Last Saturday I went shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding with my seventeen-year-old daughter, a friend, my friend’s husband/Master, and the woman with whom he is involved with in a BDSM relationship. Their relationship—the three of theirs—is complex. Not quite poly, but not quite your regular married couple-with-miscellaneous friend, either. The second woman and my friend’s husband don’t share a sexual relationship, but because it is D/s-based, it is a very close emotional one, and her devotion to him is clear for anyone observing it.
It was very clear to my daughter.
My daughter knows that my live-in partner, Adam, and I are poly. (For a good primer on what polyamory means, see Aurora’s post in the Word of the Week: WotW: Poly.) But she’s never met anyone else besides me and mine that have an alternative-type relationship.
Frankly, I didn’t expect her to on that shopping trip either.
I was a little taken aback, to be truthful, by how open this friend of my friend was about their relationship in front of my daughter. I have to assume that she knew that my daughter knew about me being poly…but if she didn’t…I am not sure how to feel about that. When my daughter asked me about it as we left, I was very matter-of-fact about it. “It’s okay with everyone. Just like it’s okay with me that Adam dates others, and with him that I date others.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “As long as everyone’s okay with it.” Obviously, once she knew that it was all upfront, she was a lot less disturbed than I was.
Later, upon reflection, I was glad to have had the opportunity to discuss poly with her as something that more than just I did, but at the time, there was a certain amount of discomfort initially, and that bothered me. I am open about my own life with my children. I have raised them to see poly as just another viable relationship choice. So why did I feel so uncomfortable with the other woman’s openness during our shopping trip?
I was surprised with the mix of feelings it inspired. The wedding that I was buying the dress for was for my friend’s son. Adam and I had been invited, but bringing my OSO (Other Significant Other) had never occurred to me. It was a vanilla setting, after all, and her son isn’t aware of his parent’s BDSM lifestyle or of their unique arrangement, nor, presumably, of any of their friends’. It would have seemed odd to bring a third person unrelated to the wedding party with us, and not knowing if her son knew about us (but assuming that he didn’t) it seemed rude of me to force that conversation/explanation on her. And yet, only a few weeks before, I knew of a similar situation happening, with friends bringing a woman they date to a wedding. Perhaps, in that situation, the bride and groom were aware of their parent’s—and their parent’s guests’—lifestyle choices, though I don’t know if that is so or not. I do know that, when I heard about it, again I felt uncomfortable with such openness.
When I talked about my discomfort over this with my partner, he looked at me strangely. “Would you say the same thing about a gay couple being openly together? Or an interracial couple? Should they hide their relationship because someone may have to ‘explain’ to their kids why two women are holding hands, or why a black woman and a white man are together?” That brought me up short. Of course I wouldn’t.
I profess to want to live openly. My family and friends know I am poly. When I am out with my two guys, I am affectionate with them both, although admittedly this is in places where I feel that most people will either “get it” or won’t care what my relationship is with them. It’s in the more conventional, vanilla settings that I feel some discomfort. But am I more restricted by my worries of what others’ reactions will be than I need to be? Perhaps there is some part of me that is still inhibited by what others may think, and that feels that we (polyfolk) shouldn’t be “shoving it” in the rest of the world’s face. But is simply being poly, doing the things with our otherloves that monofolk do with their own lovers/husbands/girlfriends, “shoving it” in the rest of the world’s face?
As poly people, should we hide being poly because we live in a mono world?