28 August, 2016

Meating The Dawn

I'm excited.

A bit of trepidation, to be sure, but mostly excitement. Tomorrow as of 7:00 a.m. my professional title will have the word "manager" in it for the first time ever.

I've been a "co-ordinator" and an "operator" and an "in-store trainer" and a "senior sales associate" and a few other things that said "manager" without saying "manager".  I've led teams, assessed productivity, won contests for both sales and merchandising, mentored troubled kids (by far the most rewarding part of my career so far)...and when it comes to dairy and frozen foods, I've seen and done it all at this point. Even as an overnight stocker where I am now, I'm in dairy/frozen nine nights out of ten. I have been out of my comfort zone fairly often, and that's a literal as well as figurative comfort zone. I'm perfectly happy in the cooler or even the freezer clad in nothing but a T-shirt (okay, pants, too, smartass) ...as long as I am moving. Put me anywhere else and I'll sweat myself silly in short order.

I'm grateful to say that my new job still involves coolers and freezers.

I am, as of tomorrow at 7:00, the meat department manager.

I know my frozen inventory like the back of my hand already; I've been stocking it and building displays with it for the past sixteen months. The refrigerated stuff--well, some of it comes in on the dairy truck, so I've seen the packaging but never stocked it; the rest of it  (to my knowledge) comes in on the produce truck at 3:30 in the morning and so I've dragged scores of skids the three and a half miles from receiving to "my" cooler.

But of course knowing the inventory is, instead of being all I need to know, suddenly and once again, the very first step. Now I have to familiarize myself with sales patterns;  ensure that we have what we need when we need it; grow sales and reduce shrink; and manage a team to do what I do. All things I have years and years of experience doing. Just not here and not with (some of) these products.

I'm excited. I'm going to grab this and RUN with it.

I don't know my schedule for sure, and won't disclose all I've been told. I can say that at this point it looks like straight days.

Days, as in, not nights. No more graveyard shifts.

I can't even remember what that's like at this point. I've been working nothing but nights since April 1, 2015. My struggles with this schedule have been well, probably too-well, documented here in this Breadbin....for the longest time, I felt utterly removed from the world at large. Eventually -- relatively recently -- I started pushing myself on weekends (I've inexplicably been getting Saturdays at 7am to Mondays at 11pm off for the past eight months or so)....staying up and living on catnaps. I got used to it. There are things that could be said here. I'll settle for: now I know how you parents of newborns do it. A newborn entering your life is something like being hit by lightning, isn't it?  A lot of energy in a lightning bolt.

Last night was the first night I slept with--I mean s-l-e-p-t, not the euphemism you automatically thought of--Eva for an entire night in SIXTEEN MONTHS. I'd often go to bed with her and get up as soon as she fell asleep; even more often I'd just tuck her in, bedtime for her being the equivalent of ten in the morning for me. And last night, let me tell you, I SLEPT. I'd worked Friday night, and forced myself to stay awake through a day that was by turns intensely rewarding and physically and emotionally draining.  I woke up once at 2:14 a.m just long enough to tell the clock to go play with its digits and then blinked and it was almost 8 in the morning.

I'm sorry. I know you don't care. I do. People are supposed to sleep at night. At least people like me. I'm a natural lark--once I've flipped for sure, getting up at 4:30 for a 6:30 shift is going to seem like the most natural thing in the world for me.

It will, however, mean adjusting my routines. By now I'm used to tucking people in and gently waking them up, textually. I'll be hitting the hay early once again and will be on my way out the door precisely at wake-up time. Ah, well, wasn't I the man who needed to be shown that his friendships were more than virtual? The computer is a crutch. I don't need it to walk my path. I hope.


------

I want to thank the people I've worked with over the past sixteen months. Many of the ones who really made work worth going to have since moved on (hi Jason! Dwayne! Glitch! Ferda! Carolyn!) Others are still there, and at least I will see them at the tail ends of their days. A special thank-you to Gloria...who understood.

All in all, this is going to be a very good thing for me. I'd steak my  watch and warrant on it. It's been a loin time coming.

Up and at 'em, Ken! Chop-chop!


25 August, 2016

Polyamory and Professionals

I should have been a relationship therapist.

If I'd been thinking straight in high school, that's what I would have been angling for. Let's see: no math, a focus on making people's lives better, the opportunity to make an actual difference in the world each and every day, no math, no hard science but lots of nice mushy 'soft' science, I've been doing this stuff for longer than you'd believe as it is, and...no math.

I'd like to think I'm a good listener. I try very hard not to judge what I'm hearing--at least until I have all the facts (and in recognition that I may never GET all the facts). I believe, and have for many years now, that "right" and "wrong" are descriptive terms which need not have any moral judgment attached to them....and often shouldn't. What are you trying to do? Are you in Toronto and trying to drive to New York City? Then it would be wrong to drive west, or north. South would be right, except you'll drown if you try going south right away, so nope...wrong. There are a bunch of different routes, though, and each one has its charms and distractions. I'm not the kind of person to tell you that there is only one way to get to NYC from Toronto.

