Tag Archives: polyamory

I’m way too jealous for that!

Lately, since I’ve started dating non-monogamously, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments regarding jealousy.  Usually something to the effect of, “You’re poly? Damn, I’m waaaay too jealous for that!”  After mulling it over a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that jealousy really has nothing to do with it.  I’d like to propose that we are not inherently jealous, but that we’ve been taught that jealousy is an appropriate, perhaps even necessary, reaction to these kinds of situations.

Jealousy is a secondary emotion.  In other words, this means that the jealousy is blossoming from another emotion– almost always fear (which, coincidentally, is also anger’s primary emotion).  In the context of relationships these fears tend to be fear of losing your partner and/or fear of not being good enough for your partner.

Let me first say that your fears are unfounded.  For one, your definitely good enough.  Could your partner still leave? Of course.  That’s the risk you run with relationships.  But from my experience, people don’t leave a relationship they’re happy in.  Even in situations where there has been “someone else,” they were the catalyst to ending an already failing relationship, not the cause.  Which isn’t to say things couldn’t seem blissful and then one day your partner does a 180, it happens.  But it’s unlikely that if there have been no warning signs, something will happen out of the blue.

So jealousy is really just fear dressed up for the party.  And if everyone is communicating openly and honestly, there’s little to fear.  So what’s with the jealousy? Do we just enjoy tearing ourselves down? Or do we think, somehow, that we’re protecting what’s ours? Defending our claim?  Does anyone else think that sounds weird?

Relationships are just that– the way you relate to people.  You aren’t employing a servant or buying a flightless bird to keep in a cage.  You’re relating, you’re learning, you’re getting to know another person and sharing yourself with them.  So the possessiveness that can arise in relationships is actually kind of a scary thing.  We become defensive and greedy when we’re afraid, we try to hide our partner away and keep them close to us… and when they get fed up with being treated like a pet, we use this outcome as validation for our fears when, in reality, the fear created the problem from the get go.

No joke, if you want to chase away a partner as quickly as possible, try keeping them tied down.  Keep them from the other things in their life, friends, hobbies, family, etc. and they’ll leave faster than you can say, “Did I do something wrong?” A lover or partner is not meant to be the center of our lives.  Our partners are supposed to enhance our lives and support our choices.  If that’s not happening, it won’t last long.

The more we flesh out jealousy as an idea, the clearer it is to me that it’s a hallmark of monogamy, oddly enough.  Think about it: Where is jealousy more likely? In a relationship where each partner is emotional and physically exclusive, or one where partners, though emotionally committed, are free to find others attractive and pursue that?  Instinctively you want to say the latter, but the latter situation is one where boundaries have been established that allow partners to engage with other’s sexually without threatening the trust or the emotional intimacy of the relationship.  Your poly partner is going to tell you if/when they sleep with someone else.  In monogamous situations, we consider that cheating, which in turn encourages lying.

An example might help.  If I’m walking down the street with my monogamous girlfriend and I see someone else attractive, I keep my mouth shut.  If I mention the attractive person instead, the response is usually something to the effect of, “And I’m hideous??” or something as equally insecure and needlessly aggressive.  When I’m walking down the street with my poly boyfriend and we see someone sexy (which happens a lot) he might say, “Wow, she’s beautiful!” and I might say in return, “Yeah she is! Why don’t you go talk to her?”  One of those is going to result in a fight, and it’s not the poly example.

Listen, I’m not saying everyone should be polyamorous.  Clearly, monogamy works for some people and I do believe that some people are better wired for a monogamous situations.  What I am saying is that it’s funny to me that people associate jealousy with polyamory since what polyamory does is basically remove the barriers and insecurities that cause and feed jealousy.  To me, it’s more honest in that you’re admitting up front that you WILL find others attractive.  The difference is that in poly situations, we know that finding someone else attractive doesn’t mean NOT finding us attractive.   We know that both can and do co-exist.  What’s even better, though, is we don’t make you choose, either.  It’s not like you have to leave one partner to be with another.

But I do understand what people are getting at.  They want to know how I can handle seeing someone I love love others.  (It sounds like a silly question when I put it that way, huh?)  And the answer is two-fold: (1) I’m secure in the relationship my boyfriend and I have, and he does a great job of making me feel special and loved even though I’m well aware that I’m not the only person in his life in that capacity.  (2) I got over my insecurities.  And this really is the key.  For a long time I didn’t think I could handle non-monogamy, but at least I was honest about why: “I just think I’m too insecure for that kind of relationship.”  And at the time, I definitely was.  Confidence is sexy, sure, but confidence will also preserve your sanity.  That is, it doesn’t bother me seeing my boyfriend with another woman (or man–actually, that sounds hot, but I digress) because I’m confident in who I am and that he likes and cares for who I am, regardless of whether or not there are other attractive people around.

This isn’t a call for polyamory for all, that just wouldn’t work.  But this is a call for confidence for all– whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, single or asexual.  Faith in ourselves is essential for survival, and if you only get yours from other sources, one day your well will run dry.  Learning to love myself (because it’s still a work in progress) has been simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done.   It’s hard, but it’s well worth the rewards.

