emanix: (pink hair)
"Having needs doesn't make you needy. It makes you human. Just thought you should know."

A friend posted the above comment on Facebook today, and while I think I am fundamentally in agreement with the spirit of the statement, I am twitchy about the use of that particular word, 'needs', and have been for a long time. I do want to say that *wanting things* does not inherently make anyone a bad person, or needy, or whatever. To want is very definitely human. On the other hand, the word 'needs' as used to describe relationship requirements or even very important and urgent wants always gives me a little shudder because it is such a fuzzily defined term the way most people use it, and I have seen it very badly misused in the past.

Sure, everybody has needs. Food, water, shelter, basic medical care, y'know... the sorts of things that make us Not Die. But using the word 'needs' to mean 'minimum things I want in a relationship' or simply 'things I really really want right now' has always struck me as somewhat blackmailish, because it raises requirements within one particular relationship to the level of things that are non-negotiable for survival, which - and folks may certainly disagree with me here - in my opinion, they aren't. However much I might value my chosen family and the relationships I have built in and around that, the basic unit for survival is the individual, not the family, and definitely not the relationship.

Using the word 'needs' to describe any expectation or desire within a relationship seems to me to demand that a specific person (or sometimes in poly a small group of people) should meet those 'needs' whether they want to or not.

I strongly feel that romantic relationships are voluntary and therefore all aspects within those relationships should be voluntary as well (beyond the basic minimum level of respect that we should all have for our fellow human beings, of course). Not everybody has them, not everybody *should* have them. Ultimately where we are talking about the emotional aspect of a relationship, everyone is responsible for meeting their own needs or that aspect of the relationship is no longer voluntary and therefore, I would argue, neither is the relationship itself.

If I'm not able to satisfy what all of my partners *want* right now this minute, or vice versa... well, sometimes them's the breaks. We can't always expect our partners to 'perform' for us on every level. On the other hand, if I am not able to satisfy my partners minimum relationship requirements, or if they're not able to satisfy mine, logic says that we should dissolve the relationship. Whereas if the word 'needs' is used, the implication seems to be that if I am not able to satisfy my partners 'needs', I am a Bad Partner(TM) and should step up to the plate, whether doing so works for me or not.

I am probably extra sensitive to this because I had an abusive relationship in the past where my partners 'needs' were used as levers to demand more and more from me that I wasn't actually prepared to give, on the basis that *I* was a Bad and Abusive Partner(TM) if I didn't provide for them. How awful a person was I, to ignore things that were stated as NEEDS? Even if those needs effectively negated anything I might ever want out of that relationship myself, and even if those needs were things I would have stated as outside the remit of that relationship had the request been made in any other way. I was *needed*. To say no would have put me in the wrong, no matter what was being asked.

Everyone deserves to be able to ask for what they want in relationships, but every single person also deserves to set the terms of their own relationships, and not be hung out to dry if what they are able to provide is not the same as what the other person in that relationship wants, however those wants are stated.

I mean, how unreasonable would I be if I was to say "I need you not to use the word 'needs' ever again"...?

How do you folks feel about this question? Do you have different ways of defining the word 'need'? Do you love it, hate it, feel neutral about it? If you use it, what do you mean by it?
emanix: (emanix)
Find out why we call them 'unicorns'.



Edit, 1st October 2014 (Because I realised I hadn't properly defined my terms!):

In the poly community, a 'unicorn' is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek term for a single, bisexual poly woman willing to date both members of a couple, usually in an exclusive triad.

If that's what you're looking for, you may have already heard people tell you that what you're looking for is incredibly rare, and that it's going to be a long hard journey. Most folks just shrug their shoulders at this and say 'that's okay, I'll just keep on looking til I find it.'

So I took a look at just *how* rare finding a unicorn actually is, how many you're likely to find in your own social circle, and how long it might realistically take to find someone, as a couple, to fit you both.

Full disclosure: I am technically a 'unicorn' myself. As a poly bi woman with no formal primary partnership, I am hypothetically open to dating a couple (though the 'exclusive' part isn't for me). But how many times in my 20 years of dating have I actually met and fallen for two people who were also into each other at exactly the same time? Well, I'll let you know at the end of the essay!




As many folks who read my blog know, it is mostly used as a repository for essays on topics that I encounter repeatedly. I've been writing this essay over about three years, adding a tiny little bit every time I see some new person ask the same question, and if you scroll down you'll see it's a pretty long essay. Stick with me. It's worth it.

Everywhere poly and interested folk gather, I hear the refrain “Why is it so hard for us to find the perfect woman to date us both?” often followed up with some sort of comment to the effect of “There's two of us, so that should make it easier, right?”

Sorry, folks! The computer says no!

Finding one single woman (or man*) to date as a couple is many many many times harder than finding a different partner for each of you. And if we look at the finding-a-date process step by step, the numbers will tell you why.

Let's begin our step by step starting with the straight male member of a male/female couple (just for example), and throw some numbers in for illustrative purposes.

So, wannabe poly triad-building guy, let's say that most of your dating experience has been as a single person. That's great! You know how that works. You go out, go online, mingle with folks, you check women out and you see who you find attractive. Let's assume that's about one in ten, or ten percent of the women out there. Hey, you've got some taste, right? But you've already knocked out 90% of the dating population as possibilities. But let's carry on. Ten percent of the available dating population just happens to be your personal version of 'hot'.

Now, you already know how if you are single only a certain percent of the hot women in your dating pool are going to be interested in you. So let's say that maybe ten percent of those women that you find attractive are willing to consider dating you (obviously your mileage may vary, but 10% is a nice easy number to use to demonstrate). Seems like you're off to a great start, right? Right. One in 100 isn't bad odds. You've still got a pretty good chance of finding a date for yourself here. But you're already down to 1% of the total dating pool (that's ten percent of ten percent), and you haven't asked any of the difficult questions yet.

