What Protocol Really Says, Again

Dinner is on the table at six as always.  Lemon chicken and corn, lemons courtesy of the neighbors and their tree.  I send the requisite, Dinner is ready, Mistress, and wait in the standard position.  (Since then, we’ve gotten a pager system that covers this message.) 

Now that the house is silent after the bubbling of things on the stove and the hum of the oven, I can hear what sounds distinctly like the breathing of a sleeping person upstairs.

None of the usual sounds of motion come in response.

Still, I hold the required position and wait for several minutes in case I’m wrong.  Legs together, back straight, head and eyes down, hands behind my back, hands clasped right over left, right thumb over left thumb—every detail down. 

But eventually, feeling sure enough, I do a quiet check upstairs. Mistress is fast asleep.  Presumably not wanting to be woken. 

I go back down and eat, have moved from the table and cleared only an item or two when Mistress comes downstairs and sits.  So I approach; she grants, “You may sit,” and I do; she starts to eat and after a moment or two orders, “Entertain me.” 

So I start to tell her about whatever comes to mind, prep I’m doing for classes I’m teaching soon, things I’m adding to my website.  

She says, “You may get me more coffee,” and hands me her coffee cup.

I say, “Yes, Mistress,” to the order, and go do so, return.

“You may sit.”

So I sit and continue. 

She eats most of the corn and a few bites of chicken, stands and starts to wander off while I’m still talking, so I cut to the (at the time) requisite offer of a post dinner snack to have at hand upstairs.

She says yes, requests some of the cookies I made from scratch yesterday, ice cream with shell topping and sprinkles, and continues upstairs.  “Yes, Mistress.”  I prep the tray for her and bring it up, set it on her desk.  

“Would you like to go places?” she asks, offering permission to leave. 

I nod.

“Come give me a kiss; then you may go places.”

So I do.  As I draw back, her eyes drop a little, to about my hands, unnecessarily prompting the curtsy I always have to offer before leaving, and I go see to cleaning up dinner as required. 

… 

This is a real example, and an average enough night for us, just one interaction of many that I’ve written down in detail, as the writer in me tends to do.  

But while I’m happy with this, I’m aware it’s the sort of thing other people sometimes cringe to watch.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of overt deep connection in that above conversation to them.  

But it’s definitely there—that little flick of her gaze, waiting for the final exit protocol, the curtsy—says and means more to me than ten I love yous.  There’s a lot of ritual and protocol—conscious connection—built into that conversation, that speaks volumes, whether it’s where someone’s gaze moves to or an honorific or a service or a slave position—especially in our mutual quiet expectation of it.  

And, at times, obviously, conversations look different—more overt deep connection in the form that most people look for: what they call love.  The Hallmark movie kind. 

But to me, love is written all over that conversation in exactly the things I mentioned above.  Connection.  Those services and positions and honorifics are the result of countless hours of research, conversation, contract drafting, reaching, understanding, training.  The expectation of those things is built upon sometimes years of habit, routine, co-existing, obedience, consistent service, trust.  

None of those things happen without us talking to each other, understanding, adapting, learning, observing, caring, and deliberately carving the power dynamic out of the even ground we met upon.  It is the private language we build between us to say exactly what we want to say.  I love you.  I respect you.  I notice you.

Every protocol we have is thoroughly thought out.  

There might be research on practicalities.  (I didn’t learn to cook overnight.)  There might be conversations on what it means to us.  (Not being allowed on the furniture, with not being allowed to ask for it, either, waiting for the permission?  A whole talk on my views on being offered permission—generously—versus asking for it—a loaded question.) There might be her training me on how to do it properly, or me practicing alone, or both.  (That curtsy?  Those positions?  Hours in the mirror.)  There might be adapting it situationally, and figuring out when and how we need to do so.  (Cut the titles, positions, permissions in the rare vanilla company, say.) I have to do it consistently. (Thus, setting that expectation).  She has to notice and enforce it.  (Whether it’s offering a clearly desired permission I can’t ask for, creating service opportunities, or punishing accidental slips.)  

That’s a lot of connection behind the tiniest of protocols. 

And if commitment to each other and the language we deliberately build between us isn’t love—no matter how untraditional the results appear—I don’t know what is. 

