Beyond the Fad: Polyamory and Relevance

As I write this, my fourth post to this blog in as many days, acknowledging a newfound urgency to express the things I’m thinking, I also find that I need to admit one of the reasons I wasn’t posting for so long:

I worried that polyamory had become a fad.

It was a moment of weakness, I admit. I faltered under the weight of the fear that all I wrote might be summed up by readers to simply be anecdotal contributions to the trendy new lovestyle that has garnered so much attention in the media, including TV shows like “Polyamory” on Showtime. I stopped working on my novel because I decided that, by the time I was done writing it, finding an agent, and doing the work necessary to get published, I would have “missed the boat” – the fad would have passed, polyamory would be old news, and no one would want to publish the book.

Discussion and visibility of polyamory has skyrocketed in the last year or two, and while the benefits of that include visibility, the drawbacks include the fact that people enjoy simplicity, and trying to simply define something as complicated as polyamory just doesn’t happen. Instead, people define it by comparing it to things they already know – infidelity, swinging, commitment phobias, sex addiction, etc. I feared being lumped into those definitions.

I should have been stronger. I should have waved away the possibility that I’d be just another voice in the polyamorous cacaphony, just another polyamorous person whining with other polyamorous people about being misunderstood.

But this blog, and my book, and my writing in general, are not about that.

This isn’t about polyamory and its visibility. This isn’t about convincing people that polyamory is okay.

This is about love; about rethinking relationship norms. That will always be worth writing about, even if the whole world suddenly became polyamorous. Ultimately, my biggest hope for every single person who reads what I write is that they stop to think about the way they love, and decide for themselves what ways of loving work for them. If polyamory is not a model for you, I have no intention of trying to “convert” you; I simply want you to know that for yourself because you actually took the time to think about it.

Blogging about polyamory has never, for me, been about getting more views and attention by playing into a popular topic. When I started doing it in 2007, it wasn’t a popular topic at all. Just because it has become one shouldn’t deter me. If it is a fad, then like all fads, it will pass. When the dust settles, I’ll still be here, plodding along, thinking about love, sex, and relationships and how people can be happier with all of those things in their life.

Hopefully, if it is a fad, it will be one that changes some love lives for the better.

Egads! (More Fear)

I used to read http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/ before poly was cool, nyah nyah nah nah nah nyah!

But, to be honest for a moment, back in 2007-ish, when I was just discovering that there was a word for what I was feeling, polyinthemedia posted instances of polyamory appearing on/in the internet, news, television, radio talk shows, documentaries, podcasts, you-name-it, and it kept me emotionally alive. It was hard to find mentions of polyamory outside the existing online communities. The monthly run-downs had less than 10 new poly-mentions to share, but it was stuff that I didn’t have the time or networking to find myself. Thanks to that blog, I felt less alone, less crazy, and more hopeful that one day the world over might more widely understand me and what I was feeling.

The word is out, friends. Just use Google. I did today, under the “News” filter:

googlepolyamory

 

Not only that, but, friends, we’re even in Merriam-Webster!

websterpolyamory

 

It also hit me while I was doing NaNoWriMo, and discovered in the 20-somethings message board a thread about relationships, where a whole, pardon my lack of better word choice, buttload of 20-somethings identified as polyamorous.

Huzzah!

I really did celebrate. I really did smile. I was so excited. I still am, honestly, but I’ve started to feel a small stirring underneath that excitement.

I hate to keep this theme going two posts in a row, but the ball is already rolling. I feel a twinge of fear.

I’ve been reading recently that polyamory is trendy, hip. I guess I’m not surprised. At the risk of sounding patronizing, what scares me is the immense potential for hurt feelings and bitter tastes that come with jumping into something like polyamory too quickly. I don’t want to sound like I’m saying, “Whoa, hey, don’t do what I’m doing, because I’ve been doing it longer and am better at it than you.” I don’t want to sound like I’m immune to mistakes and hurt feelings and bitter tastes. I also don’t want to sound like a worried mother.

I’m sure I’m not alone, and I’m sure that many will wave me off. That’s fine. I just want there to be fair warning. And reliable representations (as some have pointed out popular media may or may not be doing right now). And resources. And, well…

It’s not so much that I want anyone to do it “right”, just that I want everyone interested to do it carefully, considerately and not with the same attitude that you would approach slap-bracelets or flared jeans or Gangnam Style. I just foresee a whole lot of yelling and screaming and “there is no way in hell polyamory could ever work, ever, ever, ever it sucks and made me hate my life ahhh!” And I care about people. So I worry. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.