Chance of finding a partner if you're single: 10% of 10% = 1% or 1 in 100

Now, if you are *not* single, you are limiting yourself to only the people within your dating pool who are open to nonmonogamy. Since the vast majority of the population are still not open to poly, we'll take a guess at that again being about ten percent, so now you're looking at ten percent of ten percent of ten percent, that's only 0.1% of everyone who's available for dating. You have already cut your chances of finding compatible people down to one in 1000, simply by being poly. So if you're dating as an individual, your chances of finding someone who's interested in just you are roughly one in every thousand women you check out. If you're surfing dating sites as an individual, or going out and meeting people in public, that's not too bad. Your female partner will probably have about the same odds if she wants to date other guys.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner for just one of you: 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.1% or 1 in 1000

But then you want a partner who will also date your female partner. So it gets more complicated.

Assuming you are an m/f couple both looking for a partner in common, you are also looking for a woman who is bisexual. But don't forget, you're still limiting yourself to being inside that group of 'people who are open to nonmonogamy AND attracted to you'.
Across the board of sexuality studies, the highest estimated percentage of the population who are interested in same sex relationships is approximately ten percent (usually it's less, but we're rounding it up to make things look more hopeful here!). If your female partner is looking independently for another female partner who doesn't need to be attracted to you, her odds will be about here: ten percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent, or in other words, about one in 10,000. Out of the general population, only one woman in 10,000 is likely to be hot, poly and as attracted to your female parter as she is to them.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly same sex partner for just one of you: 10% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.01% or 1 in 10,000

BUT you're still looking for a partner who will date BOTH of you, not just one of you, so it gets more complicated again.

Specifically bisexual people account for probably about half of that 'interested in same sex relationships' population (maybe a bit less). So again, you're cutting your odds down, this time to about 5% of your already limited group of 'hot women who are open to nonmonogamy AND already attracted to you'.
So that's five percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent. You're down to 0.005% of the dating population... That's one in 20,000, and we haven't even accounted for whether or not those women are attracted to your female partner yet – after all, we were so far just looking at women who were attracted to *you*.
So assuming your female partner is about as attractive as you are, and sexily compatible with about ten percent of the people she meets, that adds another zero in front of your chances.

(I'm also assuming here that you and your partner have *exactly* the same tastes, and exactly the same definition of what is 'hot' in a potential partner. If your tastes differ, that's going to reduce your options still further, but lets not, because that's just going to get depressing!).

Still following the maths? Right now, the percentage of hot bisexual women in the dating pool who are open to nonmonogamy AND likely to be interested in dating you AND interested in dating your partner as well is ten percent of five percent of ten percent of ten percent of ten percent. Out of all the potential women in the dating pool, you're now down to 0.0005%, or roughly one in 200,000 women. At this point you have probably run out of women in your dating pool. Hell, you've probably run out of women in your entire state, but hey, if you cast your net wide enough...

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner interested in both of you: 10% of 5% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.005% or 1 in 200,000

And that isn't even taking into account whether or not those women are open to being in a *closed* triad with you, just whether they might be interested in dating you in the first place. The number of poly women who will be open to creating a closed triad with you will be even smaller. Oh what? About ten percent, we figure? That's one in two million women, folks.

Chance of finding a poly-friendly partner interested in both of you AND in exclusivity: 10% of 10% of 5% of 10% of 10% of 10% = 0.0005% or 1 in 2,000,000

You probably call your existing partner 'one in a million', but to actually find ONE woman interested in setting up a FIRST date with both of you, are you really prepared to make contact with two million women?

And folks wonder why they're still looking years later...


*These numbers work equally well if you're an m/f couple looking for a male 'unicorn', just flip the gender of the 'partner' bits of the workings out, I just went with the most common scenario I see for illustration purposes. It's a little different, numerically speaking, if you're already a same sex couple, but not very.




So how long would it take you to sift through two million women, anyway?

How about I throw in some more numbers in for you?

Let's say you're trying to do most of your dating organically, in person or through forums, poly groups and other social mingling. Let's also wildly exaggerate and say that you can meet one woman every minute of your day. If you could do that non-stop without eating, sleeping, going to work or anything else, that alone adds up to nearly four years.

More realistically, you'll probably only be able to devote an hour a day to meeting brand new people. After all, you have lives to lead. At one hour a day, that initial sift alone will take you something like ninety years (actually, I make it 91.32 years ).

Now let's say you spend ten minutes chatting to all the women you find attractive (another 91.32 years), and another ten minutes chatting with the women who seem to be attracted to you. That's only an extra nine years at this point.

Oh hey, you've found out some these women are poly! And bi! You've got to chat with them a little longer, maybe research their background a bit. You're going to have to introduce them to your female partner, see if they get on. You've made great progress though! That's such a short list of women it's not even going to take you a month to sift through and figure out who's into who. You're so nearly there, after a mere 192.74 years of searching, why it's enough to make you drop your walking stick and click your heels together. It's time to actually go on some dates!

So let's say you and your partner finally have a shortlist of women who are hot, bisexual, poly, and even better, attracted to the both of you. Let's say out of your initial two million women, you've managed to narrow it down to ten. You take each one of those women out on a couple of dates to see how you get along, and then you pop the question: “Would you like to be in a closed triad with the two of us?” It's only going to take you twenty days or so. Barely even three weeks worth of dating. Of course, most of the hot bi babes say no. Perhaps they can't see themselves cutting off their options that way. Perhaps they already have existing partners they don't want to dump just for the privilege of being with you. Perhaps it's just not their style (It's not you, it's them). It doesn't matter though. Out of those ten women you spent nearly three weeks dating, miracle of miracles, one of them has said YES!

