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.

Service Skill: Setting the Table

Here are some quick overarching table-setting tips and guidelines I’ve run across.

  1. Space things evenly and line them up (bottoms of the vertical flatware all along the same line, for instance).
  2. All knife blades face towards the plate.
  3. Be consistent in your style. There are different types of settings (like North American versus European); stick to one.
  4. Use as few disposables as possible to increase class. Cloth napkins, real dishes. Have them match, and make sure they’re spotless.
  5. Napkins can go either to the left of the fork or on the charger (in less spacious settings). Under the fork is also an informal option.
  6. Big centerpieces might look pretty in isolation; on the table, they mean you can’t see the person across from you. Think smaller, or get creative on placement.
  7. Certain types of plates, bowls, and glassware can be chilled for serving things cold or heated for serving things warm. Adds a touch of luxury.
  8. Remember condiments; arrange attractively (try serving butter in balls, curls, or piped shapes).
  9. Remember lighting and music/atmosphere.
  10. Be mindful of plating/remember the protein should be closest to the diner.
  11. Check what’s in your butler’s book for any special considerations for those who will be dining.

Table Setting Chart

Napkin Fold Guide

Service Skill: Digital Productivity

This post is a conglomeration of productivity systems, tricks, and tools I use in my slavery, focusing on the digital side.

Part One: Using Technology to Be More Productive, Not Less

Let’s face it: for a lot of people, their devices are simply time sinks, or for leisure. Their phones are for Candy Crush and Instagram; tablets are for Netflix and cat videos; so on, so on. For a lot of people, too, their devices are crucial productivity tools—full of important resources, communications, planning—but definitely still able to become a time sink with the right Wikipedia rabbit hole. For this, technology can get a bad rap. So Part One is how to make your tech focused around being more productive, not less.

Eliminate those time sinks.

If possible, it can be best to eliminate them altogether. Delete social media accounts, games, whatnot. On the other hand, those are perfectly fine things to engage in during leisure time, so in that case it becomes limiting their use to those times. I very rarely use my phone except for a quick check on a ride or jotting down an idea while out and about, but I make sure there are no games on there or certain time-sink apps. No games period, actually. FetLife is my only social media. I don’t watch any videos, TV, movies, except the rare social occasion, and I don’t listen to the radio/podcasts.

If you can’t delete them, app and website blockers with timers can be your friend. Browser extensions are a good option. If you’re more of a general phone user, or use multiple browsers, etc., you may want something more robust to keep you on track during your key service hours.

Additionally, limit your notifications via settings.

Eliminate friction points in your tech use.

Have you ever meant to quickly check an email, and ended up looking at two other emails in your inbox, or running to find a charger for your dying device so you can finish reading that email, or getting linked to a site you forgot your password for, leaving you to get in via a reset email, or having to install an update before your device cooperates?

These are friction points.

I recommend eliminating those issues—and a few more—in these ways.

One, properly set up and use a password manager to save your passwords, so you don’t play the, “Forgot your password? Enter your username! Forgot your username? Enter your email!” game. I use LastPass. Some of these even come with a strong password generator, and it makes it easier to not dangerously repeat passwords. (Another tip, do regular cyber security checks!)

Two, charge your electronics every night. The devices you use basically every day—plug them in before you go to bed. It’s simple, takes just a second, but it makes a huge difference. Take it from someone whose phone and smart watch went from “always dead” to “always charged”. Also, make sure you carry chargers for whatever devices you’re carrying, and consider a charged power bank and appropriate cords for that. The backpack I carry even has USB charging via power bank abilities built in (so you can plug in the power bank on the inside of the bag, and the phone to a port on the outside). (Cool backpack provided by Christmas and TheSprinkles/Frequent_Flyer).

Three, unless you have reason not to (waiting for bugs to be worked out, new pricing, etc.): install updates promptly for your apps and devices. It’ll save you the headache of functionality issues ensuing. I check for them weekly during my weekly review.

