A slap on the cheek (to cheek to cheek)?

Last year John Shore published an interview with a polyamorous woman on the blog Unfundamentalist Christians. I thought the interviewee spoke a little too broadly about other polyamorous people and how relationships are named, but I was thrilled to see a relationship like mine presented in a positive light in a Christian space. It’s not something you see too often, especially with fundamentalists crying that if we legalize same-sex marriage then polyamorous marriages will be next, and progressive Christians saying “That’s not true at all.” Whatever issues I had with the particulars, it was one of the few times a Christian talked about polyamory without dismissing it.

Obviously that was too good to last. A couple of days ago, in response to a letter he received from another polyamorous person, John put up another post, this time on his own blog, about polyamory. He states up front that he does not see how polyamory itself is a moral issue, even going so far as to say what’s the big deal if three- (or more) person marriages happen. That’s a lot more than we get from a lot of progressive types.

“I love two people; they both love me; they also love each other. Where is the harm in that?” they ask.

That’s a fair enough question, don’t you think? It’s one that I’m asked all the time—albeit usually by right-wing Christians (always, alas, bitterly) making the point that if gay marriage is legalized, why shouldn’t three-way marriage also be legalized?

Why indeed? I see nothing at all inherently immoral about polyamorous relationships. If three people living in such a relationship say it is working for them, why should anyone argue it? If no one is being hurt, how is it anyone else’s business?

Pretty freakin’ cool, no?

Unfortunately the rest of the post is about how my relationships and others like it are just… not as deep, intimate, or loving as monogamous relationships. In discussing why he and his wife choose monogamy, John says, “I don’t want the power of our intimacy diluted by one-third.” Cat, John’s wife, goes so far as to say “I think being in a polyamorous relationship is a way to avoid emotional intimacy,” and John agrees.

After this John goes on the defensive about how his monogamy doesn’t make him “barbaric or simplistic.” I understand this response, as there are so many polyamorous people who insist that polyamory is better, more ethical, more enlightened and non-possessive than monogamy. I wish this would stop, because we don’t need to tear down other people’s relationships, relationships that are fulfilling and loving, in order to build up our own.

Unfortunately, John feels the need to do just that. He tears down my relationships, decrying them as less intimate, diluted, even a tactic of avoidance, in order to build up his monogamous ideal. Despite couching it in “personal opinions,” he makes general statements about how love, intimacy and romantic relationships work for everyone. Because I love and share my life with both Kristi and Elizabeth, John says I’ll only ever know them half as well as if I had but one partner.

You want intimacy? Put four adults (in my case it’s myself, my two partners and one of my partners’ best friend) in one three bedroom house. Four people with different temperaments, habits, desires, priorities. Now have those four very different people dedicated to one another. Dedicated to being there for and supporting one another. Dedicated to making sure everyone is cared for. Dedicated to being a family, however odd our family may be. You think that doesn’t create intimacy? You think there’s anything in that situation that can be classified as “avoidance?” No, we can’t live like that and avoid much of anything. We have to face everything, including each other, head on.

But even if it were the case that I could only ever know my partners half as much because there are two of them, I’ll take that, because the idea of life without knowing one or the other of them is heartbreaking. There are tears in my eyes just considering that.

Our intimacy may not look like what others have. Our family certainly doesn’t look like what other families look like. But it is deep, it is powerful, it is loving beyond what I ever thought was possible. And until you see what goes into the ways we love one another, kindly keep your opinions about my family to yourself.

Crushes

This week, after putting some serious time into considering the possibility, I decided I had a crush on a friend of mine. On three separate occasions I told each of my partners and this friend about my discovery.

“… and today is different from before how?”
“Well… yeah.”
“I knew… and I thought I was oblivious.”

Each of these people found this hilarious, because of course I have a crush on her. Everyone knows this!

I used to get lots of crushes. And for a while there I pursued pretty much all of them. At one point I was dating four people. That, for me, is a lot. Then one of them moved (and eventually decided to let me know they’d done so). Another one was self-medicating way too much, and we amicably parted, not being terribly good for one another at that point. The remaining two relationships flourished, and are still flourishing. It’s been amazing.

After that point I still had a crush here and there. Every once in a while I’d flirt with them, or more. But far less often than before. My energy went into my existing relationships. Building them, strengthening them. Proceeding deliberately (or as deliberately as we could manage). The last time I had a crush… and I don’t mean merely finding someone hot, or enjoying their company. I mean that kind of thing where your legs feel a little wobbly and your entire torso feels full of butterflies whenever you really pay attention to them. The last time I had a crush on someone who wasn’t one of my partners, and pursued it, we had a great time together. We clicked, emotionally and physically. It was awesome. But what she needed from me was something I didn’t have the resources to give. Because of that we had to stop seeing each other, even as friends, for a good long while.

That hurt. And with that hurt I just… stopped having crushes. I placed a moratorium on those feelings for anyone with whom I wasn’t already in a committed relationship. It made sense at the time, and still does, really.

The thing about doing that, though, is that it was the start of my losing awareness of part of my inner life. I mean, I’ve always been oblivious to other people, but not to myself. It got easier for people close to me to figure out what was going on with me than it was for me to figure it out myself. Now, writing this, I wonder if that’s why it took me so long to figure out that my depression and anxiety had gotten the better of me. My partners knew.