And it only took you 192.79 years to find someone who wants to start to date both of you. Assuming you're still alive, you'll all be over two hundred years old by now, so I figure you'll all have the maturity to build a successful relationship from this point, plus be too tired to look for anyone else if it doesn't work out. Congratulations! You've found your unicorn! Well done!




...in other words, unicorn hunting is the relationship equivalent of spending every day sitting at home imagining what you will do 'when you win the lottery', rather than going out to work and building yourself a viable business.

That doesn't mean you need to stop buying lottery tickets, but in the meantime why not go out, build solid relationships, build friendships, build family even, with people who fit *you*, and maybe in doing so you'll happen across people who also fit your other partner or partners.

Yes, it sounds like more work and less 'romantic', but on the other hand it's a whole lot more reliable.


Check my maths!

You can see my workings as a spreadsheet here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sm5YD8WASdDDs3RcIKUzaLaqF2yMuJe9TBE8tW8tl9U/edit?usp=sharing





Some further reading for couples who are seeking to date a 'unicorn', or for bisexual folks considering dating both or part of a couple:

About bisexuality:
Bisexuality & Statistics: Twice as many dates? (2010-07-16)

http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/index.php/Main/Bisexuality#equal

More about unicorn hunting, and some advice from experienced poly folk:
http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/hunting-the-elusive-unicorn/

http://www.multiplematch.com/2012/11/why-unicorn-hunting-is-exercising-couple-privilege/

http://unicorns-r-us.com/

http://polytical.org/2012/07/triads-ts/

About dating a couple:
http://www.morethantwo.com/coupledating.html





So, as a 'unicorn', how many times have I actually met and fallen for two people who were also into each other at exactly the same time? --- 0.

That would be big fat zero. I have, however, been dating a wonderful couple for the last several years.
Because they were confident and independent enough to date separately, I was dating him for at least a year when a surprise 'spark' developed with her too. If I'd had to choose between both or neither right at the start though? I'd have had to choose neither, and that would have been a sad loss for all of us.
emanix: (emanix)
This afternoon I came in to a conversation on facebook inspired by this article: 6 fascinating people who own almost nothing. The conversation wandered into how a lot of the folks who claim to be embracing minimalism and the 'no possessions' lifestyle (and who often seem quite smug and self-satisfied about it) do, in fact, rather carelessly rely on the use of other people's housing possessions to support their lifestyle... something that works in small numbers, of course, but isn't sustainable over a whole population, clearly. There was also plenty of discussion about the lessons these minimalist folk have to teach us. So naturally this conversation got me thinking back over how I have been living my life over the last few months.

I try to be very conscious of when I am and am not relying on other people's kindness. I have been very lucky since I started being nomadic and living out of my backpack, back in March. A lot of people have very kindly offered me their hospitality and even keys to their houses, so despite working out my initial numbers based on staying in hostels and short lets and things, I've been able to save a lot through the generosity of my friends and lovers - and spend it on taking them out for nice dinners instead, or in one particular case, supporting their indiegogo campaign! When I am staying with people I try to give back in practical ways too, such as washing dishes or making meals, making sure the fridge is stocked, doing minor repairs, offering to baby-sit, helping with the bills if bills need paying, that sort of thing. If at some point I forget that there's a give and take there, though, and start getting entitled about it or assuming anyone other than (possibly) the government owes me a place to stay, or pretending I've done it all by myself, do please shoot me!

On the other hand, I think there are ways in which the nomadic lifestyle could be much more sustainable for a lot of people, which perhaps would emerge naturally if enough folks were doing it: there are already plenty of hostels offering dorm spaces and similar for backpackers (even while I was relatively settled in zone 3, I did occasionally ponder moving nearer in to the centre of the city and only paying rent as and when I needed to, given that the daily rate for a hostel in central London was about equivalent to my rent+bills and also included breakfast- but of course there were at the time other intangibles such as stability, and choice over one's housemates to consider, plus storage for the 'stuff' that I was lugging around from house to house with me). I do wonder how the current offering would flourish, change and compete if that market was to grow significantly. Extending it even further, what would the world be like if we were all guaranteed stable housing as and when we needed it, for as long as we needed it, ('at-will accommodation', if you like) and nobody owned property at all?

Speaking of property, one thing that backpacking really does for you as an individual is that it will make you think very hard about every single thing you buy or choose to carry around with you. When every new item you acquire means than something else has to be thrown or given away, buying 'stuff' begins to take on a different light. As an inveterate 'pack-rat', that's been a real eye opener for me, and particularly for folks who tend to horde 'stuff', I'd recommend trying it, even just for a short while.

I hadn't really intended to be nomadic for quite as long as I now have been. My initial intention was to put most of my stuff in storage just for a little while, go travelling to see friends and family for maybe two or three months and then settle down again, but as all of the work I do is non-location-dependent and I am under no particular pressure to stay in one place, the charms of the 'footloose and fancy free' lifestyle have rather drawn me in. When I do pass through London I have found myself rather naturally reducing my possessions in storage by roughly one crate each time I visit, when I look at things and realise I haven't missed them even for a moment. And the less stuff I have in storage, the less inclined I am to settle down and be weighed down by it. It has been a fascinating process.

I do find that I am shocked more than ever, when I walk by shops selling ornaments and suchlike, by the sheer uselessness of so much of what's out there. Tea, however, turns out to be really important to me (nobody who's met me should be surprised by this, yet somehow I was!) and I now make sure I have a small supply in my backpack to be certain that I have it wherever I happen to be, and usually a travel mug tucked in my belt, as well. Books are important to me too, but I have finally given in and gone the kindle route, because there is only so much paper one person can carry.