Four, backup, backup, backup. Don’t lose your important files to dragging the wrong thing to the trash or a water glass dropped on a device. Set reminders—mine are also during that weekly review—to backup your files, preferably in more than one form—for example, I have things in places which have cloud syncing, and I also export to other places with cloud syncing. And, of course, scan physical files.

Five, embrace digital minimalism. Look into it, and try to reduce files, notifications, apps, services, accounts, devices, and such to the strictly necessary. Less stuff means less to sort through when you’re trying to find something.

Six, keep your electronics physically clean and protected. Use covers, clean them properly, use surge protectors, and keep them cool.

If you do these, you’ll never get ordered to do a quick task on one of your devices and have to go, “Er… one more minute!”

Part Two: Organizing Your Devices and Related Routines

If your digital files are a mess to sort through, or you’re always forgetting something you’re supposed to do on your devices, you’re not going to feel—or be—any more productive. Here are some organization pointers.

A Table of Contents is your friend.

Wherever it can be, something table of contents-like (whatever you like to call it/however you like to organize it) can be a lifesaver, especially if the alternative is just a shambolic collection of files.

I have a general physical notebook with a table of contents with page number, “title”, date, and a color coded tag system that I update daily. Of course, there are digital options as well.

If you use anything where one would be useful: consider it. You’ll find things faster.

Set (and keep) techy routines.

Set a time, however frequently you need, to check the digital things you have that need to be checked. This means you won’t overlook things until they’re urgent (or worse), and it will keep you from compulsively checking things as you remember them.

This can be correspondence, your calendar and to-dos, etc.

I set my times for this as part of my AM and PM routines.

In my AM routine, I also have a note to message Mistress about any questions, plan confirmations, permission requests, whatnot, for the day. This means I hopefully have fewer, “Oh, I meant to ask—” times throughout the day. If a similar note would work for you—give it a try!

Use tags.

Wherever you think they might be useful: try tags. They’re a feature in a lot of productivity software, and you can use them on a lot of email platforms, too.

For example, I use tags on recipe notes—to sort by diet (like vegetarian, gluten-free), main ingredient or cuisine (like chicken, Italian, potato), and meal (like breakfast, dinner, dessert, drinks, sides, snacks). This way I can quickly find something to make for a guest on a special diet, or for a specific craving they’re having.

I also use a form of tagging in my email; I use Gmail’s filters to send emails straight through the inbox to specific labels/tags based on things like who sent them. This way I have an idea of what emails have come in just by seeing the notification number next to those labels, instead of an unsorted mess of emails. Pretty much nothing ends up in my general inbox. I also am very careful about handing out my email address and unsubscribing from things so that I only get a few emails a day, and they’re all ones I want to read.

Have things recur.

I have Daily, Weekly, Monthly lists, so on. There’s also project planning, miscellaneous tasks, lists of things I’m waiting on in some way, and some repeating checklists. I have a life saving Master Shopping List. As a slave, there are services I provide routinely or simply again and again, and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time.

Part Three: Specific Idea – Gifting Spreadsheet

The first sheet in my Google Sheets gifting spreadsheet has six columns: Item, Recipient, Occasion, Purchased (indicated via checkbox), Wrapped (indicated via checkbox), and Notes. I fill it in for every item. For ideas I have but haven’t committed to an occasion for yet, I put “Any”. Under notes, I mostly note items that are DIY projects in nature and thus need more time than the others. Each column is able to be filtered, so I can find all gifts assigned to any one or more recipients or occasions, or see just ones that are purchased but not wrapped (to see what I should go wrap), or purchased and wrapped, or neither (to see what I should go buy and then wrap).

A second sheet has a gifting list (who I gift to for what occasion, to make sure I don’t forget anyone and can plan), a very general ideas list, and an inventory of “Emergency Gifts” (fairly generic gifts bought and wrapped ahead of time with a blank gift tag and a sticky note label of what’s inside, intended for surprise recipients—like ones who give you a last-minute invite to their birthday party, or someone who gets you a gift for a holiday when you didn’t expect one, and you need a reciprocal one for them quickly).

