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.

SoloPoly, Singleish, Non-Coupled Polyamory

Aaaaand I’m back!

From one set of woods to another, more Wi-Fi enabled set of woods, I am once again active online.

And loving it.

Let’s skip the polite small talk: today I’d like to write about an oft-bemoaned phenomenon as polyamory has risen in popularity visibility, as well as some terms I came across this week that people are using to describe this phenomenon and those sidelined by it.

Couple-Centric, Couple Centric, Couple Centricity

This topic had been broached by bloggers and conversationalists alike before polyamory became more well-known, because many human cultures are couple-centric. Particularly in the western world, we tend to see one of the steps to life fulfillment being that we ultimately find ourselves paired with some amazing person who “feels like our other half.” People who are single tend to be seen as “unfulfilled” or even “immature,” or even perhaps somehow damaged if they haven’t completed this oh-so-important lifetime achievement of finding “The One.”

Polyamory, for the most part, offers an alternative perspective for consideration. Polyamory’s mere existence has opened up a flood of questions about monogamy and our assumptions about human love, romance, jealousy, and whether or not being paired really is a requirement for a fulfilling life. I think polyamory might have even done worlds of good to help people see that not only is it possible that some people can romantically love more than one partner and be happy, but also entertain the idea on the other end of the spectrum: that some people might be able to be happy without a romantic partner in their life.

Sure, it might not sound pleasant (to you) – it may not make a blockbuster movie (or mightn’t it?), but, hey, with asexual and aromantic people out there, it’s a reality. It also means that, gasp!, single people might just be able to live fulfilling lives!

Couple Centricity in Polyamory

Polyamorists, predictably, groan about the difficulty in booking romantic events for three – romantic packages often are designed for couples – though personally, I find that it’s fairly easy to creatively overcome this issue if you just put your mind to it. The problem that tugs at my heartstrings a little more is actually centered around how polyamorists are being represented in the media, again and again, during this sudden rush of public attention. “Polyamory” flashes across the TV screen, and what do we see? A couple, usually a “primary” or married couple, with a third. Despite the literally infinite ways polyamory can manifest, this is, invariably, all the public ever sees.

And, while quads and clans and W’s and pentagrams choose either to complain or to wave it off, there is what I think might be a growing population of polyamorists who want to be acknowledged: “singleish” and “solopoly” people.

I first saw the terms in the comments section of an entry on Jess’ Love is Infinite blog (we have a lot in common). I was directed to solopoly.net and polysingleish.com, and eventually to the Facebook group Singleish and Solo Polyamory.

I had never quite thought of it this way, but it’s true: ever since my break-up in 2010, I have been both polyamorous and single, and it has seemed to confuse people from time to time. I’ve gotten questions like:

“Wait, can you be polyamorous if you’re not currently in a relationship with more than one person?”

“So, you’re a slut?”

“Don’t you think maybe you’re single because you’re polyamorous?”

(Answers, in order of questions: Yes. Yes, but that’s unrelated. And, no, I don’t.)

What am I taking from all this? I’m still figuring it out, but it’s interesting to meet and read things written by people who identify as “solopoly”, some of whom never intend to be a part of a bonded “pair,” some of whom who always intend to live alone, while still having meaningful, possibly even life-long relationships with, perhaps, more than one partner.

I, for one, really enjoyed my time living with someone I was in a relationship with. That’s not something I’m willing to take off the table, which is funny, since I currently make clear that for me, kids are off the table and marriage is something someone would have to make a really strong argument in favor of to sway me.

If the topic piques your curiosity, as it did mine, by all means take a look around. Let me know if you find something interesting – I’m enjoying having something new to research.

Polyamorous Family on “Wife Swap”

A friend forwarded this to me (I love my friends!) and I just finished watching it and have a couple of things I’d like to note.

Firstly – the kids from both families get an A+ in my book for being complete rock stars. Despite being from two very obviously different families, they all seemed to really encompass some of the values I think those of us in education have really been trying to instill in their generation, particularly respect. They met moms very different than their own, and when time came for the moms to call the shots, the kids pretty much rolled with it. Love it. Gives me lots of hope for the future.

And then, secondly. There’s a moment at about 16:20 where the oldest child of the polyamorous family, Brooke, is answering the religious and political family mother, Gina’s, questions about how she feels about her family. The conversation goes like this:

Gina: How do you feel about having a family that’s kinda different? A dad, kinda two moms?

Brooke: It’s good to be different.

Gina: So what do you think about my different way?

Brooke: It’s fine.

(Cut away to Gina, alone, being interviewed separately.)

Gina: Brooke has had a lot of challenges in her life, and I just hate that she has to live in that defensive shell.

(Cut back to Gina and Brooke sitting together.)

Gina: Do you give your biological mom kind of, like, a little closer? Do you give her like, a special place, over Ashley?

Brooke: No, they’re both the same.

Gina: Interesting.

I literally gave a little cheer when Brooke said, “It’s good to be different.” I mean, again, I work in education, and that is exactly the kind of thing we try to help our students realize: differences are okay; celebrate them, accept them, respect them. Brooke voiced it, and the other kids showed that they could do it. And then, as if to drive the point home, when Gina asks about her own “different way,” referring to her religious, political, conservative family, Brooke tells her the truth: “It’s fine.” Yes, it’s fine! No, it’s not that my family is right and yours is wrong, or the other way around, it’s that our families are different,  and that’s absolutely fine! hashtag-winning

I don’t know if the cutaway was taken out of context; there’s no way to know. For the producers of the show, though, to have an adult voice cut in right after such a great statement from Brooke, to say that those kinds of things represent a “defensive shell” …ugh. I hate that such a wonderful revelation of intelligence in a young person was so quickly dismissed. And if she was being defensive at some point during the exchange – I’m not surprised! Gina’s plastic smile puts up my defenses, and I’m looking at it through a computer screen!

As with these shows, we all know they’re extremely edited and never a true representation. Even without considering that, no one polyamorous or conservative family should be seen as a representative for all families of that kind. And yet, though you and I, dear reader, may know these things, I often worry about the average viewer, who does not, and the impression given them of both sides.

At least the kids were awesome.