People have their paths to follow. For me, polyamory was a very divergent path from the others I could see around me. It still is, in my real-life community and circles. It was hard to take, but because of that, I had to think about it long and hard, and I became damned sure that I had to take it because I realized, “This is who I am.” I’m happy that it will be less hard for other people who find that this is who they are, but scared that it will be so easy that some tread this way, even though it’s the wrong path for them, and they’ll wind up hurt.

Deep breath. People step onto the wrong path every day. For some, the wrong path is the popular one. If this becomes a popular one, and some people head down it simply for the sake of popularity, and it’s not for them, they’ll learn that they need to find another path, right?

I hope so.

This Doesn’t Count Towards My Word Count, But…

Six days left of NaNoWriMo. I am on track, though I have four heavy days of work coming up, and I probably will fall a little behind during that time. Thankfully, I have the 30th off, so at worst, that’ll be my mad dash to the finish.

It’s getting difficult to continue writing. The topic cuts a little deep for me, and, as I expected, has me debating which of my values are my own, and which are shaped by the way I was raised and the way people talk to and treat both me and other people. That was the point though, after all. A little demon-facing never hurt anyone…I hope.

In an attempt to stay true to the intent of this blog, I’d like to recommend that everyone who thinks about love and it’s many forms, and the perceived limitations we sometimes assign it, take on a creative writing project. Make it a hypothetical world, even if the people in it are based on yourself and/or people you know. Then, break some rules. Do something different in the story. Have people act in unpredictable ways, and then, here’s where it gets really crazy…

let the characters explain themselves. Try to see if you can find a way to understand those characters, and get possible readers to understand them, too. Why are they breaking rules? Do they think it’s okay? Can a relationship or relationships work with that rule being broken?

I’ve had fun exploring love that way; maybe you will, too.

I have been contemplating my creative writing goals for after NaNoWriMo this year. I would like to continue working on them, rather than completely stopping like I did last year. I would also like to edit last year’s novel, which was kind of the whole driving point of creating this very blog in the first place. I’ve been thinking of a write-a-short-story-every-other-day challenge.  I may have to start a new blog for that, and that would take away from this blog. Then again, I don’t exactly post here often, so perhaps it really is worth thinking about.

Live and love, everyone, and do it like you mean it!

Sharing is Caring

In lieu of a completely original entry of my own making, I am going to simply link to an interesting blog post I read today. My time dwindles more and more, it seems. I hope that some of you enjoy this as much as I did.

The Ferret: Hate Twilight? Hate Bieber? Hate Women?

Why Am I Blogging This?

Why blatantly stick my name and photo next to views which are clearly controversial, and then also go the extra mile of sharing each post on my Facebook to make sure that people who know me, find me, and read my thoughts? Why take it upon myself to “educate,” when there’s no guarantee that anyone will agree or even bother to read?

Plenty of people “just do” polyamory, nonmonogamy, ethical sluttery, etc. without calling it those names (sometimes calling it other things, like “open relationship” or, though it’s not polyamory, “swinging”). I’ve met them. They’re happy. They don’t feel the need to get involved in this “movement;” many don’t have time (can you blame them, when they have more than one relationship to maintain?). Why, then, having met these people and seen the fulfilled happy lives they lead, do I feel compelled to spend time on here, posting and researching and commenting, yammering on rather than being out in the world living and loving?

Well, first of all, because I’m a blogging nerd. There are other reasons, though.

“Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.”

-Ghandi

I don’t think that monogamy is “wrong”. If you’ve examined your heart and find that you are the kind of person who prefers to be in love with just one person at a time, that is a beautiful thing. It is no more or less beautiful than someone who has examined their heart and realized that they can be in love with more than one person at a time, or who has decided that, while they may only be in love with one person, they can accept sexual relationships with others, knowing that it doesn’t affect their love.

My issue is with the idea of monogamy being the “norm,” and everything else being “weird” or “wrong”. Nonmonogamy might be a deviation from societal norms, but it certainly isn’t wrong, and most definitely isn’t weird. Humans have never, as a species, truly been monogamous.