Consider starting small.  I know I did.  My therapist gave me these post-it notes to put around the house with positive messages on them.  I tried not to gag when she first gave them to me.  (Yeah, I’m definitely that person who rolls her eyes at “positive affirmations,” even knowing they can work.)   For weeks I sat with the post-it notes, unable to think of a single nice thing about myself that I actually believed.  And then it hit me, “Love yourself anyway.”  I started writing things like, “You’re a ridiculous human being, but I love you anyway.”  or “I have seen your struggle and I love you anyway.”  It managed to acknowledge my resistance to loving myself while still sending a positive message.  Go figure.   But those words have come to mean quite a lot to me.  They mean that even on days when I just can stand myself, when I muck everything up, when I want to just pull all my hair out and throw a tantrum, they mean that despite all the imperfections I should love myself… anyway.

Love more, fear less.

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Patience is a Virtue

In one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen, The Mummy (1999), there’s a scene where the main characters are being chased by a mob.  Evy is trying to translate something that will help them stop the mob and Rick asks her to PLEASE hurry it up.  She simply responds without stopping what she’s doing, “Patience is a virtue.”  It’s always tickled me, and sometimes I use it to respond to impatience in real life.

However you feel about virtues, patience is a useful skill.  Very few things in life happen overnight, most of the time we have to wait.  And the better something is, the longer we have to wait! (Not the all the time, but often.)  Because of this, learning patience is downright practical.  Impatience brings a great deal of unnecessary discontent upon the barer.  Which isn’t to say don’t speak up or advocate for yourself when you need to, but learn to be patient too.  Timing is key.

This is very much how I feel about relationships.  I rarely go looking for a relationship, they seem to elude me when I do anyway.   But I wait, I meet people, I do things I enjoy doing, and eventually I meet someone I want to date and sometimes they want to date me too!  Sure, many of my friends are married, some married in their teens, most in their early to mid 20s.  And sure, it’s tempting to compare myself to their timeline, but what’s the use in that?

My beau and his wife have been married for 12 years.  They’re happy and they’ve built a life together despite challenges such as both of them being poly and very busy people.  It’s hard not to envy such a amazing relationship, but then I remember that my beau was 8 years older than I am now when they met.  There’s still time.  Heck, as long as we’re breathing there’s still time.  And surely their relationship did not come to be so awesome without hard work and–wait for it!–patience.

Truth be told, he waited for me, too.  We met over a year ago, really hit it off, but I didn’t call him… I was caught up in my own junk at the time, and it took me a whole damn year to call him.  But he didn’t prod me, he just waited.  And eventually I came to him.  If he’d pushed, I wouldn’t have.  (I know this about myself from past experience.) And now… now I feel like such an idiot for not calling him sooner!  But really, the timing wasn’t right then.  And I almost passed this up entirely because the timing wasn’t right.  What a terrible fool I would’ve been…

I can’t tell you whether it’s fate or coincidence, honestly, but sometimes life’s timing is uncanny.  Sometimes you get exactly what you need at exactly the right time.  And sometimes you have to wait a little while.

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Welcome to the Future

Last night was yet another amazing evening spent with my new beau.  I was recounting some of the night to a close friend of mine, telling her about how happy I was, how a meteor could fall on my head right now and I’d still have a smile on my face, but inevitably “the future” came back to haunt me.

“Don’t hate me,” she began, “But what does this mean for the future?”

I get it.  I understand the path we are taught to take always ends in marriage and kids and this one doesn’t.  But why is that so scary? 

“Uh, lots of hot sex with someone who adores me as much as I adore him?” I responded.  

But of course it’s more than that.  Of course I’m emotionally invested (meaningless sex really does it get me off, but power to the folks it does!) in this relationship, non-tradition though it may be.  And of course a relationship has to go somewhere.  Even if the habits stay the same, even if one doesn’t progress towards marriage or living together, being together for a long time will inevitably lead to a deeper connection– and that, admittedly, is something I do desire.  

But let’s pretend, for argument’s sake, that he were single and monogamous.  It really wouldn’t change where we are right now: enjoying each other’s company, figuring out each other’s quirks.  We’re still new to each other, and at this stage, we’re having fun and learning.  All relationships start this way, regardless of where they end up. 

So I can’t help but wonder, what’s the rush?  What’s the rush to see it “evolve”? And why does evolution only look one way (i.e. marriage)?  I think Darwin would be disappointed by the suggestion.  Yes, my options would be different, but so what?  Even if I had options like marriage and kids and living together, is that something I even want? Right now I can definitely say, “Hell no!” 

“Wouldn’t you eventually want to live with your partner?” asks my concerned friend.  “Not necessarily,” is the answer, but more the point, who says I couldn’t?  I’ve seen some very creative polyamorous households, for the record.  But really, I don’t know.  I’ve never actually lived with a partner (unless you count that semester from hell back in college, I don’t) and I don’t know that I’d want to.  I very much enjoy having my own living space, and even if I did agree to move in with someone, it would be with the caveat that I had at least a room that was all my own space.   A place to escape to, in case of emergency.  

