Note, this is part two of a five part entry, posted in five daily parts. It's strongly suggested you start with the first, here, and read from there. Further parts of the entries may be further edited based on comments, and are also still being copy-edited, but if you would like to read it all-at-once, it's available here. Note that single-spaced, it comes out to nine pages in OpenOffice, so the daily breaks are for both digestibility as well as readability. On the same note, I think I may get more useful comments and feedback with multiple parts. This notice will appear on each entry.
The doors I've closed.
In yesterday's entry, I covered the diverse group of people who have given me their time and attention, and who have chosen to do me the honor of calling me "sir". Sometimes, I decide I want to commit to people even greater, and want that relationship to be symbolic. I guess that brings me to what "submission" and collars in general mean to me, and what a dominant and a submissive are.
When I first met the monkey, I mentioned that I had given collars to a lot of people I knew, and the monkey was rather taken aback at this. I tried earnestly to explain that it didn't mean the same things to me that it meant to her, and she asked me not to buy any more gear for anyone unless I discussed it with her. With the exception of a few books for someone, I haven't. Strictly speaking, I don't count books as gear, but I'm being fully-disclosive here. Radical honesty and all that.
Friends, and implied hierarchy
The monkey often feels I tend way too often to see things as black and white: you are either sick or well, sane or crazy, useful or not. I recently stated in a conversation with the monkey that I tend to see all people as either Dominants, Submissives, or Peers. While the monkey took some offense at that at the time, I feel I can turn that around a bit now and put it in a rational sense.
In everyone's life, there are people who have control over you, and there are people you do not. There may also be people you have control over.
For example, a cop pulling you over: face it, he has control over you as long as you're there. I'm not interested in debating this: anyone wise will just give him the respect he needs, and get him out of your life. Your boss at work, sure, there may be job negotiations, but either you answer to them, or you quit, get fired, transfer or are promoted. You may have a friendly relationship with him, but he can still pull rank. In the company org-chart he's either above, below, or parallel to you.
Your friends are peers, usually. You may have friends that you always answer to, that you will always do what they say; and you may have friends who are the same way for you, who will always do whatever it is you do, who are people pleasers. If you call that a "perfect peer", you may need to think over it a second time, but there are likely people for which there's an even exchange, you give them advice, they give you advice. You take turns picking up the lunch tab. You offer mutual input to common problems and discuss things logically. Neither of you is a natural leader over the other, neither of you depends heavily on the other, and the relationship of X to Y, is the same as Y to X.
The line of friendship is a blurry one. You may find that you may have friends who you are both stronger and weaker than, in various subjects, but in almost all societies, a pecking order and a sense of hierarchy tends to emerge. The same is true for those above you; let's say you have an eight-years-older brother or the like. You listen to what he has to say, you give him at least some degree of respect, and he may in fact have pounded you a few times when you're kids. Later in life, he's the godfather of your kids and giving the speech at your weddings, the one who tells you what to expect because he's been there before. While he's not your boss, he's above you in some senses, and you both accept it.
In the third category, not everyone has underlings. Not everyone is capable of handling it. If you're a parent, your children answer to you, at least in theory. If, as above, you have younger siblings that you take care of, you have this. If you babysit, if you're a team captain or a scout leader or a club president, you lead, and to whatever degree, no matter how democratic the process, they follow. Note carefully that there's nothing wrong with being a "sub". Some of the strongest, and most capable, wonderful people I know are subs. When I was 21, I had a friend aged 15 who was my shadow: we went everywhere together, just hung out, I picked her up to run errands with me, we watched anime, I invariably fed her, and it was known by parents and friends that if she was with me, she was safe. There was nothing sexual, nothing romantic. She was just someone who was always at my side. There was also no power struggle, either: the roles made sense. We've drifted, but she's still in my life, in an outsider-sort-of sense. She's become a peer in almost every sense of the word. She's graduated. I've told her, on many occasions, how proud I am of what she's done for herself and what she's made.
I simply have started to see all relationships like this. You're a peer, you're above me, a peer or below me. Most of you are peers. Two other possibilities: I don't know you well enough or I just don't want to know you. (as an aside: if you want to know which you are: ask me and I'll tell you, it's not supposed to be a secret). You can have different roles where these apply (i.e. with coworkers who are also friends), but in a singular context, I feel I'm better off knowing the score. In determining this, I tend to rate people on a few qualities:
- General Intelligence. Are you conversible, alert, well-spoken? Are the lights on and are people home?