A third sheet is a “have-gifted” reference, where gifts move to from the first sheet once given, to remember for future occasions what has already been given. This is simplified to Item/Recipient/Occasion with filters.

Lastly, there’s a “gifted to me” reference sheet as a reminder for thanks, updates, and so on.

Template here.

Part Four: Specific Idea – Butler’s Book

I have many notes labeled with the names of people I know. I have a template saved that I use and modify as needed, with the template including places for name, birthday, contact information, health information/allergies, general schedule (for making plans), entertainment preferences, “what’s up in their life” (for conversation topics), food and drink preferences (where I frequently link straight to the recipe notes), a “pre-visit checklist” (put extras of their favorite soda in the fridge from the soda shelf, adjust the lighting to their preference, etc.) I include any notes on things to do the next time I see them—return something borrowed or whatnot. A quick glance at someone’s note before seeing them can make things go more smoothly, and part of my hosting checklist is to look at this.

Guest Entry Template here and more notes here.

Why I Live M/s

Sometimes in M/s you take the parts of you that you don’t want to unleash other places and give them a place to flourish.

It is taking things that are not okay elsewhere and making them be okay.

For example, I’m a people pleaser.  And in a normal relationship—be it friends, family, whatnot—for that to be healthy, there have to be boundaries, and compromise.  In M/s, I don’t have to worry about, “Should I have said no?” or, “Should I have asked for this in return?” or any of that.  And I don’t want to have to worry about that.  It’s a relief to know that no isn’t an option, and it’s not a negotiation.

On the other side, Mistress likes control.  And plenty of people she encounters don’t want to be controlled.  There are again boundaries and compromise to keep it healthy.  But she doesn’t have to worry about those lines with me, and she doesn’t want to have to worry.

This is true in other areas of BDSM too—informed consent is what separates sadomasochism from assault just as much as it separates healthy M/s from toxic relationship patterns.

M/s gives me a place with clear answers on how to let those traits out which might not serve me well in the vanilla world, aided by openly M/s terminology and mindset.

Those traits…

There’s a minimalism quote out there that speaks of keeping only things that are useful or beautiful.

I think that useful and beautiful (I think pleasing would be a better word, going beyond aesthetics, but same concept) are things I strive to be.

In slavery, it can go like this.

The mostly useful side: practical service—the cleaning, cooking, house maintenance, pet care, hosting, secretarial tasks, etc.

The mostly pleasing side: rules/protocols/guidelines/details—the uniform, the leashing, the kneeling, the honorifics, the permission-asking, etc.

Slavery gives me instructions on how to be useful and pleasing; it does not leave things up to chance or interpretation or assumption.

It lets me have un-filtered, concrete answers to, “What can I do to be useful?” and, “What can I do to be pleasing?”

And sometimes I suggest answers that Mistress may not have realized she wanted, sometimes her answers change, sometimes life happens.

The lines of consent can look blurrier than some are comfortable with; there’s a limitless range of control across time, spheres of life, and other categories, and some, though not all, areas are controlled so actively it comes down to very precise details.  In M/s,  I don’t have to get caught up in if what I want, or am willing to submit to, is too extreme for a more vanilla label.

What M/s gives me is a healthy place to act on that urge to please and be of service, know how to do so without ambiguity, and take off the limits I would need other places to keep it acceptable.

I don’t have to wonder what would be useful, or when, or how often, or how I should be doing it—I get answers to those things.  And I’m allowed to suggest ideas, or ask questions, and not worry about getting indecisive feedback or answers, or ones that necessarily stay within the normal boundaries of what you can ask someone to do.  Lists for daily, weekly, monthly tasks, ones on other intervals, or by the day of the month or the week.  AM and PM routines.

