Tales From the Butler Academy: Modules 0-9

Note: This is part of the “Tales From the Butler Academy” section. Find more here.

I wanted to give a quick summary of what the butler course I’m taking has covered and what I’ve done so far. So here’s a quick module by module breakdown of the parts I’ve completed.

Module 0: Introductory Module

Resources: None

Assignment Types: All essay/written response, covering things like “how you feel about the subject of help” and “how you feel about the subject of control”, goals for the course and your career, and study techniques. 

What I Learned/Applied: Not much to apply from this module, it’s more of an introduction to the course and a “getting to know you” thing. I had to get my story straight pretty fast on the “actually a slave” thing and clarify my goals, and found subjects like help and control very applicable. 

Module 1: What Is a Butler? 

Resources: Reading Chapter 1 of Serving the Wealthy (STW), Volume 1, all of Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, pieces from STW Volume 2: “The Butler Goes Mainstream”,  “Keeping the Profession Whole”, “Historical”, “The Question of Robots and Butlers”, “And Finally, Some Printable Humour”, “A Day in the Life of a Modern Butler”, “Just When You Thought You Knew Everything”, “The Word Was Butler”, “So What Is A Hotel Butler, Anyway?”, “The Future Hospitality Professional”, “Poor People Skills and the Wealthy”, “The Indomitable British Butler”, “Transcript of Lecture at Harvard University”, “BostonCoach Keynote Speech”, and “Would You Like Your Service Today Live or Programmed, Madam?”. Watching: Gosford Park, The Butler, the pilot of Downton Abbey, the episode “Jeeves in the Country” of Jeeves and Wooster, and episode one of Black Adder III. 

Assignment Types: Essays related to the resources, one visual timeline—all on basic terminology and mindset of the profession. 

What I Learned/Applied: Still not too much to apply from this module, still covering basics, but learned some interesting historical bits, consumed some inspirational resources, and really started to get a picture of the course. 

Module 2: Essence of a Butler

Resources: Reading Chapter 2 of STW Volume 1, pieces from STW Volume 2: “Basic Attitudes”, “A Duty to the Profession”, “A Royal Butler Disgraced”, “The New Age of Service”, “Emotional Engagement—A Mantra in Search of a Technology”. 

Assignment Types: Some essays, and what I did as a giant self assessment spreadsheet. 

What I Learned/Applied: Really had to take a long look at myself and my soft skills, especially when seriously comparing to professional standards. Identified areas to work on and made plans to do so. 

Problem areas I identified included professional demeanor and professional dignity—I think this is affected by being a slave held to many kink norms day to day rather than being a professional butler. (The random beatings kind of make “dignity” take a hit, though I didn’t phrase it this way for the course.) 

Others included health and energy (for one, I had a kidney infection at the time of this module; I’ve taken a lot of concrete steps to improve my health since, and this being a weakness wasn’t exactly a shock). 

Other areas to work on: composure, humility, (fading into the) “background”. I think all have improved since. Humility, especially, we developed a few protocols around and I began to check in on in my posts/etc. As far as “background”, the later added speak when spoken to protocol helped a lot. 

Module 3: Trappings and Tools of the Trade

Resources: Reading Chapter 3 of STW Volume 1, piece from STW Volume 2: “Of Various Traditional Butler Tools”.

Assignment Types: Essays, creating (maintaining) a butler’s book and journal, acquiring/using/evaluating a butler’s resource library, wardrobe, and tools (including photos), learning basic computer tasks (if needed) and developing (maintaining) a time management system. 

What I Learned/Applied: Gained a few bits to add to my butler’s book, found out having a cigar cutter around is strangely useful. I already largely had the butler’s book, journal, library, time management system, and computer skills. Great material for my butler’s books class. Wardrobe wise, I still stick to my daily slave uniform. 

Module 4: Butler Etiquette  

Resources: Reading Chapter 4 of STW Volume 1. All of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan). Piece from STW Volume 2: ” Of Various Traditional and Modern Butler Concerns”. 

Assignment Types: Essays, and about twenty video etiquette drills, including several rounds of redos. (Each prompt outlined a different tricky situation.  My job was to sketch out a more specific scenario if needed, and film myself, as the majordomo, responding to it.) 

What I Learned/Applied: I wrote more about this here. Ultimately, this module reminded me that compassion is at the core of the soft skills that set the butler industry apart, which was important for me as someone who’s low empathy. 

Module 5: Management and Leadership Principles 

Resources: Reading Chapter 5 of STW Volume 1.

Assignment Types: Primarily essays/written response. This chapter emphasizes checklists and processes, managing resources and problems, creating (and modifying as needed) effective routines, and what makes a good leader. 