“But How Do You Just Hang Out?”: High Protocol in 24/7 Dynamics

“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. 

My Typical Day, Told in Slave Positions

Unleashing.  First thing in the morning.  8:15 as required. Reaching over the edge of the bed for my phone and sending the message, Good morning, Mistress. May I get up, please?  Heart emoji.  Sleepily trying to get into position before she comes in.  Moving a cat off my leg.  Sitting up, cross legged on the bed, the leash binding me to it across both of my upturned palms, resting on my upper thighs.  The carabiner and shackle rattling against the bedframe a little.  I collect my hair back out of the way, tangled from sleep, and make sure the o-ring of my collar is in the front, the leash clip there accessible, the large clip heavy and easy to get to that lowest point.  Try to keep my back straight and not nod off.  She unclips the leash for me with more good mornings and kisses, leaving it loose in my hands.  I ask for permission to shower.  She says yes. 

Inspection.  After I’m done with that shower, I present myself for her inspection as required.  I set the towel I had wrapped around myself nearby and shiver without it in the air conditioning.  Legs apart, arms boxed behind back, head/eyes straight, back straight.  I try to keep still, even my gaze, unless she moves me, straightening my arms out at my sides or such.  She checks my work of shaving, and there’s no need for the tweezers today, as usual.  But, the threat is there.  I’m dismissed to dress in my uniform and go about my other morning tasks.

Waiting.  Brunch, served at 9:30 daily.  I check my table setting one more time and send Mistress the message, Brunch is ready, Mistress.  Another heart emoji.  Now, waiting behind my usual chair, legs together, hands at the small of my back (clasped, right over left, thumbs crossed, also right over left), back straight, head and eyes down.  Make sure that pulling my shoulders back doesn’t put my elbows out at an angle. When she comes downstairs, I don’t so much as look up until she acknowledges me somehow.  Today, as usual, it’s, “You may sit.”  I’m not to ask permission for the furniture anymore; she grants it herself or doesn’t.  We eat brunch. 

Presenting.  It’s maintenance day, Friday at noon.  So, after brunch is cleaned up and a few other tasks done, it’s time for maintenance discipline.  I take the maintenance wand—a short, thick cane—from the mantel.  Many things have changed about maintenance since the start of our dynamic, but that remains. I go upstairs, alert her that I’m ready, and go to the bedroom.  Undress.  Kneel by the foot of the bed, facing the door.  Knees spread apart, big toes crossed behind me, the wand across my palms on my thighs like the leash.  Head/eyes down.  Back straight.  She comes in and I offer the wand with both hands, head still down.  She sits on the bed.  We do maintenance. 

Kneeling.  The day continues.  I go about my usual service tasks, do some writing.  I find myself in Mistress’ office with us chatting.  So, I kneel in front of her. I try to do it gracefully, balanced, both legs at once and not using my hands. My knees are apart again, big toes crossed in back again, hands clasped at the small of my back (right over left, thumbs crossed, also right over left), elbows not at an angle, back straight.  When we’ve been talking for a while, I get permission to shift into whatever position’s comfortable. I try to get up in the same balanced manner, no hands. 

Curtsy. When I’ve been given permission to leave (after the required asking if there’s anything else I can do to be of service, and then for the permission), I offer the required curtsy, the only “moving” position: from just standing, lower my head, hold my skirt out (gripping with thumbs and forefingers, pinkies extended), place the ball of my right foot behind my left heel, bend at the knees, and return to standing. Then, I go.

Waiting.  Dinner is served at six as always.  One more table check.  Another message.  Dinner is ready, Mistress.  Heart.  The same position as for brunch.  A kiss and, “You may sit.”  Dinner.

Leashing.  After all other tasks, the last message at the bedtime cutoff, 9:30. Would you leash me to the bed at your convenience, please, Mistress?  Yes.  Thank you, Mistress.  The same position as in the morning.  The click of the leash getting clipped to my collar.  A sturdy setup: the steel bedframe and heavy shackle bolted through it, suspension worthy carabiner, rope leash, Mistress’ work on it in the whipping twine that reinforces it together, the steel clip on the leash and o-ring and shackle on my collar, the claspless circle of rope around my neck she made.  I’ve slept with it since Summer 2019.  It will certainly handle any tossing and turning as I doze off.  

