What I Learned About Polyamory From a Perfect Stranger
Until last week, I had never heard of the term "polyamorous", let alone that such a relationship existed. That all changed when I met "Rachel" from Canada recently at a conference I attended in Los Angeles. This particular career enriching workshop drew people from all parts of the world, and my colleagues hailed from England, Australia, Uruguay, Japan, Canada, Philippines, and from all over the US. I was enjoying lunch on the first day, sitting in the warm California sun at a table getting acquainted with three foreigners, when somehow the topic of online dating sites came up.
Image: Harsh Loomba via Flickr
Katherine, a young lady from London, was lamenting that the online relationship which she had high hopes for didn't pan out, when Rachel (who had clearly mentioned to us that she is married) chimed in.
"That's how I met my boyfriend."
Naturally, I asked, "Oh, so is that how you met your husband?"
"No, my boyfriend. And my husband met his girlfriend that way, too!" she added with a laugh.
Although the four of us each spoke English--albeit with varying accents--we all looked puzzled at Rachel as if she were suddenly speaking to us in a foreign language. That's when she added, almost nonchalantly:
"The four of us all live together. We are in a polyamorous relationship." She took another bite of her Kung Pao chicken.
My mind went off in a spin while I tried to comprehend this conversation. Is this a normal thing in other parts of the world? In Canada? Rachel was really fun and nice and, at least until that moment, seemingly normal. Well, except for her purple hair, but she is a musician after all. Earlier, we had talked about our favorite foods, my husband and kids back home, and then her husband back at the hotel, and the fact that they didn't have any kids...although she teaches music to a lot of children.
She continued, "After ten years of marriage, we decided to spice things up a bit. So we searched online."
"Are there a lot of other people looking for the same thing?" inquired Katherine.
"Oh yes, there are dedicated sites for people like us."
Eric, a newly engaged young man also from London, asked with a stutter, "So, how does this work, arrangement-wise?" Katherine and I were glad that he was the one to broach the question.
"Well, we have a two-bedroom flat, and we all live together quite nicely."
Before we could ask the next question, she clarified: "We have an organized schedule where we go four nights with one, three nights with the other. Some people are not all that organized and never know what goes on from one night to the next, but we prefer it this way." We all took another bite of our lunch and chewed for a few seconds, mulling over what to say next.
She continued with a laugh, "Oh, and we don't do any of those kinky things with the whole group like some people like to do. We keep it strictly in pairs." I wondered if this was a closed loop where the boyfriend and the girlfriend also get along. Did they get to interview each other before they got into this thing?
At that moment, Eric got an overseas phone call from his fiancee, and I got up to refill my drink. Before we knew it, it was time to resume our afternoon session so we all walked back to the venue.
We didn't bring up the topic again the rest of the conference. We were all very busy, after all. I never did get to meet her husband who was mostly site-seeing while we were attending the conference, but I imagine he is pretty regular like the rest of us, too.
Knowing human nature, though, I just can't imagine this whole polyamorous thing working out very well in the end, but who knows. As for us, after ten years of marriage, David and I decided to "spice things up" ourselves by having kids. Me, David, Josh, and Meg all happily living together under one roof.
I think that's amorous enough for me. How about you?