vendredi, septembre 20, 2013

Poly on the prowl

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time know that I have occasionally written about the polyamorous lifestyle.  That's because, in part,  there was a point at which I was seriously considering writing a feature article about it for a local newspaper. I'm always looking for the eclectic, the unconventional and the unpredictable.

Trust me, if you had written about religion in a fairly small town for seven or so years, you would do the same.

I have also written about polyamory because I have developed respect for some of its practitioners.  In the process of researching my article, I spoke with a number of people who publicly represent polyamory. One thing they emphasized, over and over again, is that integrity is crucial to "the lifestyle." 

From my conversations, I have deduced that one big difference between polyamorists and married folk on the low down is that they are candid about their other relationships, and work to enable communication between all the parties in the relationships.

To all my friends whose blood pressure rises when they hear the descriptor: I want to be clear here.  I'm not endorsing a poly lifestyle. I'm not opposing it, either. As a journalist, my job is to write about it, and let you make up your own minds.

And just in case you are wondering,  I'm not inclined to polyamory.  Trust me, there's a reason I'm telling you this.

I do, however, have my profile on a dating site that lets cheetahs, polys, and others into more alternative lifestyle post profiles.

Some are straight up about their status: "married."

Others call themselves "alternative."

I don't usually converse with guys who reach out to me from the "alternative" side of the dating cosmos.

Once in a blue moon, however, my curiosity gets me very close to hot water.

Let's call the hot water in this case "Bob" (as in Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice).

To all appearances,  Mid-Atlantic Bob works in the health care industry for, let's say, big pharma, (just an educated guess).  

He identified himself to me as a fellow writer.  Quoting from my own profile, he said "Looking forward to the 'dignity and interest' treatment if you care to chat. You're very attractive."

I responded: "Forgive me for being so bold, but are you married, living with your wife?"

Within moments, he came back at me: "I am "seeing" somebody, but a long way from being convinced that we're good for the long haul."

"But I shouldn't lead you on", I said. Then I noted that not only was I geographically limited, but I was also an ordained minister (this often scares guys away, and, as you can imagine, I sometimes wait until an actual conversation to mention it).

I was already wondering  why my  virtual pal hadn't talked to his girlfriend about his issues. Besides, it was late at night, and honestly, I rarely come across smart men online.  

Teach me to avoid the smart ones.

Turns out (he says) he's got a pal who is an Episcopal minister -- and a doctor, would ya believe it? "But yes, the moral dilemmas are legion" he wrote, and getting involved with me would probably confront you with some of them, although I wouldn't be able to predict which ones."

Me neither.

After a few comments about how, as I grow older, I have come to appreciate transparency and openness, I shared my blog URL, and advised him not to settle for 'good enough."

"I hope I treated with you dignity and respect" I concluded, thinking we were done.

The next morning, he wrote back: "Have you ever considered the concept of polyamory"?

Here's where I made a mistake. I will talk to almost anyone about anything -- I figure I might learn something new.  I asked him if he was considering it -- and shared my own take, which is that it takes a lot of emotional maturity, can often work to the advantage of the male (if there is a male), and can bring with it a fair amount of drama.

We went back and forth on this topic throughout the day, on and off.  I asked him if he was considering adding a partner to his own relationship. He wrote back: "The short answer is that I'm not totally satisfied, and I don't want to dump her, either. She's a good person and doesn't deserve to be dumped just because my heart wanders and she can't be everything to me. Maybe somebody could, but I'm increasingly skeptical about that."

I asked him if he'd be candid with his partner about his wishes.

"Yes, I've told her I've been exploring the concept. She's nervous about it, and says she might want to connect with an old boyfriend if I do, but says she doesn't want to dump me either. So far it's all talk for both of us.'

Throughout this dialogue, I never gave him any reason to suppose that I had more than an intellectual curiosity about polyamory. But I did, perhaps, give him enough feedback to continue the dialogue. In retrospect, perhaps that was an error. But in retrospect, perhaps, he was trying to lay a trap for me.

That might account for what happened next.

Short story: I reiterated that I wasn't poly material. He asked to meet me as a friend,  "offline." First I suggested that perhaps we talk on the phone, because I didn't have enough information. Later that night, I told him that I was growing increasingly uneasy  -- perhaps it was because I wondered why he would WANT to meet someone who would be merely a friend.

"Hurting some other woman? I can't imagine doing that," I wrote him. I was a hundred percent certain that I didn't want to be other than a friend.

"No problem" wrote my "friend " the next morning. "Too bad, though, because your fears of the worst are what my "Carol" says are, in her words, "OTT." She had already agreed to meet you for lunch/dinner to answer your questions about polyamory and our relationship." 

Not only are Bob and Carol polyamorous, but they also have a "hot bi babe". Pretty much nothing of what he'd told me about the practicalities of his life were true.  

Then he did a "je t'accuse." "Literally nobody on... even the most intellectually adventurous such as yourself, seem to have the courage to accept and engage with me on the basis that it's possible to be successful in polyamory -- as we have for five years now."

Seriously -- you accuse ME of lack of courage?

For about ten minutes, I was stunned. Frankly, I imagined showing up for a "friendly" lunch, and meeting Bob and his partner.  

Would I have tipped a glass of water down his pants? Or would I have taken out a notebook? 

That's one story that won't get written, gentle reader.

Bob had commented on my "congenial, compatible mind." Perhaps his Carol was not as educated as he is. He's looking for more -- and more.  "He's not a polyamorist, he's a glutton:" commented a friend when I shared this story.

I'm a journalist, I warned him. I like stories. 

I tell stories. And actually, this is a pretty good one.

And beneath my initial astonishment is a less naive perspective. 

I had put polyamorists on a bit of a pedestal, because they seem so much more honest than the reams of cheaters out there. 

Now I know better. Every group has its cads. 

And lots of them hang out online.