Archive for November 29, 2011

On Scissors and Hypocrisy

After a long work day, I picked up one of my teenagers from school and took her with me to the grocery store to grab odds and ends for dinner. We got home and began unpacking everything and came across a messy kitchen counter.  This is nothing new or exciting.  In fact, when you live in a house full of children you find that counter tops and bathroom floors simply spontaneously produce messes. Don’t believe me?  Just ask them who made the mess and they will all assure you no one did.

As I began to clean up the counter, I came across a pair of scissors. In my frustration with the miraculous messiness of the house and the general mayhem that surrounds coming home, I cursed the scissors and muttered, “If I could just put you in the dishwasher you wouldn’t be such a pain in my ass.” My Master has a rule that scissors are not to be washed in the dishwasher.  Not sure why, but somehow he has determined they are only to be hand-washed.  Thus the offending scissors would require a special trip to the sink and several seconds of my attention, which at that moment was a bit taxed. My daughter heard my grumblings and piped in with, “Well, you know if you broke his rules on things sometimes, we would have a shot at breaking rules about scissors!”  She smirked at me and went on about putting away groceries.

Her comment surprised me so much that it pulled me out of my dinner making grind. I simply paused and thought about all that statement meant. We do not express our relationship choice to the kids.  We don’t call ourselves “Master and slave” to them.  They are kids after all and Master feels that this is a private matter.

It should not have surprised me now that I am reflecting on it. Just because we don’t label it for them does not mean that they are not aware of the nature of our relationship.  It is tough to imagine living 24/7 and having the people who live in your home not notice there are differences in how you act.  I live always in submission to him and so they see me following rules and deferring to his wisdom.  They may not know what we call it, but there is no doubt in their minds what the power structure of our home is.

As I had this moment of insight and awareness of their awareness it occurred to me that I was nearly giddy inside. I realized that without intending to ‘be’ a slave in front of them, with no airs or performance, I still was known by them for what I am. It makes me joyful to know that I am true to his ownership of me always.  Hypocrisy is always the enemy and this reassurance of my sense of self made me feel whole.

The Dog, The Duck, and The Handler: Insights on Mastery

When I was about 13 my Boy Scout Troop volunteered to help with a field trial for dogs. For those not familiar with a field trial, it is a competition for hunting dogs. A couple of my troop mates wound up with what seemed a rather fun job. They sat behind a large dirt pile, grabbed quail from their cages, tucked their heads under their wing, and threw them out over the water. As the discombobulated birds began to fly, they were suddenly felled by a shotgun blast and plummeted into a pond below so that the dogs could retrieve them. I’m fairly certain that there was nothing safe about being the bird thrower in such circumstances, but to a younger me it certainly seemed like a fine way to spend an afternoon.

The job I was assigned was far less glamorous. Rather than spend my day idling by the pond in the line of fire, I wound up working on the field side of the competition. Basically I was a gofer for the dead birds which the dogs were unleashed to retrieve. I spent the whole day riding shotgun in a beater pickup truck with a somewhat humorless man. We drove back and forth all afternoon. On one end of the circuit, he would stop the truck and I would get out to retrieve a dead duck from the pickup’s bed and place it in the field. At the other end of the end of the journey, I would get out to pick up the dead ducks that the dogs had retrieved. Carrying dead birds is a rather disgusting task. That the dead birds were mangled and covered in dog slobber only added to the day’s misery.

One thing that stands out in my mind about that day is that we were promised lunch. By the time it was lunchtime I was good and hungry. What I did not count on was lack of hand washing facilities. I don’t know what I expected to get for lunch, but I was disappointed my rations consisted of a dry bologna sandwich and potato chips. It is hard to imagine anything sounding less appetizing than eating finger foods with my dead bird and dog slobber covered hands.

The whole day wasn’t entirely wasted as I managed to learn a few useful things that I have carried with me for the rest of my life like the meaning of the term “trucker’s tan.” Since I was riding in the passenger seat, my wicked trucker’s tan was backwards, but for a week or so afterward it served as a reminder that I never again would be suckered into a field trial.

