So here’s the thing. I’m a good looking guy who has something of a knack for being charming. I know a lot of stuff about a lot of things, and I can break down complex ideas into digestible chunks. I’m a good listener, and have so much empathy that I often have to shut myself away from people to avoid being overtaken by their emotions. I’m also a member of the polyamory community, and because of certain things, I feel (to a lot of women) like a safe person to be around. Protip: Avoid the sex jokes until she makes them, and then only make as many as she does, that’ll help you look less like a creeper. I’m actually kind of shy though, and I have social anxiety issues. So I don’t actually approach and talk to people very well. Once we talk for a couple of minutes, I’m fine, and I can be relatively charming and fun to be around. I have been labeled as “Best Guy” by the Guy Grading Board. This can cause some problems.
See, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but (some) women have a tendency to complain that the Best Guys are either gay or taken. And here is a best guy who is one of those, but… not really? That takes a lot of the pressure off, because while I’m taken, I’m also available and the women with me always seem to be pretty well adjusted which means one of the best ones. Flexible morals will get you around the corner, as we used to say in Shanghai. As a result, I get flirted with a bit more than the average bear. It’s my own fault, I am a terrible flirt and more than a little bit of a coquette. Coquetter? No, that’s a dress maker. Coquet? That sounds like some kind of little pastry. My French is really, REALLY bad. This is why, when I flirt with beautiful Belgian women, we do it in English. I will get flirted with by a great many women, that’s my point.
AND, there are problems…
Before we begin, we must define the chief term. What is a Unicorn? Put short, it’s a hot bi-babe who will join an established couple for sexy-fun times. The term is used derisively most the time because there are couples called Unicorn Hunters who are looking for a single bi/pan woman who will join them for sex, but not really be a full, paid-up member of the relationship. The joke being, those women are as rare as Unicorns. Unicorn Hunters usually aren’t interested in the Unicorn as a person, but rather as, for want of a better term, a living sex toy.
The problem is, of course, that there are women who actually are looking for an established couple for fun times. The only problem I have with the whole thing is that the derisiveness tends to spill onto the unicorns themselves, which makes them feel like there’s something wrong with looking for a couple for a multi-partner relationship. I don’t even have a problem with the hunters, so long as what they’re after is actually a relationship and not just a convenient three-way participant.
That’s hardly important to this conversation, but it’s important to understand the terms.
This is a talk about a journey, and an investigation into a character. As a writer of detective fiction, I always try to go over the ground and solve the case. In this case though, I’m the mystery and the solution is on the road. In order to move forward, we have to see where I’ve been. Enough of that intro crap! You want to know about the unicorns, so here we go…
I’ve been seeing a few articles on the internet about people in polyamory situations being closeted at work. There are various articles, why you should be open, why you should stay in the closet, but I haven’t seen one that hit the nail on the head for me. The thing is, I can put my issue down to one sentence. Fourteen words, one coma, two phrases.
I don’t tell people what I had for breakfast, much less my relationship style.
Everything else I’m going to say here is just an extension of that idea. I’m a fairly private person, and one who collects ten times as much information a he gives out. I can give you personal details about 87% of the people I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a lot of people. I have great listening skills, so people talk to me. I also have a habit of asking just the right questions, so I gather a lot of data. Except I also understand how much of that data is any one persons’ business and as a result I rarely divulge much of anything I’ve gathered. The point is I don’t hand things out very much. I almost never share details, and my past is a clouded land of smoke, fog, and details that don’t match up if you try to assemble all the pieces together into a cohesive narrative.
There is a reason for that of course. They don’t fit, because I regularly leave out key details, like I was dating two women for a decade. That all three of us lived together for eight years, and that I acted as a housewife for seven of those years. That would bring the story into focus for a lot of people, but I don’t much care if people have a focused view of me or not. I manage to be likable and friendly in the now, and that’s all that really matters. Whatever else I do or have done is kind of irrelevant to the current situation. I also don’t discuss my love of cooking, or the joy I get at looking at Bosch and Bruegel’s strange-ass paintings or even the number of samurai movies I own. It’s not important that I once had to sword fight my evil twin from the mirror dimension on top of a speeding train either, so I rarely discuss that at work. What it all boils down to though, is that I am not a person who shares details of his outside life. I am very much a “Leave it at the door” kind of person in every sense. Try to ignore the things that put you in a bad mood and just do the job when you clock in.