What I Learned/Applied: Went through my assorted checklists and routines to apply the principles of this module. I still teach a lot of organizational principles from this module in many of my classes. 

Module 6: Staff Management

Resources: Reading Chapter 6 of STW Volume 1, Home Comforts (Cheryl Mendelson) Chapters 68 to 72, Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners (John Morgan)Chapter 14, pieces from STW Volume 2: “The Placement Game”, “What To Do If There Is Nobody At Home”, “Why Good Employees May Be Hard to Find”, “The Hidden Drug Menace”, “Ethics? That’s Human Resources”. 

Assignment Types: Essays, gaining familiarity with tax forms, comparing and contrasting staffing agencies and vendors (and selecting them), writing vendor contracts. 

What I Learned/Applied: While there’s no other permanent “staff” here, I do work with contractors and such, so several bits were useful and I used this module as an opportunity to revisit some of those things. It also covers record keeping and insurance and such in depth, which I again revisited and was useful. 

Module 7: The Butler’s Relationship with Their Employer

Resources: Reading Chapter 7 of STW Volume 1, pieces from STW Volume 2: “Hope does not Need Rose-tinted Glasses” and “Don’t Just Sit There”. 

Assignment Types: All essays/written response.

What I Learned/Applied: I wrote about this more here. While I first thought this module might not really apply for me, ultimately it’s about proactive, effective, efficient, honest, routine communication, and about trust, respect, and clearly defined roles. I found it applied to many of our communication systems, and revisited a few things based on the principles of this chapter. I teach on many of these systems, as well.

Module 8: Housekeeping 

Resources: Reading Chapter 8 of STW Volume 1. Piece from STW Volume 2: “Appendix 8A”. Home Comforts Chapters 14 to 58. 

Assignment Types: Essay/written response and a lot of practical assignments. Cleaning all kinds of materials, polishing silver, flower arranging, building a fire. Making a bed, working with fabrics, handling laundry. Creating/maintaining housekeeping routines and checklists. Learning basic sewing. Closet organization. Acquiring cleaning tools and learning to use them/creating a cleaning caddy. Managing air quality, lighting, and pests.  

What I Learned/Applied: Hoo boy, now we’re getting into the hard skills. I learned all kinds of fun facts and neat tricks for cleaning every kind of material I can think of and several I hadn’t heard of/identified before. Reorganized every closet in the house, got a humidifier (game changer in Vegas), redid some lighting bits, experimented with polishing silver, improved my flower arranging, started making and using my own homemade cleaners, added/modified a lot to my housekeeping routines and checklists and class material…

Module 9: The Butler, the Kitchen, and the Chef

Resources: Reading Chapter 9 of STW Volume 1. Home Comforts Chapters 8-13. All of Think Life a Chef (Tom Colicchio) and Dictionary of Culinary and Menu Terms (Rodney Dale).

Assignment Types: Essays and practical. Exploring a kitchen supplies store and grocery stores and shopping techniques, assessing kitchen supplies and organization and safety, assessing refrigerator/freezer/pantry management, preparing at least three breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. 

What I Learned/Applied: Got some kitchen storage back in order, inspired me to add some more recipes to my repertoire (which I added to the resources for my culinary service class as well).

… 

(Final Note: I’m currently on Module 10 of 22. Will write another one of these at some point in the future.) 

Tales From the Butler Academy: The “Butler’s” Relationship With Their “Employer”

(This is part of the “Tales From the Butler Academy” section. Please start here.)

Module 7 is titled “The Butler’s Relationship With His Employer.” (Being a woman and all, I’ll refer to it gender neutrally going forward. But note this language whenever I mention how traditional this course can be.) 

The jokes about this module started long before I got there, just seeing it on the syllabus. And, of course, the topic was mentioned much earlier in the course. 

“So… I’m not supposed to sexually harass you?” Mistress would ask. “No random beatings?” 

But once I got there, I realized it was a) a relatively short module, just some reading and essays, and b) honestly, super applicable.

It’s a module about communication, about trust and respect and roles. About how you must generally appreciate the other’s role even if it’s not for you, for things to run smoothly. That communication needs to be proactive, efficient, effective, routine, and largely honest. That roles must be clearly defined, lines drawn not to be crossed, before they fade away. That formal and respectful does not necessarily mean cold or uncaring. That trust on both sides is crucial to a well run household. 

While I’d expected to be very vague and a little misleading in this module at first, I actually found myself being very honest, just with the typical term swaps (Mistress, employer) and some omissions. 