- Specific Intelligence. If you have knowledge of a subject, and I see that your knowledge of it is well-rounded and extensive.
- Abilities. Can you do something I cannot? Something that shows either inate talent or years of effort? Something that shows a passion in learning?
- Appearance. I tend to ignore weight, and I tend to ignore style of dress. I don't believe clothes make the person -- just look at Paris Hilton or Rod Blagojevich. I do look at cleanliness, grooming, and scent.
- Strength of character and self-esteem. Is it there, or is it not? Are you taking care of yourself?
- Outright demeanor: Are they a good, caring, compassionate, loyal person?
(As a humorous aside: I just looked over the above list and realized it conformed with another standard rating system. This wasn't intentional, but for those who understand the following [WIS, INT, STR/DEX, CHA, CON, ALI], it kind of makes sense.)
My father, rampant alcoholic that he is, claims he has two overall categories for determining if a person is worthwhile. "Would I buy this guy a drink?" and, more importantly, he says: "Would this guy buy me a drink".
The reality is that we ALL size people up using our own criteria, even if we don't want to admit we're doing it. I'm just trying to be forthright in my hows and whys, trying to hard-categorize.
More than Friends
I have known a number of people, who I see having trouble in a number of ways, or who are going through (or who are about to go through) a particularly difficult time in their lives. Very often, I will take a friend aside and ask, in earnest, if they want my advice and help in a situation. It requires an emotional investment on my end, but it also means that I can change someone's world for the better. I'm sure some of you know people like this, people who consistently show inability to self-manage. People who stir drama in situations, people who have a number of conflicts with people, many of them self-started. Sometimes they're a genuinely good person, but odds are against them: they're out of shape financially, terribly in debt with no hope of recovery, or in at least a few cases, too young to be able to manage their own life. If I see enough redeeming quality above, enough potential to care and be a good person, and If I care enough about a person, then I make myself available, and move to work with them. I move to be a person who is above the bullshit, and who won't get trapped in the situation of "all my friends are turning against me."
Yes, I have a hero complex. I fully admit it. And yes, to my BDSM-addled brain, stating "I'll be there for you" means giving a person a collar, and explaining to them and everyone else that it's not about sex, or kink, or fucking; and explaining to everyone else that it doesn't make any of the other people I care about any less special. it's about being the person to both take care of, and be in charge of another when necessary. Like a pet, the person you open the door for on a cold night. The "family" you met in the list above? These are the people I would do this for. These are the people I would choose to walk beside me.
Recent Edit. One reader of this chapter told me it sounds like codependence. I bring up my relationship with the monkey here. My definition of "codependence" is "two people who cross-enable each other's unhealthy behaviors". To take a chapter from the animal and plant world, the monkey and I are "symbiotic". Or we are "interdependent". We both get wonderful discussions, great sex with things we both enjoy, affection, mental stimulation from each other. She gets health insurance, a roof over her head, all the soy-based food product he can eat. I get meals made for me, laundry done, the house kept, and the comfort of knowing that she's growing as a person under my care, and helping me to do the same, helping me to become a better master.
Section four of this series will focus on that, and will focus on what I want to offer people who I give this level of attention and involvement to.
Why I'm need to be in charge to be closer.
In my work life, I feel it is a journey of discovery: I work in a place where I am good at what I do, but where the development of skills is a solitary path. I do what I do because I am good at it and because it enriches me. I choose the path that career takes. Ultimately, I am in charge of my own destiny there. There are other people to ask for help, and of course I report to people, but I am able, in this job, to be who I am at home.
I need to be able to see the monkey as under me, in every way. She may be more well read on some topics, and I in others. She may have a degree I do not. We talk like normal people, we debate and discuss things -- but the lines on the org chart are clear: she calls me sir consistently, and I call her Boy. I need to be able to apply this paradigm evenly to other parts in my life. If I learn to be a better speller to write work emails, I will apply the same to personal writing. If I try to be more well-spoken at work, I will continue to use the same voice when with friends. When defining a new behavior, applying the same logical arrangement unilaterally helps to strengthen the system in all cases. I need to be the dominant in situations involving these people I need to be in control, and able to solve problems.
No longer friends
In the above "job" situation, the "quit or be fired" is what I call a "radical relationship change". Not all relationships can take such a change. Some people break up and remain friends. Others break up and want nothing to do with each other. In some cases, there is an off-again-on-again, but I've found in that case, the relationship isn't changing at all: the status quo is just an oscillating state that has probably been there the whole time.
