In my twenties, I had this postcard of Bettie Page on my wall, a picture of the World‘s favourite pinup in service mode, eyeing the camera coquettishly, incongruously, awaiting her orders in a monochrome outfit and coyly raising her skirts. Rewind a few years further still, writing my first awful erotic stories as a frustrated fourteen year old, the longest of these was a rambling tale of maids and masters engaging in highly illicit activities – Evidently fuelled by The Forsyte Saga, Gosford Park, that flirty feather duster in Beauty and the Beast and half-formed ideas of what sex was supposed to be.
Sexy maids were always on my periphery I suppose.
I didn’t want to be one, though.
Service is my love language. I realised this around a year ago, when in the midst of a conversation, I remarked that maybe I have a bit of service sub in me, only to be greeted with an incredulous Just a bit? from a friend who’d recently stayed at mine, and who I’d hounded with cups of tea, extra pillows and organic nut butters.
I fought against it for a short while, but accepted defeat pretty swiftly, because it was true. How much pleasure did I gain from waiting at my front door with a cold pint of beer in my hand, waiting for him? From learning to fry an egg for his Sunday breakfast? From asking how she takes her tea, and sneaking the fancy herbal sachets from the office for her? Providing comfort, ease, sustenance. The pleasure I gain from these acts is perhaps greater than the recipient’s own.
Unable to see the wood for the trees, I’d always read it the other way around; that this was heavy-handed mothering of my friends and lovers. I’m a feeder in the office, never without spare biscuits, crisps or in the current climate, bottles of hand sanitiser. “I saw this and thought of you” or “I found this, do you need it?” are rarely far from my lips or fingertips. And the cooking! I love cooking for other people. Cooking for myself is often tiresome and tiring, and when my depression clouds everything, it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside, as I subsist on turkey dinosaurs and hash browns that never get crispy enough. I would ever feed someone I loved turkey dinosaurs, unless that’s what they wanted. I know it is my duty to make sure you are nourished, and it’s much easier to care for a loved one than it is to care for yourself.
I am thinking of you, always. I want to give myself up for you, my friend, my love, my fellow human soul.
Perhaps I am saying that the membrane between service submission and the softer forms of domination is a thin one; a porous one. Dominance isn’t something that comes easily to me, nor do I wish it to, but I recognise that provision is key to both. Or it is to mine, at least. How can I look after you? How can I make you proud of me?
Thoughts of service brought to mind someone from my pop cultural reference set who has dedicated their life selflessly to others, and to the provision of comfort – Kryten, from Red Dwarf.
KRYTEN: I serve, therefore I am. That is my purpose — to serve and have no regard for myself.
Red Dwarf, Series 2, Episode 1 – Kryten
It pricked at me, the final words in particular – hilarious when describing a fussy droid, rather less so a fragile-ego’d woman. But when I serve, I don’t need self-regard.
In submission mode, away from work and the responsibilities of existence – bills, food and remembering not to kick strangers in the shins for sitting on you on the bus – the focus and rules of service are freeing. My purpose is to serve – however you need, and however I can.
Even if you’re a bit of a smeghead.