All I really want is to give people the chance to consider nonmonogamy; a chance they would not have had otherwise. It’s like deciding whether you want a Mac or a PC. If you never knew that Macs existed, you’d just default to PC, because it’s what you know exists. Friends! I present to you…the Mac. Nonmonogamy. Check it out. Some of you won’t like it, and that’s fine, but others will, and that’s fine, too.

. . .

As I’ve gotten busier, I’ve been posting less. When I leave March 12 for a job stateside, that will probably be even more true.

I don’t, however, want to stop updating. Not at all. This blog is too important to me, for many other reasons besides that stated above, such as:

– it motivates me to keep working on my novel,

– the fact that this blog, and my “About” page, have been my official and final “coming out” to friends and family who didn’t know this part of my life (yeah, I might have been one of those kids who enjoyed shock value),

– the fact that I love writing, and writing about what I love, and writing about love

– and the fact that this stuff is on my mind all the time, and I don’t always have willing listeners around. That sounds bad, but it’s not that I don’t have people to listen to me; it’s that I tend to talk so extensively about this topic, ad naseum, that I’m sure more than a few people who started as “willing listeners” became “obligated listeners.” I’d rather write here and know that my audience can bail at any time, and it won’t hurt my feelings. (Really, you can bail any time now…)

So why am I blogging this? Well, for both selfish reasons and for what I like to think is a more noble cause: giving people the opportunity to see and talk about other possibilities in their love lives. I think if we all started talking more, we’d probably start fighting just a little less.

Race and Polyamory

I did do my homework; I did read the research piece I found on Polyamory and Diversity. I wanted to include my personal thoughts and my thoughts on the piece in one entry, but I just can’t do it. My approach of the topic, and the approach of the author of the paper, are much too different to mesh. A review of her piece will be next, but first, my own personal observations, thoughts, and questions.

I once read in the livejournal polyamory community that someone had written somewhere that one could not identify as polyamorous without an internet presence. The polyamory identity was so entrenched in internet newsgroups, blogs, communities, forums, etc. that it was impossible to be polyamorous and not be involved online.

I don’t agree with that sentiment: I believe that someone can most definitely identify as polyamorous without being “plugged in;” though, I have to admit, I think most people discover the word polyamory on the internet, which does make it hard for people who are not on the internet to identify as polyamorous. If you’ve never seen/heard the word, how could you identify with it?

What’s more, having internet access wouldn’t have guaranteed exposure to the word even just a few years ago. Until recently, there were only a few places where people could gather to talk about this “polyamory” thing. Mostly, again, in blogs, newsgroups, forums, and communities. . . you know, where bloggers hang out.

When am I going to get to race? I’m glad you asked.

I don’t think I’d be surprising anyone if I said that I suspect that a majority of active bloggers are white. If that does surprise you, please do let me know, and I’ll try to dig up some research. It might be changing these days (or not), but the formulating years of polyamory coincide pretty darn well with the heydey of blogging, and let me tell you something about blogging conventions: they lacked color. It was more than a little noticeable.

If polyamory is, primarily, an internet movement propelled by bloggers and other online community members and activists, is it really any surprise that polyamory conventions have a suspiciously similar palate to that of blogging conventions?

And so, we have begun the discussion. Now. . . why haven’t we branched out? Sure, there have been issues of visibility until recently, but I do suspect that there may be other things at work here:

1.) There ARE white AND non-white polyamorists out there; they just don’t call it polyamory. They haven’t discovered the word. They’re doing it though, just like people have been doing it for centuries without the word existing. I’ve met them. I’ve talked to people who are in happy, open, “triangles” and “Vees”, as we call them. They called them “relationships.” They say it works for them. They don’t have special words for them, but they are doing. . . it. Polyamory. What’s even funnier? I share the word polyamory with these happy people for funsies, and often, they’re uninterested. “I don’t have the time for that,” they say, “I’ve got a life to live and lovers to spend time with.” Hah!

2.) There is hesitation due to the “representing my race” complex. It’s that whole “white privilege” thing. If a white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory. If a non-white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory, AND, in all likelihood, on their race. “Those crazy [insert race here] people; look what they’re up to now!” would be uttered in the privacy of (racist) people’s homes across the country.