I don’t have to deduce what outfit is cutest, or best suited, or have a, “You always look nice!” beating-around-the-bush conversation.  Or decide if I should wear makeup or not, or how to style my hair.  Uniform makes it simple.  Same clothes, every morning.  Other rules.  Straightforward answers.

No self-consciously adjusting my posture (or at least far less of it).  Set positions—for leashing/unleashing, for post-shower inspections, for general kneeling, etc.  No debating what to do with my hands, or about how many inches apart my knees should be while kneeling.

M/s for us is… deliberate, it’s systematic, and it does not know the usual bounds.

And I love living it.

Service Skill: Making the Bed

General Notes:

  • Bed linens and such that are properly sized, fit the color scheme, and are in good condition go a long way. 
  • Remember to change/wash the linens regularly (once a week is a popular guideline); watch the care instructions.  
    • Having at least two sets of bed linens can save some headaches.
  • Don’t forget appropriately keeping the bed frame and whatnot neat too.  This might mean dusting, or handling upholstery, or something else.
  • Remember mattress care—rotating, cleaning, etc.
  • Set the tasks mentioned on a repeating schedule.
  • Maybe try a light linen spray once in a while—but remember to check on allergies and sensitivities first.
  • I don’t mention certain pieces below, because I decided to stick to what I do—but if you have a bed skirt, mattress pad, etc., factor them in appropriately.
  • Make sure the piece you’re handling is facing the way it’s supposed to, both in vertical/horizontal orientation and where the patterned side is; a patterned flat sheet, for instance, needs to be put on the bed face down to have the pattern facing up when folded back. Note that the side of the flat sheet with the wider hem should be towards the head of the bed.
  • Customize it!  Make sure you adhere to your M-type’s preferences.

Making the Bed (the Daily Stuff)

  • If the mattress has shifted at all, for those tossers and turners, make sure it’s lined up/back where it’s supposed to be.
  • Fitted sheet: evenly place on the mattress; smooth out.
  • Flat sheet: make hospital corners. Remember to have pattern side facing down, and widest hem at top of bed.
    • There are many great resources on how to make hospital corners online.  A quick Google search should get you to guides for a variety of learning types if you haven’t done it before.
  • Main blanket: evenly lay on top; create hospital corners if desired; smooth out.
  • Fold down the flat sheet and the blanket so the fold lays not quite below where the pillows will be.  Neatly tuck the hem of the flat sheet under the hem of the comforter, or simply smooth out.  (This is really a preference point.)
  • Place any extra blankets, whether another layer altogether, or folded across the foot of the bed, or what have you.
  • Put pillowcases on pillows if need be (tuck excess pillowcase fabric, if any, under the pillow); arrange pillows practically and attractively; try slightly propped up on the headboard.
  • Handle any other “extras”.  (As an example, I place my leash neatly on my pillow for bedtime.)

On 24/7 #2

So, I’ve been thinking about the question, “How do you maintain slave headspace 24/7?”

A lot of conversations about 24/7 start with a note about how there is still food to be cooked, a house to be maintained, pets to be taken care of, etc.  And this is true.  If saying, “I’m a slave!” magically eliminated responsibilities like this, a lot more people would do it.  In the real world, however, what it does is generally add responsibilities, not subtract.

The objection I have to how that conversation usually goes is that the “food to be cooked, house to be maintained” statement always seems to follow a “but”.  24/7 M/s… but there’s food to be cooked.  24/7 M/s… but there’s a house to be maintained.  And so on.

My issue there is that I do not see it as a “but”.

Because for us, it’s not that our dynamic lives in scenes and leaks out into the rest of our lives, hiding in the corners around the responsibilities of life.  Handling those responsibilities is itself key to our dynamic.  I’m a service slave at heart—doing the cooking, cleaning, yard work, pet care, coffee-making, event-hosting, meal and shopping planning, laundry, trip prep, filing, whatnot—that’s all the job itself, not something to work around.

This really helps us make 24/7 a reality, because a core value of my slavery is “usefulness”.  I like kneeling silently in a corner and just being nice to look at as much as the next slave, but for me, it’s not a defining factor.  Nor is play, or scenes.

