I had tried to caution her, but went along with the idea when she remained adamant. If all went well, she would get off easier this way. If she failed, she would at least have to face a proper punishment, just the way it ought to be. Either way, Josephine said, she felt that it was the better formula. Alright then - I've always had a thing for brave girls, anyway.
After the exams, she didn't have a strong intuition about how they would turn out. She was cautiously optimistic about half of them and admitted to having "no idea" about the others. For the most part, she just felt tired and glad that the stress was over. She didn't want to drive herself crazy guessing the results. They would come soon enough.
Of course, her curiosity (and nervousness) set in as the grade posting date approached. She didn't have internet access during her holiday trip, so I had to promise to call her on the mobile. Actually, we were on the phone when I looked up the results for the first time, because Josephine had to give me her access data. I took a breath, logged in, scanned the numbers. The grades were average, nothing more, nothing less. Somewhat worse than we had hoped. I hesitated a bit - damn, I thought, she will be disappointed, how do I put this. After a moment, I just listed the numbers calmly and without further ado. Probably the "least worst" way to do it.
A few seconds of silence. "Wow, that's really bad" Josephine said quietly. After another pause, she added: "I'm surprised. I didn't expect this at all." At first, it seemed like she was simply too mystified to leave room for any other emotion. But disappointment came quickly, then anger at herself. Meanwhile, I did my best to cheer her up - there would be enough time for strictness later. You did okay, I said. Not brilliant, but it's only the beginning and there is time yet. Just find out where the deficits were and consciously work on them.
Basically, Josephine's six grades came in pairs: she had two good results (no A's, though), two mediocre ones and two that were pretty bad. Still, it was a solid effort. The first semester of economics has a reputation of being very tough. It's the norm rather than the exception to repeat some classes later on. Like most people from the humanities, I cultivate a good-natured condescension towards our dull well-dressed friends. But truth be told, these guys have a lot more pressure put on them than we do. They're thrown right into the cold water, with lots of material, lots of tests and failure rates frequently over fifty percent.
So it was not the end of the world. Still, Josephine had set her ambitions higher and was naturally disappointed. We began to look for the problem. It certainly wasn't lack of effort. She had worked extremely hard - if anything, I think she burned herself out a bit before the exams, something I had cautioned her against. But maybe the preparation should have been more "hands on". Too much solitary reading, trying to know everything in the textbooks. Not enough specific, exam-oriented practice.
I had mentioned this to her, actually: don't sit at home all the time and do everything by yourself. Visit some tutorials, talk to older students, maybe get the tests from previous semesters. Form a clear idea of what exactly is in store, there will be lots of exercises and little time. But Josephine assured me that she knew what is required, and I didn't push the issue. With hindsight, we were both smarter. She cursed herself for not listening, I blamed myself for not having been more forceful.
On the one hand, my task was simply to keep an eye on her work ethic and step in if she slacked off. That's what Josephine asked me to do and it seemed to work pretty well. I know nothing about economics, so I was never going to help her with the actual studies. Still, I wondered if I could have done more. Josephine assured me that I had been great support during the past months and that she was very grateful. But I felt that the mediocre grades were my fault, too, despite her protestations to the contrary.
(Picture courtesy of Spanking Photography)
It raises some interesting questions for us spankos. To begin with, what is your mindset during a "job" like this? When you are supposed to help someone with a goal, as opposed to pure role-playing. For Josephine and me, it was still kinky play, but with a real-life background. Obviously, it's important not to lose sight of the fun and excitement, yet we took it seriously at the same time. It's an intriguing mixture. Real life adds an edge to the play, the play creates motivation and belief in real life. It's not quite clear which is the main task and which is the bonus.
Moreover, it adds another dimension for the top to think about. Not just what works best psychologically in the actual play, but what works best to achieve the real goal. A direct or a more indirect approach? Do you act as a presence in the background that is more felt than seen, as a friendly guiding hand, or do you take charge a lot? Personally, I prefer to let the bottom decide what is best for her. I offer advice and, when needed, a hard hand. But I don't want to run someone's life or take away their freedom and responsibility. That's not my vision of a kinky friendship at all.
So I tend to err on the side of controlling too little rather than too much. Maybe I erred this time. It's a balancing act and I could have thrown in a bit more "You do as I say!" sternness. Perhaps Josephine's grades would have been better if I had pressured her to try a few of my suggestions. Then again, I wasn't sure and I thought she should find her own path, anyway. It's always easy to be wiser with hindsight. In any case, the good news for Josephine is that, when you suffer a setback, you obviously learn more from it if it was fully your own decision that lead you there.
The bad news is that she now has a whole series of canings to look forward to. Actually, she is quite happy about that. It's the kind of proper chastisement she asked for in case she performed below her expectations. Meanwhile, I can make amends for my previous lack of firmness. This is not something I was gleefully hoping for, by the way. I've known Josephine for years and we have played many times, so there is no shortage of opportunies to spank her. When I said that no one would be happier than me if she got off without a single stroke, I was genuine. I was rooting for her to write only A's. But now that things turned out differently, I'm making sure that she will remember what is coming to her. That is also part of my job.
In light of how Josephine went into the exams, I need to be pretty severe to teach her the consequences of 1) ignoring advice and 2) overconfidence. Even though I feel a tad sorry for the girl. She was brave to go for double or nothing, showed great determination, it just didn't pay off. And you could say that the disappointing grades are punishment already. So I am not overdoing it. We already did three of the canings when I visited Josephine on Thursday and again over the weekend. They were for the two good test results and a mediocre one. I made them hard, but not ridiculously so.
The sessions for the two bad grades are still ahead of us, and those are the ones where I will push her limits. Mind you, while I am something of a severity freak, I'm not fond of huge numbers of strokes. Usually, fifty is my utmost limit and I rarely go there. Beyond that, I find that things just get tedious even for the most obsessive sadistic mind. It's really about the quality of the pain, not the duration. You can make a big impression with six or twelve strokes and give someone the thrashing of their life with thirty. So now, doing over fifty - not once, but twice - is going to be a novelty. Ironically, it was really Josephine's idea.
The advantage of it is that I get ample opportunity to try out new instruments. I normally use manila canes, the kind you can see in The German Lesson or Comeuppance for the Bavarian Brat. But I wanted to experiment a bit and get more variety, so I've recently ordered four new ones: junior kooboo, senior kooboo, junior dragon, senior dragon. I've tried those of other people before, but never owned any myself. Now they saw some action right away. Josephine already hates the kooboo canes with a passion. They produce gorgeous marks, too. Dragon is too inflexible for both our tastes, but I might use it once in a while.
One day, I'll probably write a post devoted exclusively to different canes and types of wood. Needless to say, I will also keep you informed about what Josephine and I are up to. The next semester starts in a month, and we also have some role-playing ideas we want to explore. As a change of pace from the fantasy of real life.