Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.
“I read your blog for a while before I read Poly Land, and I have to say, I was not expecting that book,” she says.
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Some parts of it are so sad, so stressful.”
“Sure,” I say. “Because that’s what happened.”
“But you’re so happy now!” she says.
“Yeah,” I say. “I am. And that’s half of the point. That’s part of why I wanted to share that story with people.”
We’re Not All Proust
I show her the Matthew Quick quote. “And I’m not saying that my book is high literature or anything,” I say. “It’s readable, but I’m not Proust or anything.”
“Thank God,” she says.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “Madeleines are fucking delicious.”
She laughs. We commiserate over the shared experience of having both read Prousts’s In Search of Lost Time — oh the madeleine episode! Cookies and memories. Gotta love it:
No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
“You know,” she says. “I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten a madeleine.”
“Me neither,” I admit. “Only something that someone else was calling one. Same with beignets, if I’m being honest.”
Slippery Operational Definitions, Pepperidge Farm Remembers
“That’s the trap, you know, with labels. Our different operational definitions. We’re having all these experiences that are labeled the same way, but are they the same, really?”
I shake my head. “No, not really. My concept of madeleines is probably not Proust’s. More likely some incredibly different Pepperidge Farm facsimile.”
“Pepperidge Farm? I thought you were really into Hickory Farms,” she says.
“Who says I have to choose? Isn’t that the whole point of polyamory?”
She doesn’t laugh. “I love you, but that may just be the worst joke you’ve ever told.”
“Fair,” I say.
“I will say that while that sad first book wasn’t always an easy read because pretty much everyone was doing polyamory wrong that in another way it was great.”
“Why?” I say. “Because it’s riveting to watch a train wreck?”
“Well, okay, sure,” she says. “Not gonna even pretend that’s not part of it. But it’s also because… okay…if you end up writing about this conversation, don’t tell anybody who I am. No details, okay?”
“Of course I won’t,” I say. “What’s up?”
Lost in Translation
“I’d read other people writing about poly, and it just didn’t make any sense to me. You know I had a rough transition myself, not that much different than yours.”
“I do,” I say.
“And so I’d just read these accounts that were like the Disney World version of things, without any reality to them about how tough it can be to adjust to poly when you’re used to doing things a different way. I mean, maybe it was just easier for them than me. But I was sitting here with my Pepperidge Farm madeleines and they were bloviating about pillowy Proustian ones. Sprinkled with fucking fairy dust or something. A little bougie even for Tinkerbell. And I just didn’t get it, how you could bridge the distance between those two operational definitions, what these poly experts were saying and what I’d lived.”
I laugh involuntarily.
“Why are you laughing?” she says.
“Because it was the same for me.”
“Oh,” she says. “Really?”
“Yeah. And honestly, I often wondered if I wasn’t really poly. Or somehow less poly. Or a failure at all this stuff. Unsuited to do it. I mean, I was basically all the doubts.”
“Oh,” she says. “Oh my God, that’s why you wrote it.”
“Yep,” I say. “It’s the Matthew Quick quote again.”
“You and your quotes,” she says. “You’re a quote junkie.”
“You love it,” I say.