“I’m just going to put it out there,” he said.
“You have to,” I agreed. “ You can’t want it but never ask for it.”
“Okay. I’ll say it.”
“You’d be burning with resentment if you didn’t say it.”
“Once I say it I can’t unsay it.”
I was about to hear it. Long ago on the HipMama message boards, someone would occasionally post something like HE WANTS AN ‘OPEN’ RELATIONSHIP!! HELP!!11! I guess it was always a man-woman couple. The guy would make a cryptic suggestion or a vague and high-minded theoretical statement about how monogamy was unnatural or oppressive.
“What does he MEAN?” the OP would cry, rending her yoga pants and Glamourmom nursing tank. The HipMamas knew.
“He’s already fucking somebody,” they’d say. “And he wants you to be okay with it because he feels guilty.” Even the self-identified polyamorous women -- there were a few -- said this. However, they’d usually add that his behavior sucked ass and that weaselly jive could be found among all relationship orientations, sadly.
I knew that opening a relationship could be a real shit deal. I also knew it didn’t have to be. I knew people who made it work. Polyamory was one of those things that I knew was possible, but I didn’t feel strongly inclined to do it.
I don’t feel the call of a unicycle, personally, but I support anybody who wants to ride one. Get on up there, you! Be safe and have fun. It’s tricky, so be careful.
And so Tuffy, my dude of three years, and I agreed to avoid cryptic suggestions and vague and high-minded theoretical statements how monogamy is unnatural or oppressive. Polyamory guru Tristan Taormino was guiding us from inside his Kindle. After a light breakfast and some painful hesitation, It was time for the first official request.
It came from Tuffy, and it went right to the tenderest bits of my brain stem. He wanted a secondary relationship with an ex that got away. An anti-me. Tattooed as I am not. (My mom asked me to stop, insisting I could wait until after she was dead to get more. After all, she’d had cancer three times already.)
“It probably wouldn’t even be for very long,” he hedged. “She’ll probably get bored after a few weeks.” That plan really stuck in my craw.
I turned to my best friend, Jay. We met in high school English class in 1988. He emerged from our suburban chrysalis as something of a kinkster years ago. I’m more of a late bloomer.
Jay wrote, “I'm hardly one to demonize poly stuff. I mean, I'm looking forward to the next time B. and I get to play with someone else. But since it's something I want, I know to be extra-super-careful of her feelings. It's just the right thing, right?” I nodded at my desk.
Jay continued, “At least for us, it's about fun. There no one else in a relationship. It's always her and me. And everything else is just ... playing.” That sounded more like what I wanted.
What did I want? I knew what I didn’t want, so I started there. I vetoed the request. That particular situation was outside my comfort zone.
I drew in a breath to add, “And if that’s a problem...”
“That’s not a problem,” he said.
What? “I can try to explain,” I offered.
“You don’t have to explain your limits,” he said. No pushback. We looked at each other.
“Is this...going to be a problem in the future?” I asked. I have a problem with affective forecasting.
“I can’t promise forever,” he said. “But it’s not a problem now. And if becomes an issue I’ll bring it up and we’ll discuss it.”
It seemed sensible enough and on the level. I put in my trust. I asked him if he had any such limits, and he said that he did not, although I’m pretty sure a shadow passed when I asked if Kal Penn could join us.
Anything safe, sane, and consensual was on the table for me. For. Me. At last I felt a spark of enthusiasm. Perhaps I had the will to counteroffer. First, I had work to do.
No matter what we did with the relationship, I wanted to get a grip on some of the insecurities swirling around in my brain.
I read this article again, again, and again. And then I began to imagine what was possible. I didn’t have to wait too long to start finding out.