“I honestly don’t know what I expected out of polyamorous people, but you guys aren’t at all what I thought you’d be like.”
I laugh. “What do you mean by that?”
“Don’t take it the wrong way,” she says.
“I’m not offended or anything. I just want to understand what you’re talking about. I bet you have a unique perspective.”
She’s often one of the only people at certain social gatherings who isn’t currently in a polyamorous relationship and has never been. She expressed mild polycuriousity in the distant past but has gone back and forth in the interim.
But it’s been a long while, so I suspect she’s made some interesting observations.
I relay this to her and add, “One could say you’re our resident anthropologist.”
“Okay, okay, I think there are two things that really stick out to me… that make it incredibly different than a gathering of monogamous people.”
“Well, the first one is that it’s not always clear who’s dating whom. You have friends who are hugging or cuddling. Romantic partners who spend the entire night talking to other people they don’t see very often. If I want to know who a person is dating, I usually have to ask them… and sometimes they need to draw me a diagram if I want to get a sense of the broader picture, how everyone relates to one another.”
I nod. “That is 100% true.”
“It’s a lot different from ‘normal’ parties… I don’t mean anything by that, that you’re weird or that there’s anything wrong wi — ”
“I know,” I say, nodding. “I know what you mean. It’s fine. You mean parties with your non-poly friends. That’s all you meant.”
“Right,” she says. “At those other parties, couples usually stick really close together. You can typically tell who came with whom. And if you can’t, if it gets confusing, there’s usually because of some big dramatic event. Something has gone wrong. Someone’s going off and doing something they shouldn’t.”
“Huh,” I say. “That’s genuinely very interesting to me. I guess I could see that, although it’s been a while since I’ve been to a gathering like that.” Admittedly, it’s been ages since I went to a private party at all because of the pandemic, but it’s been even longer that I’ve gone to a party where the attendees weren’t predominantly polyamorous, kinky, or both.
“You said there were two things,” I say. “What’s the other thing?”
“That people can share space so well with their exes.”
I nod. “I’ve definitely seen exes who get along. But it doesn’t always happen that way of course.”
“Really?” she says. “Polyamorous people have difficult breakups, too?”
“Well yeah. You date more, you have more breakups. It’s just part of the territory. ” I say. “I’ve had some difficult ones myself. Breakups are literally half the plot of my first book.”
“You?” she says. “But you’re so chill. I can’t see you being difficult.”
“But I’m dating other people. I’m not dating myself,” I point out.
This gets a laugh.
“Anyway,” I say, “It takes two people to break up well. Sometimes more than two if the breakup happens in a complicated relationship system. And sometimes it takes a little time for people to sort though their feelings while taking a little space. Frankly, that time can be a little tense and awkward. Rejection’s like that. Endings are like that. You never know exactly how things are going to shake out. That doesn’t apply to just polyamorous relationships systems of course — but all relationships.”
“So there’s hope for me and my ex yet?” she says.
“I’m in wait and see mode on you two,” I reply.