There is definitely a sense of freedom in knowing that everything you need for your every day life will fit into a backpack or a suitcase. Knowing that one has the option to take off at any moment means one is never at the mercy of a bad landlord or bad relationship, you can do crazy things like leave the country on a moment's notice, because you know you have everything you need with you, or fly south for the winter, which certainly has a tinge of luxury (though living abroad is mostly cheaper than the UK, in fact). In my case, at this particular time, it has also meant that I could up sticks and move to Manchester to spend time looking after my terminally ill grandfather as his health has been deteriorating over the last few months, and stay for as long as I'm needed. It's hard to put a price on that sort of freedom.

It's not for everybody, though: I know that if I was even slightly less physically able than I am right now, I wouldn't be able to handle carrying both my backpack and the 'mobile studio' I built to take around with me in a suitcase. I am dreading the next time my knee gives out and I have to use crutches, as public transport will be a whole different experience. I could be faced with the stark choice of settling down in one place or giving up my art (or being dependent on other people to move my case for me, which... well, let's say it's a last resort!). There are all sorts of reasons one might need to be static, or have more equipment than a person can reasonably carry. And of course if the work I did was location-dependent, there might not be any point to my minimalism. I'm not trying to pretend that the life I live now is easy to arrange, or even possible for everybody.

There have been hard times too. Finding time and space to myself has not been entirely easy. There have been times when my choice has been between offending my hosts or sharing space, and occasionally even beds with people (and pets) I would not normally choose to. Getting ill and needing several days of hardcore rest whilst visiting in a house without a dedicated guest room was... tricky. And if one has kindly been invited in as a guest, turning down that invitation, or backing out of a stay that one had already committed to, and saying to someone "Actually, I'd prefer to go and stay in a B&B or a hotel for a bit so I can get some space to myself", can seem impolitic, and difficult (or expensive) to arrange at the last minute when something hasn't gone to plan.
Not knowing what city one is going to be in next month can get a little exhausting, too, where long range planning is concerned, but the hardest thing I have had to deal with yet has been accessing medical care whilst on the move; something I have found incredibly difficult even as a relatively well off British citizen in stable employment. The NHS as a whole is not at all set up for patients who migrate, even between just two addresses, let alone many. Walk-in and access centres are not well advertised, and often websites are out of date (we turned up at one that was advertised online to find it had closed more than a year ago), and the ones that still exist are often poorly signposted and in obscure places. I find myself struggling to use the exact same sort of facilities I would have to visit if I was sleeping rough on the street, and wondering how (or if) anyone who is homeless through circumstances not of their own choosing actually manages to see a doctor, other than through visits to A&E. As I am dependent on a regular supply of thyroxine tablets to actually keep me alive, and also having had a chest infection for most of the last month on top of this, that's been pretty stressful.

But still, I do feel incredibly privileged and lucky to be able to live and work the way that I currently do. I hope I come across as neither smug nor self satisfied, but I do think there are some very valid lessons to take away from all this stuff... or from the lack of stuff. :)
emanix: (emanix)
Dear Stranger,

Read the damn profile. Pick something that might be a mutual interest. Start a conversation about it. It's really not hard. If I wanted generalised spam messages with no connection to my own personality I'd go look in my trash email.

No love,

Someone who's very bored of getting form letters from people who clearly don't give a shit about who I am other than 'female'.


*Yes, this happens often enough that it is worth having a form response that I can copy and paste. Now, finally, here it is.
emanix: (emanix)
Or, 'The Bastards! - A sympathetic technique for relationship harmony.'

Are you a Fixer? Do you offer solutions instead of sympathy? Does this sometimes cause friction in your relationships when friends or partners who are simply looking for a sympathetic ear find themselves bombarded with 'have you trieds' and 'did you think ofs'? Or are you the partner or friend who sometimes find yourself looking for sympathy only to find yourself in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition?

I'm definitely a Fixer. If someone shares a problem with me I immediately start looking for ways to make the problem go away. This has occasionally caused friction in my relationships with partners who felt it was intrusive or disempowering when they just wanted to heard rather than Helped. But I've found that one particular technique I have used over the last few years has really helped with this. I have also noticed that my friends have been pinching it to use with their own partners and other friends. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I've come to the conclusion that it might actually be worth propagating further and sending it out into the world. So here it is: 'The Bastards' or How to Fix the Fixers and raise a smile, in one simple step.

Now I can't claim sole credit for the idea, since I pinched the original concept from Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt's book The Ethical Slut. One chapter described a situation like the one I mentioned above, and suggested a way for the Fixer to switch off the urge to Fix and just be there for their friend who simply wanted a sympathetic ear. The writer or their friend would occasionally provide a period of 'Poor Baby', where those two were the only words they said, repeatedly, until their friend was done venting. When I read the description, I particularly thought of one of my partners, who would often be frustrated at my trying to Fix things when really he just wanted to get something off his chest. But my partner thought 'Poor baby' was too patronising. He didn't want babying, so much as the feeling someone was fighting at his side. He felt that 'poor baby' didn't really convey the appropriate air of righteous indignation at the state of the world. So I pondered this for a while and dug around for a phrase that I felt might better fit the mood. The phrase I came up with was 'The Bastards!'

And it turns out that 'The Bastards!' fits pretty much every situation. If it doesn't make sense? All the better. It's not about the logic. It's about the righteous indignation dammit!

"I've had a long horrid day at work."
"The bastards!"

"I ran out of milk!"
"The bastards!"