I cannot say that I learned much about field trials other than that they seem like a miserable way to spend one’s day. I do remember that there was one particular dog handler who trained probably a quarter of the dogs in the competition. I mostly remember him because none of his dogs seemed particularly adept at retrieving. After releasing the dog from its lead, he would blow his whistle and point in the direction of the target. Frequently the dogs would run a few yards forward at the sound of the whistle before turning around and looking at the hapless trainer with a confused lost expression.

Another thing that I noticed was that sometimes the various trainers would point one way even though the target was located in a completely different area of the field. Not knowing anything about how one would score a field trial, I don’t know whether the dog that follows the misguided instructions of his handler is better or worse than the dog that ignores the handler and retrieves the dead duck in short order. I think that the obedient dog is certainly the better one.

There are a lot of reasons that one might send the dog on a path that isn’t direct. Perhaps the straight line is hard for a dog to navigate or has other obstacles, or perhaps the straight path puts the dog out of the handler’s line of sight. Sometimes the handler simply does not know where the fallen bird is. In any case it is not for the dog to decide which direction he should go; the dog should simply follow.

Telling this story to my slave, she remarked that she was not surprised that I would think the obedient dog the superior one because it is also how I expect my slave to behave. I hadn’t really made that connection, but her simple observation was correct. I expect my slave to follow my direction and not decide which way to go. Much like the dog sent on a circuitous route, sometimes the directions I give her may seem to have no reason to them. Sometimes, I am leading her down a path towards a destination that is not apparent. On other occasions, it is the journey itself that pleases me. Sometimes, I simply want to take enjoyment in watching her follow my directions obediently. In my frailties, sometimes I may not know the right way to the destination. But in any case, it is not for her to decide that. Her path is to follow.

May I?

Often someone will ask “Can I…?” and get the obvious correction of, “You can, but you may not” in reply. Few enjoy this.  Children are maddened by it.  Adults are even more annoyed. Grammatical dogma it would seem is an unpopular stand to take. As my father used to say, “No one likes a smart-ass.”  When my Master says, “smart-ass” to me I quip, “You want to be with a dumbass?” Words are fun but can grate the nerves at times; correcting a ‘can’ to a ‘may’ may indeed seem smart-ass.

Each night as Master and I end our day, I ask his permission to get into his bed.  I often say, “Can I get into your bed?”  Then I generally correct myself to “I mean, may I get into your bed, Sir?”  I honestly can’t remember a time when he corrected me.  I doubt he ever said the classic, “Can but may not” retort. Generally I try to use good grammar, but in the evening as I hustle to his bed, these days rushing to get my naked body under the warm covers, I forget myself and use ‘can’ where ‘may’ ought to be.

My Master is very well spoken the ‘can’ versus ‘may’ swap is among the many and sundry common errors he finds annoying. Send him an email that uses “your” when “you’re” is what is meant and be assured he is likely to decide that if whatever you are writing about isn’t important to you, it certainly is not important to him. I love this about him.  I love his quick intellect, attention to detail, and unwillingness to accept behaviors that he views as wrong simply because they are commonly practiced.

Despite this preference for speaking correctly, he does not correct me as I ask to enter his bed. His expectation is that I will always do my best. He has related his expectation for proper grammar often enough. He leads by his example of being well spoken. The act of correcting me, when he trusts that I will correct myself, it seems to me is unappealing to him.

At night when I mistakenly ask “can I” it trips a little light bulb in my head.  I hear the words come from my mouth and recognize that he has said many times that this is not proper usage. I correct myself and restate the question with ‘may.’ There is a humility that this correction creates in my mind. Not shame, fear, or embarrassment, but a humbling sense of submission.

In that moment I feel aware of him, his ownership of me, and his expectations for me. For me, saying the words “May I get into your bed” is centering. I remember that the question is not simply a habit or empty ritual.  I remember that I am his, he has the power to refuse, and he has control and authority over everything that I am and will be. The act of asking, and correcting myself to ask properly if necessary, is one of the daily actions that bring me into focus. I am just as much in service to him before I ask that question as I am after, but there is an attentiveness that is renewed as I approach him with humble thoughts.