“But don’t you get jealous?” she asks.  A fair question, and I tell her honestly, “Yes, sometimes.  But actually it’s good for me to get confronted with my jealously.  When I stop to think about it, I realize there’s really nothing to be jealous of.  When I’m with him I feel loved and sexy and desirable and heck, even important.  Each relationship is unique, and when I’m aware of this comparison begins to seem so foolish!” 

I really appreciate how open my friend is being, I know it’s hard for her to think I could be happy without getting married.  “When you do believe that marriage and babies is the path that people take and the structure you believe in, its scary when people you love step outside of that.” 

“I guess it’s just dawning on me now, truly, that marriage isn’t the ONLY path to happiness, to family, to love.  It’s disorienting, to be sure, but freeing too.” 

But really, what I can’t get over is what’s the rush? Honestly, what is it? Is it that my biological clock is ticking? Don’t worry, my ovaries never let me forget.  Is it that everybody else is doing it (I’m at that age, I’m going to at least a wedding a year)?  Or is it that life is short? 

Well that’s the irony, I suppose.  It’s because life is short that I DON’T see the rush.  Why am I going to plan for 5 or 10 years down the road when, in reality, the world could explode this evening?  I don’t know what’s going to happen next.  I could win the lottery, I could get hit by a bus, I could find a baby goat on my doorstep and be tasked with raising him to be a proud, badass adult goat.  I don’t know! And that’s the beauty of it.  

So yes, I’m staying in the here and the now as much as possible.  I’m focusing on all the amazing things happening in my life right at this very moment– the future will come soon enough no matter how (un)prepared I am.  So why concern myself with the amorphous FUTURE, when I can spend my time being grateful for everything already present in my life? 

THE FUTURE, as far as I can tell, has already arrived. 

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Diminished

Have you ever heard the saying, “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle”?  It’s a beautiful quote, author unknown, that speaks volumes to me about community, helping our neighbors, and giving for the sake of it.  But that’s probably because I’m a bleeding heart who works in the non-profit sector.  

But what if we applied this concept to Love? I would argue that right now, we don’t.  The model we’re peddle from day one thanks to companies like Disney is that somewhere out there this is a magical person who is your missing other half and all you have to do is find them! There are only 7 billion people on Earth, so how hard can that be? True love awaits!  

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than 5 minutes, then you already know I think this idea is bullocks.  There are just too many people in the world and too much love to be shared to say that we each have ONE person who’s our soulmate, ONE person who will be right for us for our whole lives through and ONE person whom will provide us with everything we need.  It sounds like a fairy tale because it IS a fairy tale.  

People ebb and flow in our lives.  Some leave as quickly as they arrived, others stay in it for the long haul, their involvement in our lives varying over time as we grow up, grow apart and come back together again.  I think of parents, for example.  No one would deny the important of their parents in their lives (for better or for worse), but most of us don’t talk to them every day.  We might even have friends that are our parents’ ages.  Does this mean we’ve replaced our parents? Does this mean we don’t care about them or love them?  Of course not.  When you’re 5, you spend every waking moment with your mother.  When you’re 25, you’re probably dodging her Sunday morning calls so she doesn’t know how hungover you are.  Our relationships change and evolve over time, but they are not somehow less important because they change. 

So back to my original question… what if we shared our love freely and weren’t ruled by ugly emotions such as envy and jealousy? Why do we hold onto this concept that by virtue of sharing our love, it is somehow diminished? 

It’s a insidious little thought, one that permeates every part of our culture.  The whole concept of “purity” or virginity is based on this idea– that you should only share yourself with ONE person, and if you share yourself with more than one person, you yourself are diminished– you, yourself, are worth less than you previously were.  Well I call shenanigans on this purity bullshit and all it entails.  Whatever higher power gave me this body also imbued me with bodily autonomy.  As long as I am sharing my love, and not hurting anyone, as long as I am consensually giving of myself, how am I diminishing myself?  The more I love, the stronger I feel, it just doesn’t add up.  

So if you’re a purist or a fundamentalist, if you think a woman’s worth is directly related to her virgnity, this is simply where we part ways.  I will never believe that a person’s worth is in any way tied to their virginity, regardless of gender, and frankly I find any other assertion disgusting.  We are more than the sum of our experiences, more than a series of actions taken or acted upon us.   Human beings are beautiful, complex creatures and I can’t think of anything much more meaningless than the number of people you’ve had sex with.  Like most numbers, it’s just used to shame.  Throw it out!  Love all, shame none. This is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.  

Over the years I’ve had run-ins with polyamory, as it were.  I used to say I just kept falling for people who identified as poly, but at some point I have take a closer examination of the fact that I keep gravitating towards people who identify as polyamorous.  Note: polyamory as in “many loves,” not polygamy as in many spouses.  (Which isn’t to say I’m against polygamy, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about.  Culturally speaking, polygamy is often tied to certain religious beliefs, while polyamory is basically the creation of many thoughtful, ethical sluts.)  

