In case you missed the aisles and endcaps and pyramids of red and pink candies, boxes of chocolates, decorations, home décor items, and other senseless bric-a-brac, Valentine’s Day is coming. Not quickly enough for my tastes of course, as I’m much more excited to celebrate National Half Off Chocolate Day on the 15th.
I’ve come at Valentine’s Day from all angles: single, married, divorced, and now…singleish.
If you missed my earlier post about The Wedding Invitation, let me catch you up: for a little over a year, I’ve been seeing a very sweet, nerdy, introverted vegetarian pilot who also happens to be in a relationship with another man who is himself married to a woman. Got all that? It’s my first real stab at consensual non-monogamy and while it’s been an interesting journey it certainly doesn’t make my feelings about the yearly worship of coupledom any less complicated.
There are lots of different ways to “do” polyamory, but this is the first time I’ve really had to think about it in concrete, practical ways. When people ask me about it (which surprisingly isn’t all that often), they usually ask about jealousy and how I feel about the person I’m seeing having another partner. There are brief moments of jealousy, of course, and the holidays were more difficult as there was a pretty long stretch where we didn’t see each other, but I recognize that I have geography on my side: because we live in the same place, we have many more opportunities to spend time together, opportunities that he doesn’t have with his boyfriend who lives about 5 hours away.
I’m still trying to figure out what to call him. Calling him my “fella” feels clunky, and maybe a little precious (this isn’t an episode of Leave It To Beaver). In certain contexts, I’ve started referring to him as my boyfriend, though that doesn’t feel quite right either. It feels like a word that you use because people have started to notice that you’re spending an awful lot of time with the same person and they want you put some sort of digestible meaning onto it. The word “boyfriend” is all tangled up in my mind with specific expectations, and this doesn’t seem like that. Does that make sense? Yeah, not for me either…
“Social companion” has a certain austere charm, as though we were queers of a new Victorian Age with calling cards and chaperoned visits in poshly decorated parlors. Everything would have to be done with a snooty British accent, obvi:
“Mr. Darcy, have you met my social companion?”
“Why I dare say I haven’t!”
“Oh, well you must – straightaway!”
A little ridiculous, but who doesn’t love breaking out into a British accent from time to time? Umm, yeah, me either. I was just…asking for a friend.
The term “lover” also appeals to me, as in “I’ve taken a lover.” That feels like something out of a movie from the 70s. I would be played by a fiery brunette like Sophia Loren and I would be there as an example of moral failings to the pretty and proper blonde who smiles too much and always keeps one foot on the floor. But the word lover has a complicated history for queers, especially men: it was often the go-to term for couples in the 80s long before the idea of same-sex marriage had any sort of solid footing. It implies too much, a level of closeness that I don’t feel is accurate to our relationship.
Same with “partner,” the term that took over for lover in the 90s when queers started to sanitize their sexuality for mass consumption. “Hey y’all, I have a great idea for how we can win cultural acceptance from straight people – let’s erase the ‘sex’ out of homosexuals!” Playing the eunuch to make ourselves and our communities palatable to the dominant group is still alive and well today (just look at the couples who were put forward to support same-sex marriage for the last decade or so: mostly white, all upper middle class to wealthy, all normatively gendered, conservatively dressed and coiffed). Partner just has too much baggage; plus, it sounds like we’re starting a business together.
Aside from the labels we use to define relationships, there is the definition of the relationship itself. Ever since Sex and the City made it fashionable to obsess over every facet of our romantic relationships, it doesn’t take long for that dreaded question to start knocking around in my mind: “Where is this going?” Most days, I barely know if I’m going to make it to work on time, let alone figuring out exactly where a relationship with a man who has a boyfriend who has a wife is going. What I do know is that whenever I was knocking around the idea of polyamory around in my head, I always imagined a situation where I had a primary relationship at the core of whatever web I/he/we might be building.
Until I started walking the talk about consensual non-monogamy, I had never heard the term “solo polyamory.” This article explains it a lot better and in more depth, but basically it refers to people who engage in polyamory and who, either by choice or by circumstance, don’t have a primary relationship as part of their structure. As I read through the description of solo polyamory, a lot of it sounded like me: no strong desire to merge dwellings and a strong sense of independence, preferring to identify as an individual as opposed to strongly identifying as part of a couple. And yet despite that, here I am feeling a longing for the primary partnership that I seem to think is missing.
After all this time, I thought I had it pretty much figured out and then along comes a new relationship to throw me a curveball and send my head into a spin. But relationships that don’t push you to grow and to figure things out about yourself and about what (and who) you want in your life probably aren’t worth your time. I don’t think they’re worth my time.
And so I’ll still roll my eyes at Valentines Day and all of the trappings (and traps) that go along with it, even though I have a handsome gentleman friend with whom I can spend the day trying to figure it all out. Together. But still sort of single.
Tags: Candy Hearts, Consensual Non-Monogamy, Consensual Nonmonogamy, Cupid, drag art, drag queen, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Miss Jaye, non-monogamy, polyamory, single, Singleish, Solo Poly, Solo Polyamory, Valentine's Day, World of Champagne