Often people ask how a 24/7 M/s relationship can stay vibrant. People wonder if the daily grind of life will water down the dynamic. I have heard talks on the absolute need to have multiple complex rituals each day so that you don’t “slip into vanilla.” I cannot see the future; no one can. But I do know this, no one ‘slips’ into vanilla like a clown slipping on a banana peel. If you count on rituals to bulwark against vanilla invaders, you will be distressed by the results. The bastion is in Master. What shelters me from the storm of slipping away into egalitarian misery is his quick intellect, attention to detail, and unwillingness to accept behavior he sees as wrong. His grammar is as all else, there is a standard and there are no poetic licenses issued in his domain.

11-11-11

This afternoon I got sucked in to the TV in the break room showing The View. They had Glynis McCants as a guest on the show. She is a self proclaimed expert in numerology and recent author of a book, “Love by the Numbers.” She was lauding the import of tomorrow’s date, 11/11/11.  Apparently, according to her 11 is a very powerful number which indicates opportunity to enter a new direction in life. She noted that the ‘11’ “looks like a door.” This made me wonder if in Roman numeral numerology the “XI” was taken to be a barn door or some such.

I must admit I am not a numerology follower, but it did sort of peak my interest in the notion of numbers.  The lady on the show explained how to sort out what ‘number’ you are.  According to her, my Master and I both are life path 1 sorts.  This is supposed to make us both natural leaders. This seems sort of a pain in the ass as it relates to our Master and slave lifestyle.  After all, if we are both trying to lead this could be an issue. The good news here is that the descriptions I found of a One Type are like fortune cookies in that you can read into them pretty much anything you want. This allows that as a One I can still follow but will tend to be a leader to some.

Well, life path aside tomorrow is a big day. Apparently according to the Spirit Voyage blog, it is the COSMIC PORTAL TRANSIT DATE. Wow, that does sound pretty much like a big deal. The date aligns the universe somehow to allow us each a chance to change our destiny, our direction in life, or make leaps in personal growth. Fancy.

To me, this is really no different than any other day. Each day we are given we can choose how to spend it. Every day is filled with choices, opportunities, free will, and growth. Instead of hoping the numbers on a calendar will alter my life course, I have decided to live each day to the fullest. Sliding into my Master’s bed at night I hope I am always exhausted and pleased with how I spent my day. My mom used to say, “Fair trade.” I tried to find her reference source but had no luck.  I know she had a plaque on her wall in her kitchen that had a poem about hoping each day was a fair trade. The idea was that we only have a limited number of days to spend, we exchange that limited resource for whatever it is we do during that particular 24 hours, and the goal is to make sure each day was a fair trade. I summarize that as when the time comes that I lay dying, would I trade one more day for whatever I just spent today doing?

Just some food for thought as you embark on your own 11/11/11. Make it, and every other day, a fair trade.

Moving Past the M/s Superiority Complex

The belief that M/s relationships are superior to all other forms of relationships seems quite common in the M/s community.  This “M/s Superiority Complex” puzzles to me.  While I wholeheartedly believe that an M/s relationship is the best relationship style for me, it seems both arrogant and asinine to suggest that it is inherently better than every other relationship form.

There are a few reasons that folks in M/s dynamics proclaim their relationships better than others.  Many people in M/s relationships presume they have clearly defined their roles and expectations as Master and slave at the onset of their relationship. I say presume because there are undeniably a lot of self-identified M/s people who enter into M/s relationships simply because they think being Master and slave sounds sexy.  While there is much discussion in the M/s community about the proper way to begin an M/s relationship, how to find an appropriate partner for such a relationship, the importance of authenticity, etc., the fact remains that many people start M/s relationships without the faintest notions of these concepts. While it is not for me (or anyone) to judge the validity of someone else’s M/s relationship, it is doubtless that many enter into such relationships with various unrealistic expectations for themselves and their partner(s).

Even if we assume that everyone entering an M/s relationship does so in the “proper” manner, to assume that this makes M/s relationships superior to others requires us to tacitly imply that people entering into other dynamics do so without any forethought about their roles and expectations.  While it is doubtlessly true that many people fall into all manner of relationships without much forethought about their expectations, to suggest that all other relationships begin without clear expectations is folly.