Visual Reference

On Asking Permission vs. Being Offered It

My uniform code specifies no hair styling or makeup or jewelry except my collar, smart watch, and wedding ring; no tattoos, piercings, hair cutting or coloring.  It occurs to me very rarely to ask to shake it up; fashion has never been my thing, especially over convenience.   

There’s a thing or two that’s not my uniform that’s stuck around to be worn on special occasions; Mistress has me wear it to the occasional holiday party or on her birthday.  This past year on my own birthday, I asked to wear a sweater I’d received for the recently passed Christmas before donating it; she said yes.  (The sweater was from her mother.)

Oddly inspired, I recently asked to put my hair in two braids mostly to functionally keep it out of the way and off my neck in the three digit heat when we went out to play tennis; she said yes. It felt like a strangely big thing to ask for without a real occasion.  My uniform hairstyle was a twisted ponytail for about a year until we found out it was causing headaches; it’s been about a year of leaving it down since.  The only time I’d asked for a hairstyle modification previously was that birthday with the sweater. [I am now allowed to put it up in a bun with a clip at will.]

When it does occur to me to ask, I rarely do.  It’s the one percent when I ask of the one percent when I think of it.  It feels… loaded.  I feel like I need a justification, or something that waters it down, like a brief timeframe.  I think of the circumstances and if I’m ahead on chores and what mood she’s in and if she’s busy and what other things I’ve asked permission for recently; I probably ask or gain permission for dozens of things a day, most of them being granted permission to leave her presence or shift from my kneeling position on the floor.  Little things.  But the may I… comes up so often that I don’t want to add to the count unnecessarily.   

Usually, at dinner time, when I’ve just put the food on the table, I send her a message; she has an alarm set for ten minutes before our set time, six, so she knows to wrap up what she’s doing.  My message is a final notification. And then she’ll come downstairs and either tell me I may sit at the table, or tell me first to get her more coffee, more water, something from the kitchen. 

Once, she came downstairs and mistakenly thought I had asked for permission to sit before she simply granted it without the question.  Usually her first words at the bottom of the stairs or edge of the dining room were, “You may sit,” before I say anything. This time, though, she thought I had asked first and seemed a little bewildered.  I had to laugh, a little, because she had previously teased me for not sitting at the table before she got downstairs, leaving me technically alone, thus able to sit on the furniture at will.  Later, I reflected to her that it felt rather like rules lawyering to sit at the table when I was alone but knew she’d be down in a minute at my notification, the thing in the back of my mind that kept me from doing so. 

I brought this up to her along with an idea.  What if I didn’t ask to sit on the furniture?  What if I only did so if she granted the permission unprompted?  As an offer of permission, it’s generous; as a question, it’s loaded.  I explained how much goes on in my head when I ask permission for things and expressed that this seemed like a simple permission to experiment with, because I so rarely have to actually ask, and it’s an easy thing for her to notice I might want.  Once I cleared up one misunderstanding and she heard my explanation, she agreed to give it a shot, noting only the promise of punishment if I complained about an opportunity where she didn’t offer the permission.  

It’s been going well so far, and largely unnoted.  I’ve enjoyed it.  I think I sit on the furniture a little less, which is fine by me.  Headspace reinforcing.  

We shortly thereafter added a position to our repertoire that I wait behind my chair in, after sending that final message: legs together, hands clasped at the small of my back, back straight, head and eyes down.

One friend, visiting and then running a brief errand and returning, came back and found us with Mistress on the couch, and me kneeling in front of her on the floor in my standard position, knees apart, hands again clasped at the small of my back.  He asked if he was interrupting.  “No, no, just having a conversation,” she told him.  He still seemed to be backing away. 

“Not a conversation,” I told him, seeing what he was eyeing; “but like, chatting.  This is just how we talk.” 

Realization or remembering dawned and we proceeded.  

Yes, I guess it can look a little formal, but I often forget what it looks like to a third party.  To us, it’s natural.  It probably does look like we’re having a conversation visually even if we’re audibly discussing the weather or what’s for brunch.  It was barely in my head until it was noticed during that conversation, less notable than the unleashing position I’d assumed early that morning to get out of bed, or the inspection position I’d assumed after my shower, and those weren’t much conscious, either.  It was just, I was wiping down the coffee station, Mistress was sitting on the couch, she said, “When you’re done wiping that down, come kneel over here,” and I said, “Yes, Mistress,” and did. 

