(this news item posted on January.22.2006)
Right. So, rather than continuing to just walk past the big orange elephant in the corner, I guess I'll be the first to stop and ask "Um, hey. What's up with the orange elephant?"
Before I begin, I would remind us all that this is about to be a response to numerous sources and circumstances so no one person should get all bent out of shape about it, but life being what it is, probably everyone will. So it goes.
Today's Orange Elephant is polyamory. Specifically my polyamory. For those new to the term, polyamory is that crazy notion where you believe you can be in love with more than one person at the same time.
I'll deal with the easiest first. I've actually had some arm-chair psychoanalist give me a dimestore diagnosis and conclude that I'm polyamorous because I'm too "weak willed" to be monogamous, adding that I was selfish and mentally unable to deal with temptation. This was a person who didn't know me, so I'm inclined not to take it so personally, but as most people that know me well can attest to, I spent about twenty teen and adult years being fiercly monogamous, never having cheated on a girlfriend, and... had the right monogamous woman happened along at the right time I could quite easily have been happily monogamous for the rest of my life. I still consider myself somewhat of an advocate for monogamy and really root for the monogamous relationships of my monogamous friends, but I feel like fewer and fewer of them are rooting for mine as they find out it's not monogamous.
You gonna get AIDS and DIE:
That's the most common reaction I get when I try to explain to someone that I'm polyamorous and what it means. A lot of it's societal. We have an American culture that's teaching us not to touch one another and to remain isolated in our homes where it's safe, and I sometimes feel like it'll only be another 10 years or so before America is entirely peopled with OCD type folks stuck in an agorophobic existance spending 10+ hours a day scrubbing themselves with antibacterial soap.
Okay, let's say hypothetically that there's a woman that I totally adore, that really would entertain the idea of a relationship with me, but for the fact that I'm polyamorous and therefore going to get AIDS and DIE. Now, in spite of the fact that I fully intend to love more than one person at a time let's consider the fact that I have been sexually involved with a grand total of one woman in this millenium. And let's estimate that during the time she's been keeping away from me for safety's sake she's had relations of some form or fashion with let's say six people. All things being equal, she'd have given herself six times the risk. But, let's say thing are not equal and let's realistically guess that the average person she's had relations with have had relations with one and a half times as many people as the person I've been with. Now we've assumed 9 times the risk. And factor in things like how much more fervant the average polyamorous person I talk to is about safer sex practices than the average youth out there trying to really impress some new person in a state of quasi-desperation. It's probably not a stretch to say that neither of us runs any particularly high chance of contracting AIDS and dying, but hers could still easily be ten times higher.
I bring this up, not to broadcast my personal business --because I'd much rather not have done that (even though technically my life is an open book, literally, available for purchase)-- and not to alienate someone that totally rocks, but rather, just to make the point that my intention to be in love with more than one person at a time doesn't give me some form of automatic suceptability to various maladies, nor does the intention to settle with one person innoculate you from such. Just because you limit yourself to one at a time and I don't doesn't pan out to the entirety of the equation. There are more factors than that.
Last time I gave blood I was HIV and Hepatitis free and I do truly believe that I am on my way to living a live where I won't be contracting AIDS, and dying from it.
Thanks for your concern though.
If you are with more than one person why not just call yourself single?
Why don't you call yourself a turnip?
I don't call myself single because I'm not single. My relationship with Heather has been ongoing for three really wonderful years and we really intend to grow old and happy together. We have the kind of commitment where any number of days can pass and we still wake up wanting to be together through the good circumstances and the bad. She and I have a level of communication that I never allowed myself to have in any of my previous relationships. I am in love in a way that I never have been before and our polyamory works for both of us. We are both totally into our relationship with one another, we enjoy talking with each other about who we're dating --even as disaterously as that often goes in my case (excessive honesty is I think what they call the problem I have)-- and I appreciate that most people aren't into that, but we are.
You can't be both, you're not being true to yourself:
I've had people on both sides of the issue tell me that I can't be both. I've got to stick to one side or the other. What this says to me is that in any group, it's easy to pick out the idiots. I've gotten to know a lot of polyamorous people over the last couple years, and I really like most of them, and there are some that are total whackalicious freaks. I have found the same to be true of married people or single people or black people or left-handed people or whatever.
When I was 27 I made a decision to completely stop dating until I truly believed I found the right person for myself. A polyamorous person was not anything that I had really ever concieved of or would have wanted to imagine myself involved with. But that's who I met and fell in love with, and it doesn't just work for me a little bit, it TOTALLY works for me. My life has been kicking on all cylinders ever since.
People meet someone they like and change religions for them. To me, converting to Judaism or Catholicism for a person is a MUCH bigger deal than converting to polyamory, and yet people accept that. They acknowledge that that can work out sometimes. Hell, I've met people that have even become Republicans because they were so in love with somebody --talk about sick! But somehow, a "good" monogamist becoming polyamorous for someone is beyond the pale and just... just... not right.
I feel like I've watched a lot of friends slowly drift off and distance themselves. And they don't talk about it, so I never get to know precisely what's going on. But I feel like a lot of my married and monogamously involved friends don't want me around... because I'm going to turn their significant other Poly, or I'll want to have sex with them. A lot of people seem to think I've become a poly crusader because I put it in my books and such. I put a lot of great examples of happy monogamy in there too, but as soon as you first mention polyamory in a positive light you're suddenly "on their side" and "against our side".
I doubt I have the power to change anyone into anything they don't want to be changeed into. But before I knew anything about polyamory, I knew several people who were polyamorous and didn't know what to call it. My writing about my polyamorous experience is no different than a gay author wanting to talk about the gay experience or a Polish poet wanting to write about the Polish experience etc. I do think there are people who would definitely be helped by knowing that polyamory exists, and further, I think it would even help all the monogamous people because those polyamorous people would stop feeling pressure to form relationships with you that are of a nature where they're doomed to failure.
Your Closing Remarks:
So I guess I got the idea to write something like this when my latest Relations book, Smash Your TV, got mentioned on Polyamory Weekly and I wanted to post about it in my journal and then, for a brief moment I thought to myself, no all of my friends will think I'm pushing my polyamory on them again. And then I realized how sad that is. I'm not ashamed to be polyamorous and it isn't about to become anything I hide. I miss a lot of my old friends that don't really contact me so much anymore, but so it goes. I can always make new friends. And loves.