Another common claim about the superiority of M/s relationships is that the participants in M/s relationships are more deeply committed to each other than are people in other relationships. If true, we can reasonably assume that M/s relationships would be more enduring than other relationship types. While evidence to support or reject this idea is not readily available, the available anecdotal evidence seems to contradict this notion.  Having known dozens of people in various permutations of M/s relationships, I can count on one hand the number of them that have been together for five years.  Reaching a ten year anniversary as an M/s couple (threesome, family, etc) is as monumental an accomplishment as a golden anniversary in the vanilla world.

More interesting to me than how people in M/s relationships perceive them to be superior to other relationships is the question of why they would proclaim it so. I think that folks in M/s relationships often feel that they have to justify their relationship to both the larger vanilla world and the fetish and BDSM communities which often view M/s relationships with skepticism or hostility. All people everywhere defend that which is most precious and personal to them, and little seems more personal or valuable than one’s intimate relationships. Keeping that in mind, it is hardly surprising that those in any relationship would view it as the highest form of relationship.

Does the M/s Superiority Complex benefit anyone? In my view, it does not. Our relationships are virtuous and meaningful on their own merit.  Denigrating the value of other people’s relationships does nothing to increase the value of our relationships and serves to marginalize us from both the BDSM and vanilla worlds we exist in. Cut it out already.

Todd

Opposite Action

On an average day, during an average time, I am often pretty average. I don’t live at the level of excellence at all times. I am faced with a task that my Master has set before me. I am supposed to keep laundry done. That includes sorting in a particular way, washing, drying, folding or hanging, and putting away. It seems like such a big task.  It grows in my mind. The laundry seems like a living breathing beast that is trying to smother me. I don’t feel much like doing laundry. I don’t feel like much of a slave. I just feel average.

Inside my little head, I consider the possibilities. I think about avoiding the task, simply not doing it.  I imagine Daddy asking me about the laundry.  He might not ask. He often simply assumes I haven’t gotten to it because I had something else to do that was higher priority.  If he does ask about it, I could avoid the question with a cute little girl smile and a kiss. He is usually distracted by that. I could get away with not doing the laundry.  I imagine myself leaving the laundry and doing something more appealing like watching a tv show. I think about how nice it would feel to sit down and relax. Then I think about Daddy again. I think about how he trusts me and how he respects me.  I remember times he has praised me. I think about how it feels when he smiles at me and looks full of pride in his slave. I remember the tension in him when his home is not in order.  I remember the times he has explained his desires for how things ought to be. I sigh. I decide it is opposite action time.

In counseling, opposite action is a great little short intervention used to help clients change behavior. It seems fairly simple but can be a challenge to do.  Basically, a person commits to actually following through with a behavior that is the opposite of what they typically would do. For example, if someone is depressed and sleeping all day, you challenge them to commit to setting an alarm for ten in the morning each day for three days. When that alarm goes off, they commit to getting out of bed no matter how their mind and body try to convince them not to. Then you ask them to discuss how that felt, what the consequences of their opposite action were, and then discuss moving ahead with a bigger commitment.

So, I decide to start the laundry despite what my mind and body want to do. Inertia moves me through the process.  I end up finishing the laundry before I even realize it. Daddy walks in and has that smile I love to see. He says, “You are such a good girl.”

In that task, I was excellent.  In my thoughts, I was not. Most of the time, I don’t fantasize about being disobedient. Most of the time, I truck along and follow the routines that are expected from me. But like every other person, I am not perfect.  No matter how much I wish it were not so, there is always a flaw, failure, or weakness that is not yet evicted from me.

The excellence isn’t in me, it is in him. The things he placed into me prior to that moment of behavioral choice are what led me to choose to obey. His praise, his displeasure, his rules, and his consistency have grown in me a pattern of serving him well.

