“But isn’t it automatic? After this long, at least?”
“Yes… and no,” I say. We’re lingering over dinner, talking about protocol and what goes into remembering it, or doesn’t.
Mistress is distracted, going upstairs to get something and coming back before I can finish my answer. But I’m not, and I can’t be—which is part of my answer. While she’s gone, I, too, rise from the table, but am alert, knowing that if she comes back before I sit again, I’ll need her permission for the chair, which I’m not actually allowed to ask for, and she’ll probably order me back into Waiting Position first, which is how I wait behind my usual seat before meals, after I hit the pager transmitter button to inform her food is ready, at the two assigned times each day.
I also know that her leaving and coming back ends the interaction, even though I was basically mid sentence. Under the speak when spoken to rule, once she speaks to me, I can speak for the rest of that interaction—until one of us leaves (her at will, me with permission, asking first if there’s anything else I can do to be of service, then asking for the permission, then curtsying and going) or we’ve both been quiet for a while—back and forth like normal, without another direct question or prompt or permission. So I remember to keep my mouth shut now, even when she comes back, until she prompts me for the rest of my answer.
While all little things, that adds up to a lot to bear in mind.
When I’m able to finish my answer, I elaborate.
There are several factors that affect how automatic a protocol is for me.
The first—which she easily identified and is perhaps relatively obvious—is how long it’s been in effect. Our oldest protocols are four and a half years old now. But we add and tweak things frequently. Things got added and tweaked just this morning, based on the recent development of me getting my driver’s license. Older protocols are more likely to be automatic. But that can take years, depending on the other factors.
Another factor, though, is how frequently it comes up. Now, most of our protocols come up rather frequently.
I typically use five of our eight codified slave positions multiple times per day. Kneeling (used frequently when in her presence in lieu of the furniture), Waiting (for both meals I serve daily), Inspection (for both daily inspections, plus after showers—taken with permission—mostly checking on the shaving rule), Leashing (for morning unleashing and nighttime leashing for sleep, where I sleep on the floor, nude), Curtsying (every time I leave her presence, after the asking if there’s anything else I can do and obtaining permission). Another is Speech Request Position (to obtain permission to speak if I really need to and she hasn’t prompted me), which I use slightly less because I frequently just wait for her to speak first. The other two are primarily for maintenance discipline (weekly) or punishment (rare), though sometimes they come in handy for other things. I still practice many of these on my own in the mirror to check in on them. Not rocket science, but I like the bar high.
Likewise, my uniform is exactly the same every day, and hasn’t changed significantly in a solid year and a half. Being basically the only clothing I own at this point—a few copies of each item—it’s not hard to remember, though I still double check I have small items, like my pager.
If a protocol super rarely comes up, we often cut it. Still, there’s a range. The more I do it, the faster it becomes automatic.
The factor that was less obvious to her was if the protocol was a do or don’t, if it was an if/then or a don’t/until, if there was a cue to start it or a cue that released it. Our more specific speech protocols have cues. She, in a way, initiates them like a ritual. If she gives me an order, I say, “Yes, Mistress.” If she grants a permission or denies it, I say, “Thank you, Mistress.” If she gives me a compliment or a critique, I say, “Thank you, Mistress.” These all have cues to begin. If, then.
But, speak (only) when spoken to isn’t an if, then. It’s a don’t, until. Don’t speak until prompted. Do not do this common thing until the cue. And there is no reverse, no don’t speak cue, just silence and existence. And that makes that one trickier. I must always, with no cues, keep it in mind, until the cue that I’m allowed to speak, creating my own cues for it.
A lot goes into all of that until it’s automatic.
Practice. Like the hours of checking positions in the mirror.
Sticky notes everywhere. (She sprang the no using the bathroom without permission—if she’s awake, and we’re both home or out together—rule on me on my birthday, minutes before my mother—vanilla company—arrived to celebrate, leaving little time to think it through. I quickly left a large reminder note for myself in the master bathroom, which I use most often and guests don’t usually go in, which I took down a few weeks later. She didn’t come up with a way for me to subtly ask for the bathroom permission in vanilla company for over another six months.)
Then there’s meditation. Lots of meditation.
And a now twice yearly total silence vow for a day or weekend, resetting my awareness of my words.
In some situations, I sit and review all applicable protocols before proceeding. As mentioned, I’m new to driving, so I still take a moment and sit in the car when I leave or arrive somewhere, remembering new or recently modified rules like always notifying her when I’m leaving the house and when I’m returning (if I’ve been gone longer than twenty minutes), asking permission to drive anywhere except the coworking space I’m a member of (I can also walk to get the mail and go on my required morning walks without permission), keeping her informed of my general plans, making sure she can track my location via my phone (ensuring it’s with me, and WiFi/cellular is on—for me, that’s far from a guarantee, otherwise), and parking in the shade and refueling at a certain level if I can, and taking all of my things back out of the car. Plus, like, remembering how to drive, safely.
And almost any time we interact, I count protocols on my fingers.
First, I usually press one finger into my palm as a reminder for speak when spoken to. This is also a reminder to wait in the doorway if entering her office, to not go farther, wait to be beckoned in, then move, kneel in position if it’ll be a more than a minute.
Once spoken to and in place, I release it, replace it with three fingers—permissions, feedback, orders—for the speech protocols I mentioned above. Permissions also covers the rule on asking—making sure to use may, please, and Mistress.
If things get quiet, I switch back to the one, for speak when spoken to. If I’m thinking about leaving, I also switch to one, for our exit protocol I mentioned.
The positions mostly get assumed before she comes in, or on demand, or as part of the things above.
Even what is basically automatic, I want to be sure of; I want it to be done well—and that’s largely on me to figure out. The counting part is mostly automatic.
I have very little punishment immunity—there is no safe period for a new protocol, there is no automatic forgiveness for small accidents, there is no real time off from protocol, just not scaring the vanillas and such.
We’re careful in our protocol design and tweaks because of how inflexible it is once in effect. And once it is, Mistress pointed out that she almost forgets it’s there, views it more as automatic code switching for her (interacting with me versus anyone else), and she views our dynamic as casual and relaxed because the protocol doesn’t really affect her actions as much, though she has to check on some things, like at inspection times (a job I appreciate).
I, however, have to handle what I call the protocol fatigue that definitely flares up now and then from keeping it all in mind, several years into 24/7 high protocol, on top of a full time job’s worth of service, and the effects of lifestyle masochism with irrevocable consent.
And it’s definitely worth it. While I am service oriented and strive for useful more than anything else, I also want to be simply pleasing, elegantly bent to her every whim and preference, obviously obedient, adherent to every detail. My mind can’t frequently wander too far from her, with all of those things to keep in mind (and I’m not allowed to be answerable to anyone else—like having a job). The detailed training and behavior modification fulfills my desire to be as close to perfect as possible—for one person, because you can’t please everyone.
So is it automatic? Yes and no. It’s complicated. Some are easy, automatic now. But they don’t need to always be. I’m willing to put in the work when they’re not.
I’m looking to teach others about that process, too—writing this, launching my How to Learn Protocols class—because there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye, whether it’s automatic now or not. I’m passionate about the process and the results both, and love living it, and discussing it with Mistress over dinner, or teaching it in a Zoom webinar, or writing about it in a blog post.
Maybe that’s part of why it doesn’t become automatic more quickly for me. I just love thinking about it too much.