As I say, I’ve noticed that very few of these articles ever paint the portrait in this way. It’s always presented as “You MUST tell people about you’re lifestyle because…” or “I can NEVER tell anyone about my lifestyle because…” it’s rarely ever “I don’t tell people anything about my outside life.” Thing is, I kind of quietly believe this is probably the reason most poly people don’t share it at work. They wouldn’t share if they were mono people living a mono life of regular mono dinner followed by mono sex and then mono sleep followed by mono breakfast. If pressed, yeah, I’d like to see more openness. People shouldn’t feel that they NEED to keep everything they do a secret. I would like to see more openness, but you shouldn’t have to wear it on your sleeve if you’d prefer not to be the poster child for an entire lifestyle. And you shouldn’t have to wear anything on your sleeve if you’d rather keep your private life separate from your professional life.
So that’s what all of this boils down to, my professional life doesn’t need to know what I’m up to in private. I don’t tell the people I work with much of anything, and who I have a relationship with and how that interacts is just another part of that situation.
The only thing I want more than a nice wicker picnic basket, with wine glasses and plates and everything, is enough people to go on a picnic. I can assemble a picnic meal no problem. I mean a nice one, not crappy lunch meat on Wonder bread sandwiches but a meal you could be proud of.
I should get a 2 person* one for Syd and I… but still. Being a poly-person in the midst of a two person thing when you’re accustomed to a multi-person things can be difficult sometimes.
*This one is awesome!
“You should go Poly” and other things I am not allowed to say.
Before we begin, I should state that I am not Private Skippy, and I do not actually have a list of things I am not allowed to do. Besides, who would make such a list? Who could enforce it? Syd has been of the opinion for some time that if we need rules, then I am not the right person to spend her life with. I behave within the code of conduct at work as well, and even keep most aspects of my private life private. Not because I feel fear or shame, but because my private life is private and only on display for you, my friends, and even then not always. I am fully aware this blog is public, but no one actually cares. Reading, I have been reliably informed, is for squares.
Anyway, enough of that preamble bullshit, let’s talk.
You will no doubt, at this late spot in our relationship, be surprised to learn that I am polyamorous. That Syd and I have been this way for the duration of our relationship and that a third person was with us for more than ten years before we parted ways. I know, right? As shocking as it is scandalous. Okay, it might be news to some of you, some of you haven’t been around that long. Point is, it’s a thing.
A thing that has been sometimes more and sometimes less of a subject for conversation depending on my mood. I know you know about my moods, everyone knows about those. Only, it seems, some don’t. That’s not really important, it’s just a lead up and I need five sentences to make a paragraph. There, that should do it. One more for luck.
I can date people, get serious about them, love them, and still love Syd. I can also love people on many a different level. I can love my dear friend, who I have talked about in the past, but love her in that I Am in Friend-Love With You way. I am mostly friends with women, and a great many of them mean a great deal to me. Many of them are also attractive, mentally stimulating people that I enjoy talking to, sure, but I’m talking hindbrain attractive. I can deal with it, because I’m a damn grown man and not some stupid little boy who can’t handle the fact that not everyone is for him.
EXCEPT! Every once in a while I find myself wanting to turn to one of these friends and say “You should go poly and we should totally date.” Except you can’t really say that. To say that would be rude, or too forward, or just weird. Most the time, the friend in question has made some kind of comment. “I’m going to be with him for the rest of my life.” or “I don’t think I can be with someone who doesn’t/does (insert a thing that makes me ineligible).” Or even “I’m not poly.” These are from people who know me, respect my life choices, and some of whom say things like “I love you” to me. They don’t mean “I want to bang you.” but they do mean “You are important to me and I care a great deal about you.” As a result, I can’t say something like “You should go poly and we should totally date.” Because who wants to be seen as a creeper, right? And I do understand, it’s a creepy sounding statement, but it’s one that occurs to me from time to time. Lots of creepy things occur to me, as I assume they occur to most men, I just try not to express them.
