”Open relationships” are like snowboarding. There are people who can do it very well. And then there are people like me, who will end up breaking something. I was in an open relationship once. It lasted for a couple hours and abruptly ended with me storming out into the cold, crestfallen that she had actually taken our agreement literally. I had started the evening’s revels a sophisticated libertine and finished the night a blubbering spaz. Not to mention a hypocrite.
Monogamy is the worst romantic practice, except for all the others. And I’ve tried all the options: I’ve not been in a relationship. I’ve been in a relationship with someone who didn’t know we were in a relationship. I’ve taken it slow, fast, and straight to hell. I’ve hung out, not attached strings, and just been a friend, with or without benefits. There have been clingy relationships and distant ones. I’ve been the other woman and the cuckold. But then there’s polyamory, the fancy term for an “open relationship.” These relationships involve consenting and mature adults who have multiple romantic entanglements at one time.
I know I’m going to get hate mail from the polyamory community. But I understand why they’d be sensitive.
I remember a college dorm mate of mine who’d spend hours “enlightening” his bookish, Christian girlfriend. His carnal campaign to get her to turn her back on her morality seemed to work, mostly. According to him, she tried anal, watched porn with him, and even experimented with a sex toy or two. But she never gave in to his demands that they invite other people to their private party. If she would have said yes, I know exactly what would have happened. She’d attract men like Baptists to potato salad, and he’d have to downgrade his fantasies from “threesome with bisexual bartenders” to “threesome with two different brands of hand lotion.” I hate to admit that this dude probably would react the way I did, once his ego discovered she had more opportunities. He’d get all huffy, maybe a little man-weepy, and definitely sanctimonious. He’d stomp and holler, like a drag queen Rumpelstiltskin. It’s all sexy fun and games until she hooks up with another guy.
Here’s the truth: I actually have a lot of respect for polyamorists. They’re like sexual astronauts exploring the outer reaches of human intimacy. Polyamory directly confronts the great scourges of committed, contemporary relationships. The 800-pound gorilla being jealousy, which, I’ll remind you, is a vice for a reason. Jealousy inspires nothing positive; it’s a rot divorced from reason. A rapacious parasite. Jealousy is Othello worked into a murderous rage because of rumors and hearsay. Love is not possession. It does not seek to strangle or suffocate. Love lets it be. And then it’s up to he or she who has chosen to love to decide whether his or her heart can take it or not. Polyamory also addresses The Itch, that craving for fresh flesh, the thrill of the fox hunt. The solution offered is deceptively simple: out of sight, out of mind. If you’re happy, I’m happy, maybe don’t brag about it. This seems to fly in the face of human nature, but maybe human nature is overrated. After all, it’s responsible for warfare.
She was an old friend of mine, and we’d always had the hots for one another. She invited me to a crazy party in a warehouse, where I knew she’d be with her girlfriend. Both were bisexual, polyamorous, ready to party. She made it a point to tell me this: She knew I had a crush on her. There was fair warning. They were polyamorous, and were open to hooking up with whomever. Was I cool with that? Man, I was cool with that. I was cooler than a Yeti’s farts. It was settled. Even though she told me she’d probably be making out with whoever tickled her fancy, she said I should definitely show up, meet her girlfriend, and maybe, you know, have brunch in the morning. I heard what I wanted to hear, and totally gave myself an internal high-five.
The party itself was simultaneously cliché and exciting. Lights pulsed, music thumped, joints glowed. The warehouse itself was in a desolate part of Queens. On the outside, everything was cold, gray, wet. But inside, the party was warm, and the moment you stepped through the door, you felt tackled by a squadron of glowing piñatas. My old friend greeted me with a deep, sloppy kiss and led me to her girlfriend. Her girlfriend had a lovely mane of black hair. She was a lawyer with full lips, which she used to vet me. I made her laugh, put her at ease, and in a dark corner, after an illicit puff provided by some well-meaning tool in an outdated Dr. Seuss hat, we also kissed.
And just like that, the lights went out. The delinquents throwing the illegal party were not, it turns out, electricians. But it made sense that all the speakers and lights would overload a crappy warehouse’s grid. There was no panic, though. Everyone kept partying in the dark. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen glow sticks put to practical use. Using a cigarette lighter, my old friend found me and her girlfriend. Three noses touched in the shadows. She led us by a tiny flickering light to a backroom. I could hear other people whispering. I could hear them unzipping. I could hear them sucking, cooing, and gasping. My hand was directed to first unbutton and then caress. I wasn’t sure whose body it was, but whoever it was, her sweat smelled awesome. This person pulled away. I waited for a kiss, but none ever came.
Suddenly, the lights turned on. There was my old friend making out with some partybot cheesedick. Her girlfriend sat next to her, smiling. This woman who had informed me that she would be making out with other people was actually making out with other people! Specifically, another dude. Not a sexy chick, but another smelly beast … just like me! How dare she? It hurt my feelings. I felt cheap! Used! Lied to! Although, technically, I was lied to by myself. It was at that moment I understood why they call it a “crush,” because that’s what happens to your heart if it doesn’t work out. I bailed. Ignored her texts. Emotionally ate pancakes.
The next day, I realized that jealous hypocrites are not suited for open relationships.
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