When I was first inducting myself into the kink world, collars were one of the most seductive tropes: how special would it feel to be chosen and then wear a constant symbol, a reminder of ownership and commitment. My first and only collar was not a gift, and not something I wore regularly. It was for play and I wore it in secret. I bought it myself as a sort of test of the concept of collars. He liked it on me, but wasn’t fussed by it, neither of us saw it as a symbol of our relationship, more as an object that could illicit certain feelings and behaviours, truly just something to make my eyes go soft and glassy, something to yank me around by, something to make me feel different and lesser than in the ways I craved but did not understand. That collar gave me license to explore, it made me feel more legitimate, and it gave me a certain confidence. In time, that relationship morphed away from that dynamic and the collar was all but forgotten; it lay fallow in a drawer for years.
My second experience with a collar was in another relationship but more peripheral, less concrete. It was decided I would have one. It was commissioned by a metallurgist, there were grand promises of its meaning and the importance of putting it on once and forever, and many other fantastical expressions of dominance and desire. It was beautiful, I saw many pictures, but before it could ever be around my neck or in my hands, he was gone, in a sudden and unceremonious exit that left me a bit shattered and without the words to express the way the pain of that loss disassembled my faith in myself, in D/s and in collars in general.
In another incarnation of my kink self, that same original collar of mine wrapped around the throat of a submissive man I loved desperately, deeply, who hung on my every word and worshipped me in a way that was new and terrifying. To my surprise, I wanted the moment of bestowing it upon him, I wanted to see him wear it, I wanted it to mean something. I wanted him to have the collaring experience I had never had, nor ever thought I would. I revelled in the way his eyes shone when he wore it. He lived in it, wearing it to work, at home, at all times. He was unapologetically submissive and wore his collar like a badge of honour. That torch he carried burned bright until it consumed itself and him, and he fell apart in my arms, too sad and scared to go on without being able to be my only partner. He wanted love and living together and a dog and babies and a million other things that I could not give. He had known this all along and swallowed those thoughts and soldiered on, I had asked and probed and double checked, but he had never confessed. When he left for good, he left the collar. The leather was still warm from his neck, it still smelled like him. I held it and I wept.
I can’t help but think that if the concept of collaring in D/s was less of an overly reductive trope, I may have been more able to navigate these situations, or perhaps made my own mind up a bit more about how I felt about collars and their ‘elite’ symbolism. I have long since let go of the romance of collars and when He and I first started down the path of our dynamic, we discussed collars and their symbolism at length. I still feel yearning twinges at the idea of them, but it was far from being an expectation or a sincere need. He didn’t feel attached to the idea and so we settled on not worrying about it, and we moved on.
I don’t know exactly when I put this necklace on, but I recall running the soft gold chain through my fingers absentmindedly, thinking of Him, missing Him, craving some comfort and closeness. It’s not a significant or special piece of jewellery. It is plain and simple and I don’t even remember where or when I got it, if I bought or if it was a gift. Impulsively, I fastened it around my neck and touched it in the mirror. My mind flickered to the conversations with Him about collars and I felt a flush of shame. Maybe I did want one? Maybe I did need one? No, that wasn’t it. What I needed was something concrete to turn my mind to when He feels very far away, when pictures and pixels aren’t cutting it. The flush of shame subsided and I showed it to Him later that afternoon on our video call. His smile was approving and He said He liked it. I didn’t wear it continuously at first – I didn’t want to seem as if I was hinting, but over a short bit of time, it became normal and comfortable to wear it. I’d catch the glint of it in the mirror, or find myself playing with it as we talked, I’d touch it and twist it in my fingers when I was unsure or anxious. All of this happened before I realized that I had not taken it off in a long time. I’d slept and showered in it, and the thought of taking it off was suddenly a bit stressful. When I shared with Him that I was wearing it like a collar and that it had begun to fill that place in me that I didn’t realize was empty, His response was everything I should have expected: He saw the value, understood the intention and encouraged the results.
I wear this ‘collar’ constantly now, not because I have to, not because I should, but because belonging with someone, to someone, is a complicated thing and sometimes, we need symbols that take the place of words. For me, for us, it’s nothing more than a length of chain but the way it soothes me in His stead is so much more. It’s not about the status of collaring, it’s not about the ceremony of being gifted with a collar. It’s about the reminder that I am His and He is mine, unquestionably. The miles may not shrink by telephone, but the heart endures. Our hearts, strung like beads on this delicate chain, endure.