The other night, Mistress and I had a good laugh about something.  We were standing in the bedroom and she said, “You may sit [on the bed],” and I looked at her curiously because while she says, “You may sit,” to me multiple times a day most days (almost exclusively in the kitchen, for eating), there is one place I don’t need permission to sit (other than “in vanilla company”), and that is: the bed.  So in this case, she was mostly joking, but it got us going on “we’re less high protocol/overtly M/s in the literal bedroom jokes.

Yes, mostly jokes.  But it does have a bit of truth to it—our dynamic did not take root in scenes and grow out.  It started out being built around practical parts of our lives, which actually means I have fewer rules, protocols, guidelines, tasks, whatnot, to more actively keep in mind during dedicated scenes than I do going about the rest of my day, doing dishes and laundry and cooking and more.  

As said, usefulness is a core value, and I can only be so useful while tied up and being worked over with a whip and a neon wand, or while being set on fire, or whatever it is we kinksters get into nowadays.

Another element to maintaining headspace 24/7, one that Mistress brought up first when we talked about this general subject again later, is connection.

For a lot of people, maintaining a positive slave/service headspace requires interaction.  This may look like receiving an order, having their work checked, being supervised, etc. Most frequently, I think, it is based around acknowledgement and praise.

Mistress said something like, “If a slave does a task in a forest and no one is around to see it…”

Well, the ending of that sentence for many people is something like, “They begin to feel less submissive and maybe unappreciated.”

Which makes sense, really.  M/s is very connection-based for plenty of people, and that interactive part of service is thus the most fulfilling—without it, they get less of that feeling of submission because their submission is based on that connection.

Now, it might be harder to also get enough of that interaction and connection on a daily basis than it is to simply get the tasks done.

For me, a reason I think I fit into 24/7 well is that my slave headspace is far less interaction based and sometimes actually boosted by a lack of it.  (“Don’t bother me unless the house is on fire; set lunch on my desk at noon; bring me coffee when I ask; otherwise, don’t talk to me and go about your other duties as normal,” is headspace boosting, as an example.). An ideal service mode of mine is seamless enough to not be given much attention.

Although as a human, an extrovert, and so on, I still crave interaction and validation; it’s just not at the core of maintaining that slave headspace.

More at the core is performing the service itself.  The rewarding part is getting the thing done.  Real reward beyond that and the occasional pat on the head and “good girl” would strike me as overkill, personally, and again be harder to maintain, though it’s not up to me (but Mistress agrees).  I’m in it to be useful, and thus at the end of the day, it’s about what Mistress gets out of my service, not what she gives me back.  I also admit a skepticism towards rewards that seem to come down to turning off a piece of the dynamic (like temporarily not enforcing a rule or expecting completion of a task); I would find that more a disconcerting punishment than anything (not serving as usual in whatever way specified when service is the reward itself is more like taking away a reward), and knowing this, Mistress chooses not to use them.

In my last post about 24/7 dynamics, I spoke of the time investment factor.  My service tasks are a full-time-job-and-always-on-call level time commitment.  This gives me plenty of fulfillment.  The constant awareness, on some level, of the mostly always-on nature of our rules and protocols and guidelines, etc., is something else I spoke about—and that has an effect on headspace that is hard to replicate in the short-term, that “obedience is always mandatory” factor.  There are no times off-duty, weekends, breaks, times where it doesn’t matter.

Which is usually what that 24/7/365 phrase means, isn’t it?

Service Slave Tendency Identification with Limited Kink Experience

In the vanilla world, you often hear a conundrum like this.  “No one will hire me because I have no experience.  I have no experience because no one will hire me.”

I see many s-types take this perspective to the world of kink as well.  Whether or not those new to the scene have an advantage or disadvantage, some people make this conundrum inside their head in slightly different words.

“I can’t become a service slave because I don’t know if I’m a service slave.  I don’t know if I’m a service slave because I’ve never been a service slave.”

