You Can Be More Than One Thing, Even If People Keep Trying to Make You Pick Which One Is “Real”

a rainbow colored pinwheel photographed while it's spinning
Image by Scott Cresswell / CC BY

I know I write pretty frequently about polyamory, but as anyone who reads me or follows me on social media for a while knows, polyamory is far from the only thing I write or post about.

And while this site might be called Poly Land, I’m not only interested in polyamory. There’s a reason why this isn’t called Polya Land or Polyam Land (more specific abbreviations for polyamory). It’s because the “poly” stands for many things (polymath, polysexual, polyglot, etc.), not just polyamory. Which is fitting because “poly” means “many.”

True, I have written about polyamory quite a bit, but I myself am not strictly polyamorous, at least not solely. While I’m currently in two romantic relationships, I am arguably more properly described as ambiamorous, meaning that I’m about equally as happy being in a monogamous relationship as I am being part of a polyamorous relationship system. For me, it’s all dependent on the people involved, the specific situation I’m walking into. How we all treat one another. That’s first and foremost for me as far as relationship health and happiness. It outranks relationship structure as a personal concern.

So I’m not passionate about polyamory necessarily — especially not to the exclusion of all other things. I think monogamy is also a perfectly lovely way to conduct oneself and one I’ve enjoyed in the past.

But what I am passionate about is an idea that is very central to having polyamorous relationships: The fact that people have multiples sides to them. We are not singular, known, fixed entities. We grow and change. And even at the static snapshot level, we can be quite complicated. Humans are multifaceted, or even polyfaceted.

And in spite of this reality, other people we meet are always trying to flatten our three-dimensional natures into a singular point. No matter what it is, people always want you to choose a favorite. The thing that’s superlative. That you’re the best at. What matters most to you. And they want you to call that one thing the “real” one.

This happens in practically every context. There are a lot of people who say that you can only have one deep body of knowledge or one fulfilling career over a lifetime. You can’t be a real painter and a real accountant. You can’t be expert in cello and tuba.

They say you have to choose. That you can’t do both. And that anyone who seems to be able to do both isn’t for real.

When you change your first name to a new one, people are quick to ask about your former one by asking what your “real” name is. Or if you go by a nickname, they’ll ask what your legal name is using the same language (“real name, real name”). As though both names couldn’t be real, just attached to different times of your life or different facets to you.

They want to believe that you can’t be a sweet person with a dark side. You can’t be a person who is rough around the edges but a real softie. They want be able to reduce you to a single trait and keep you there, safely typecast.

They say that bisexual people are either faking or exaggerating. Because they’re only “really” attracted to one gender.

And if you have multiple people in your life that you love people will similarly insist that only one of those loves can be real.

It’s bullshit.

You can be more than one thing, even if people keep trying to make you pick which side of you is “real.”

It’s as Walt Whitman wrote: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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