Relationships, however, introduce ethics--morality by another name. To me, acting "ethically" means behaving with due consideration of the other person(s) in the relationship: their needs, desires, and aversions. Needless to say, people don't always behave ethically. Also needless to say, often different people have differing ideas on what 'ethically' even means.

There are relatively few therapists even qualified to properly assess ethical non-monogamy (ENM). This despite the numbers: Fully 1 in 5 Americans have been involved in some form of ENM. NOTE: these are not "cheaters". These are people who have agreed to some form of open relationship/swinging/poly arrangement at some point in their lives.

21%. Granted, it's not that 21% of people are practicing ENM at any given time, but still...that's a sizeable chunk of anybody's client base.

And yet the ignorance of ENM among mental health professionals can be astounding. There are comparatively few poly-friendly medical, psychosocial and legal professionals out there (though this list has grown since I looked at it last); those that aren't, from all reports, are subject to all the same well-intentioned but hideously misguided biases and "gut instincts" as anyone else who hasn't heard of, let alone investigated, ENM. "Polyamorous relationships", says one, "do tend to implode on themselves because of jealousy".

Bad ones do, yeah. The ones you see on Polyamory: Married and Dating or other such pseudo-reality trash...full to the brim with drama. Meanwhile, there are thousands upon thousands of people happily exploring ENM with a minimum of fuss, working out issues among themselves as they arise like the healthy adults they are.

Resources for professionals exist. And one mental health professional of my acquaintance just attended a seminar on ENM with a focus on polyamory, so I know awareness is spreading. Painfully slowly.

And as for jealousy -- for those who are prone to it (not everyone is, believe it or not) -- this workbook is widely considered to be the go-to resource. I can't speak for it myself, jealousy not being overmuch of an issue here, but it is very highly praised by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, authors of More Than Two, people I highly respect whose book is an absolute relationship goldmine...for any sort of relationship.

I'd better repeat what I always say: ENM is not for everyone--looks like "only" a fifth of people consider it enough to try it out...and that's okay. Poly, in particular, does have downsides. That blog entry details a few of them. I can add to it: poly will force you to confront your insecurities. That's a good thing if you're ready to overcome them, and your loves and metamours are supportive enough to help you do it. (They aren't always, and it's not necessarily intentional). I'm in a sweet spot: I like and respect my metamour and the feeling is mutual. We have a support network that people outside of it frankly envy.

Not everyone is so lucky. And I wish I'd structured my life in such a way that I could help more of them.









23 August, 2016

And When I'm Dead....And When I'm Gone...

I'm not scared of dying and I don't really care
If it's peace you find in dying, well, then, let the time be near
--"And When I Die", Blood, Sweat and Tears

"Hey, Ken! How are you?"
"I'm alive..."

That's been my standard response to that question whenever I'm not in the tip-toppiest of moods. Most people ignore that, the same way they ignore any answer to that question, leaving me wondering why they even bother to ask the question. A few will chuckle and say "well, that's a good start", or something along that line, and depending on how engaged they actually seem, I might come back with "are you sure?" in a not-quite jocular tone.

Maybe death is better.

I have no plans to die any time soon. Far too much to experience yet. But then, the only people who plan their deaths carry them out themselves, and that's not in my cards.

I have dreamt often of dying. My death dreams come in fits and spurts, and I've had them since I was a child. The method of death always changes, although I'll tend to have recurring dreams for a month or two where it's the same shotgun or knife or spectacular diving mishap (that one recurred for years).  More than once I've awoken convinced I was dead. Sometimes I feel pain, sometimes I don't.  I've dreamed my own funeral many times: sometimes it's well attended, sometimes there's nobody there, and more than once everybody stood around pissing into my coffin.

I don't think those dreams mean anything fatal. I do think on occasion they're warning me to change course in my life.

But I could die before I finish this. Massive heart attack, pulmonary embolism, brain aneurysm, aortic dissection, freak roof collapse...lots of different killers out there lurking in the bushes. As if to drive this point home, just as I finished writing this, a dear friend messaged me to let me know her husband's dad had passed away.  In the midst of life...

Those lyrics are a lie, by the way, at least for me. I'm scared of dying.

I'm not in the slightest scared of death. To me, death is a silly thing to be frightened of, because it's something all of us experience. It'd be like being scared of defecation. I have my own beliefs as to what awaits me on the 'other side', and they're nothing remotely intimidating. I concede I could be wrong about that, but I flatly refuse to believe in hell no matter how many people threaten me with it, so even if I'm wrong, I figure the worst possible thing that could happen is...nothing at all.