I will admit that I am lucky in the sense that I have never had reason to doubt my side of the slash.  It all adds up neatly from my earliest memories forwards.  Some do have real doubts.  Some I think might benefit from learning to translate their vanilla experiences into a kink mindset, realizing that the underlying ideals might not be so different after all.  Doing this is what allows me to say, “From my earliest memories forward,” not, “From when I entered the scene,” or, “From when I entered an M/s dynamic.”

On the more slave side of service slave, it helps to think of how you have generally reacted to authority figures.  The younger crowd might think mostly of their teachers or parents.  Some might have more extensive work experience to draw on.  What happened if they made a rule you didn’t like, or set an expectation slightly hard to meet?  What does that tell you about you coping with it in M/s?

Some think of their favorite teacher from their school days as the one who let the class largely run free, was ultra understanding and gave a reasonable workload, perhaps a creative type, perhaps willing to improvise when authority wasn’t looking, themselves, someone who curved the tests and gave you two redos. 

Some think of their favorite teacher as the one who ran a fairly tight ship, a kind nature but a desire to push their students, who gave two times more homework than anyone else but you learned four times as much, who earned respect with the example they set and while less forgiving with their deadlines, more prone to give praise that really meant something.

There’s no archetype your favorite schoolteacher has to fit into for you to fit into any role in BDSM.  But, it’s an interesting exercise for many, and perhaps telling about what you respond to in an authority figure, what you don’t—and if you do respond well at all, or if it’s something to work on or a start of reconsidering.

As a general note, thinking of your interests in the media you consume or have consumed can also be telling.  Not just what you overall choose, but which parts, characters, and more draw you to it—and I’m not talking about erotica here (though that also says something), but even the vanilla-surface dynamics you have liked seeing in any books, television, movies, so on, throughout your life.

Service-oriented tendencies can also be spotted in vanilla situations.  A tendency to go above and beyond when able to help is a good sign of a service-oriented personality, as is a desire to be useful to family, friends, perhaps acquaintances.  Are you always volunteering to help with the dishes after dinner at friends’ homes, or hoping no one will ask?  Do you complain extensively to yourself or say something to them if they do ask—how would you overcome that?  Were you one of those kids who liked to do miscellaneous tasks for the teacher when you finished your work early in school? Circumstances allowing, have you been drawn to things like volunteer work or taking on responsibility in hobby-based groups?  And what drew you to them?  A feeling of helpfulness being a draw is one good sign, though certainly not the only.

Look through your memories for notable incidents, but for those looking for 24/7, especially, look for something else, too: consistency.

Do your tendencies change when you’re tired, somewhat emotional, a little under the weather, not fond of the task itself?  How will you overcome those things if they do? 

I feel like I’ve posed a lot of thought experiments or questions here, so let me address some of them for myself.

My submissive tendencies, in hindsight from the scene, are extremely hard to overlook.  I was always overly eager to please if anything, as in perhaps to a fault.  The man who I consider to be the best teacher I ever had provided an insane workload, was relentless in critiques, brilliant in his craft, and taught me more about the subject in half a semester than some people would get out of a Bachelor’s in it.

Some of my earliest memories are of watching and re-watching the late 90’s made-for-television adaptation of Little Orphan Annie.  I was always suspiciously fond of A Little Princess as well.  Not the parts of the movie most kids would get excited about, but a fascination with the bits of servitude the movies would show.

Volunteering has always been something that sates my desire to feel helpful and of use.  Hospital, school, food bank, transitional program for the homeless, my current position in a library, etc.  Most had some kind of draw that got me there in particular—like knowing people involved, or having a love of books—but the general concept was always something I liked, too.

As far as consistency, I’m not a saint, but I’m pretty decent at keeping up my better tendencies even when half-asleep, and can usually find something to get out of a task that might not generally be my idea of a good time.  Scrubbing down the hardscapes of the backyard with dish soap and water, say, is exhausting and leads to dripping sweat rather quickly—but damn, that before and after is satisfying, and pushing water around with a long brush has something fun in it, too.

