own schedule and run your own life. Not very many people get to do that.
I've learned so much about myself through BDSM and it's been a really positive, personal experience for me, just exploring all of this, from both sides. That whole personal journey was really life-changing for me. And to be able to help other people feel comfortable about their kink and accept who they are is awesome. Like, for people who are truly submissive by nature, you can't be like that with everybody in your life. You have to pick and choose who you get to share that side of you with, or you're gonna get railroaded, or taken advantage of. So certain people might be in positions of power in their everyday life, but that's not necessarily who they are personally. I can help.
And that's another thing, too&mdashwhen you asked if I ever feel persecuted for being a dominatrix? I really honestly don't&mdashbecause great things can come from it, you know?