But I'm scared of dying, specifically the pain that typically goes with it. I'd rather go suddenly: one big jolt and bye-bye. I've seen sudden death and I've seen long, lingering death and while the former may be a shock to the people I leave behind...folks, I gotta go sometime. I'd rather do it with some semblance of dignity, if I get a choice in the matter.

And so--

POINT ONE: IF I'M SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD, KILL ME, ALREADY.

I don't want extraordinary measures taken to preserve some technical definition of "life". If I am in excruciating pain, with no prognosis but further pain and a curtain at the end of it....pull that curtain over here, if I can't do it myself. It's legal here now, although they're still hammering out the fine points, but not to put too fine a point on it, if it's made illegal again when I need it...get away with it. I not only forgive you, I emphatically state there's nothing to forgive, and I'm sorry to any deists reading this, but my opinion on this matter is the only one that signifies, just as your opinion on the manner of your death is the only one that signifies for you. Get away with it.

Likewise, if I am in a vegetative state, unable to communicate and respond to loved ones, I want out. If I am unable to give and receive love, than life has no meaning to me.

POINT TWO: MAKE USE OF ME.

Anything that can be used to help somebody, harvest it. (Just...please make damned sure I'm actually gone before you do it.) My organ donor card has been signed, but the wider this -- all of this -- is known, the happier I'll be.
To me, this needs to be opt-out rather than opt-in. There are too many people needing too many things. I often find myself wishing I could somehow give my heart, say, and somehow remain alive.

POINT THREE: WHATEVER CAN'T BE USED, DISCARD IT

I don't care. I'm dead. Burn it, preferably. Do whatever you will with the ashes: I have no preference in the matter, so whatever you find meaningful, do that.
On no account do I wish to be buried. I believe that's a huge waste of space and time.

POINT FOUR: REMEMBER ME

There are some things I'd like done, if someone's in a position to do them.  I'd like some sort of memorial service...but only if it is non-religious. I'd like music to be a part of it...again, nothing religious...and I have one specific song request: this recording of this song.


Finally, I would like a little stack of cards with my photo on one side and this on the other:

I have lived and I have loved;
I have waked and I have slept;
I have sung and I have danced;
I have smiled and I have wept;
I have won and wasted treasure;
I have had my fill of pleasure;
and all these things were weariness,
and some of them were dreariness, --
and all these things, but two things, 
were emptiness and pain:
And Love--it was the best of them,
And Sleep--worth all the rest of them...
--Charles Mackay



21 August, 2016

Labels Are For Jars

I just came across this and it made me stop short:

"(We have a) fundamental human need to categorize everything. To compare and fit things into their boxes so that we understand them better."

Whenever I see the phrase "fundamental human need", it activates a hand brake in my skull. Not quite as strong as "it goes without saying", but...strong. Because most of the time what follows that phrase is NOT a fundamental human need, but something strongly perceived as a need by the speaker.

There are times I feel like a label helps promote understanding, and I'll latch on to it. And then I'll invariably discover that (a) there are varying definitions of that label; (b) many people seem to value their definition over all others, and you (c), that just grates on me.

Take that 'demisexual' label I adopted last year. It describes me well, in many ways; need some level of emotional attachment for sexual attraction to occur; fantasies about celebrities are just...weird to me. 
But most of the demis I have interacted with are not like me at all in one critical way that they use to define their demisexuality. It takes them months, sometimes years, to build enough love for lust to exist.  

Not me. Sometimes it takes longer, but it can happen in a matter of hours if I 'click'. AND I'VE ALWAYS KNOWN THIS. It happened with Eva and it happened again this year. 

Discovering this disconnect between myself and other demisexuals would have bothered me as recently as three years ago, when I was more hung up on labels. Now I don't care so much.

I'm reminded of one of my best friends, who is gay. Now, he is undoubtedly gay: he has many female friends he loves dearly, but the thought of sex with a female utterly repulses him. He once referred to a vagina, and I'm sorry but this is too gross not to share, as "a canned ham dropped from a great height".  It turns out this originates with gay icon Dan Savage; I should have known.

At any rate, my friend moved to San Diego years back to be somewhere more welcoming. He was thinking he would blossom there. He eventually did. But not before he discovered that he didn't fit the community definition of 'gay' at all. 
As Jay described it, to be 'gay' in San Diego in the early 90s meant you slept around. You had orgies. The line between 'friend' and 'lover' was so blurred as to be nonexistent.

This didn't fit Jay's conception of 'gay' at all. He was and is a one-man man. And he was actually ridiculed and even ostracized for this, early on. 

Can you imagine that? Can you? To yearn all your adult life to be somewhere you can be accepted for who you are...to finally get there...and to be rejected for who you are instead? It depressed the hell out of him. I seemed to be his only emotional outlet for a couple of years, which was distressing me to no end: we were four thousand kilometers apart. 