Recently I met someone who just awes me in so many ways, perhaps most profoundly in how much love he has to give.  He is, indeed, polyamorous and he has complete understanding of the idea that one relationship need not take away from another.  We are force-fed the idea of of monogamy (along with the marriage and picket fence end game) and the concept of relationship hierarchy.  And this is where I see a lot of new-to-poly folks fall into a trap.  They might’ve gotten rid of the monogamy thought, but not the hierarchy, and that will cause serious problems if you are juggling more than one romantic relationship at a time.  Trust me.  

But what if we throw both ideas out?  No more hierarchy, no more “primary partner” or “one and only”, just love.  Just love given freely.  It seemed so simple when it first hit me.  That jealousy is beyond pointless.  That I can love someone and have a deep and unique connection with them– and it doesn’t diminish what we have for me to love others, or for them to love others.  If anything, you’re just making the pie bigger.  More love, no shame, no jealousy, no competition.  I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when we’ve been taught the only way to be special to someone is to segregate them from all others.  But that’s not the way.  That sounds more like keeping a pet than loving a person, to me.  I mean, heck, even my cats are allowed to socialize.  

So I ask again, how is my Love diminished by sharing it with more people?  Knowledge is strengthened by spreading it around, I don’t see why Love is any different. 

Just use a condom.  Seriously, be safe.  

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End Game

Thanks to prolonged peer pressure from some of my coworkers, I finally caved in and watched Orange is the New Black, which I highly recommend.  For those who are unfamiliar, the show is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman about her time in a women’s prison.  The show itself is rife with prison and lesbian drama and while I certainly wouldn’t call it a comedy, it has it’s lighter moments.

Towards the end of season one, Piper asks her on-again-off-again lover what exactly the “end game” of their relationship is.  That is, are they going to move to Vermont and have a baby, or will they hop around the globe from one fabulous party to another, free-falling through life? These are but two lesbian stereotypes in an ocean of possibility, of course, but the point is clear: Most of us date because we’re in search of a particular end game.  And, for many of us, that looks like monogamous marriage with kids and, yes, a white picket fence.

I’m not knocking marriage or monogamy, but I don’t know what the rush is to get to the end of the game.   I mean, the world we live in is such that many people live into their 80s, 90s and beyond– so why the rush to pop out a kid by 25? Why the need to plan your wedding when you’re not even engaged? Why the insistence on labeling a relationship (and the associated expectations) so quickly? What ever happened to living in the moment?

I reconnected with someone a few weeks ago who’s company I’ve been thoroughly enjoying.  I guess it would be fair to say we’ve been enjoying each other.  It’s rare, at least in my experience, to find someone you’re just comfortable being with– where silences are just silences without the awkward, where looking at one another is endlessly engaging, where you’re free to be yourself, whatever that looks like.  But that’s how it’s been with us.  We sincerely like each other, we enjoy spending time together, and beyond that their are no expectations.

I think it’s kind of perfect, actually.  I love adding interesting and passionate people to my life, so why not do so without worrying about labels?  Why not enjoy the company of those around you without concerning yourself with where you’ll all be in ten years?  Not everyone sees it that way, though.

One of my closest friends is getting married next Spring, and unlike me she’s all about the wedding planning.  But she’s also all about monogamous marriage and sincerely doesn’t seem to understand that I am not worried about the long-term right now.  My last relationship was all about the long-term, empty promises and sweet nothings.  I don’t want any more of that… but the idea that maybe I changed my mind, that maybe I was wrong about what I wanted (a long-term committed relationship, for example) and just want to have fun in the NOW is very foreign to my soon-to-be-bride friend.

To use an analogy, our conversations feel like this lately:

Me: Oh wow! Look at this delicious cake! I’m so going to eat this cake! 
Friend: NO! Don’t eat the cake! You might get diabetes in 10 years! 
Me: Yeah, but, I want cake right now and right now I don’t have diabetes. 
Friend: But you have to plan for your future! 
Me: … *shoves cake in her mouth* 

I know she’s concerned that I might get hurt (that’s a risk you take when you put your heart in anything, I’m prepared for the consequences), and that she’s concerned because she cares about me but… it almost feels like concern trolling.  Even worse, it feels like she’s condescending to me.  I tell her about how happy I am and she says things like, “That’s so nice” as though what I’m doing is some kind of quaint placeholder until I wise up and go on a husband (wife?) hunt.

But what I’ve realized is that I don’t need to hunt– I don’t need another person to complete me or make my life work, and my life is full of dear friends who love me very much.  While sometimes it’s hard to separate the peer pressure (thanks, Facebook) from my actual wants and desires, I’m finally starting to accept that maybe I don’t want what most people seem to want, and maybe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  After all, I have a lot of love to give, who says I need to give it all in the same place?

I came across this comment on an article recently and it really resonated with me: “As mentioned above, I’m older. I do NOT want to get married or have kids. The best relationships that I’ve ever had consisted of sex and dinner a few times a week, peppered with intense conversations and some social outings as a couple. I’m fairly self-sufficient, and don’t really WANT someone who is too deeply ingrained in my daily routine. I’ve been accused of everything from being a heartless bitch to a total evil slutsicle for articulating this.”