I’m apparently consistent enough that, as a funny aside anecdote, Mistress once had a dream in which several things were askew—like an added story to our house, having friends she didn’t know in real life, etc.  When she encountered me in the dream, she told me to do something, and my response was sticking my tongue out at her.  Apparently that broke the reality line and she quickly realized it was a dream, and it briefly became a lucid one before she woke up.

Breaking back away from me and into a conclusion—nothing above is meant to be universal, but perhaps a starting point for some who are questioning.  Kink experience is unquantifiably valuable, but is not the only source for some answers.

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.

Letting Your M-Type Have It All

I’m not going to get into the “all humans are good/bad/changeable” thing, but I will say this: pretty sure that almost everyone has some selfish desires, which they act on to varying extents.  Picking the night’s activity.  Getting out of chores.  Eating the last slice of pizza.  Whatever it may be.

Now, in most healthy egalitarian relationships, people try to balance giving in to their own selfish desires and their partner’s.  Switch off on who picks if they stay in for binge watching or if they go out on the town.  One person cleans and one person cooks.  You cut the last slice in half.  50/50, give or take.

Now, as a slave, I want it to look as close to 100/0 as you can get.  That’s not to say that I don’t have selfish desires of my own.  It’s more that not acting on them gives me more than acting on them, in a different way.  

And there are a decent amount of times where Mistress is in a generous mood or doesn’t care much about a choice and lets me pick, and I’m okay with that.  I admit that if it happened terribly frequently, I might start to question myself, and if I don’t have a strong opinion, I might confirm one more time that she truly doesn’t have one either.

What I don’t want is for her to offer me a choice or compromise out of a sense of obligation.  It is my goal, and job, to give her everything she wants, and I try to behave in a way where she feels comfortable taking everything she wants.  Giving someone all of the last slice of pizza but making them feel guilty for it can be even more negative than taking the last slice of pizza.  So I try not to whine or otherwise try to change her mind.

While some of it is on the one on the left side of the slash to be willing and able and wanting to do—say, if they’re not willing to act “selfishly” or tell someone no or order them to do something that they don’t want to do—there’s not much their partner can do on their own about it.  

But if they are willing, a partner responding negatively can still put a huge damper on it.  

In my opinion, if you want your partner to take whatever they want from you, you have to make it easy to take.  If you say, “It’s okay if I don’t like it, and it’s okay to tell me no!” but throw a fit every time you don’t like something or get told no, your partner will develop real doubts.  If you want someone to tell you what to do, you have to be willing to do what they tell you.  Otherwise, they’ll feel like they’re playing a game they get nothing out of.

I want her to prioritize herself as close to 100% of the time as possible, so I have to act accordingly.

To act accordingly, I have to be more hardy than fragile.  The image of a delicate, sensitive s-type is one found often in fiction around the subject, but in the end it is rarely good for anyone involved.  If a bit of discomfort consistently affects someone strongly, it seems unlikely they will deal well with day in and day out prioritizing someone else.

Both parties should be capable on their own, first and foremost.

If my goal is to make Mistress’ life easier, I have to aim to not add new problems, like my desires, to her plate.

Of course, life happens, no one’s perfect, and everyone has their days.

But in the end, I wouldn’t view myself as much of a slave in a dynamic where things revolved around me or my wants, comfort, convenience.

My Style of Entertaining, and Where I Got It From

Recently, Mistress and I attended one of my family’s gatherings.

As I watched my cousin, one of the hosts, cook entirely too much delicious food, and the other host, her husband, diligently clean up a step behind her, I thought about my own style of entertaining and where I get it from.

Other than the aforementioned couple, it was mostly my great-aunt or her daughter who hosted family gatherings as I was growing up.  There was also always entirely too much delicious food from that part of the family, though it happened more in courses—light appetizers in wicker baskets scattered around before you sat down to salad and soup, then a course offering the option of many tempting entrees and sides, usually very drawn out before the cleaning up started, people wandering around, leading into the placement of assorted light desserts.