It had me wishing I was gay for a bit. No, I'm not making that up. I wrote that in this blog's predecessor, a vivid purplish-pink notebook I called "Past, Present, Fuschia". Had I felt the slightest bit of sexual attraction to him, there's not a whole lot I wouldn't have done for the man. Still isn't, for that matter. I didn't, though, and he did eventually find a man to marry. They're still together.

You start down this road of questioning labels, there's no telling where it will take you. Just recently I felt the first twinge of sexual attraction I've ever felt for a man in my life. Just a twinge, mind you, I'm not lusting after the guy. (And here I am qualifying that right away as if there'd be something wrong if I did lust after him...) There's no doubt I'm straight by my own definition, but for many people, males in particular, admitting what I just admitted is tantamount to copulating in a Pride parade.

Fuck 'em...pun definitely intended. There are spectra; people are complicated. Very few people are entirely one thing or another, and the need to shove people into little boxes is tremendously limiting. I felt this twinge of attraction, processed it, said to myself hmm, that's interesting, and got on with my life. 

Some people would question if I was even poly. And by their definitions they'd have a point. 

I'm forever railing against the way "polyamory" is coming to mean any form of ethical non-monogamy, from swinging to fuck-buddies to anything else that doesn't have love in it. It's a losing battle: I don't have control over how anyone but me uses any word at all. It bothers me, though, because now when I say I'm poly, I have to hurriedly define it not just for monogamous people, but for other people who use the term completely differently.

Now there's a new label in town: relationship anarchy (RA). As I've said before, I hate the term, because in my mind and many other minds, anarchy means chaos. But RAs use the word simply to denote their rejection of rules-based relationships. The idea here is that no distinction is made between friendships and sexual relationships; each individual relationship is cherished on its own time and terms and none is elevated over any other. It's the ultimate rejection of labels. 

And it appeals.  Much of it applies to the way I actually live, now. But try explaining it. And if you think polyamory is open to abuse (the cheater who says "but I'm poly! I love you both!" ought to be hung by his genitals)...RA is much more so. It's not about selfishness and doing whatever you want, whenever you want to -- its manifesto explicitly states "love and respect instead of entitlement" -- but it certainly looks that way to people who haven't even been exposed to polyamory...and I really hesitate to brand myself with a label which is that easily misunderstood. 

My poly has one rule, a very few boundaries, and a couple of overarching guidelines--"the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship" (which is an RA principle if ever I heard one) and Wheaton's Law -- "don't be a dick". I think that rules can easily take the place trust should occupy, and that is often destructive to a relationship. Rules also try to force a relationship into little boxes -- I can't type that without hearing Pete Seeger in my head -- and that's not a good thing. It denies growth. 

The other thing that make me shout "NO" in my head was "to compare...so we understand them better"

"This is not that" is maybe the first step towards understanding, but it's a baby step. I have found it's much more instructive, not to mention productive, to free your mind of comparison entirely to really grok a thing and especially a person. To really get inside someone's head, you need to be out of everyone else's and especially your own.

Labels are for jars. And comparison is for shoppers.









20 August, 2016

Tragically Un-hip And Other Stories

I hesitate to write this, because I will instantly brand myself as heretical, blasphemous, un-Canadian, but...

I...

I don't like the Tragically Hip.

I can't deny they're iconic, an absolute fixture of Canadiana, one of the most remarkable Canadian success stories ever. Nor would I suggest that what has happened to their lead singer, Gordon Downie -- terminal brain cancer -- is anything other than, well, tragic.

There have been posters circulating on Facebook for the past week to the effect that "Canada Will Be Shut Down On Saturday At 8:30 PM, Sorry For The Inconvenience"--and so help me, I thought that had something to do with the Olympics (which is another thing that I have been paying dramatically less attention to than is my wont).  Not to make a big deal of this, but...I can't stand Gord Downie's voice. It sounds to me like a chainsaw.

Please don't hate me. I have similar visceral reactions to other celebrated singers: Willie Nelson will always be the robot with a head cold to me, and while I'm not afraid to state for the record that I actually like a number of Nickelback songs (while conceding that in the eyes of many this will simply affirm that I have no musical taste whatsoever)--I will always and forever wonder when Chad Kroeger is actually going to take that dump he seems to need to take so badly.

Forgive me for this, too. It might seem too much like stealing thunder. But I'd like to draw attention to another Canadian group whose lead singer was silenced much too early. This group never attained anywhere near the commercial success of the Hip; in fact, to many Canadians they're probably a one-hit wonder.

The group was called Spirit of the West, and if you know them at all, you know them for their hit Home For A Rest. But they've actually been active one year longer than their more Hip cousins, albeit with a seven year hiatus, and they were and are highly respected among other Canadian musicians, including Gord Downie, with whom they toured.

Their frontman, John Mann, is battling early-onset Alzheimer's. Mental health permitting, Spirit of the West may perform one-off concerts here and there, but their touring days are done, more's the pity.