But the formality difference might have been somewhere in my head when I hesitated to ask to sit on the furniture, and it feels better to wait for the offer, or not do so at all—to be more at her true whim.  That’s a great feeling. 

Noticing the Fork: How the Little Protocols Add Up

6 PM, and so dinner. 

“You may sit,” Mistress said as she took her own place at the table.  I did.  I was moving my napkin to my lap when she added, “You may also start setting my fork on the right side.”  She moved the misplaced utensil.  

I stared at the fork for a second; I don’t remember now exactly what I said—presumably an apology or, Yes, Mistress—but I remember staring at the fork and running back over how it could have ended up on the wrong side. 

It felt like the stupidest thing to have to be reprimanded for, because it was so simple, and not a new rule.  Something that has been done without incident usually twice a day for a long time.  

The almost funny thing here is that where I had left the fork was technically correct by table setting etiquette.  But Mistress likes her place setting reversed.  Lacking a good sense of direction, I frequently set every place—even if it’s just mine and hers—“correctly” at first, and then go back and completely reverse hers, to not screw up my idea of any of the others and make sure that I don’t reverse something at her place twice or whatnot.  

What happened tonight was that I set every place and before I went back to reverse hers, a timer for what I was cooking went off that I had to see to and I forgot to come back to reverse it.   

The incident, if minor, reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with friends about some of our protocol, mostly the details they know their own eyes skim right over—like which side the fork goes on.  They wonder if those protocols are something that would truly be noticed, let alone reprimanded, or if it’s something that realistically flies under the radar or something that I falsely just think Mistress would care about. 

Mistress commented on the subject with, “They mistake my easy going nature for an easy going nature,” noting that there are a lot of things she’s, in her words, critical about, and that the reality of that easy going appearance is that those things are usually done correctly and so go without being noted; there’s no real reason to comment on them when they’re correct.  

A lot of these things aren’t hard to remember or do.  They do add up, for both of us.   

Much of our messaging history is permission requests to be leashed or unleashed from the bed (twice a day if it’s done via message both times), required notifications of my location (daily incidents including my walk and getting the mail), asking permission to make needed phone calls, or shower, and then asking her to come inspect me after as required, and orders and the obligatory, Yes, Mistress, and other permission requests and the obligatory, Thank you, Mistress.

I remember, once, balancing a mix of simultaneous text conversations, thinking about what in each conversation I was nervous about accidentally sending to the wrong person.  The message I prayed I didn’t sent to Mistress on accident at that moment was simply the informal, Yeah.

We don’t take time off from protocol; the only exceptions widely applied are vanilla company or Mistress not being with me; seeing as we live together with no vanilla people and neither of us have an occupation outside the home, these exceptions are not so common.   

The structure and convenience our protocols provide is something we have never been willing to put on hold, and so they’re in place 24/7/365.  We could not turn off the underlying dynamic if we tried, anyway; it’s who we are, and most of our protocols are deeply engrained habit.  When those rare exceptions do apply, there are frequently near slips.  Some protocols are so affected by internal enslavement I can no longer wrap my head around not following them as long as Mistress wants them.  

And so the little things, if there are a lot of them, every day, add up.  And even one slip is still noticeable.  There are a lot of things that are nearly subconscious now, or are very rarely noted because they’re done correctly, but somewhere, the headspace effects add up, too, and there’s a lot of carefulness involved. 

So in the end, every little thing is worth it

Protocols in a New Place

So, we bought a house and moved somewhat recently.

Now, we moved in together eight weeks after meeting (and concurrently began our 24/7 power dynamic), so basically the entirety of our relationship has been living together in the one location we lived before we moved. 

So for really the first time, we’ve had to see how our preexisting protocols do in a new long term setting.  It’s interesting to notice patterns as we settle in.   

For example, my office is now in the master’s retreat, a little room off the master bedroom separated by French doors that are often open.  Now, if Mistress is in the bedroom, and dismisses me from her presence, and I go to my office, I can sit in the chair at my desk despite the fact we’re still very close by and not separated by anything, because we’re no longer actively engaged and it doesn’t count as using the furniture in her presence.  This wasn’t really a thing with my old office whose door went to the hallway.    