All Hallows’ Eve

As we come to the annual celebration of all that is creepy, our family begins to gather random costumes, a pumpkin seems a reasonable expense, and candy for little strangers is par for the course.  The kids are all excited to spend some time pretending to be something they are not.  The idea of wanting to play at being someone we aren’t got me thinking about living as Master and slave at all times. I have heard and read so many discussions about how impossible 24/7 M/s is.  After all, this is America and we are supposed to be a nation of independent souls. How could 24/7 M/s be anything but a dress up game?

I recently attended a conference where Dossie Easton spoke about some concepts from her book “The Ethical Slut.” Easton commented several times about her belief that the Master and slave relationship lasts only as long as a negotiated scene. I went to see her speak because I had recently finished reading her “The New Bottoming Book,” in which she writes about not allowing oneself to believe that M/s or D/s can be a constant way of living.  I thought perhaps I had misunderstood what she wrote, but her talk seemed to support that her feeling is power exchange is only for specific limited period of time. I enjoyed her talk and found what she shared to be though provoking and interesting. She is a vibrant and wonderful woman and I respect her a great deal even as I disagree with her on this point.

She is not alone in her belief that 24/7 is an unworkable and impossible way to try to live. When my Master and I first began our relationship, he explained to me that what he really wanted was an egalitarian style in our ‘vanilla’ lives and an M/s dynamic in the bedroom. I remember thinking that he would quickly change his mind, and as it turned out I was right. Within the first few weeks, he was explaining all sorts of non-bedroom related expectations he had for me and I pointed out the conflict with his original ‘egalitarian’ theory. He recanted and admitted, “I really want you to do what I say all the time, it just seemed weird to say it so directly.”

Over the years we have talked a great length about his initial statements. He has explained that he just couldn’t wrap his head around what 24/7 would really look like, how it would work in the day to day, and how it would remain consensual. All his life he had been raised to believe that people should all be treated equally and that seemed contrary to the permanent power exchange that 24/7 M/s would entail.

For our family, 24/7 isn’t about playing or pretending. It really is how we define our roles all the time. In the bedroom, sure that is pretty straight forward. Out of the bedroom, things are a bit more challenging. I don’t mean to suggest we have it all figured out or do it ‘the right way’ but we do it the best we know how at all times.

For example, I had a terrible job at one point in our relationship. I hated it, there was injustice and incompetence.  It was a bad deal all around.  I asked Daddy if I could speak out, rail against it all, and make a stand. He said no. Not an unclear iffy no, but all the way no.  He explained that he understood what I was up against but that in the end it would serve me and our family best to simply resign and move on. It was most frustrating. There was a part of me that wanted to rail against him. Stomp my feet and say I was a grown woman with a career and I would do what I thought best, but it isn’t like that for us. I whined a bit, tried to persuade, and when the no was unchanged, I followed his will. As always, it turned out he was right.  With some time, I was able to see that my Daddy’s way of handling it was really best for all involved.  I found a great job I love and continued to have my professional dependability intact. Daddy knows best. In those times where I most want to rebel, I find that when I look back his clarity and wisdom truly are why I entrusted my whole life to him.

I could list several other times when I really, really for real real thought Daddy was wrong and I wanted to go against his will. Each tale would come to the same end, I followed what he said to do and he turned out to have wisdom I could not see at the time. In dealing with our children, with my career, with my schooling, with the household…on and on he is the leader because he actually is the best person in the family to follow. Living that anything less than 24/7 would be a waste of time.  Daddy would have to pick up broken pieces over and over again and waste energy tending to my self-inflicted wounds.

I understand why people don’t see 24/7 as viable.  My father taught me the old “if your friend jumped off a bridge, would you jump too” lesson. I know that it would be impossible to follow most people.  It would be reckless and unhealthy to follow without thought the will of another person unless you knew beyond a doubt that that person would always have your best interests at heart and had the wisdom to make the best choices for you.

So, back to Halloween. My costume this year was easy.  Master bought me a gaudy set of costume pearl necklace and earrings and I wore a dress I already had in the closet. Turns out a fifties style wife was not much of a stretch for me. Being a slave to my husband and Master 24/7 is perhaps not really all that different from the way people lived their relationships just a few decades ago. In the end, there is no one I want to pretend to be not even for one day.