Yes, my “employer” and I do have codified, optimized, routine check ins, quality assurance, meetings, forms, reviews, communication methods, checklists, role agreements. I do clarify what my job is. We do find a way for formal to be caring (even intimate)—via protocol as a love language. We do discuss our communication styles and actively work to make them mesh better together. We trust and respect and appreciate each other and are very honest. 

Rather than typing and deleting about professionalism, I found myself writing about real actions. We have long approached our dynamic through a lens so close to professional that people have tried to push, “It’s a relationship, not a business,” on us. But really, in a lot of ways, we do resemble a business superior/subordinate relationship as much if not more than a vanilla marriage, and that’s not a bad thing.

There are many parts of our dynamic that I think make the most sense from that lens: 

  • Our contract. While relationship contracts even in the vanilla world are on the rise, and are a long standing norm in power exchange, many people still think of contracts as something from the business world, especially the detailed, logistically focused kind. Our current contract stands at nearly 2,500 words, mostly bullet points, not a lot of fluff. It covers in detail our schedule, all of my service duties, our protocols, my uniform, inspections, discipline, meetings, written report systems, Light Slave Duty, and more. (More on a lot of those themselves in a minute.) We spent a lot of the first weeks of our relationship cuddled up, having sex, going on dates, hanging out, all that, but we also spent a lot of it sitting across the table from each other with papers in the middle hashing out all the details, including our more formal and specific style of protocol. 
  • Meta Saturday. While the exact day has shifted over time (I believe it was born as the alliterative Meta Monday), this has been, from the very beginning, our weekly check in. We go through a list of questions (modifying the list over time as needed) to reflect on the past week and plan for the week ahead. We celebrate wins, check in on specific areas, ask how we can do better, and discuss tasks and events. At first, this was a meeting. Then, as the typical good business practice goes, we realized the meeting could be an email, and we made it a worksheet we both fill out and send to each other, discussing more if needed. But frequently, we realized we’ve already discussed a lot of it during the week—this is just our final check that we have. 
  • Light Slave Duty. This is the equivalent of time off—or mostly off. Since I live in my workplace (a common issue for private service/domestic staff and housewives alike), I don’t skip being present there, and most of our rules, protocols, etc. never turn off (the ones that do are for vanilla company, not time off). And there are a few small duties that remain on Light Slave Duty, and the possibility of further orders. And I’m not entitled to it—it’s up to Mistress my employer. But, it’s the closest equivalent. It’s a pre codified mode that means inspections, service tasks, and schedule items may generally be skipped without consequence, to be used if I’m sick, etc. I also generally get Sunday mornings “off” to the same extent. 
  • Written issues form/formal complaint. In the case of a problem that we don’t want to just hash out verbally, and that isn’t a punishment kind of issue, we have a specific written form. It includes what happened to trigger the report, how it made the person feel, why they felt that way, what can be done to make it better right now, and what needs to be true for this to not happen again. While rarely used, it’s been very valuable when it has been. I’m not guaranteed results from it, but it’s a great way to clarify any issues at hand.
  • Inspections. Not so much some details of the process, but the twice daily quality assurance. Every day at 10:30 AM, she checks on my morning service tasks, and at 9:20 PM she checks on my evening service tasks. Then, she inspects me in our Inspection Position (I wait in this position in the bedroom—dressed for the AM, nude for the PM). I offer her sunscreen in the morning and lotion at night, and at the PM one, I also get leashed for bed. (Again—not the details of this one, just the quality assurance idea.) 
  • My journal/review system. Okay, this might not sound super businessy, but the basic premise here is basically that I keep logs that she looks over. It’s a way to review and communicate. Each night—from the very beginning—I write an entry in my physical journal, mostly briefly logging activities. Before Meta Saturday time, I create a weekly review page in summary. (I also do this monthly, quarterly, biannually—I also start a new physical journal at that time—and annually.) Then, I bring her the journal. For the monthly review, I also send her an email. The email mostly refers her to the journal, to my monthly habit/goal/task tracker I keep on a giant Post It note in my office and fill in as I go (this one isn’t required, it’s for me, but it can be useful for her to see at a glance, too), and to my monthly newsletter I post publicly. I also include statistics for the month from my websites, income, FetLife profiles/groups/events, Archive of Our Own, etc. I reference this frequently myself. 
  • My daily uniform. Not so much what my uniform is—not that it would be that out of place in a casual workplace—but the fact that I have one. The part that’s the most businessy is my pager, which I keep on me so she can page me when she need something. 
  • Discipline. Not the method—but maybe the idea of pre codified, formal disciplinary action. This is also common in power exchange.
  • And, no small thing, this is probably the most important factor that makes my dynamic an equivalent I can frequently easily talk about for butler school coursework: the part where I work forty hours a week or so for her. Being a slave majordomo is my full time job. I’m not allowed to have any other job. So on. 

