When I think of names and titles, especially as relates to romantic or sexual relationships that encompass any form of power exchange, I often think of the word ‘dynamics’.
What are ‘dynamics’?
In any system, the forces exerted on the system – from within or without – that relate to motion or equilibrium, are referred to as dynamics. Any thing that *is* ‘dynamic’ is, as a result of those forces, always changing.
A dynamic language is a living language, because it is not static; it is constantly developing.
Dynamics in physics have to do with force. It is a mathematical study of the rules of motion.
In music, the term ‘dynamics’ refers to the changes in loudness. These changes are relative – to the instrument, to the size of the room in which it is being played, to that instrument’s position of importance to the piece; to the mood of the occasion, to the specificity of the composer; to the change in degree of loudness or intensity as compared to what sounded immediately before – and are often open to interpretation.
Dynamics in relationships are often reflective of all those things. The vocabulary used to describe the relationship changes over time. Nicknames (in general) and titles (whether arbitrary or honorific) are often part of that vocabulary change, and (perhaps especially) when they relate to power/force, there are rules attached.
And, as in music, there is a certain ‘loudness’ to titles.
Pianississimo [ppp]: Extremely Soft
Sometimes titles are barely there. They are whisper-soft statements in the quietest of spaces, audible only to those whose ears are attuned.
If I had to state a preference for the use of titles within my relationships, this would be it. It is the “Momma” uttered with quiet desperation in the silent confines of our private room and the “Ma’am” spoken publicly in softly deferential tones, the meaning of which is conveyed in a secret smile shared between us.
This concept is illustrated brilliantly in Lionel Richie’s Lady. The first word is his love’s title, and is also the title of the song. Lady, intoned with such respectful admiration, is an auditory bowed knee – the knight at the gentlewoman’s feet – and noticeable only to those who are paying *very* close attention.
You have made me what I am, Lionel sings, and I’m yours.
Mezzo Piano [mp]: Moderately Soft
These are the quiet notes, played _just_ loud enough to be noticeable. It is the things he says that can be heard by all but understood only by the discerning listener. It is the words (and actions) that do not seek attention but that do *call* attention to themselves by the very gentleness of their intent.
For the most part, I consider respectful internet interactions to fall into this category (i.e., when people refer to me as Lady Fever or Madame Fever or Ma’am in a way that is natural for them). But there are private interactions that apply as well. Pet names fall into this category for me (I call my husband ‘Smotch’, for example; it is a nickname but also a bit more), as do capitalized terms of endearment (as when my partner addresses me as ‘My Love’).
U2’s song Mysterious Ways illustrates this concept perfectly. Most people miss it, but at the end of the first verse Bono calls her Love, and he ends the song (Lift my days and light up my nights / Love) on the same note, brushing broad strokes of emotional color across the canvas of the entire composition.
If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel
(On your knees, boy!)
She’s the wave, she turns the tide
She sees the man inside the child
Fortissimo [ff]: Very Loud
I do not go in for deafening sounds, which to me are how enforced and repeated titles (think: Yes, Mistress -or- No, Mistress -or- Every time I address you in any way or express an opinion or utter a single word in your direction I add the word, Mistress) come across. It’s…
It’s bland. Predictable.
Sure, it can be fun – in a toddler-first-discovering-their-lung-capacity, yell-y kind of way – the first couple of times. Then…
Meh. Not so much.
Very Nine Inch Nails.
Look. I am not Mistress (except in very specific situations and then only rarely) or Goddess or Empress or Highness or Her Supremely Stupendous She-ness. Those titles are sfozando abruptions, overloud and grating to my ears.
Besides, I am none of those things. I’m just me. And ‘me’ has a name. I expect you to use it.
Likewise, if you are my partner, then you are my partner. You are not my “slave” or any derogatory ‘thing’. Again, I find that shouty. Too Head Like A Hole for my liking.
I do not need denotations of subservience. I just need you to be you. And I will call you by your given name – either the one you were born with or one I have devised – thankyouverymuch.
I will call you MINE.
But only when I’m ready, and only if “Mine” is what you show me you really and truly want to be.
A la Arctic Monkeys:
She’s a silver lining, lone ranger riding through an open space in my mind
When she’s not right there beside me, I go crazy
Cause here isn’t where I wanna be
And satisfaction feels like a distant memory
And I can’t help myself
All I wanna hear her say is “Are you Mine?“
If music be the food of love…
I’ve used songs and lyrics to illustrate my points today because I’ve found that much of what happens in relationships can be expressed through music.
There are dynamics and compositions, classic notations and common time. There is repetition and rhythm, themes and variations. For every staccato note that glances sharply in and out of our lives, there is – if we are lucky – a sustained note or arpeggiated chord that saturates the air in pleasing tones.
We vary in tempo and style, in period preference and favored movements. We play different instruments, or prefer different genres. What’s popular is not always to our taste, and what’s pleasing to our ears is not always universally acclaimed. (And some of us are just plain tone deaf.)
Sometimes we move in harmony. Other times there is dissonance and atonality and our trebles are staffed with accidentals. But always we strive for perfect pitch.
Thus it is with music, so it also goes with relationships.
The dynamics vary according to the players, as do the titles that signify them.
Do you use titles in your relationships?
Is there a song that expresses your relationship dynamics or your feeling(s) on the matter?