At my cousin’s house, however, it was more like a constant wandering, and many light and heavier appetizers on the large kitchen island, then a large variety of appealing entrees, sides, and heavier desserts added to that island, much closer together in time.  Cleanup got done as it was needed, closely following whatever was getting cooked up at the time.

Aside from family gatherings, the parties I went to during my more formative years that I remember best were the parties thrown by the very wealthy families of kids I went to middle school with for the first two years.  As someone new to that private school and there on scholarships, it was like a whole new world.

These were parties of hundreds of people of varying relation in fancy but uncomfortable looking clothes, with very loud music from a DJ and elaborate but dim lighting, sitting down at round tables so big you could barely read the place card of the person across from you, the table covered in fine linens, and waiters bringing delicately plated food you had ordered on your RSVP card so long ago you forgot what you ordered or what the options even were.  People gave speeches and after dinner, there were activities and lots of dancing.

I think of what I’m like as a host now and can see bits of all of those hosts in me.  I hosted a weekly event at home with Mistress for almost a year and a half, having rarely less than six and rarely more than twelve people over for food, chitchat with kinky company, and occasional play or swimming.  In that event, I can see bits of all of the above events.

I always erred on the side of too much food, and my skills at cleaning and cooking at the same time improved over time, though there was always more cleanup to do after all was done (and cleaning up before people even arrived).  I tended to have the “light appetizers scattered around in cute baskets” style (cut down later on due to the unhealthy tendencies of those “appetizers”). Then there would be a more buffet style entree serving later (as cooking finished), with maybe a light side or two, usually fairly closely followed by a dessert.  People were free to wander around with their food.

Though some of the formality of the large parties appeals to me, I would rather fall on the guests being comfortable side of it, like my family.  We never had a dress code of any sort for guests (and clothes sometimes came off anyway), though I’d be in my uniform. We tried to keep the sensory experience of the house calmer, focused on interaction with the other people, not the environment, since that’s what they were there for.

Food was customizable with request, and I often felt out people on the general food options as little as a day in advance.  

I liked a more personalized feel.  There’s the great service of going to a famed five-star restaurant, and there’s the great service of going to the mom and pop cafe you frequent.  The five-star restaurant might have dishes with names in the romance languages, but the mom and pop cafe knows you want extra potatoes and no whipped cream on your drink.  I liked the latter style.

Yes, the brand name store-bought cookies look pretty in the package and have a health code stamp on them, but you don’t get to smell them while they’re in the oven, or see the cloud of flour dust as flour gets added to the bowl, or taste test any of the cookie dough.  Personally, I valued the way the kitchen got crowded as the cookie dough got closer to taste-test ready or as the oven timer got closer to zero, more than I valued a pretty package.  (People descended upon the cookies before they were nearly cooled enough to think about presentation, anyway.)

A main hosting priority for me was also to make everything as intuitive and easy as possible.  I labeled things.  I laid things out in advance.  I didn’t blast music so loud people couldn’t hear each other, or dim the lights so low they couldn’t see each other.  I tried to offer options on things that would work for everyone, and let people choose for themselves.  Fancy was cool, but I didn’t want it at the cost of confused guests who felt shoved into a box. 

If it wouldn’t disrupt the guest experience, I still liked keeping things nicer; even just using real, non-disposable silverware, plates, napkins, and bowls for the occasion easily gave it a more upscale feel.  (Hosting a lot, you have to start to think about your environmental impact anyway.)

Personally, I had a great guest experience at the house of my cousin and her husband recently, and I have had many great experiences with them and with the other hosts of my family, and many of those massive parties of kids at school were a blast, too.  People can definitely enjoy more than one kind of event.

It was interesting to think back on those experiences and how they formed my general hosting style and values—and thinking deeper into different types.