"Ow, this headache really hurts!"
"The bastards!"

"I'm having trouble in my relationship..."
"The bastards?"

"My grandad's in hospital with pneumonia."
"Those bacterial bastards!"

"I got disappointing numbers from my mortgage advisor."
"The calculating bastards!"

...and so on.

And that's it. It's that simple. Obviously it doesn't fix every problem in the world, but sometimes, well... it's not about Fixing. With a bit of practice, even the most hardcore Fixer can learn to set Fixing aside and bring out The Bastards when appropriate, and folks who know what they're looking for is sympathy rather than help can learn to ask for The Bastards. And we all, hopefully, get on that little bit more harmoniously.

Lucky Bastards!
emanix: (emanix)
I don't post much personal stuff these days. I've been finding, whilst I'm ever so happy to be out, as an activist, as a kinkster, as a visible poly person, that I want to live my private life... well, privately. But since writing my last post I've been feeling the need to post a personal update.

I've spent most of the last nine months out in the countryside, bouncing around alone in a big empty house with a barely functioning phone and minimal internet. I was tired of humanity, tired of the city, tired of sharing space with folks who mostly took and forgot to give back, tired of broken promises and thoughtless behaviour. So I left. I moved out to the Edge of Everywhere, into my 'hermitage' and I hid away. And, of course, I learned some new things about myself.

I learned how terrifying it is to be on your own, two hours drive or more away from everyone you know, and to be suddenly taken ill with a fever. To call up the only folks you can rely on and say "Ring me in the morning. If I don't pick up, call an ambulance." knowing that was the best they'd be able to do.

I learned a few things about my own resourcefulness, my own ability to cope when things suck. I learned a few things about my need for human contact, but also my never previously suspected need to be able sometimes to switch that off and just be.

Most of all, though, I learned a lot about who the folks are I really care about, and who really care about me. The people I feel the need to reach out to when I'm out on a limb, and even more, the folks who stuck with me, who made sure they kept in touch, even when I was out of sight and far away. I learned about the lines of love that stay open when we are far apart, when communications are hard, and the ones that shut down as soon as you're not visible.

I learned about being an Outdoor Cat.

Now I'm moving on again, after nine months. Just long enough to have had the baby. The hermitage was always temporary. It could have been longer, it could have been less. I don't feel quite ready to leave, but perhaps I never would have done, who knows? And where I'm moving to is... nowhere, everywhere, into thin air.

I have a place lined up to go to, it's not ready yet. May not be for a few months (given the folks involved, maybe even longer). In the meantime, I'm embracing the freedom of movement. I will be living out of my backpack, with a suitcase on the side full of art materials to enable me to keep painting, keep creating. I'm free from paying rent or bills, so that gives me a little more money for travel and accommodation should I find the need to pay for places, but I am starting to suspect I won't be struggling. I am trusting that there will be places open to me.

As if in answer to that trust, when I started telling my friends and loved ones about my plan, vistas of possibility opened up. I found myself welling up with tears as one after another members of my chosen family, friends and lovers, even ex partners I'm still close to, began offering me places to stay not just for a day or two but for weeks or months, as long as I liked, and not just rooms but also keys to their houses to come and go as I please, to be trusted, one of the family. To install the cat flap. I am indescribably grateful for that. Awed by the love and joy in those connections and wanting to celebrate that. To announce to the world that I love these people. Be good to these people. They've been, are currently being so good to me.

So I'm moving on... as I jokingly said to a friend of mine who asked me 'where to?' the other day, I'm moving on to the internet. My email address is the same as ever, as is my mobile number. I have a couple of partners willing to accept packages for me, depending on where I'll be in the world. I'm still just as easy to get hold of, just perhaps a little harder to pin down in one place. I'm already pretty much booked up for the next couple of months, in terms of places to be. In fact I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever find time to move into my new place at all. I shall play it by ear, as with everything else in my life at the moment.

I'll see you on the internet!

With love and joy,

M.

xx
emanix: (emanix)
It's a set of questions that comes up perennially in poly communities: Do I refer to my relationships as Primaries and Secondaries and if so what does that mean? Is that descriptive labelling, does it simply describe how things already are, or is it prescriptive, indicating how one thinks the relationship ought to be? Doesn't primary and secondary imply hierarchy (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't)? What other terms could I possibly use?

For me I have always very clearly explained that my 'primary' partners are the partners I think of first (first, hence 'primary'), before I make decisions, and my secondary partners are the folks I inform after a decision is made. It's always seemed a little clumsy requiring so much explanation to make it clear that my system was not based on a prescriptive hierarchy, but I've struggled to find better terms to use.

The other day I was engaged in a discussion in a poly space that was actually unrelated to this particular debate. The discussion was about current partners vs. exes, and attitudes towards relating to them. A most excellent lady, one Poly-Anna, calls her ex-lovers "Outdoor Cats" and her current primary lover her "Indoor Cat." I took one look at this metaphor and fell utterly in love. I mean, what's not to like? It's cute, familiar to nearly everybody and involves kitties. Win!

From the discussion:

"All Outdoor Cats used to be Indoor Cats until something went wrong. But once you are an Outdoor Cat, you may occasionally get petted or fed, but you never live indoors again.

Also, we don't mind visitors coming into the house and petting or playing with our Indoor Cats, but it's important to us that the Indoor Cat remember where he is fed and sleeps."

"We also recognize that our Indoor Cats may be someone else's Outdoor Cat. There is a cat door!"


Of course, there is the implication that by equating relationships to cat ownership, one might be implying ownership of one's partners... but I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever lived with cats knows that "ownership" is a rather loose term for a particular cat choosing to live with you for a while, for as long as that suits the cat.

