Hi Page, I just wanted to write and thank you for your blog and your books! You are such a good teacher. I do a fair amount of teaching myself, and I know that we all have our difficult spots. I was just wondering: What are the things that are hardest for you to teach?
Thank you! I get a lot of questions in the process of writing, coaching, and teaching classes, and you’re right. I have my Kryptonite, just like anyone else.
So far, I’ve discovered that there are basically two kinds of questions where I consistently run into problems as an educator, times that I feel like a very bad teacher.
“But What If My Family Won’t Accept Me as a Polyamorous Person?”
One of these is when people ask me anything like “But what if my family won’t accept me as a polyamorous person?”
My family basically decided I wasn’t part of the team fairly early on. I’ve always been generally considered an annoying, embarrassing liability if I did anything other than pretend I was a completely different person than I actually was.
So I never really worried about losing my parents’ approval because of the reality that I’m not straight and (later) not monogamous. To lose it, I would have had to have it in the first place. And basically, their approval was confined to times when I performed well, either metaphorically in my self-monitoring or impression management (pretending to be a “better” kid than I was) or performing literally via playing music skillfully, placing in formal debates, and winning essay contests.
I’m sure to their thinking they have a daughter they approve of — but only because they’ve limited their consideration of me to a certain scope that’s far from who I am as an entire person. (Related: I’ve come out to my mother about various things at least a dozen times, and every time she reacts as though we’ve never had the conversation.)
Now, I certainly wanted to belong somewhere. So what I did, year by year, was find other people who did accept me, and I built a kind of chosen family from friends, colleagues, lovers. And I’m deliriously happy now with that.
Essentially, I’ve learned that if someone doesn’t approve of me at a very basic level, the problem might not be with how I’m socially handling the situation and more related to matters of compatibility. I’ve never had trouble finding people to spend time with who actually approve of me — they just weren’t necessarily all in my starting zone (to put it in MMORPG terms cuz why not).
The best I can do at the times I’m asked those sorts of questions is share my own path of learning to value myself without approval and creating my own community and hope it’s at least somewhat helpful.
“How Do I Deal With the Holidays?”
The other area I consistently struggle is with any questions about holidays, difficulty sharing them among lovers, expectations about how they’re gonna be celebrated, etc.
I’m not a big fan of celebrating holidays. I find them inordinately stressful. As I wrote in an earlier piece:
There’s a big problem with holidays. In a word: Expectations.
It can be hard enough to make sure a random Thursday in August turns out okay. You get a flat tire. Horrible work shift. You get sick. Someone breaks into your home.
So if a lot of us designate an exact day — Christmas is a hugely popular one in my country [USA] — and say it has to be TV FAMILY MAGIC! Perfect food, everyone getting along, expensive presents that everyone will absolutely love???!!
Oh dear, oh dear. How can we ever live up to that? Control the uncontrollable? Compete against an imagination long fed with unrealistic cultural depictions? Nope nope nope.
And you can have much more modest expectations and still be disappointed.
For a long stretch of years, my family of origin’s favorite game? Discussing my most embarrassing past life decisions in the worst way possible. Yes, I know none of you liked my ex-boyfriend Dan. Jesus, do we have to bring that up every year? And no, Dad – the 44th prez’s name is NOT “your boyfriend Barack Hussein Obama.” (Although I wish. Michelle, too.)
I’ve structured my whole life in such a way that I’m generally happy with how I’m living 365 days a year: I have a great marriage and amazing relationships, my friends are fantastic, I like where I live, my cats are the best, my job is pretty good most days.
Given all of this, it’s a lot of pressure to designate certain days and require for them to be extra great. That is just too much damn pressure.
So I have to really go up in my head when I’m asked these kinds of questions — pull them apart like puzzles. Analyze the components. And yes, I often ask my friends who do care more about holidays for input as part of that process.
One surprising thing that people tend to ask about is who you kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve if you’re at a party with multiple partners, but I’ve found that it’s largely a non-issue. There’s a solid minute or two of celebration after the ball drops, so there’s a TON of time to kiss people.
Now, I suppose you could get hung up on who gets the FIRST kiss? In hierarchical terms or something. But to me, that’s maybe a case of extra credit worry. Plenty of kisses to go around and a lot of time to administer them, I say.