Again, in an attempt not to be creepy, I can’t say something like “For fuck’s sake, you’re a hottie.” or some such statement. Someone was discussing with me how they get dressed up in what was a reveling/attractive outfit recently and how everyone just looked at her like she was from Mars or something. And there I am, listening to this story and wanting to say “Yeah…. OR! You’re an incredibly good looking woman, with a frankly fantastic body, and you were showing it off in an unmistakable way. Only people don’t want to be creepers/ know you’re deeply mono with someone /cat calls are kind of passé (pick one or all) so they were covering up as best they could besides it’s hard to actually get a good drool cup these days.” Only you can’t because she’s kind of self-conscious and sort of shy and I don’t want to come off as hitting on her and so on. And if you don’t know that many a person would rather be known as a person rather than a collection of looks and parts, then I don’t know what to do with you.
I’m not even sure it’s society that tells me I can’t say these things. Some segments of society would say “You should tell your friend you’re interested in taking it to another level and see what she says.” or “A girl likes to be told she’s pretty.” And that sometimes even sounds good, buuuuuuuuuuut…
It would be bad to tell someone who you’re pretty sure isn’t into your brand of luvin’ that you want them to join your program. If they haven’t asked some leading questions, or made some coded statements by now, then they probably aren’t interested. I speak seriously, when I speak of such things, and these people would know that if I said something like that I meant it. Even if I tried to play it off like a joke, they would know. These are undeniably smart women, or I wouldn’t be attracted to them in the first place. We can talk about all the poly theory you want, we can talk about anecdotes where that worked until the cows come home. There are other problems, and some of them are not surmountable without serious effort. Distance, time, money. Not having the privilege to suck face with them also means I don’t have the responsibility to be available for them whenever they need me.
I’m not sure I’ve got things enough together to take on someone right now anyway. I am only to step three of a ten step plan. Took me three years to get to step three, I’m playing a long game. Maybe, if someone came along and said “Hey, let’s hang out.” I might be willing to give it a try, but I don’t know right now. My personal stress-tests so far have said no, but I could be wrong. Besides, I’ve never really been an aggressive pursuer of the ladies anyway.
So anyway, of all the things I’m allowed to say, “You should go poly and we should totally date” doesn’t appear to be one of them just now.
This space, that space, they keep looking at me.
And I keep not writing anything.
I want to.
I have thoughts,
Things I want to say.
The longer I go without writing things down,
The harder it is to put things down.
And then it takes longer to put things down
And then it gets harder.
And the cycle continues.
Ands nothing gets out and nothing gets put down and one day we’ll talk about why there are never any people in my photographs…
I have clearly grown older.
Okay, so the other day I was looking around and came across a poly blog that just made me wince. A young woman who talked about her triad, which should be nothing to wince over. It was the presentation though, that got to me. I will paraphrase, but believe me when I say this was very much the tone. “I live with my boyfriend… and his other girlfriend. Yeah, we’re a poly-triad. That’s a thing! Can you handle that? Yeah, my boyfriend has another chick and I don’t even want to claw her eyes out. Did I just blow your mind?” And I sort of sat there, wishing I smoked.
See, if I smoked, I could pause, take a cigarette out of the pack and shake my head before lighting it. That is really the only acceptable response to that sort of thing. You can’t yell at them, because they’ve clearly not been doing this very long and it’s all new. They’re still in that defensive stage where the need to justify is a big deal. People are telling them all the time how wrong they are, how they’re breaking all the rules and need to grow up, and this is kind of the thing you come up with when you feel the need to defend your life from all sides. So I get it, so all I did was shake my head before lighting my non-existent cigarette. The only really cogent thought I had was “Oh Fancy, I hope I didn’t sound that douchey when I was at that stage.”And I was ready to step away and just smoke my imaginary cigarette, when I saw the link marked The Rules of Poly! and I hit the link.