Meanwhile, there’s a wall downstairs with an open interior window and so a ledge one can sit on, and the stairs as we moved to a two story, and so on, and it had to be decided whether or not certain household features count as furniture.  The one story we were in had different features.  

Now that we have a lot more hardwood floors, I’ve found out that kneeling on them is a bit less cushioned but makes my legs go numb a lot slower. Overall, I like it slightly better.

Mistress’ office is much bigger now and importantly, I can access most of it without having to walk directly past her.  We have and have had a protocol that if I come into a room (mostly her office) and don’t make eye contact with her, it doesn’t count as being in her presence and is a signal that I’m just passing through to use an object in there or clean something, and so I don’t need to ask permission (and what else I can do, and then curtsy) to leave again, which would be the entirety of that interaction.  The new layout makes avoiding said eye contact easier, which I’ve noted quickly.  Convenient.    

Little other things—the master bathroom has a separate toilet room and the (also French) doors to the main part of the bathroom don’t lock, meaning the rule about me not locking interior doors gets a little more intuitive when I get in the shower.    

The rule on notifying her when I’m leaving the house kicked into effect for getting the mail, no more slot right in the garage door.  Not a big deal, and I have to remember the mailbox keys, too. 

Of course, numerous tiny service details have changed, too. It all has an effect, for sure. 

It’s been really interesting to adjust, and I’m sure there are still things to discover; I look forward to it.  

Uniforms and Challenges, the Literal and a Metaphor

Our contract is a simply formatted, single spaced seven or so pages, and this one phrase in it sometimes gives me more conundrums than any others: nice, clean, and of an appropriate size.

This phrase is in the uniform section, and the fact is, being a slave, as wonderful as it is, is messy.

Cooking or food prep multiple times a day, untold coffee fetching, cleaning up after the cats—litter, water, fur, other messes—handling dirty dishes, trash, laundry—doing wipe downs, taking care of plants, working with cleaning chemicals, giving pedicures with a splashy foot bath, cleaning toilets…

You get the idea.

A lot of it is pretty easy and mundane stuff.  Stuff almost everyone does.  I might do it a little more frequently as our chore split is basically 100/0, or, as such service is luckily my full time occupation, I keep up with certain schedules and details a little more than typical, but none of it is truly out of the ordinary, and they’re simple things I’m happy to do.

Another factor, though, is that since I wear a uniform, I don’t own a lot of clothes, so rotating the same few days’ worth of the clothes means the same items take the toll of the day’s work again and again, versus the clothes of people who have a longer rotation, or different clothes for different occasions.

The clothes I wear when I’m cleaning, exercising, anything else, are the same ones I wear to parties; a dip in the pool usually just means I remove a few items; I don’t have a summer and winter wardrobe, just layers; I don’t wear pajamas; I wear the same clothes when I’m just kneeling on the floor and when I’m scrubbing at it, and so on.  It’s blissfully simple, but the all in one of it adds up, and I often change clothes multiple times a day.

I’ve gone up and down on the number of sets of clothes I own at once, but never so far up or down it’s seemed to make a huge difference in the amount of time before I have to order more, too many irreversibly stained or whatnot, despite my best efforts with the laundry, or, more preemptively, wearing a pre-approved apron when I’m doing something I know will be messy.

It also means that when I change sizes, everything in that category has to be replaced, no leeway in brands or items or fabrics.  I’d healthily gone down a few sizes since I started wearing a past uniform in Fall 2018 (and since I changed to only one color of it in Fall 2019), meaning everything failed to fit me at once when I crossed that threshold.  The same happened with the uniform I wore previously, which eventually provided a good time to switch.

So, nice, clean, and of an appropriate size provides a small daily challenge.

But I like that.

I recently rediscovered some of my slave journals from 2016, an interesting find as I start reading Slave Patrick’s Slave-ography, which began as a journal.  The fun part of this is that I was unowned in 2016, and really just getting going in the BDSM scene.  They were journals I kept mostly for myself, with the vague idea of showing them to a future partner—writing prompt answers, checklists, experimental erotica, art journaling, resource reading lists, event logs, research notes.  They’re currently on Mistress’ desk for her to peruse.  A lot of it is out of date now, and won’t be illuminating most likely so much as fun, or a marker of progress.