I can't say I was a fanatic about this group. I've never been fanatical about ANY musical act to the point that, say, many Tragically Hip fans seem to be. Rare is the group, no matter what genre or how much I enjoy them, for whom I can devote more than an album's attention at a time: I crave musical variety.

But SotW is one of relatively few groups I have seen perform live, which should tell you something.  When I heard what has befallen Mann...I teared up a bit. It may lack the gravity of terminal brain cancer, but early-onset Alzheimer's, or any Alzheimer's at all, is not something I would wish on anyone.

On a night when the final act of a legend plays out, I urge you to set aside a few minutes, afterwards, and give this music its due. I'll link three favourite songs of mine.

(Puttin' Up Wiith) The Joneses -- this is a song about stigma, in this case stigma against the mentally challenged, and it stings. The bridge, in particular, hits me hard every time I hear it:

Mr. Jones and Mrs Jones,
we're elated to inform you,
Though you've failed to meet the standards,
We've a place where we'll reform you.
It's a ways outside of town
But the distance has its uses:
Close enough to make the effort --
Far enough to make excuses...

Political -- this one is about an unhealthy relationship, one in which you're not free to be yourself, and oh, boy, will it ever RESONATE if you've ever found yourself in a relationship like that:

You'd let me out to run across your world
 I ran into a wall you told me I built it 
Then you'd reel me in, ream me out, pick me up
Push me out again
And then repeat it

 The Crawl -- and here's video from their last show. One of the all-time best drinking songs. No subtext here, just a good old-fashioned pub crawl and a hoot and a half.

Please find it in your hearts on this night of nights, to mourn another Canadian musical act that extinguished far, far too soon.

--Ken




15 August, 2016

"Confused Mono. Don't Hate Me"

Source background and questions taken from this Reddit thread. I would encourage anyone interested to read the thread itself: there's a goldmine of information on "how it works" in there.

I like being people's first contact with polyamory. I feel like I'm relatable for most of them: physically monogamous for the entirety of my marriage (even though I've been emotionally poly for roughly ever), able to gently reframe people's thoughts and assumptions, and of course I try very hard not to judge the feelings behind people's words. More than a few have come away from talking with me with new things to think about.

This, below, really captivated me because it's so raw. You can feel the pain here, and yet the writer is trying to honestly engage with people she doesn't understand. I respect that immensely. And so I'm going to give her questions (which are all very good ones) a go. You're going to get a deeper insight into my poly life than I've given so far with my responses.

There is adult content here. Grow up fast.

Ready...set...go.
__________________________________

I (30/F) have recently split from my (31/M) poly boyfriend. We agreed when we started going out that we would both be monogamous, and he said he was okay with that. Two years in, he changed his mind, I couldn't handle it, and we broke up.

 Poly people, please help me. I really hope my questions do not come off as offensive, as I genuinely do not understand how poly people truly think. As much as I've tried, I cannot wrap my head around it. Some random questions are below; please feel free to pick-and-choose, as I don't expect anyone to answer all of them. This is more of a "stream of consciousness" thing... 

1) I love ice cream. LOVE it. I would eat it every meal, every day, every year for the rest of my life if I could. Well, actually, I can...but I don't. I choose not to because it would make me fat. It would make me lose a part of life that I value (being fit). Why is poly not like this? I understand that people have the desire for it, but if someone breaks up with you because they are poly, it feels like that equates to, "I don't like you enough to make this sacrifice for you." I'm sure the gut response to that is, "The same could be said for you. Why don't you sacrifice by allowing your partner to be poly?" I think the difference is that poly people aren't always in a relationship with 2+ people. A fully single poly person who starts dating Person 1 isn't guaranteed to ever find Person 2 or Person 2B, yet I can't imagine they would say they're unhappy while searching. A monogamous person, on the other hand, is "fully happy" once they find their one person. Please tear this argument down and tell me why it's wrong, as I'm trying to understand. 

KEN: Oh, the pain and confusion here is palpable. And there's confusion on my side, too, because there's a couple of fundamental disconnects in the question.

The notion that "true" love must involve sacrifice is right up there with true love involving exactly one other human being as far as accepted wisdom goes. No doubt there is some truth to it: as Dan Savage notes in "The Price of Admission", "there is no settling down without some settling for".

BUT.

Sacrificing a huge part of who you are for a relationship rarely ends well. Actually, I'd argue it NEVER does. It's bad enough that people feel they need others to 'complete' them...even worse if they're willing to discard who they are in the process.
And for poly people, it truly is a huge part of who we are. There is a never-ending debate in poly circles as to whether mono and poly are akin to orientations or not, but be advised many of us feel that way. You wouldn't try to turn your gay friend straight for you.

This question is ripe with scarcity thinking: you even allude to it as much with your (interesting!) insight about happiness. A mono person is "fully" happy once they've found their one person, you say, and suggest that you can't imagine a poly person with a single partner is unhappy. But there's an implicit assumption that he's not happy ENOUGH, else he wouldn't be searching.