3.) But, to be fair, [insert race here] could be [white]. One (nonwhite) friend who I excitedly told about polyamory when I first discovered it said, “Why do white people always got to name stuff? Why do you publicize it on the internet and do news interviews? Why would you want people all up in your business? Just do what makes you happy, and stop over-analyzing everything all the time!” Are we just “crazy white folk?” Is this what we are known for? Most active bloggers are also intelligent and usually have at least some college under their belt – is our love for academia and nerdiness part of what makes this seem like “our thing”?

4.) It’s a white wo/man’s world. I might be stretching with this one, but, the most popular and active blogs are about news and politics (That’s not the stretch part; that’s actually true. Here’s the stretch. . .); news media and politics are still run mostly by white people. It’s not very welcoming. The fact that there was SO much celebration, joy, tears, and overwhelming expression when Obama was elected shows that we still FEEL how hard it is for a non-white person to get “up there.” It doesn’t feel accessible. If that’s the world bloggers and polyamorists are operating in, we’re just doing the same thing that’s been done all these years – remaining exclusive, because we don’t know any differently. It’s, unfortunately, in our culture. (We do need to work to change that, by the way.)

5.) Is time constraint an issue? Another friend suggested that, historically, middle-class white females have often had the time to spearhead movements that non-whites didn’t have, since non-whites generally made (and still make) less money and had to work harder. I haven’t looked into this deeply enough, and something about it makes me feel. . . iffy, but I thought it was worth putting here. I do think back to the friends from my first point, but I think that’s a time thing mixed with a lack of interest for the reading, writing, researching, and debating that is part and parcel of the blogosphere. (What are the numbers these days on race demographics among college grads, anyway?)

And now, I am forced to ask myself and the polyamory community in general: Why did we name this thing, anyway? I know that it’s so we could talk about it, but honestly, I wonder if we should have to. Couldn’t we just do it, like everyone else who isn’t calling it polyamory is doing?

It’s a scary thought for me; if the word hadn’t existed in 2007, I wouldn’t have found the polyamory communities that helped me on my path of self-discovery, but perhaps what the world should really be talking more about is actually being true to ourselves, and allowing those around us to be true to themselves, and giving people permission to feel what it is they want without being told what they want.

There are actually times where I hesitate to use the word “polyamory,” because I know that I’m in company that will never have heard it, and it’s a label that I have to explain, and honestly, I’d much rather just say, “oh, well, yes, I’m dating this person, but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t date. No, it’s okay, I’ll let him know that you’re picking me up Friday at seven. Awesome!” Why use the word “polyamory,” when I can just. . . do it?

Best part of this post: I’m doing exactly what I’m writing about. Creatures of habit, we are, we are.

I Like What You’ve Done with the Echochamber

This may be far too many posts for one day, but it reflects my usual excitement when starting a new blog. And, to be fair, I wrote the first post on this blog a couple days ago, and just let it sit and marinate in the “drafts” folder while I gathered the chutzpah to publish it and write a decent “About” page.

I have to say, though, that when I started this journey of self-discovery five years ago, that I felt pretty alone. Nobody I knew in person had ever heard of polyamory or ethical nonmonogamy. I depended heavily on livejournal communities and the amazing boyfriend I had at the time to ease my doubts when sappy movies made me question what I was feeling in my heart.

When I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, there were whole discussion threads filled with out-and-proud polyamorists, nonmonogamists, ethical sluts, and others who, even if they didn’t identify as any of those, were accepting and supportive of the identity. I was completely caught off guard. I had been hiding that part of myself for so long, and had, in effect, been hiding myself from getting out and realizing that the rest of the world was moving swiftly along, learning about, talking about, and embracing at least the possibility of this being a valid “lovestyle.”

Now, trolling WordPress tags for new posts and bloggers to read, I discover that where I once worried that the online “buzz” around polyamory was dying, it is instead relocated. Instead of focusing on explaining and sometimes seemingly excusing polyamory to those who have never heard of it, the communities have moved right along and gotten back to day-to-day life discussions, with the assured knowledge that readers know what polyamory is and will, if not accept it or at least read on out of curiosity, simply move on with an eye roll if it isn’t their cup of tea.

We’re normalizing. At least a little bit. Aren’t we?

What a brave new world I’ve come back to.