Why did I do it? I knew there would be problems, I knew I would want to snark, and yet I did it anyway. What I stumbled upon was nearly a thing of beauty. Labyrinthine doesn’t even begin to describe these rules. Contradictory does though. I think they took every list of rules about polyamory and slapped them together into a super mega list without actually checking if things went together. And they were often worded in such a way that they were made out to be the immalleable and inarguable rules of poly and if you break one they will take you blazer bdage and not invite you to PolyFest 2013. No, I don’t have examples or links to show you. I don’t know exactly what happened. I hope I just closed the browser and watched some TV for a while. There’s been a monkey though, and it’s asking me about how Caesar Romero ultimately inspired both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. And of course he speaks with a sort of accent that makes it sound like he came from Gibraltar. Why do I keep ending up there?
Here is my point, and yes I do have one. Fuck rules.
Yes, that’s my point. The older I get, the more I can’t take rules, terms, props, symbols, or any of the other bullshit that gets connected to the poly community. I mean… rules?
Let me ask a question, just really quick.
If you have to write out a list of rules, are you trying to protect people from harm or control people? If you had to tell common sense things like “Wear a Condom” to your partner, why are you fucking them? No, really. Rules are for people who you can’t trust to do the right thing on their own. That’s why you’ve got rules at work, because your co-workers are idiots. Rules are a thing you put in place, with known consequences, for people who you think might break them. Rules are not for someone you trust with your heart. If you can’t trust someone to think about what they’re doing might affect you, maybe you shouldn’t be fucking them in the first place. If that sounds like I’m being harsh, well, I am!
AND NONE OF THAT EVEN MATTERS!
Nothing I said there matter because of what I’m about to say next. Society says poly is wrong. Every romance book, every love song, every fucking movie (save five) says you cna’t love two people. In the end, you must choose, even if the choice hurts. If you really want to know how totally and completely geared towards monogamy the world is, ask yourself how any given movie, book, song, or instructions on the back of a box of toothpicks would be different if everyone was poly. Mono is The Big Rule here… and I’ve already said I don’t give a fuck.
If I have declared to 90% of the western world that I don’t care about their rule, why would anyone expect me to follow a “Be home by midnight” rule? You can’t have rules, there are no rules! You’re dealing with people who openly and callously break The Big Rule, why would a little one matter? And is the rule for me, or for you? We do get into the control issue here, and that becomes really dangerous.
How about this? How about we agree rules are silly? We’re adults, you don’t give an adult a set of rules, you make a series of agreements. I don’t go stick it in every girl that catches my fancy because some of them say no. Strange, but true. Also, I like Syd to at least meet people I might be intimate with. I don’t use condoms with people because Valen who was Minbari not born of Minbari brought down a platinum Franklin Day Planner with The Rules of Poly written on gold leaves. No, I do it because protection is a good thing and you should maybe use some. I think about my own needs, the needs of my partner or partners and I weigh how best to suit all involved. If someone wants me to have a STI test done because it gives them piece of mind, I’m okay with that. After 15 years of the same two partners, and no problems, I’ve got a pretty clear idea what we’re in for. If they say “I have a rule, everyone has to be tested.” my immediate thought is that it’s a shame and I was just starting to find them interesting.
Besides, Polyamory is the Calvinball of relationship styles anyway. The rules are always changing, and you really can’t use the same ones twice. Every situation is a little different, and when you bring more people in, they won’t always agree and the rules will become more and more troublesome. At that point, why have rules? To help the relationship, or to control people? If you need a written list of relationship by-laws, isn’t that one of the seven signs of a doomed relationship? Isn’t number four when the cat starts swearing at you?
SO! To recap…
1) You do things, or don’t do them, because you’re a decent human being. If you need rules, you’ll probably break them anyway.
2) If someone can’t respect your feelings, without a load of rules, maybe you shouldn’t be with them.
3) You should always question if the rules are for mutual benefit, or for one party to have control.
4) Valen was Minbari not born of Minbari.
And I will give a brass figlagee with bronze oak-leaf palm to the person that spots all the references in this post. Good night, and good luck.
I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen anyone talk about this in these terms, so I’m going to go ahead and say it. 97% or all people who are poly are completely bullshit scared at one point or another. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the 97% is pants shittingly scared 82.7% of the time. Mind you, 93% of most normal people are paralyzing terrified 84.6% of the time as far as I can tell. Fear is just a big part of life.