In one of these journals, I found the phrase a challenge to challenge, as something I wanted to be, in an entry on what I wanted to be in the eyes of an Owner.

It was a bit of a side note in that entry, but it caught my eye more than a lot of the rest of it at this point; I reflected on it and found it still true, just a useful phrasing I hadn’t come back to in a long time.

The idea of it is basically the goal of providing poised service—calm, patient, the unperturbed servant trope.  Experimenting with mantras before I found that entry, I had come up with one about serving with patience, poise, and serenity,trying to address struggles in that arena.

The thing with keeping my uniform presentable was a very simple but literal metaphor for that.  After running around cooking dinner, in a hot kitchen with bubbling sauces and such, I try to wait behind my chair in the assigned position for Mistress to tell me I can sit patiently and not looking worn out from the cooking—including wearing a clean set of clothes.  It feels better for me, looks better for her.

It’s trying to give it a bit of magic.  This food?  It just appeared!  With less sense of the behind the scenes chaos of timing all the sides and close calls with spills.  It’s kind of like not leaving the wrapping paper roll next to the Christmas tree, or that moment in shows where a third party comes in and simply enjoys a flawless looking meal, event, so on, after an episode showing all the chaos of getting it that way, and two parties from behind the scenes of it look at each other knowingly.

A bit of undisturbed poise, a bit of magic—since that’s what I’m going for, the uniform is both literally a small part of it and also an easy metaphor for the bigger picture—despite all that messy work, my uniform is magically still clean every time you see me.  Despite all the chaos, I’m put together every time you see me.  Ta da.  Am I perfect at it?  Of course not.  But I can and do try.  That’s what counts.

What Protocol Really Says

A question that comes up about specific protocols (rules, guidelines, rituals, anything else in that umbrella) is:

Who cares?

Which means—

What’s the real difference between, “Yes, Mistress,” and, “Yeah?”

What does it matter if your hands are boxed behind your back or palms up on your thighs?

Why dinner at six and not maybe six-ten? 

Why have the house at 73*, not one up at 74*?

Why not make that second of eye contact during that trip into her office to grab the label maker?

Are the tweezers during shaving inspections really necessary? 

Well, the answer in a way is simple: the M-type cares.  Maybe a little.  Maybe a lot.  But they care.  That is why that rule got set and that is why they bothered to express that preference.  And when it’s laid out like that—the M-type who cares about that gives the s-type the gift of having something to obey.  A way for them to say back, in words or action or mannerism or timing or choice or meticulousness—I care.  About you, about our dynamic, about adhering to your preference, authority, power, will.  I care about showing you my love, respect, submission.  

It doesn’t have to be a strong feeling or opinion.  The slave’s purpose and personal desire, here at least, is to give the M-type as much of what they want as possible—so the more wants expressed, the more to give.  Nothing is too insignificant to bother with—that’s a slave’s job and joy.

Protocols are a how—how to express devotion to the dynamic, love for the person.   

And if those wants aren’t laid out—the messages can get a little messier to send and receive.  

Protocols (or rituals, rules, guidelines) enhance the bond of a dynamic.  They’re the language those in it speak to each other.  They set the tone of dominance and submission (and sometimes set a subtype of it, too)—and let you, and all involved, know your place in it.  

Dictating the little things allows focus—maybe the clarity of mind to focus on the big things, maybe the peaceful mindfulness for the little actions—depending on the situation.  

The thing is that caring about a small thing—a word choice, a posture, a time, a degree—isn’t so small when it’s a chance for communication.  

A chance to say: I care.  I’m yours. 

On Refining Protocols

Our contract is almost due to be revisited, and I have a long list of notes on all the little things that have been changed verbally since the last revisit to edit in.  (The contract is meant to be a current understanding and communication tool upon revisits, not something unchangeable when Mistress wishes it.  Most of the benefit of the contract is I think honestly in the talking and drafting of those revisits; it’s not directly referenced often, action items incorporated into other systems.)  I noted how many of my notes weren’t new concepts entirely so much as refining of pre-existing ones.

