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.