I am happily married. Have been for coming up on sixteen years. I never once thought to myself, you know what? Eva isn't good enough for me, I need more. Not once. I'm open to new connections, and I don't choose to place limits on how those connections evolve ahead of time. Because the world needs love. Because I have a lot of love to give. It's not that Eva isn't good enough. It's that -- well, look, you've got an ice cream analogy in there, I'll give you a food analogy of my own (actually it's Franklin Veaux's, from the excellent polyamory FAQ on his website). Suppose you've got a favourite restaurant. You go there...once a week, let's say. Does the fact you eat there -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- somehow impugn your partner's cooking? Should she be jealous? That seems silly, doesn't it?

Or--I love love love the response from "ejp1082":

Imagine you've got a favorite band. You've got no control over when that band comes to town to play a concert. For all you know, they might stop touring and never play again. 
You're probably going to be happy enough with your life even if you never get that chance to see them play. But you know, if they did come to town to play a concert, and you could get tickets, but your partner is saying "No, I forbid you from seeing that band" - that would be pretty upsetting wouldn't it? 
And even if you have no idea when or if the band will even tour, maybe realistically you don't think you'll ever see them play - just knowing your partner is outright prohibiting it would make you kind of resentful, no? 
Some poly people don't even actively search for additional relationships. They just want to know their relationships won't be artificially restricted should the opportunity arise.

-----

2) How do you feel as passionately about your partner when you know they are coming home covered in someone else's juices? Maybe this is just a primal thing, but if my partner came home with pussy juice on his cock, I would be disgusted. To be clear, it's not the actual fluids that would wash off in the shower; it's that feeling of "someone else was here." How does that not bother you? 

KEN: it...just...doesn't.

Some people are turned on by it. I'm not, exactly, but...it just doesn't signify for me. Did she have a good time? Great! Do I need to hear a blow-by-blow account of it? Nope!

It almost always seems to come down to sex, doesn't it? With guys, it's all about "does he have a bigger dick" delusions of inadequacy. With women, there is often that disgust you express so eloquently.

Sex is, let's face it, a pretty common recreational activity that has varying levels of meaning, from pure sport to tantric soul-stretching connection and everything in between (a rare few people actually seem to be able to do both extremes at once, which I admit I'm rather envious of).
And those varying levels of meaning trigger various jealous responses in many people. For some, "just sex" is no big deal so long as there are no emotional attachments. For others, the mere thought of somebody else so much as kissing "their" partner is absolutely insupportable. Polyamorous people tend to be sex-positive types who don't see anything wrong with two or more people enjoying themselves and each other.  (There are also many asexual polyamorists who are partnered with someone who is not asexual; that asexual partner may have an attitude towards sex in general that is anywhere from indifference to disgust, but any sex would cause that reaction, not just sex with "their" partner.)
IN GENERAL, THOUGH:  "Someone else was here"? Well, we're not bubble-wrapped. Unless we were both virgins when we met, someone else has been "here". I hope he had a good time of it. I bet he did.

I *will* say, speaking only for myself, that I have a bit of a hangup on proximity. That's my issue: I'd prefer not to be kissed immediately after someone else has kissed her. It's not revulsion, MUCH less fear of any 'gay cooties' or something stupid like that. No, it's just an ironclad conviction of mine that relationships deserve their own space. For the same reason, I will immediately correct anyone who isn't Eva calling me "love", and unless you're Eva you will NEVER get that term of endearment applied to you. You'll have your own. Silly, perhaps, but I'm a bit fastidious that way. 

3) This will seem extremely harsh, but...would you consider poly to be selfish? "I will date whoever I want" seems awfully self-entitled to me.

KEN: This will seem extremely harsh, but...would you consider monogamy to be selfish? "You may not date anyone else, ever" seems awfully self-entitled to me.

In a sense, poly IS selfish: you're choosing to throw away society's norms and rules in favour of norms and rules you (and your partners) have decided work better for you. That is a selfish act.
But I would argue that not sharing someone can just as easily be cast as a selfish act.
Let's be clear here: "I get to date whoever I want" IS incredibly selfish. It's also not how (healthy) poly works. Healthy poly is about carefully negotiated boundaries, and adherence to them. Those boundaries are different for every poly relationship. Some people would place their friends off limits. Some people would actually be more comfortable with their partner dating their friends. Most people would have an issue with dating relatives.  Disregarding your partner's boundaries is selfish as hell. It's also often grounds for dissolution of the relationship--or, in a single word: CHEATING.
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4) Relationship hierarchy seems hurtful to me. How do you find happiness as someone's secondary? As a primary, how do you ever feel comfortable that you won't be demoted? Surely, there have to be stories about a secondary who was favored and ultimately promoted, thereby wrecking the primary relationship. I guess this isn't significantly different than people who get divorced or cheat (their hierarchies change), but it still seems hurtful and risky.