For example, the set response protocol to permission grants and denials.  (Good in its simplicity for so many examples of protocol concepts—and yet, how much refining it needs…)  Thank you, Mistress.  Fine and good.  We’d already had a note in the contract about it not being necessary if the time needed to complete the action I’d asked permission for would be less than the time needed to say the phrase, smoothing out a potential longer interruption to conversation for a quick action (say, stretching my legs from my kneeling position while we’re chatting).  So not required, but allowed if it wouldn’t be disruptive.  Another note said to respond based on intention, not phrasing.  Mistress starts a decent number of orders every day with the phrase you may.  She’s not informing me I have permission to do the thing, she’s telling me to do it.  So I would use the set response to orders, not permissions.  Yes, Mistress.

We ran into two more mild conundrums around the same basic protocol.  

One: favors.  Something in asking a question along the lines of would you help me with this, please or may I borrow this, please invoked the same response to at least an affirmative answer, and sometimes a negative one.  It wasn’t really a permission.  Perhaps a privilege.  But intrinsically I felt like it fell under that protocol.  Nothing wrong with giving that answer even if it wasn’t, but knowing if it was required seemed like an important clarification, so I didn’t get lax on it as a nicety rather than a protocol.  

Two: restating permissions.  The general idea of: do I respond with this protocol to only the first permission grant, or every time it’s reiterated?  If it was a reminder of a standing permission or restricting rule, a confirmation one way or the other of a mildly questionable permission, a summary of multiple permissions recently given, does it count?  If it wasn’t news, was it truly a grant/denial, or was it a statement?  Again it intrinsically felt like it fell under this protocol, and again there was nothing wrong with answering it as such, but an important clarification on the requirement versus nicety issue.

So it was interesting to see how much more thought out each protocol becomes with time, even ones that sound so simple at their core.  I wrote a post on protocol once that I titled “The More Natural-Seeming the Dance, the More Thought-Out the Choreography”.  And I stand by that metaphor.  Strangely, the more elaborate our protocol is to explain, the smoother it looks (and feels to integrate) in practice.

“It’s interesting,” said a friend one afternoon, sitting in our living room at the time.  What we used as a living room then was an extension on the original house, and the kitchen had a wide doorway and an open window into the living room that used to be an actual window and exterior sliding door, leading to the rooms being highly connected.  Mistress was doing something in the kitchen.  I’d been in there with her and asked permission to go into the living room, which she’d granted, and I did.  Speaking from somewhat different rooms now, she said something poetic about me being free to wander around, at which point I said that I couldn’t really go that far, not beyond the living room or the kitchen.  

“Well, I guess not,” she agreed.  The explanation being that because after I’d asked permission to leave her presence in the kitchen, she’d engaged with me while I was in the living room, tying me back to being in her presence and therefore having the need for permission to leave, but now including the living room in that.  If she had been absorbed in what she was doing in the kitchen, not talking to me, the rooms would’ve been separate enough I would’ve been able to wander the house and sit on the furniture in the living room without permission.  But as she was engaged with me again, I would need permission to leave even if this was where I had initially asked permission to leave to.

“It’s interesting.” 

As a writer, I know that frequently (but not always) it is the more carefully planned scenes of interaction that have the best flow (or the type of flow you want at least, for a conversation between purposefully awkward characters), and that my impulsive 2 AM scribbles rarely progress as smoothly (or intended) as they did in my head, daydream montages skipping crucial transitions. Yes, there’s such a thing as over-planning, but I tend to think the author overexposed to their own work has a lower threshold for that than the actual reader.

In protocol, it might mean that writing out a protocol and the conditions and alternatives and whatnot might make it look like overkill even to me, but it feels natural and right in the moment, and writing it all out doesn’t leave me torn between a reasonable instinct and what’s in the contract. It is being the writer and the reader both, to be a part of clarifying conversations—if I don’t have the final say—and to live the results. It adds a deliberateness to the way we live our lives.

And in the end, I think carefully refining even a simple-sounding protocol is worthwhile. Rather than making it more complicated and mind-consuming in practice, it actually means you have to dedicate less thought to everyday protocols that are meant to be an augmentation of a dynamic, not a distraction from the moment. Rather than ponder if you’re making the right choice on something with it right then, you can rest assured that the decision was made in advance, and direct your attention to the human in front of you instead of semantics.