So I got thinking, and the more I thought about this particular analogy for relationships the more I liked it.

Now, I don't agree word for word. For example, I don't think it's quite true that all Outdoor Cats used to be Indoor Cats. I think that some cats may well start out as Outdoor Cats and get themselves adopted to become Indoor Cats later.
Some cats really don't like living indoors and want more freedom, or are suited to a different style of household.
Some cats like to live indoors most of the time, but occasionally go off a-wandering.
Some cats have two households.
Some cats may bring other cats home with them, or the occasional small animal to play with, and it is quite possible to have more than one Indoor Cat as long as they get on well together, or have enough space.

These labels can still be descriptive or prescriptive: One could say prescriptively 'I'm looking for an Indoor Cat' or 'I'm looking for an Outdoor Cat', 'you're an Outdoor Cat right now, would you like to move Indoors with me, entailing x, y and z?' or you might just find yourself saying descriptively one day 'well it looks like I have an Indoor Cat now, what a surprise!' but I really like that there is no implied value judgement. Something that's ever so hard to avoid with language like primary/secondary or anchor/satellite or most of the terms I've come across in poly circles. The Outdoor Cat is not automatically less important than the Indoor Cat, is not due any less love, respect or consideration, the Outdoor Cat is still very much a cat in its own right, it's just a different living situation.

...and sometimes cats... get rabies and have to be put down?

Okay, perhaps I've stretched the metaphor just a little too far, but you see my point I hope!

For me, this also leads to a new realisation. Right now, I am the Outdoor Cat. All of my relationships, however loving and intimate, are long-distance and ad-hoc. While I have a partner I consider to be 'primary' by my own definition, we're not well suited to living with each other so we don't try to push ourselves into a box that doesn't fit.
Some day I would very much like to be an Indoor Cat again, but I'm not planning to rush into anything unsuitable just because it's a home. I think, for now, the wandering life suits me.
But I realise also that, as an Outdoor Cat, I'm not without care, feeding or attention. I realise that if something bad were to happen and I was to get sick or injured I think there are several homes where I could get taken in, looked after for a while, taken to the vet... and for that I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate. It was only when I looked at my relationships through a slightly different lens, thinking about the love and care involved in each, rather than the logic of decision-making and who informs who of what, that I realised that. I think that's a beautiful thing.

What relationship do you have with your 'cats'?
emanix: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] tacit spotted this in my paper journal back in February and asked me to post it so he could link to it. I only just remembered it today:

Let's only date grown-ups.
Here is what is mine, there is what is yours.
This is what I would like, and this is what I will give.
This is what I won't, can't, don't give.
Where is your beginning and what is your end?
Love is not give and take, love is give and give.
I give, and you give, and we draw lines in ourselves where we stop.
I draw a line here, do you see it?
It's the place just before it hurts me to give,
because I know, if you love me, if you love the way I do, this is where you would beg me to stop.
And if you don't, if you wouldn't, you are worth nothing further.
emanix: (Default)

I have come across this poem online a couple of times, attributed to a Veronica Shoffstall. However it appears that it's also a translation of an original work in Spanish, possibly by Jorge Luis Borges.

Either way, it is beautiful, and expresses a lot of how I feel about relationships, and about polyamory, and deserves to be known.

After a While

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman*
Not the grief of a child*

And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers

And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
And with every day, you learn.




Click for the original language )

.

*I notice these two lines aren't present in the Spanish version. They are awfully pretty, though, and fit well into the model of the poem, so I've left them where I found them. Being a language nerd, I also fixed the last line of the translation: the version I found said 'with every goodbye you learn', whereas the spanish just says 'with every day', which I think is far more optimistic!
  
NB: I'm not keen on infringing copyright, so I'll happily take this post down or correct the attribution if I'm contacted by someone who can demonstrate ownership, but in this case it seems the ownership is fuzzy, and the likely original author is no longer alive to benefit from his work. There appears to be a longer version in Spanish here: http://elprincipito.blogia.com/2005/101102-jorge-luis-borges-aprendiendo.php
emanix: (Default)
Hi, I'm a polyamorous woman, and I don't exist. In fact, I don't believe that polyamorous people exist.

“Huh?” I hear you say. “But you just declared yourself polyamorous. Up there! It says so!”

I did, and I do. I call myself polyamorous because I see this as an important part of how I relate to other people in my life. So I call myself poly in the same way I call myself an agnostic, or a Londoner, or a wearer of polka-dotted shirts. I get sick and tired, though, of hearing about poly people vs. monogamous people as though we're different species. Worse, the constant bickering about whether it's 'natural' for human beings in general to be monogamous or not. Good grief! Are we animals? It seems like a lot of people are deeply invested in perpetuating the split, but it's a false dichotomy that drives me up the wall. This may be an unpopular position but here I go:

There is no such thing as a polyamorous person.

There is no such thing as a monogamous person either.


I find it bizarre how often discussions about poly versus mono the arguments seem to fall back to biology. Folk are either claiming that we are ALL supposed to be one or the other, or they're claiming that there's a hard-wired difference between the two. Really? It's like claiming there is a biological reason for being a liberal versus a conservative, or a vegetarian versus a carnivore . The difference between these people is simple, obvious and nobody's arguing it: belief. When the issue is how to run a country or what to eat for dinner we're all happy to stick with arguing that this or that is the more rational option – x or y is better because it benefits people (or animals) in this or that way. So why on earth, when the issue is how to organise relationships, does everyone start insisting that nature has all of the answers?