You can see how I actually had things to say for this module.

This realization was pretty validating. Since I’m going to butler school hoping to merge the professional and kinky service worlds, I want them to truly be potentially equivalent.

And maybe add just a pinch of sexual harassment and random beatings.

Tales From the Butler Academy: Etiquette Drills and Compassion

(This is part of the “Tales From the Butler Academy” section. Please start here.)

In Module 4—etiquette—I receive my first video assignment.  It’s a series of etiquette drills.  There are about twenty, each outlining a different tricky situation.  My job is to sketch out a more specific scenario if needed (I figured this out after the first round of submissions), and film myself, as the majordomo, responding to it.  The instructions emphasize, Acknowledge!  Resolve!  Redirect!  Acknowledge the problem and how the person feels; resolve it if possible (or, state why you can’t, if it’s illegal or such); redirect so as to smooth things over (“May I get you a drink?”). They also heavily imply that you will almost certainly be asked to film several rounds of redos.

So, I write up some notes and set up in my office.  My daily uniform is far from scandalous, but not the butler usual.  So I basically add a blazer and play with angles.  I do a quick check on my surroundings, moving the erotica novels I’ve written, for starters.  Books, journals, string lights, and Polaroids remain. I place an oversized stuffed bear in the canopied hammock chair swing across from where I sit in my desk chair.  What a look. I fire up Zoom on my laptop, place it on my desk, set it to record the session, and begin.  I read the drill number I’m doing, sketch the scenario, and then give my response.

It does, as the instructions also warned, feel a little silly.  “12A,” I read seriously.  Deep breath.  Shake my head.  “12A,” I repeat firmly.  I look at my notes.  No, I can’t do this.  I look up at the ceiling, exasperated.  “Do I look stupid yet?” 

This is the outtake I send Mistress and a few friends. 

I finally get the first round in.  Yes, there’s a lot of feedback, and a lot of redos requested.  A couple are deemed simply, “Fine, pass”, and others merely ask me to take the scenario one step further. But some get admittedly hilarious negative feedback. Yikes! reads one. I think your employer’s wife (who happens to also be your boss) might slap you if you responded like that!  

Yes, well, I think, I have some news for you about “my employer’s wife”… (who happens to be me). 

But the overall theme of the feedback is needing more compassion.  One issue is that I’m clinically low empathy.  And there are some scenarios I think I just struggle to relate to.  One sketches a scenario in which my employer is frustrated because the chauffeur has brought the wrong car around to pick them up for an important meeting, while the chauffeur has to go switch cars.  I laugh about this with a few friends.  Problems I wish I had. I’ve made it clear there isn’t any other staff here. 

But the thing—the thing I have to finally hit on to pass the drills—is that the scenario isn’t really about the car.  It isn’t really about the chauffeur.  It is about a human being having a stressful day, experiencing the straw that broke the camel’s back, and turning to their trusted majordomo for reassurance and, yes, compassion.  We’ve all done it—snapped over a ridiculous little thing because of an underlying serious stressor.  This important meeting is in a few minutes, and the chauffeur can’t get their job right.  Okay. 

So, I need to acknowledge what happened, that it is a problem (because, minor or not, that was a mistake on the chauffeur’s part), and that the employer has a right to be upset by that, and that I will proactively handle it before it happens again, because that’s my job.  And I need to do it with compassion.

It takes me three tries to pass that drill and one other.  The others take one or two.  But I grasp the importance of the compassion, and the how of delivering it, even if it’s still not a deep seated feeling or instinct. 

And really, the etiquette drills teach skills I need as a slave.  While kink protocol can be different, the core skill is the same.  Whether it’s knowing what to do when Mistress is upset over something small that is actually about something big, handling mistakes, or dealing with unruly or uninvited guests or vendors, a lot of the drills translate, either directly, or via the underlying skill.

While I turned to butler school more for hard skills and professional standards, the coursework also emphasizes again and again that as I learn each of those skills, they remain wrapped in soft skills, and need to be presented with the famous high end service touch that defines the butler industry.  And at the core of that is compassion.  

So, I’ve tried to carry that with me in the four modules and life since. 

I’m a Slave; Why Am I Going to Butler School?

When my father died and I inherited his estate and life insurance policy, I used the assets very practically.  Everything basically went into real estate or high interest savings, following the advice of those I trusted, mostly Mistress, who let me make the estate managing choices at the time; later, we married and fully merged our finances. 