KEN: This question merits a book in response. Let's answer it directly, first: there are great rewards in being a "secondary" if that is what you choose to be. It can work particularly well when each partner in a couple has secondary relationships: the secondaries don't have to deal with all the mundane tediousness of finances, childrearing, and all that jazz, and are free to focus on the partnership.
N.B.  There are many, many ways to "do poly" that don't involve hierarchies at all, and many poly people feel just as strongly negative about hierarchy as you do.

I would say that this is the hardest part of poly for me, living and labelling this, both. I dislike "primary/secondary" myself, because it does seem to minimize other relationships. At the same time, I am eternally concerned about ensuring Eva doesn't feel minimized either.
Here's the thing. A "primary" relationship isn't supposed to make decisions unilaterally that involve "secondaries" -- see this phenomenal Relationship Bill of Rights -- but it often does. Primary relationships aren't supposed to invoke couple privilege (shoutout to the solo polys for whom couples may not even enter into the picture at all)...but it often does.

It's not about Eva, or Ken, or EvaAndKen always coming first...it's about treating each partner as a partner and each situation on a case-by-case basis. There are undoubtedly times Mark comes first, and that's as it should be. Hell, there are times when a friend of mine needs me and I'll drop everything. Those friends know it, too. They've seen it. But it doesn't relegate Eva, either.
Rather than 'primary', I refer to her as my 'anchor' partner. That seems less restrictive: a ship often has more than one anchor, for one thing.

As for secondaries being promoted...

Yeah. This happens. EACH RELATIONSHIP SEEKS AND FINDS ITS OWN LEVEL, and that can displace other relationships.  Sometimes it happens in spite of all the silly safeguards you put into your relationship to keep it from happening.  And it's something you have to be aware of, going in: someday, relationships may need to be re-jigged. It is, indeed, a risk.
But then, so is any relationship. You never know when your monogamous partner is going to suddenly find someone "better" and throw you to the curb. The nice thing in polyamory is that nobody ever need be "thrown" anywhere.

5) Are there "older" poly people? I feel like everyone I see talking about this is 18-40. This makes me think it cannot work in the long-term. If it did, surely people who are 65+ would be coming out of nowhere telling us about their lifetime success story. Am I missing these stories?

Ken: Yes. You are.

Polyamory, the word, has been around since ca. 1990 or so. Non-monogamy actually predates monogamy, so it's not unreasonable to think that people have been loving more than one another for a very long time. I personally know of several polyamorous people in their fifties and sixties. They just may not call it that. They may not have a word for it at all. They may just call it "my family". And they may not be in touch with their local "poly" community and even know that there's now this word for the way they've been living.

And I can't understate the stigma. It's crazy, but true: abundant love seems to breed abundant hate. Easier at an old age to stay in the closet. I'd imagine I would think it was none of anyone's business anyway.
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6) I agree that love is potentially infinite...but time is not. You can't possibly tell me that a 5-days-a-week relationship is just as strong as a 7-days-a-week one. Why is it more fulfilling to have 2 good relationships vs. 1 stronger one?

KEN: Actually, I can possibly tell you that a five-days-a-week relationship is just as strong as a seven-days-a-week relationship. Hell...I know married, monogamous  couples who, due to long hours and/or conflicting work schedules only see each other on weekends. Is that a "two-day-a-week" marriage? You know what they do? They make every weekend a mini-honeymoon.
That's something sort of like how poly partners can be.
Poly people do have a term: "polysaturated", to express the idea that there is simply no more time in their lives to devote to a relationship. We tend to be acutely aware of both others' demands on our time, and our own demands on the time of others, especially since there are often so many relationships in play.
Then there are "comets". These are the people you see once in a blue moon for a night or a week.  Are they more important than the partner you live with? Probably not. Are they any less deserving of the whole of you while you are with them? DEFINITELY not.

When families are involved, "responsibility jealousy" seems inevitable. You probably wash the dishes and mop the floors with your primary, but I doubt you do it with your secondary. You probably have more freedom to be "fun" with them because your focus is less on day-to-day living and more on just enjoying each other's company. With lives as busy as they are, isn't it possible that the secondary ends up having much more fun (and much, much less chore/life-related responsibility) than the primary? And if the secondary wasn't around, wouldn't the primary get to enjoy more of this fun time instead of them?

KEN: Again, we're in this primary/secondary model that simply doesn't fit many poly relationships I know of. But that said--

Eva's and my first date involved, partially, a trip to Costco. Shared household chores can be fun, bonding, even romantic experiences.
Each relationship needs to be maintained and not taken for granted. Alone time is absolutely essential, especially in cohabitating trios or quads where it can be hard to come by.  If you're in a relationship that involves romance, you have to supply some, both of you. It's as simple as that.

And you sure as hell don't have to be poly to see this. Just have kids, and see how hard it is to remain a "dating" couple. Do we dare suggest for a second that children detract from a marriage because of how much of a responsibility they are? I'd hope not.