Seriously, why on earth is anyone asking which is the 'natural' way to be? The natural way for us to be, running along some of these lines of thinking, is naked, eating raw foods and huddling in natural caves for warmth. Except that's not true either – the natural thing for us to be doing, as creatures of logic and imagination is *thinking* and basing our behaviours on the result of conscious thought, whatever internal system of logic we happen to be using.

What does nature want us to be doing? You know... it really doesn't matter. We started ignoring what nature wanted from us the minute we started adapting our environments to suit ourselves instead of vice versa. What matters is what we THINK. In other words, the difference between the mind of a monogamous person and that of a polyamorous person is the thoughts and beliefs inside it – and these are mutable things. On a daily basis people make the decision to stop, or start eating meat, choose which party to vote for, make decisions about moral and cultural issues based on their experiences and understanding of the world around them. If we are rational adults – and I think we are all aspiring to be rational adults here, no? - then we base our decisions on what our logic circuits tell us, not our bodies.

I'm Emanix. I'm a carnivore. Not because I believe it's the only right way to be. Not because I believe it's more natural, or more 'evolved', or because there is a fundamental difference between my brain chemistry and that of my vegetarian friends. I'm carnivorous because to me it's what makes sense on a daily basis.

Oh, and I happen to be polyamorous too.

I've had a few comments on the carnivore thing. Yes I know what carnivore actualy means, yes it's hyperbole for the sake of humour. My artistic license can be viewed here: [link to Artistic License'] it states 'Licensed to bend the truth in the name of comedy'. Can we get back to the point now please?
emanix: (Default)
Dear OKCupid,

We've known each other a long time. I've seen you go through a lot of changes. I remember when we met, way back when you were still The Spark, the special connection I felt between us. We had so much in common! I really felt that you were a site that cared about me as a person. I felt like who I was mattered to you. I fell for your charming wit, and the quizzes. Oh, those quizzes!
We spent many a happy hour together. So, when you became a dating site, I stuck by you.  I gave you the benefit of the doubt, and it paid off. After all, you still seemed to have the same values, and of course, you still had the quizzes. I even kept my profile alive, despite reaching polysaturation point a long time ago, because you helped me reach out to new members of the poly community, and to people who enjoyed my artwork. Your matching algorithms kept on linking me to people I already knew and liked - it seemed like such a good sign. You helped me make new friends, some of whom became lovers. I introduced you to everyone I knew. You were almost part of the family.

We've had a lot of happy times together, you and I, but now I just feel betrayed.

A couple of days ago you sent me this email (highlighted exactly how it appeared in my inbox):



emanix:

We are very pleased to report that you are in the top half of OkCupid's most attractive users. The scales recently tipped in your favor, and we thought you'd like to know.
How can we say this with confidence? We've tracked click-thrus on your photo and analyzed other people's reactions to you in QuickMatch and Quiver.
. . .
Your new elite status comes with one important privilege:
You will now see more attractive people in your match results.
This new status won't affect your actual match percentages, which are still based purely on your answers and desired match's answers. But the people we recommend will be more attractive. Also! You'll be shown to more attractive people in their match results.
. . .
Suddenly, the world is your oyster. Login now and reap the rewards. And, no, we didn't just send this email to everyone on OkCupid. Go ask an ugly friend and see.



I double-checked the date. Had I managed to get my months mixed up and it was somehow April 1st again?

Apparently not.

I actually felt sick.

OKCupid, what are you telling me? I've stuck by you for so many years, yet secretly you only ever really valued me because of the way I look, and up until now, i just wasn't 'attractive' enough for you? Because I have a picture that people like to click on, I am suddenly an 'elite' member of society, and I deserve to be matched with other people who are in the same 'elite' group?

All this time, you've been secretly filtering what I got to see, based on some arbitrary measure of 'attractiveness'?

This is not a function I subscribed to, I was not asked if I wanted to be moved into this 'exclusive' group.  I can see no way to disable this new level of filtering, and that makes me really rather angry. If I was actively looking for partners or friends through you I would be more than just rather angry, I would be LIVID. I'm tempted to go pointy breastplate shopping as it is.

I don't WANT 'more attractive' people in my match results. If I'm going to be matched at all, I want to be matched only on what I have in common with people. That's it.

Honestly, OKCupid, I thought you were above this sort of thing. I though you valued people, because of who they are, and not what they look like. I thought you, like me, considered moral fibre more important than muscle fibre. I thought we didn't believe in that eyes-across-a-crowded-room crap. Now suddenly I find out that you're not who I always thought you were, and I'm supposed to be glad that I've made the grade?

I'm gutted. Seriously, OKCupid, how long has this been going on? Is this a new policy? Have you been screwing around behind my back the whole time I've known you? What other elitist and exclusive crap have you been pulling that I don't know about? I feel that you've betrayed the trust in you that I had built up over years.

Most of all, I want to ask what the hell you were smoking when you added that final line: "Go ask an ugly friend". Really? You're telling me that suddenly I'm more special to you because other people have told you I'm pretty (and this based on click-thrus to my photo, which for all you know could be based on 'Hey! Look at that freak!'), and now you want me to go and choose one of my own friends to pick on, and tell them that they're not a part of the club? Just how insensitive can you get? I don't care if it was meant to be a joke, in the context of the whole betrayal thing, it just wasn't funny.

I'm not quite sure where we go from here. I may never find a dating site quite as cool, or as poly friendly as you. We have too many mutual friends for me to just leave without thinking it over. Maybe we can still be friends. I can tell you though, I will find it hard to trust you again.

Your old friend,

Emanix

Secrecy

Jun. 10th, 2010 12:35 am
emanix: (Default)
This is a little out of the blue, as it started as a forum post up until I realised I was proselytizing. Then I decided to put it here instead, since what else is a blog for?