In several situations, especially in the past, I have had such a drastic change. With my family, with former roommates, with friends. Still with other people, I can think of several examples of people I've cared for as above, people who were always at my side, who I'm proud to see have grown into peers.
However, the opposite is also true: if I find that you and I conclict constantly, or if I see you unwilling or unable to accept help (and I'll offer). If I continually feel then I can't trust a friend, then I need to make the opposite decision. As I explained to a recent commenter, if you are floating in the sea, and I have a boat, I will offer to pull you in, or I'll move on. I can't stand there and watch you drown, it detracts from the need to get everyone else where we're going.
Several times in the past, I have seen people one way, and because the terms I'm laying out here were not clear, they did not want to be seen that way. In an edit, the monkey asked: Couldn't the terms have been clear and they just didn't want to be seen in that way?, referring most likely to one specific person, (who has her own section, in the next entry). The answer is honestly, no. I will see you as I see you. I'm not going to lie to myself to convince myself that you're a strong and capable person when I honestly believe you haven't achieved that level: it does neither of us a service. If you don't like the way I treat you, because of how I see you, then you alone have the power to change that. It's not set in stone, and it's hard to change a first impression, but you have the power. The criteria above will determine that.
If I do not see you as a capable person, talking to me will not change that: your actions will. If I see you caught in abusive relationships, if I see you doing things that serve only yourself, if I see you dishonoring your friends, the way I see you is the least of your problems. If you do not like the way I treat you because of the place I've put you (which in most cases will still be fair and civil, but terse and maybe at arm's length), then I can tell you how to change it, if my opinion matters enough to you that you're willing to change. Choosing not to associate with me is always an option. I'll still give you a ride home when you need it and give you the time of day, just don't expect me to be interested in your life, or care because your abusive boyfriend knocked out another tooth, or willing to listen to your problems.
Even then, very often, this has meant simply letting go and ending communications: closing a person out, deleting them from friend lists, and realizing I'm better off not trying: realizing in some cases "we continue to not see eye to eye, we keep oscillating, we continue to hit misunderstandings and false accusations, and I need and deserve solidity, (and so do you!), please stop trying". In other cases, it's meant that I put effort into maintaining a relationship, and I felt the relationship was strained, or an interruption in the life of another. Or simply that I asked a person to try out BDSM, as I had always seen them as subordinate to me and simply wanted to formalize it, and they rejected it: I know that if I hadn't closed the door, that I would have gone on continuing to try to see them that way, which in turn would have made things worse. In still others, it has meant a person who had dominion over me was not worthy of my respect. In a select few cases, it's because I felt I had hurt the person, and didn't want to risk further damage or was "resigning in shame" as you see happen so often in the government. In some cases, it's because the other person did the same and decided they didn't want to maintain a friendship with me, which I feel it would be hypocritical not to respect.
At some point, I may make these all into a list of "failure modes", and then cross-reference it over the doors I've closed. This is not the place for that.
In most cases, I've felt content to leave that door closed, even when people have come back to me months later. There was a significant enough amount of emotional spendage involved in the decision to close the door, as well as the events leading up to it. The asking to reopen causes more, and actual reopening would cause far more, and the potential of a repeat. Most of the time, I don't even answer anymore.
I should mention of course that it terrifies the monkey whenever I end a friendship. The monkey asks me, whenever this happens, what will happen when I no longer decide a relationship with him is worthwhile. I see this as a highly unlikely occurrence: the monkey and I try very hard, despite all the difficulties to be honest and open with each other. When I'm disappointed, it's clear. When I'm proud, it's clear. And when improvements need to be made, it's stated, and they're made. He has continued to grow as a person in the time I've known him, and while the possibility exists that at some point in the distant future he may decide the role we've forged for him together is no longer his chosen path (or I may decide the same for myself). All I can say is that if it comes to that, we'll handle it together with love, as we have all things up to this point.
That's all I have here. In the next entry, I hope to speak of one particular door I've closed in the past. While I normally tend to make my reasons and logic clear to the monkey, we've disagreed on some of them. The monkey is not going to change my perception of the situation, nor change my mind, but I'd rather present my own viewpoints and let people try to understand what I feel. My desire is not to convince anyone, merely to lay my cards on the table and be radically honest (which I'll touch on in part five).