My mother (my parents had divorced) was a good adviser, too, and—perhaps especially watching me flounder a little in the wake of the grief and trauma of discovering my father’s death, the shock of becoming a landlord, and the stress of handling probate court proceedings pro se—had another piece of advice: that (without going too crazy) I should use some of the inheritance to treat myself to something that was previously out of reach.

There was something I’d been thinking about, too, and I did some research, and moved money to a separate savings account, naming it “Pipe Dream”.

Butler school. 

There were a lot of other logistics, though, and the dream wasn’t attainable yet.  

I needed time to attend, not still wrapped in estate managing; there was still major work to do on my health to be fit for that kind of travel (most of them were programs of multiple weeks or months abroad); I couldn’t yet drive.  The pandemic struck.

I was also very aware that I wasn’t the typical demographic, as an American woman in my early twenties, and so much else.  I would need a vanilla cover story, for starters. 

Still, I dreamt and worked on what I could.  I put out fires and cleared space in my life; I improved my health.  In the meantime, I wrote prolifically, I published my first book, I planned to start teaching kink education classes, I grew as a slave, taking up new skills and duties. 

In January 2021, days after my twenty-third birthday and first kink education class as the presenter, I learned that the International Institute of Modern Butlers was now offering an online private residence butler school course.  It was a four hundred hour, one on one, self paced correspondence course, with all of the same material as a traditional butler school.  This eliminated a lot of difficult logistics.

Elated—and with Mistress’ blessing—I signed up the very same day. 

But that’s enough explanation: the question I promised the answer to is why

Because out there in the vanilla world, there are resumes and qualifications and certifications and degrees and standards.  I don’t preach these as The Answers; I didn’t even finish high school, and if anything, feel better off for it.  But in the kink world, there aren’t really those Standard Items you look for on a resume.  While there are big names, there’s not really a I Went To Harvard of kink.  You make sense of each individual’s experience via once off classes or intensives they’ve attended, personalized training or mentoring they’ve received, skills and experience they can prove, awards and plaudits they’ve been given, community service they’ve done and involvement they’ve had, so on.  And there are a lot of pros to that.

But it left me at a bit of a loss on how to feel like I’d thoroughly learned the basics of service.  More than that, I noticed that a lot of “vanilla” standards and education seemed to be missing in the kink scene.  It seemed like the second you were doing something in a kink environment, it was somehow different.  It seemed that if you did, say, the cooking, as an act of submission to someone else, suddenly it was service, and almost not cooking.  There were classes on service: how to negotiate it, service philosophy and archetypes, what is service, incorporating protocols, a few specialty items like tea service or bootblacking… but to learn even relatively basic kitchen skills, like safety standards—and certainly more advanced skills—I had to turn back to “vanilla” resources. And some people didn’t seem to understand that it was still kink/service relevant education, or why they might themselves pursue those “vanilla” cooking skills beyond the very basic, if their interest was in service. 

So I made it a bit of a mission to blend the worlds.  As I blended those culinary, housekeeping, secretarial, so on, skills into my own service, I started teaching classes, presenting those skills and standards I’d had to use “vanilla” resources to learn as service skills, framed them in a kink friendly environment, included how to add the service touch, tried not to neglect the soft skills and psychology involved. I integrated that into my kink related educational and fiction writing. 

I wanted to give Mistress the best (that I was capable of), not average hard skills prettily dressed up as service, and I wanted to help others be able to offer the same.  And if I wanted to offer something unique, in my service and in my writing and teaching, I had to go outside the kink scene’s preexisting norms.  

The answer remained right in front of me: a vanilla role prided for general high end service. 

The traditional butler. 

So, butler school it was.

More than anything else, I want to prove that the worlds aren’t so different after all.  I feel like by taking the course, I can prove that professional, vanilla private service standards can be mirrored by “just” a kinky slave, and I’m probably far from the seemingly most qualified person in that category to do it, just someone with some determination, a dream, and a bit of luck.

Really, it is a role at its core very similar to mine in a lot of ways.  Other than terminology changes (Mistress becomes my employer) and minor details (like disguising my somewhat untraditional daily uniform), my only lies in my vanilla cover story are of omission.  In a lot of ways, I think my life is actually pretty accurately portrayed in my assignments.  I tell real day to day anecdotes, base evaluations on my real, daily actions, service tasks, and routines. 

I try to get the most out of the course that I can that might be truly applicable—and there’s plenty that is. 

I’m currently on Module 8 of 22, and plan to really pick up the pace in the new year.  But I do still have a lot going on, health to consider, and the course material is a refreshing challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.