“I’m not monogamous”, sounds different to me than “oh yeah, we’re poly” — with a long ‘o’ and a rolling ‘l’ like David Duchovny talking about bloooooogs. Not to skew the sample, but clearly I’m having a word issue today. Aside from the problematic latin/greek roots issue, what bothers me is that it’s a whole lot more work than simply saying no to an insane concept of outdated structures.
The word polyamory implies a history of relationship styles with an almost required hierarchy that is hard to predict. It’s Dottie whispering in my ear that I should be fucking all my friends and it’s Tristan asking me which box I fit into to see if we can be friends. It’s married couples playing with singles while laughing about summer homes, and it’s pony tails and sandals that seem to imply making an effort is the latest sin. I can own my word baggage (I have after all, read the right books) but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Sometimes I think the word ‘honesty’ might be enough to replace it. If I’m being honest, I do want to sleep with that person. If I’m being honest I’m curious to see where it goes because this crush is going to strangle me in my sleep. If I’m honest I don’t want to come home tonight, and if we’re both being honest we’ve learned how to say no a whole lot, even though it’s nearly impossible for us to say no to anything.
But what’s worse than the self-righteously honest? Oh how quaint, we say with a laugh. Why don’t you try telling the truth?
If we’re honest as a culture, people cheat. And if we’re really honest, we understand that we’ve created an entertainment industry based on unhealthy and unsustainable models of love that leave out a whole spectrum of feeling. If we’re honest as a people we’re often afraid, and we desperately hope that the solution to our fear is to hold on tighter and close our eyes.
But instead of saying, “this thing we do as a culture doesn’t work, let’s tear it down,” we’ve said, “let’s create an alternative that feels just as safe but allows a bit more freedom”. Let’s create a new model that we can swallow without having to accept the reality of the mess. The reality that love isn’t safe. That relationships are volatile. The reality that love is always a risk.
There is little difference in what we all do, as much as we’d like to claim some moral superiority based solely on the amount of hours we’ve spent processing with our partners instead of sneaking out on the weekend and fucking a stranger in the park. Some people lie, some people cheat, and some people write contracts that detail every inch of their agreements. But it’s all messy. When we let ourselves fall in love without restraint, when we let ourselves be honest with what we want in both mind and body, and when we let ourselves stop seeking a safe harbor, it’s messy.
But trying to clean up the mess is a sisyphean task of ridiculous proportion. Especially when the mess is what moves us so hard to begin with. Especially when the mess is the part of love that refuses to play our game.
Especially when the mess is the part of love that is bigger than ourselves.