Sometimes I feel a bit alone in my desire to have open relationships, and I go trolling around the internet searching for like-minded folks. Sometimes, I find some. And sometimes, I find this:
I see articles like the one above, and I’m happy – I’m happy that ethical nonmonogamy is getting press and going “mainstream,” except that every single article I see is talking about someone with a name like Gracie X, a Pilates teacher who lives in California, has a daughter named Tallulah, and dons black catsuits with kinky boots. Of course she’s dating someone named Oz.
No shade on Gracie X. I think Gracie X should do exactly as she pleases, but Gracie X is also a large part of the reason I’m misunderstood as a human, so you can understand my frustration. As soon as people find out that I’m nonmonogamous, this is what they picture: swingers’ parties, communal living, BDSM, and kids with hippie names who don’t know who their real father is. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, except that they’re just not me.
I’m a Midwest grown New York City girl. I have a J.D./M.B.A. and work at a large law firm as an M&A attorney. In my free time, I lift weights and run, write a blog, eat a lot of delicious vegan food, and drink booze. I’m not particularly involved in the nonmonogamous community. I’ve been to one make-out party, I have no nonmonogamous friends, and one of the two guys I’m seriously dating doesn’t even really believe in polyamory or nonmonogamy. I’m not particularly into role play, I don’t seriously practice yoga, and I have no desire to have kids with multiple men (or even one man for that matter).
I quite literally never tell people I’m polyamorous, because they will assume ALL kinds of things about me that are not even close to reality. I rarely tell people I’m ethically nonmonogamous, which tames the reaction slightly, but it’s still not great, because, thanks to the media, the only image people have of that is Gracie X.
Comparing this stereotype to the black community? I’ll admit that’s pretty unfair, but it’s at least the same in the sense that stereotypes of the black community were largely perpetuated by the media continuing to portray blacks in limited ways, mostly as uneducated, violent, or gang members. Comparing my stereotype to gays is, I think, completely fair. People used to hear the word gay and assume rampant group sex and AIDS. We now know that was ignorant, and there are lots of gay people who are, shockingly, totally “normal.” Same goes for vegans. Not all of us are outdoorsy, free the nipple types.
Now, look. I GET IT. The comparisons are still wildly unfair in the sense that the consequences of what people assume about me are almost nothing. Sure, I’ve dealt with some social discrimination due to my open relationship style, some of which I’ve written about, but in reality, my life is great, and people thinking I’m something I’m not hasn’t had any really bad effects on my life or career. It is light years away from what gays or blacks have had to deal with, but that’s not really the point. The point is, doesn’t society ever learn? Don’t we ever learn that when nontraditional groups emerge or come to light, we should pause and try to understand and not just jump to conclusions? I guess not.
And I might sound whiny. I’m sure I do. But it’s annoying to me that I have to hide my open relationship from my coworkers because I am legitimately afraid of how it will effect my professional development. It’s annoying to me that I can’t share my amazing and deep relationships with my two main partners with my family because they’ll judge me. These are beautiful, healthy parts of my life that I want to be completely in the light. They are also things that I need support and help with from time to time, and it sucks to feel completely alone in it. It feels really unfair.
If that’s the only burden I really have to bear in all of this, I realize I’m lucky, but it’s not the way it should be.