Again, please forgive me, as I do not mean any offense by any of this. I am desperately trying to understand why this desire for multiple partners has ultimately torpedoed what I thought was my "forever relationship."

KEN: Isn't it more than a little odd that, by society's metrics, the only "successful" relationship can be said to have taken place after somebody DIES?

14 August, 2016

Ashlea and Jeremy

You might think, if you don't know me well, that I lack an appreciation for weddings. After all, I'm proudly polyamorous and your typical wedding ceremony quite simply...isn't.

The fact is I love weddings. Absolutely adore them. Why? Because they are celebrations of two things that I and my chosen philosophy are all about.

Love.

And commitment.

_______________

We're getting to an age where we're probably more likely to attend a funeral than a wedding. But Eva and I have these twenty-something friends that have somehow accepted our forty-mumble selves as part of their in-group. It started with Glitch (and yes, that is his real name)...a man I worked with at Walmart who is now a good friend. He introduced us to some of his inner circle of friends: Brinn and Coralee...and Ashlea and Jeremy.

These are strong, smart, storied people with whom I enjoy spending time. I haven't spent  enough time, online or off, with any of them, and yet again...somehow...Eva and I were invited to a ceremony at Kitchener city hall for "family and a few close friends". That really touched both of us.

KITCHENER CITY HALL, AUGUST 13, 2016

The weather is not exactly fitting for bridal dresses. I joked on Facebook earlier that it's "muggier than a guy stealing your wallet": 28 degrees C with ridiculous 89% humidity giving a humidex of 41C (106F). The cloud cover is heavy and oppressive. The ceremony is set for 2:00 p.m.; the skies open up briefly at 11:45, dumping a bunch of extra humidity into the air; it remained dour and louring.

All of our friends are in the wedding party...Brinn and Glitch by Jeremy's side, Coralee on Ashlea's. Glitch's son Gidget--one of the more well-mannered kids I've met, and a credit to his single dad--is the ring bearer. The guys are kilted and dashing; the women are lovely.

Especially, of course, the bride.

Ashlea's been telling me for a week now how nervous she is. Tripping seems to be her major concern: she claims to be the queen of it. But when it comes time to walk down the aisle she's surefooted and radiant.

I spent more time selecting music for my wedding than I did on all the rest of it combined. Music means a great deal to me and it's the first thing I hone in on at a wedding, coming in just ahead of the vows themselves. Ashlea and Jeremy have gone with a wedding processional that is well off the beaten path and yet so appropriate:


with this kiss...

And -- I'm not kidding -- just as the couple was formally introduced....Ashlea and Jeremy Hill...the sun broke through that heavy, heavy overcast. The symbolism seems trite and overdone, but in this case...no, it's not. Ashlea made note in her personalized vows of how she likely wouldn't have been around if Jeremy hadn't come into her life. She wasn't being dramatic about that: simply stating a fact.

(We'll dismiss the weather as a metaphor for life presently, since there was a monsoon-type rain and a tornado warning a couple of hours later; a tornado did in fact touch down a bit over an hour away.)

Their first dance tune was even more unique, something that gets played a lot at some weddings, no doubt, but not often at weddings where a man is marrying a woman: Same Love, by Macklemore and Lewis, and there are reasons for this, too. (Anybody who disdains hip-hop and thinks it has nothing positive to offer the world really needs to take time out of their lives and listen to this song.)

Ashlea and Jeremy asked for "wisdom, advice and pictures" to enjoy, and provided crayons and placemats. Eva and I consulted...we have sixteen years and many shared sources to draw on.

Eva:

"Never take each other for granted."
"Make each other laugh every day"
"Go on dates. They don't have to be special. Run errands together."

Me:

"Forgive and forget: married life is for giving AND for getting"
"Budget the luxuries first*"
"Rub her back**"
"Love is a verb"
"Be each other's strength AND each other's weakness"

*'Budget the luxuries first' is advice for a happy marriage from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, by Robert Heinlein
**so is 'rub her back', except there it's 'rub her feet'...Ashlea has a revulsion of all things foot, so I changed it

I'm especially proud of that last piece of advice, which probably isn't original to me but which I don't think I've ever actually heard. 

After the father-daughter dance there was a special dance in memory of Ashlea's mom, and it was here that I lost control of my emotions a little. Partly, of course, in memory of my own mom, but also...there was something so...verklempt... about watching the bride completely enfolded by her closest friends on the dance floor. 

I couldn't stay as long at the reception as I would have liked. My guts always seem to pick the most inopportune moments to act out, and they were roiling something terrible before we even left home. But both Eva and I are honoured and overjoyed to have been a part of the first very special day of a very special marriage.

Ashlea and Jeremy, may you always find yourselves in each other, and may you never lose each other to yourselves. 

Love,

Ken and Eva