We’re not talking about so-called normal people though, we’re talking Poly People. They enter the world of poly with hope, yes hope, but also with a whole lot of trepidation. Oh so much trepidation. I’ll be flat out honest, it’s a weird world filled with strange characters and bullshit terms that even people who live in the world don’t understand. It can look scary, and it often is.
There are only two kinds of people who enter the poly world without trepidation, people who were always basically poly and didn’t have a word for it, and people who have something deeply wrong with them. I have something deeply wrong with me. I leapt in fearlessly, with both eyes open, having viewed the terrain and calculating things in my head as I go. This has meant a lot of compensation, being cute, and fixing things later when mistakes are made. It also means listening to Prince. I’m not sure why that’s important, but it seem crucial to me.
The way everyone else does it, if they’re smart, is slowly and carefully looking at the area, being completely dogshit terrified. The fear is reasonable, it’s understandable, in some places it’s necessary. While people trying to pretend to be fearless say otherwise, those who actually live without the notion of fear realize that fear can keep you alive. Fear can keep you safe. Fear can keep you in out of the rain and maintain your position in society. This is where a manic pixie dream girl shows up and tells you that the only way to REALLY live is to abandon that fear, crank up some Prince and dance in the rain. Again, those notions are put together by someone who has the luxury of fear, pretending to understand the mind of someone who doesn’t have that luxury.
Lack of fear seems freeing, but Prince has released a lot of shitty albums as well as some of the best music ever recorded. There are reasons for fear, and quite often what looks like fear is actually good judgment.
Let us point out that Poly is nowhere near an acceptable norm. Yes, there are people working towards it, but it’ll be decades before the general public understands. Some of the people in the community aren’t helping either. Hell, I still have to deal with people saying, in their out loud voice no less, “Me, my primary, secondary and metamours practice ethical pansexual polyfidelity in order to form more serious relationships built on trust, complicated rules and Franklin day planners which is why ours is a much more realer relationship than say your mono-cis-hetro-normative lifestyle.” And that your honor is when the Red Mist descended and to be perfectly honest, I have no idea what actually happened after that. When I came to, I was covered in blood, leaning on a cliff at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, explaining the cultural significance of the Batman TV show to one of the monkeys. I didn’t even know they had monkeys in Gibraltar, but there they were.
Yeah, that paragraph when in a weird direction really fast didn’t it? Strangely it turned into my testimony from that one time, when that one thing happened. You remember that one time? Yeah. Let’s move on. The point is, those Othering Terms exist to form a wall of protection. Sometimes, the only way to stop someone else from pigeon holing you, is to do it yourself before they get a chance. That too is the result of fear.
Fear can be a powerful motivator, or a powerful deterrent. Fear will keep you from moving to another location, but it will also keep you moving towards that location once you do start moving. That’s where the whole poly thing can come to a head. When fear and passion collide, you leap forward. Often you find yourself following a complete lunatic who knows no fear, but all the lyrics to Soul Sanctuary, and once you find a safe spot you stop again until the lunatic tears off again. The whole time, you are completely pants-shittingly terrified until you find a safe place. Every time there is movement, there is terror.
There are things to be afraid of, things can and do go wrong. Nervousness is just a sign of good, honest, horse sense. Of course, for those who decide to take the journey, there can be great rewards. And often the risk is far less of a risk than you think. Once you have distance between you and what you thought was danger, you find the tiger was just a kitten casting a big shadow. Granted, sometimes the danger is real and you should cower from it, but that’s true if you go for a normal, heterosexual, monogamous lifestyle as well. There is always danger on every journey, but with the right companions it can be greatly lessened. One way is to find someone who already knows the way through the dark part of the forest and has head butted a grue or two. Another way is to trust in each other, and face the terrors head on with pluck and courage.
Either way, I wish you luck. In my view, the dark isn’t really as dark as you think it is, and the bad will far outweigh the good. Educate yourself, learn all you can, be as honest as you can, and carry a lantern. It gets dark out there, and you’re likely to be eaten by a grue.