Poly Question 1.2
Do I feel there can be only one “true” love or one “real” soulmate?
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
-Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
At 8 years old, I murmur softly under the covers at Emma. I know we’re supposed to be sleeping, but I can’t stop talking to her, about unicorns, about Narnia, about ice crystals forming on the window. In the darkness, we come up with a half-dozen new alternate names for her cat. I brush stray hairs from her mouth, ponder what would happen if I kissed her. The blanket is rough-sewn, a first-time effort by her mother, Dr. Taylor, a wonderfully sweet zoology professor dabbling in all things domestic. The blanket is nothing like the ones my mother makes. My mom’s blankets are perfect. My mom’s cookies are perfect. Dr. Taylor’s baked goods all look a little sad and melted. And yet, they are so much better. It is like Dr. Taylor is one of us children. She’s trying and learning and making just as many mistakes as we are. I should know. The reindeer napkin holder I make in Girl Scouts has 3 eyes and looks like it’s been sneaking eggnog all season.
At Emma’s birthday party, I’m running around in their giant backyard playing with the other kids when it occurs to me that I need to get to a bathroom and fast. But it’s too late. I creep into the shrubbery, hiding feebly. Dr. Taylor finds me. I tearfully choke out what has happened. The professor leads me into their house through the back entrance, starts the shower, supplies me with some of Emma’s extra clothes. No lecture. She seems to understand perfectly that 8 is young enough to have such an accident but old enough to be mortified. Dr. Taylor never tells the other kids or my mother what happened and later tucks the laundered clothes into my soccer bag.
Over the next decade, the Taylors let me stay at their house whenever I can’t go home and ask me no questions about what’s happening with my family.
They are not the only ones. I cobble together a large family of here and there and everywhere. I love every single one of them. My feelings have a sure way of getting confused, too — physical, intellectual, and emotional love twisting up into a tight braid. I am grateful, I am aroused, I am vulnerable, I am saved.
I am understood, in pieces and parts.
This is survival. I connect with everyone. I find it natural to connect with most people, provided our values overlap somewhat.
Is it ever perfect? No. It may sound jaded, but I truly believe that perfect relationships don’t exist between humans. The only perfect people are those we don’t know well enough for them to disappoint us yet (and vice versa).
This guy I’m with now, my primary of the past 6 years, my husband, he really does understand me better than anyone ever has. He gets me. In that way, he really does stand out from the rest of the people I’ve known in a kind of bas-relief. It hasn’t really happened that way with anyone else, not nearly to this degree.
But does that mean that it’s impossible to achieve such a connection with someone else? No. It could happen. It’s extremely rare to find such a thing, but it’s possible. I know because it happened to me once already.
It’s a lot like Mindy says on the Mindy Project, “Best friend isn’t a person Danny, it’s a tier.”
I know people like to pull apart friendship and romantic/sexual relations like they’re radically different things, but attachment is nebulous and doesn’t respect clear-cut boundaries the way that our brains would like. Many of the same mechanisms still apply.
No one true anything in this life. And isn’t that a kind of mercy in and of itself? Knowing that we can find joy in unexpected places, that we can bounce back from any loss, no matter how crushing, given enough time and enough bravery.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay.
For the entire list of questions, please see this indexed list.