But with help, I’ve been recovering from the worst of the depression and anxiety. And I think that in doing so I’ve started to re-open my eyes to myself. I’m not cutting any part of me off from any other part, or at least not doing it as often or as strongly. Parts of me that I hadn’t given light in quite a while have started to get light again.

Probably the first sign of this change was when I started getting to know a new friend, and wasn’t sure if I was just excited to be making a new friend, or if I was experiencing that “crush” thing that I’d pretty much forgotten about. I didn’t pick up on it at the time, but I was in the process of recovering access to parts of myself from which I didn’t even know I was cut off.

And that was a whole lot of heavy stuff just to come back around to where I started.

That friend, way up above? The one who thought she was the oblivious one? I’ve known her since way back when I was still dating four people at once. And I’ve never exactly been secretive about my thinking she’s one of the most gorgeous people I’ve known. Slowly over the years we’ve gotten to know each other better. We started hanging out more often recently, just the two of us, and I’d come away with my mind lingering on this thing she said, or that thing. Or the way her hair fell in her face when she shook her head. Or this, or that, or this other thing, or all of them at once. Using my slowly-returning self-awareness and self-examination skills, I sat and paid attention to these phenomena in me.

“What’s going on here?” I asked myself in all seriousness. “Is this actually different from any other set of interactions with any other people?”

Yes, these are the kind of conversations I have with myself instead of just thinking “She’s pretty. We should do things together.”

No, really. I sat there and recounted to myself different times we’d seen each other or talked over the years, asking what I felt and thought for each of them. That’s probably where I became consciously aware that I’d deprived myself of access to parts of myself for who knows how long.

I came to a conclusion. Yes. Absolutely. This is totally a crush.

Luckily, before I had the chance to start freaking myself out over this (something I can be really, really good at, because have you met my anxiety?) I shared my startling revelation with the people who would have the most investment in this situation.

And what I got it return was kind-hearted, incredulous laughter and gentle pats on the head over this being a new revelation, or at least it being an unexpected development. People know I’m oblivious to other people’s interest in me, but oblivious to my own interest in other people? That’s a whole new level of absurd lack of self awareness.

But, as it often does, my own awkwardness seems to work to my advantage, because this friend said I was adorable. And now we have plans to make out sometime.

Self-awareness, however slow it may be in coming, absolutely rules.

He might disagree, but at least he knows what he disagrees with

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, recently published an article in The Christian Post in response to a recent Newsweek article on polyamory. Despite having strong moral objections to polyamory, he largely presented it fairly and without sensationalism. A few sticking points were dismissive gestures like the phrase “experimented with bisexuality” or putting the name Center For Sex Positive Culture in quotes, but he gave fair definitions of what polyamory is before explaining how it fits into his worldview. While we might strongly disagree, Kudos to Dr. Mohler for his honest engagement of a subject he finds objectionable.

I can't tell if it's trolling or clueless douchebaggery

I seem to have that reaction to a lot of things these days. Anyway, a post came up on the livejournal polyamory community that said “MTV’s going to portray you in a bad light unless you give us the help you owe us.” On one hand, it sounds like the kind of manipulative bullshit pulled by people who make reality TV. On the other hand, there’s already been some concern about this, so it’d be easy to use to troll people. Anyway, here’s the text, emphasis mine:

Dear Polyamorous Community,

I just came on to LiveJournal to tell you a little bit about myself. I’m 27; I studied anthropology in college focusing on sexual identity; and these days I’m working as a consulting producer on MTV “True Life’s” upcoming exploration of polyamory. This episode of True Life will undoubtedly thrust the national spotlight onto polyamory.

While today MTV may not be known for its sensitivity, the network has been a pioneer in introducing young people to oft-neglected subjects – issues that are outside the mainstream but no less a part of our cultural identity.

I remember when I was a teenager seeing Pedro – a 20 something gay guy who was HIV + — on MTV and that being one of my first exposures to out gay guys.

True life uses first person documentary to provide a window into the lives of young Americans. It has covered issues of sexual identity, mental health, substance abuse, and alternative lifestyles. That said, it has also covered “I’m addicted to plastic surgery” and spent 15 minutes following a man’s vain quest for calf implants.

Let me assure you that the tone of the show is dependent on the people being followed. True Life polyamory is an opportunity to shed light on lifestyles other than hetero-normative monogamy.

That is why I’m writing to you all today. It is imperative that those of you in the community who are living a true, fulfilling polyamorous life – or at least attempting to – are given opportunities to step forward. The alternative, as you can imagine, is less than ideal. True Life polyamory is happening. And it would such a better representation with your help. If you have a moment, please take the time to share any leads that you might have.

We have a real obstacle in that we are constrained to using people 18 – 29 and yet often 18 – 29 year olds are too young, with too little life experience to have evolved into full-fledged polyamorists. But if you all have any ideas, any insight into young people exploring their polyamory let us know. Share and together let’s give the polyamory community an inspiring representation.

Mmm, sexy, sexy blackmail. Who knew that I owed Viacom fodder for turning my life into sensationalist crap. I mean, it must the the only responsible thing to do, right?

EDIT: And just that quick, it’s been deleted!