The Crush of Damocles: The Impending Threat of Hookup

a drawing of a sword done on a black background with what looks like white and yellow chalk
Image by J. Martin / CC BY

The Sword of Damocles

The Greek legend of the sword of Damocles is a moral parable about the danger and burdens that face those in positions of power.

The tale goes a little something like this:

Damocles is sucking up to his king, Dionysius.

“Being a king is so freaking awesome,” Damocles says. “Like, you are the best. I’d do anything to be in your magnificent shoes. Or your royal slippers, sire. Gosh.”

“Oh really?” Dionysius says.

“Yeah, really!”

So Dionysius suggests a swap.

And Damocles eagerly accepts. “This is gonna rawk!” he says (direct quote).

Damocles is super pumped. He cannot believe his luck. The palace is decked out with every comfort he can imagine. Silks. Foods from lands he doesn’t know the names of. And servants at his beck and call. It’s kind of great. But as Damocles sits down on the throne, he looks up — to see that Dionysius has arranged to have a very sharp sword hanging over his head. And what’s worse, it’s held up there with a single horse’s hair.

“Uhhh…” Damocles says. “Dafuq is this?”

So Damocles peaces out. Because maybe being wealthy and powerful isn’t so much fun. How can you enjoy it with that sword hanging over your head?

*

Long before Spider-Man popularized it, Damocles learned what was what: With great power comes great responsibility.

Also, that was a total dick move, Dionysius. I get what you were driving at (and you likely had some abstract sword hanging over your own head). But not cool! Miss Manners would not approve.

The Threat of Impending Hookup: With Great Power Comes Great Ambiguity

Being poly means more possibilities. This is one of the best things about polyamory — you never know quite where things will lead. And it’s a good feeling knowing you have the freedom to pursue something if a unique connection happens along.

But there’s a flipside to that: Practically anybody you meet could turn into a potential partner (given mutual interest, relationship agreements and logistics syncing up, etc).

And if you’re prone to social anxiety? Woooooo boy. Talk about a tough situation.

Because the fact that every person is a potential partner can make social interaction fraught with peril and awkwardness. It’s like the crush of Damocles.

I’ve been known to have 3-hour discussions with friends dissecting a social interaction with someone else. Trying to unravel the usual mystery: Were they flirting with me? Or just being nice? Or both?

Are we just going to dinner to chat? Or is it a date?

Because in poly, with great power comes great ambiguity.

*

My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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