Well, I’m “younger” by many standards, but otherwise I feel very similar.  I don’t want to get married, and while I do want kids someday, that’s something I’m really not going to start thinking about for at least 5 more years.  I love having my own place and I don’t want to move in with anyone or infuse myself into their daily routine.  But I do want fun and great sex and intense conversations with someone with whom I share a sincere connection… yeah, I guess that does make us sluts, Internet Sister.   At least by the standards of the penis-barers.   (This is one of many reasons why I only sleep with feminists, no joke.)

Suddenly, English is failing me yet again.  How does one even refer to the types of connections I’m talking about?  The rhetoric we have surrounding dating and relationships reinforces the idea that the end game is, should and shall always be marriage, kids, house, dog, fence, etc.   If you’re “dating,” it’s for the hope that you’ll turn out to be great life partners and decide to get married.   I could effectively say I’m dating right now, since I’m going out on dates and having fun, but my end goal isn’t a long-term relationship and that’s the expectation with “dating.”  It’s a kind of courtship, at least it’s assumed to be.  So how do I say I’m non-exclusively dating and not looking for a spouse?  What a mouthful.   No wonder I’m a quirkyalone.

My friend says, “I’m just concerned that there is potential for you to fall madly in love with someone who won’t give you everything you want in life.” and I can’t help but laugh out loud.  Is this a common sentiment– that we’re supposed to get “everything we want in life” from ONE person– one person who isn’t even ourselves?  It’s just so ludicrous, I have to laugh.  If I’ve learned anything from my last relationship, it’s that making yourself happy is crucial and it’s nobody else’s responsibility but your own.  When we depend solely on others to make us happy or “give us what we want,” we’re not only setting ourselves up for failure, we’re being outright unfair.   I don’t know any psychics  so I’ve always found it good practice to ask for the things you want or need from others, rather than waiting for them to figure it out and pout passively in the meantime.  But I’m single and unmarried– what could I possible know about relationships?

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Still Single and Choosing It

Well, my new beau is now my ex-beau.

Like most decisions, there were a lot of factors on which I needed to ruminate.  The poly thing? It really wasn’t working for me.  And I really, really should’ve known better considering this was my, what, fourth tango with polyamory? I deserve a sharp slap on the wrist (or kick in the head?) for that one.  Ironically, though, in the past my problem as been my lack of being a priority, and this time it was more that I was a priority… and so soon.

Ultimately, the problem was this: I’ve been at my current job for about four months now.  I love my job, but it’s hard work, and I am busting my ass to the best of my ability… and it’s still not enough.  The day after I broke up with my ex-beau, my supervisor gave me a friendly speech about how he needed more from me.  Needless to say, I’ve become a bit of a workaholic over the past few months and… I’m not prepared to let that go just yet.  I’m still new to my job, still learning, and still wanting to put 100% into it.  Which means I barely have anything left for myself, let alone someone else.

The older I get, the more selfish I become with my time.  Time is, arguably, our most precious resource, and the one we often give away the most freely.  And I’m no longer fine with letting other people take my time when I don’t want them to.  Sure, work could be seen as taking my time, but I feel like I’ve had quite a bit of choice in the matter.  I don’t have a choice to work for a living, but I do have a choice to care about my job and to put into it as much as I do.  I don’t want to be mediocre, I want to be flippin’ fantastic.  And that means hard work, time and energy… that I don’t have to give to someone else a a result.

It’s not that I didn’t like ex-beau, I did, enough so that I don’t want to half-ass a relationship with him.  Maybe that seems weird, from a monogamous person to a polyamorous person, but because I’m monogamous, I do consider my partner to be a high priority when I have one.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to prioritize a relationship right now… so I’m opting to stay single.

Though, to be honest, I never really thought of myself as “unsingle.”  We only dated for a few weeks, for one, but even in those few weeks I found myself reluctant to let go of being single.  I still thought of myself as single, and mostly behaved as though I were.  Single is, in a lot of ways, safe.  It means I’m the rug beneath my own feet, so no one else can pull it out from under me.  At least, not in the way the end of the relationship turns your life completely inside out.  Sure, my life could still go topsy-turvy due to things I have no control over, but that’s how life is.  One thing I do have control over is choosing to be single, choosing to have my life be, frankly, less complicated.

Honestly, I have a hard enough time dealing with myself and my own crap on a daily basis without adding someone else’s to the mix.   I hope there comes a time when I don’t feel that way, where relationships don’t seem like a chore.  And for the right person(s), I’m sure it won’t.  What I’m less certain about is whether I’ll be ready: established enough in my career, comfortable enough in my body and mind–they both seem like such lifelong pursuits.  Then again, I don’t know that you can ever be fully prepared for Life.  Just when I think I’ve got it down, it throws me a curve ball.  I suppose, then, when the time comes, I just pray I’m brave enough.

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Quirkyalone

Recently there’s been a powerful shift in my perception.  I can tell this isn’t temporary.  I think a lot of it has to do with my discovery of the term, “quirkyalone.”  I’ve been throwing that word around an awful lot, haven’t I? It feels so good it my mouth.  It feels so good to have a term for it… it’s kind of like when I discovered, “queer.”  What was once an amorphous set of traits or quirks that left me thinking my differentness was wrong suddenly has a name, an identity, and most importantly, a community– no matter how small it may be.  It’s still bigger than just me.

