slave chase’s Service Origin Story

I always knew that my life would involve caring for others. Growing up in a working class family, my business owner mother came home to her ‘second shift’ of housework and cooking every evening. As a little girl, I knew that I would take on that job with my family one day. I didn’t resent it, perhaps because I knew it was just a fact of life. 

I often imagined, though, caring for a luxurious estate with vaulted ceilings and dedicated entertaining space. Maybe I could be like Geoffrey Butler from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Skilled at everything domestic and quite witty to boot. It was only a dream, and children have many dreams about their future vocations. Just like my dreams of being an oil painter or a microbiologist, this one faded with time.

When I was 16 year old, I developed a chronic illness that at its worst left me bed bound for days at a time. My condition remained unexplained for years. I now understand it to be ME/CFS, commonly referred to as Chronic Fatigue. Any life plans I had as a teenager were swiftly dashed, as I realised that my symptoms would keep me dependent on other people for the rest of my life. My mom often had to bring me food to eat in bed. I occasionally needed help walking to the bathroom. I felt ashamed, confused, and disappointed. I felt that any autonomy I explored as a young teen was impossible now.

After a few years of very difficult symptoms, my Chronic Fatigue went into remission. I moved into a house with my older boyfriend. The living situation was a bit odd, as only four of us officially lived there, but our entire group of friends spent three to four days at a time there. I have memories of calling my mom to ask for a day of work at her business, then walking to the grocery store with the $45 I earned, and walking home with food for the entire group of hungry teens and young adults. 

While in retrospect, this situation sounds quite difficult, at the time I enjoyed what I could provide for other people. Instead of people cooking for me and bringing food to me while I suffered in bed, I cooked for them and cared for them when they were under the weather. By caring for people, I could actively contribute to their lives, rather than living as a passive victim of my symptoms. Serving others became a way to express my autonomy.

Nearly five years later, I received a message from a play partner of mine, Vanessa Davis. She planned to host a formal dinner party and asked me to serve. Memories of my Geoffry Butler fantasies came back to me. Excitement and anxiety both filled my throat. While the idea of serving a group of people thrilled me, I had never been in such a formal situation. I grew up eating dinner off of plastic plates in front of the TV! Ultimately though, I overcame my nerves and agreed.

The day of the event, I dressed in my white tuxedo shirt and grey vest. I finally had the opportunity to serve. Beyond that, the guests were all close friends who I knew would deeply appreciate my service, even if I made a mistake. Nonetheless, I had jitters all day leading up to the event.

Memories of the evening itself have become hazy because I believe I entered a deep submissive headspace. When I arrived, Vanessa asked me to press the cotton napkins. As I spritzed and smoothed the napkins to ivory perfection, I felt myself entering this meditative state. My memory now hops to the arrival of the first guest. Vanessa had a gift for her, a necklace. This strikingly beautiful guest, honored me by asking for assistance clasping the jewelry behind her neck. 

Now my memory flickers to moments during the meal, as I stood to the side watching everyone’s glasses, ready to top them off with wine. I felt a softness in my body, even standing for more than an hour at a time. The moment that I worried would be the most filled with other people’s expectations felt light and airy. I find it difficult to put into words, but a feeling of rightness filled me. I knew I stood in the right place. This role fit. I was home.

After the formalities ended and the servants were allowed to relax their behavior, a guest asked Vanessa how long I had been serving as a butler. When she answered that today was my first time, the guest looked genuinely shocked. As I was coming down from the altered state, my ankles pounded, yet the comments from that guest and others filled me with a warmth, a pride in my heart. A true pride that longs to do more and go further. That night soon came to an end, but my lifelong love of butling had just been born.

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