“But how do you just… hang out?”
Outside of maybe but how do you remember all that (a great question for another day), it’s probably the number one question I get when I talk about high protocol in the context of my dynamic, which is 24/7, live in, just two of us in the house and neither of us works outside the home; being a slave is my only full time occupation.
Well, let’s look at an example. This basic example happens on average multiple times a day and is probably our most typical interaction outside of a few other more specific rituals.
I enter Mistress’ office to talk about something. I wait for her to acknowledge me, silent until she does so, not barging in already talking. She’s doing something on the computer. When she does look up a moment later and asks, “What’s up?” I kneel next to her, trying to be graceful about it, lowering to both knees at once without my hands. There’s a recliner right behind me, but I’m not allowed to sit on the furniture in her presence or to ask to do so; she grants the permission pretty much only for meals. We’re already talking as I do so, position not noted.
We talk. After a while, my legs are going numb. I’m to hold the specific position until I ask and get permission otherwise (that, I am allowed to ask for). I’m kneeling, sitting back on my heels, knees apart (big toes crossed, right over left), hands behind my back (hands clasped, thumbs crossed, both right over left), back straight. Subconscious by now except for straightening my back now and then. At whatever natural brief lull in the conversation, I ask, “May I stretch?” and she says, “You may,” as almost always.
Usually, permission grants (or denials), are answered with, “Thank you, Mistress,” but for ones that take a matter of seconds to complete, it’s waived, so I shift slightly and the conversation quickly resumes without it that time, though it may be sprinkled elsewhere in the conversation. Orders, answered with, “Yes, Mistress,” have the same exception built in for practicality.
When we’re about wrapping up talking, I ask as required to before I ask if I may go, “Anything else I can do?”
“You may get me coffee.”
An order (intention, not phrasing, which matters when deciding to respond with the thank you or yes) like that counts as permission to leave, so I don’t ask that part, but I do say, “Yes, Mistress,” stand, again trying to have hands free grace about it, and offer a quick curtsy, the final part of the little leaving ritual, head down, thumbs and forefingers grasping the skirt like hem of my long shirt—which is a uniform, part of the only, really specific outfit I’m allowed to wear, but looks like pretty normal attire—and placing the ball of my right foot behind my left heel for the quick little bob down and up, grab the drink, and exit.
I bring her the refill—exactly as she likes it—and this time she simply says in acknowledgement, “You may go,” cutting the need to ask about anything else or permission to leave, so I curtsy again as required and exit.
Clearly, I have to focus on the protocol oriented bits of this interaction to explain it, but you’ll notice that there’s a lot that and then we talk can encompass and how much of it is sheer habit at this point and/or completely unnoted. Granted, when others witness it for the first time, they often quickly notice elements that we barely pay attention to at this point, if they don’t find it straight up jarring.
(“You may get me coffee,” was something from Mistress’ side that once disturbed a new guest who was aware of our dynamic but not of the details, as an order at once both incredibly direct—not softened up as a question or with please or thanks, but also phrased as a permission. To the outsider, it looked demeaning, the, “You may do as I tell you/serve me.” But it is, also, genuinely a permission; service is definitely a privilege, and one that I enjoy being granted, and the guest was reassured of this after I happily said, “Yes, Mistress,” and got the coffee.)
But there’s a lot of just hanging out in there and the protocol is normal for us at this point. It’s not weird, so to speak, that, say, I’m kneeling (usually, later sitting) on the floor the whole time. I actually prefer the floor and Mistress often finds me sitting on the floor when she comes to find me even when I’m not in her presence and thus not required to be there. I’m writing this post sitting alone on the floor of my office right now.
You can also see through that how the vast majority of the overt protocol involved, rather than the silent maintenance of them, is at the beginning and end of the interaction.
This is true in other interactions and rituals, too. For example, our protocols at meals.
I serve meals at two specific times of the day—brunch at 9:30 AM and dinner at 6 PM. The timing, obviously, influences the beginning. When the table is set (properly, according to guidelines) and food is out, I press the button on our pager system’s transmitter to page her/alert her that dinner is ready. Then, I wait behind my assigned chair—the one to her right—as required in the position: legs together, hands behind my back (same details as in the kneeling position), back straight, head and eyes down. I hold this position, not looking up or around, as she comes down the stairs and approaches me at the dining table until she gets close enough she acknowledges me by offering a kiss and granting table permission with, “You may sit.”
Then, the meal proceeds usually without overt protocol until the end, when she leaves, and I clean up the kitchen (which, as a rule, has to be done immediately). On some quieter nights, keeping to the function of eating, we’re done by 6:15 and off to whatever has our minds occupied (after cleanup, for me). Sometimes we happily get lost in conversation about anything and everything and linger until after 7. Generally, I assume I will have ample time for my evening routines between about 6:30 and 9:30 (required bedtime), especially noting that bedtime brings inspection of the kitchen and a few other things, which usually happens without me, though exceptions are made. (Brunch serves as a morning inspection checkpoint for some morning tasks like making the bed.) But there is definitely a range, especially with company.
And I suppose that because our protocol never really shuts off (just some overt things removed in the rare case of vanilla company), if you count interactions that do have those protocol bits as not just hanging out, then maybe we just don’t do it, but we don’t see it that way, so it feels like good old quality time to us, with the bonus of moments of reinforcing and expressing our dynamic.
It’s really hard to explain to people how much you can get used to until they experience it themselves (if they enter such a scenario). How much becomes second nature and genuinely doesn’t cross my mind as out of the ordinary until it’s mentioned. I had to glance at our contract while writing this post to make sure I remembered to note certain things as protocols at all, not just habits that slipped my mind to mention in a protocol oriented post. It is truly much harder for me to stop acting on most of our protocols (that vanilla company scenario) than it is to follow them.
So, for us it’s just hanging out, or some kind of equivalent, maybe like a relaxed day at work versus a relaxed day at home for some people, except as a slave, I’m kind of always at work.
But, it works for us.