I highly recommend Sasha Cagen’s original essay about the quirkyalone; it’s eloquent and concise.  If you have time, take the quiz to find out how quirkyalone you are! I got a 113 and answered “yes” to all 10 of the additional diagnostic signs.

But that wasn’t quite when the shift happened.  I think it was after a conversation I had with a close friend of mine who, sadly, does not live close by.  We’ve both been pretty busy lately, so in catching her up I told her that I’d gone on a few dates with someone new.  She was very excited hearing all about him… until I mentioned he was poly.  She started acting like a “mama,” as she put it.  She said she’s protective, that she thinks I should be “the star of the show,” and that dating someone poly was ultimately settling.

At first, I tried to defend it logically:  The traits I’m looking for are hard to find; I’m not going to pass up an opportunity to get to know someone I like; life is short; all relationships end, one way or another; there’s a difference between settling and compromising.   But logic is wasted when you simply have different world views.  She seems to think I should wait around for someone who fits all my criteria.  For one, I don’t like the idea of putting my life on hold to wait around for anybody, but for another I brought up one of my ex’s.   I dated someone about two years ago, who I fell for hard, which ultimately had disasterous outcomes.  I pointed out to my friend that on the surface, this person had appeared to be “the complete package” for me, but in the end it proved to be a terrible idea.  What you want, or need, doesn’t always come in the wrapping you expect.

In her case, I guess she did find her complete package.  They’ve been together for a decade now.  So I can see why she’s convinced I’ll get married someday.  It’s sweet of her, but I’m no longer convinced that’s the only way for this life thing to be done.  Sure, we’re all fed the version of reality where humans are social creatures and we’re all supposed to pair off with one other person–of the opposite gender presentation no less–but who says we have to swallow? I don’t.  And I’ve shirked 2/3 of those already by dating queers and being open to open relationships.  Why not throw out marriage too?  It’s a nice idea, but I’d rather be collared.  It’s just as romantic, in my opinion.

Anyhow, about 24 hours after that conversation, I had a realization:  I was suddenly in tune with being single.  I wasn’t just ok with it or tolerant, which is how I’ve felt about singledom for most of my life.  I was inspired by it.  I can see my life now, all of the beautiful and challenging things I still have left to do, but I don’t see someone next to me.  I guess that sounds sad, but it feels freeing.  It’s not that I’m closed to the idea of finding a partner, but it’s not a requirement anymore–or more to the point, lack of is no longer a defect.  My accomplishments stand on their own accord.  I don’t need “another half” to be complete–I’m already complete.  Bent and dented, rough and scuffed, but whole.  And I’m not without purpose.  I’m plenty busy and there’s still SO much left to be done.  I don’t anticipate getting bored anytime soon.

When I was a mopey teenager, I’d often tell myself, “some people are just meant to be alone.”  It was meant to sting, and it absolutely did.  But it doesn’t sting anymore.  I just have other things I’m meant to do.  So I’m not planning on Prince/ss Charming, nor looking nor hoping nor waiting.  But if ze shows up, I’m game.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t attribute part of my epiphany to this blog.  I know it doesn’t have much of a following (yet!), but I owe you a debt of thanks nonetheless, dear readers.   So thank you.  Thank you for reading and giving me this miraculous outlet.  I feel like my self-worth has skyrocketed since this shift in thinking.  I went from being single by force to realizing being allowed in my bed is a privilege and I’m damn picky about who gets it.  Things can only get better from here.  (So stay tuned.)

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Jealousy

Sometimes I can’t help feeling wildly jealous of my coupled friends.  It’s not that being single doesn’t have it’s benefits, it’s certainly easier to make big life decisions when there’s only one set of needs to consider, but being single is such a constant for me, it’s easy for those “benefits” to pale in comparison to the benefits one gets from being in a couple.

And this is where the insecurity swoops in.  In and of myself, I’m fine.  I know that singledom is my natural state, that I spend a lot of time (maybe even too much) being introspective, and there’s nothing wrong with that–I’m just a specialty flavor.

But then I look around, and I can’t help wondering, “Am I just doing it wrong?”

Ironically, despite having many heterosexual coupled friends who, by nature of the laws in this country, already have more privileges than a committed homosexual/queer couple will, the jealousy I feel towards them is minimal.  It tends to be my other queer friends that turn me into a big, green monster–and not a cool one like The Hulk.  Logically, I understand that my hetero friends are pulling from a different pool than I am, which is much bigger than the pool of people I have to choose from. The sense of competition is much lessened, there.  But with my queer friends, it’s quickly becomes a question of, “Well, they figured it out and found someone, so why the hell can’t I seem to?” This line of thinking is both emotional in nature and inherently problematic.

So I could sit here and lecture you on how comparing relationships or relationship statuses is about as helpful as comparing trauma histories (that is, completely unhelpful and unnecessarily hurtful), but the truth is I do it knowing full well it’s stupid.  Some emotional reactions just do not heed logic.