Now I've mentioned this topic before, and referenced this relevant post by [livejournal.com profile] tacit, but having bumped into the forum thread about whether or not to be open about poly relationships on Modern Poly, I wanted to go into more detail about my views on this, as it is something I've experienced both sides of, and I have pretty strong views on this topic.

An academic article I came across recently had this to say about secrecy in relationships:

“greater secrecy was associated with reduced commitment to one’s relationship, lower self-esteem, and more reported health symptoms ...poses a threat to partners’ personal health as a result of generating negative affect (e.g., nervousness and fear)“

(from http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/35/11/1452 )

In other words, being secretive about your relationships not only sucks as an experience, but it can also make you ill.

And now I'll tell you a story:

My own experience stems from when I was still quite new to poly (or at least to the idea that it was actually okay to be the way I had always been anyway) and still hadn't found a support network, online or in person.

I moved to a small and isolated community with a partner, let's call him P. It wasn't a highly religious place, but it was VERY old-fashioned in attitude. From having been very open about everything with our UK community, suddenly P was terrified we were going to be shunned by our new social group if either of us put a foot wrong, and he felt his job was at risk if this happened, so he demanded that I conduct my other relationships with the utmost secrecy.

I was not happy about this, but I put up with it because I loved him, we lived really well together, and thought we were in for the long haul. I went back into the closet both about being poly, and about my bisexuality as well, after one incident of platonic late night film-watching at a male friends house sparked a nasty whispering campaign that got back to P's ears and he felt very uncomfortable about it. If I couldn't be 'safe' around the men of the neighbourhood, I sure as hell wasn't going to give them more rumour fodder by coming out as bi. This was the sort of place where upright chaps stood around and talked about 'the gays' as though they were from a different (and highly contagious) planet. Being different was WRONG. It was like having walked onto the set of the Stepford Wives.

So I snuck around for several months, loathing the place more by the day, loathing myself also, and feeling like I was being watched, and whispered about everywhere I went. I know this wasn't entirely paranoia either, because certain rumours came back to my (and P's) ears from trusted sources. It was not a comfortable place to be. Being secretive about a relationship in such a tiny community is frankly, near impossible, and I literally worried myself sick at times.

As luck had it, shortly after I started seeing A (and for unrelated reasons), P and I hit a dealbreaker, and decided to call it a day. A had a somewhat different view about how to act in public – in short, if you act as though you are doing nothing wrong, people will respond accordingly. So we did. And it worked. We acted as though we were doing nothing wrong, and sure we raised a few eyebrows – I was still living pretty happily with P, and we were winding our relationship up slowly and amicably, but at the same time I was openly dating A, and the three of us were spending time together as friends. - but we were accepted at face value. Suddenly the goldfish bowl community seemed a much friendlier place, and I was genuinely sad when I left to move back to the UK (and y'know what, I managed to challenge some of the homophobic attitudes while I was there, too).

The curious thing here is that A and P were in exactly the same line of work – in fact, they were colleagues, yet P fretted about losing his job by being 'outed' (even about his partner's behaviour), whereas A felt the best way to safeguard his job was in fact to be open about things from the start.

In a way, they were both right. Essentially, P created the danger - and it was a real danger - of being blackmailed and exposed, entirely out of his own fears and discomforts. A, by being open and up-front, blew any possibility of blackmail or rumour out of the water, and created a safe space for us to exist right there in the public eye.

From my own experience, and judging by the careers of plenty of notable politicians (pick some examples local to you!), I'm tempted to say that the latter 'open' policy being better in the long run is obvious.

(A little note here: being 'open' does not have to mean yelling loudly to everyone in town 'I am dating X, Y and Z!' - it can just mean not lying or changing the subject it if someone asks you 'are you dating y?'. It doesn't need to mean snogging in public, but it does mean smiling and nodding when people see you together in town, rather than ducking your head down and hiding. It means walking with pride, as long as you're doing something that *you* feel is right.)

How the story 'ends' – I'm still in contact with P, but only occasionally. He went back to monogamy, and doesn't appear to have looked back. On the other hand, several years on, A is still very much a partner of mine, as well as seeing several other women, and he's still working for the same employer, who is well aware of our situation, and fine with it. So far, it's happily ever after.

Now everyone who finds themselves in a situation where they feel a need to be secretive has their reasons, and some of them are perfectly valid – there is no legal protection (yet) against discrimination towards poly people, and it takes a lot of balls to stand up and say 'this is who I am and I am proud of it'. Like [livejournal.com profile] joreth, I have chosen a line of work (as an artist) that means I am free to be just as open as I please knowing that it might lose me a client or two, but it will never lose me my job. - but what I keep on seeing time and again, in my own life and those of other people, is that it is quite astounding what even closed-minded folk will accept if you present it to them with pride and pleasure, rather than fear. Even more astounding is the difference it will make to your life, just knowing that you can stop looking over your shoulder to see who's watching.

Honestly, I think secrecy should be a last resort for people who are absolutely certain that their lives and/or families are directly at risk if they open up, and even then it makes me want to put my pointy breastplate on to charge down and rescue whoever is stuck in that situation*.

If it's only fear of public opinion stopping you, I would recommend every time, go open, march out with your head held high and smile. It's a leap of faith, but it's well worth taking.




*Sadly I don't actually have a pointy breastplate, or a charger, but I totally would if I did!
emanix: (tea)
I'd been thinking of writing something about how much this song annoys me, but Randall Munroe (the author of XKCD) said it better:

If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it...

... and in the darkness bind them, indeed.
emanix: (dots)
I really have no idea where to start with commenting on this article on triad relationships versus sensible poly- anyone care to start? 

(23/7/9 13:21 - edited title)

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