A lot of the refining happens when I run into such a question to ponder, and in the moment I err safely towards the letter of the contract (unless I feel like the spirit of it would really override it for Mistress in that situation). Frequently it passes without notice. Later, though, I usually find a time to ask about it and we clarify those conditions or conundrums. The first time I heard the phrase predicament protocol, at a class, I knew immediately what was meant. Sometimes when I do err towards the letter of the contract, Mistress notes it as odd, then notes it as a rule she technically set, and that’s how the conversation on conditions happens to make it smoother next time.

Our protocols are a corrigible list really, and the fulfillment of living those protocols gets to also include the fascination with making them as close to just right as we can.

Honorifics: A Fascination

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with honorifics.

Maybe it’s my inner slave, maybe it’s my inner linguistics nerd, but I have.

Both of my parents actively disliked them.  If a cashier called my dad sir, he was known to say, “Nah, it’s man, bro, or dude.”  (And while a fairly masculine guy, he always had long hair, so he got called ma’am by plenty of people who only got a split second glance.) My mom just said it made her feel old but other than assuring excessive users that it wasn’t necessary, didn’t protest.  In any case, it didn’t come from my family.

I therefore called adults sir or ma’am sparingly, feeling awkward if I wasn’t sure if they held the same opinions as my parents, or on the other end of the spectrum, were going to be offended if I didn’t.  I must admit I got some kind of kick out of using the honorifics, though.

In eighth grade, I had just started at a new school and chosen to be an office aide during my elective period.  It was a busier and sometimes more chaotic role than I think I’d initially pictured, but it was a blast.

It was the second, maybe third week of school, and I’d just finished running some errands around the campus for one of the office administrators, of the sort whose official title no one’s ever sure of, but they sure do seem to cover a lot of areas.

I returned to his office to confirm, “Anything else I can do for you, sir?”

And he gave me this blank, jaw-half-open stare.

I just kind of stared back at him.  Had I forgotten some obvious other task he’d already assigned or something?

“Did you just call me sir?” he asked, sounding incredulous.

“… Yes…” I said, the ‘s’ a little too drawn out as I tried to decide if saying sir again was a good idea, deciding against it.

“I’ve worked at this school for twenty-five years and no one has ever called me sir.  That’s amazing.”  He seemed to snap out of his daze a bit.  “No, I don’t need anything else, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, sir.”  He smiled and I left.

Twenty-five years.  Don’t get me wrong, based on my experience with the sort of kids at that school, I believed it.  Still, it really went to show how that tiny gesture of respect made a huge difference to him.

So when I found honorifics and titles as a thing in kink, it tugged at me.

Mistress and I had talked about it very early on; she wanted to know my thoughts.  I determined that in my mind, Miss felt too diminutive to be my go-to for her.  Ma’am was fine, but very generic, something I could call many people by.  Mistress felt appropriately respectful, more personalized, and clearly had heavier M/s connotations.  She agreed.  That’s the title and honorific we went with, because it works for us.  Here meaning I use it both to refer to her, “(My) Mistress and I went to the store,” and to address her, “Yes, Mistress.”

In kink, of course, many people have thoughts on honorifics and titles in all kinds of directions.  But as said, my fascination with them started before I even had the right words for the feelings I would later know were a desire for slavery.

I think because even in the vanilla world, they do hold importance to many.  Almost funny how easily they set a tone, how one use of sir could endear a school administrator and one use of ma’am could have my mom wondering at her age.

As a writer, I latched onto that importance when I wrote fiction. At first it was vanilla contexts in which I wrote honorific usage. As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I thought about how they transcended times or universes.  Their usage in military and government settings amongst dystopian societies’ revolutions and wars; their usage in the office workplace of a grim future, with all kinds of power games being played on many orders of magnitude. In my first venture into BDSM fiction, they were a reflection of everything from perspectives on the dynamic, to the desire or lack thereof to fit them into a vanilla environment, to preferences for gendered or non-gendered titles, to poly or monogamy and who was permitted to call who what.

How telling they were.  One word could flip a reader’s perception when introducing a relationship between characters; in the right context, a certain usage of them could be enough to tell you who was speaking without dialogue tags; usage spread amongst characters could quickly indicate a more formal setting.

So when I found kink in the real world, my grasp of how telling, along with important, they could be came with me.

They seem fairly simple, but can be such a key thing in a dynamic.  I suppose my fascination has not faded.