One part of the problem is that queer communities are often so small, the longer you stay in one, the more likely you are to end up dating an ex’s ex, or in the case of poly relationships, find you and a friend are dating the same person.

But much of it is generic, “What the hell is wrong with me?” queries.  For example, I have a friend who came out relatively recently.  She’s a fabulous girl, so I can’t say I’m really surprised that she found a seemingly perfect match within a couple of months.  They’ve been together over a year now and they’re still so adorable you think you’re going to start vomiting kittens and rainbows around them.  Meanwhile, I’ve been out more than six years now and of all the people I’ve dated, not a single one has fallen in love with me (I can’t say the same was true on my end).  Granted, my friend is older than me and hence has more life experience, and I’m sure being a sexy, curvaceous femme doesn’t hurt.  But still, there’s that nagging question.

I wish I could even say she was an outlier.  But I’ve seen that happen a lot– gal comes out, finds her partner almost immediately, and commences with the domestic bliss.  The u-haul jokes are sometimes terrifyingly accurate. I’ve never even lived with someone in a romantic capacity! And not for lack of want or curiosity. My father, who’s a lot like me, recently revealed to me that he had never lived with anyone, romantically, before he met my mother.  This made me feel better for a moment.  Then I remembered he was 36 when he met my mother, and I felt worse.

I guess I just need to be patient.

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Polyamory

On our third date, I met my new beau’s family, or most of it at least.  His two kids (both under three, and adorable), his husband, one of his other partners and his kids–and that’s not even to mention the dogs.  You could hardly accuse these people of a lack of love.  There was plenty to go around.

My beau jokingly said to me that if I wanted to run away screaming, now would be the time.  I’ll admit, part of me wanted to run away, but it wasn’t the poly family: it was me.  It was that feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I know I’m horribly out of place.  All of these people had found their domestic bliss: partners (plural), kids, pets… things I have apparently sacrificed for the sake of a career, minus some cats.  Not that the opportunity for settling down and starting a family has ever exactly come a-knockin’.  So I said to him what I thinking, “I’m just not sure what I bring to the table.”

I guess that’s always been my concern with poly partners.  What could I possible have to offer that you’re not already getting from your other partners? I know that’s my quirkyalone insecurity speaking; that in some ways being a quirkyalone is the exact opposite of being polyamorous.  My natural state is singledom, and because of that how one even accomplishes polyamory is completely baffling to me.  I have a hard enough time finding one person to date…

I guess the irony is I think I’d have more luck romantically if I were polyamorous.  The traits I’m most concerned with in a sexual/romantic partner (queerness, kink level, fat-acceptance, etc.) all do intersect… but I’ve almost always found that when all those things do show up simultaneously, so does polyamory.  And it’s not like I haven’t tried.

My first encounter with polyamory was with a girl I met in college.  I’d recently come out and gotten dumped by my first girlfriend after just a few short weeks when I met this girl.  We started hanging out, a lot, and it wasn’t long until she was hanging on my arm every time we went out.  I knew she had a boyfriend, so as far as I was concerned she was off limits.  Then she told me she was “polyamorous.”  It was the first time I’d ever heard the term, and she was adamant that it wasn’t about sex, but about having “many loves.”  (My critical opinion many years later: it’s definitely about both.)

Anyhow, under her direction, we started something up because she told me her boyfriends (there were two) were fine with it.  Well, I came to find out that her primary partner did not know about me, and then it became this waiting game where I asked her when she was going to tell him, and got a less realistic answer each time.  “I’ll tell him tomorrow… next week really is better… I’m going to wait until spring break… You know, maybe I’ll just tell him over the summer.”  You can see the writing on the wall.  Without getting too much into the mucky details, he did eventually find out, lots of promises of “never again” were made, and everything went to hell in a hand basket.  Years later I heard through the grapevine that she married someone who doesn’t believe cheating is possible, since he didn’t believe in monogamy.

Lesson I learned from this: Always tell the truth.  No, SERIOUSLY.

My second dance with polyamory was a much better of example of how to successfully maintain multiple relationships at once.  I’d been out of college about six months at this point, living in a new city, and was at a party specifically for queer women.  I didn’t expect anything special to happen (you know, in effort to save myself the disappointment when nothing does happen).  Well, not only did I meet someone that night, but I got in touch with my inner exhibitionist too.  The woman I met that night became my first Mistress, and she taught me much about the kink scene, playing safely, and Top/bottom psychology.  She believed in a discipline model wherein you ignore the behavior you dislike, and reinforce the one you like.  I can’t say this works 100% of the time, in my experience, but I do like the model, especially when dealing with adults.

That relationship eventually ended because of a miscommunication (boy, did I ever feel disposable after that), but she had the poly thing down.  She had her primary partner (who she lived with, but maintained her own bedroom), a girlfriend, a house girl, and whomever else came along that she wanted to play with.  For about six months, I was her “boi.”  But she was open with everyone involved about her relationships, and her consistent partners were part of her “tribe,” as she put it.  I got invited to a tribe brunch once or twice, but I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a fifth wheel.

Lesson I learned from this (besides the invaluable knowledge about myself as a kinkster and smart/safe play practices): When in doubt, it’s better to communicate too much than not enough.

After Mistress, I did date another poly person, but it was so short-lived that it never became an issue.

So here I am, after several years, venturing into poly world again.  Sometimes I think I ought to try harder.  I seem to love, well, harder than some, and many of my exes have not been able to handle it.  Poly folk, though, are used to a lot of love.  I don’t seem to scare them the same way.  But I’ve never felt drawn to polyamory.  Like, when I heard the term “quirkyalone” or “genderqueer” for the first time, there was something in me that lit up with recognition.  This has never happened with polyamory.   It’s always been something I’ve admired in people who can manage it, but nothing I ever saw as applicable to me.  Since I’ve known about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are just wired for polyamory, just as some are wired for monogamy.

This isn’t to say I don’t believe in open-minded relationships.  If I was with someone and they really wanted to fuck someone else,  I would absolutely want them to come talk to me.  And hey, if you’re back in my bed at the end of the night and you’re safe about it, it’s all fine by me.  I do realize there’s more to a relationship than committing to be sexual with only one person.  People have needs, I get it.  And really, my issue with cheating is that it’s LYING, and also that you’re putting your fluid-bound partner at risk without their knowledge or consent, which is pretty damn screwed up in my book.

So how can I fault the polyamorous?  Sure, there are a few bad eggs, some folks who say they’re poly because it’s easier than trying to get out of an unhappy relationship all together, but they’re the outliers.  Because the whole lifestyle is based on honestly, I’ve generally found that the polyamorous have a much easier time with honesty and open, direct communication than many monogamous couples I know.  (Just as I’ve found kinksters have a much more vibrant and active dialogue around consent than vanilla folks do, since playing requires it.  Sadly, I have many vanilla friends who’ve never even had a conversation about consent with their partner… it’s just assumed… which, at this point in my life, I consider downright disrespectful.  There’s really nothing sexier than asking, in my opinion, at least with a new partner.)

Anyhow… I worry that I’m not going to fit into his family very well.  His day to day life is kids, animals and school.  Mine is work, work and more work.  But I really like him… so it seems worth trying.

He came over later that night.  I made dinner, we cuddled and watched The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and eventually commenced with the oodles of kissing.  He definitely makes me feel special when we’re together, and isn’t that all a girl could want? It’s all I want, really.  Someone who will accept my love, and make me feel special to them.  The rest is all gravy.

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The Dreaded “Why?”

Despite being overwhelming busy between work and volunteering, I’ve actually gone on a few dates recently.  Single doesn’t mean I’m not trying, right?

I met this person through a social networking site, we e-mailed back and forth for a while, and then finally met in person this past weekend.  Some of you caught that I said “person” rather than “girl.”  And some of you are thinking, “Aren’t you gay?” No, actually, I’m queer.  Which generally means I’m dating other women, but in reality I’m attracted to fellow queers and genderqueers.  So this person is a transguy.  And boy is he ever cute!

Anyhow, we had a really lovely first date.  Lots of strolling around down town and talking, stopped in at the LGBTQ film festival, and had some fantastic conversations.  I guess he liked me, too, ’cause we’re still talking!  A few days ago we were chatting online and he asked me the dreaded question…

“So why are you single, anyway?”

Oh god.  He’s looking for something.  He thinks I’m great, but I’m single, so there MUST be something wrong with me– right? RIGHT? OK… BREATHE.

The truth is, I don’t know.  I’ve asked myself that same question approximately a hundred million times, to date.  And I don’t have an answer.  I have a lot of good qualities– I’m smart, funny, affectionate, compassionate, patient, spontaneous and curious, to name a few.  I do have some theories about my singledom, though:

  • That I’m queer rather than feminine, and a lot of people don’t know what to do with this.
  • That I’m fat, and fat people are highly stigmatized in our society since we like to conflate it with health and self-control.
  • That I’m shy, and less likely to make the first move unless our chemistry is such that I’m the more dominant partner.
  • That I work… A LOT, and have less time (and money, ironically) to go out than I would like in an ideal world.
  • I’m often attracted to narcissists.  No joke.  And co-narcissism does not make for a strong foundation to a fulfilling, long-term relationship.
  • I don’t date arbitrarily.  I’ve recently discovered this is called being a “quirkyalone.”  What it means, basically, is that I’m not going to ask out someone I don’t already like.  I won’t ask out a complete stranger, or go to bars to pick up people.  I want to get to know you at least a little first.
  • I lack confidence.  I do.  I’ve worked on this a lot through the years and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been, but it’s still not where I want need it to be.

I told him some combination of the above.  I hope he’s not looking for that something “wrong” with me.  I’m quirky as all hell, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  I’ve never been called “boring,” for what it’s worth!

Anyhow… I’ll have to let you know how it goes.  We did have a second date last night.  It ended with some delicious kisses, and now I can’t stop thinking about his soft lips.  There is, naturally, a catch: He’s poly, and I’m not.  So we’ll see how it all plays out.

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