On the podcast, I’ve told bits and pieces of my poly story and answered the questions “how did you know you were poly” and “when did you come out.”
For those who have an interest, here is my story of how I knew I was poly and my “coming out,” such as it was.
Short story: I always knew I was poly.
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Long before I ever heard the term, I simply understood that monogamy wasn’t for me. I remember reading The Sea Wolf by Jack London, where the character Wolf Larson makes a very compelling argument that there is no morality in the natural world. Now, Larson makes a mistake in his analysis. This lack of natural morality is an opportunity to create morality, not an excuse to be a bastard. BTW, I read this in fourth grade, maybe fifth. But I didn’t make that same mistake and knew that I could make my own sexual morality–conventional morality be damned!
At that time, my biology was blooming, and I was more than a little interested in sex. Being a bookish kid, I devoured every tome I could find on the subject. Luckily, a friend of mine had a father who had both a similar bookish fascination with sex and the funds to fill out a full library on the topic. My friend and I would sneak into said library, pick the lock on the book case, and feast our senses on The Joy of Sex, The Encyclopedia of Sex, The Kama Sutra, issues of Penthouse and Playboy (no Hustler; those I’d sneak peaks of from my stepfather’s collection), and who knows what else. Long before most kids have even thought about sex, I had reasoned out that I could simulate it with my hand (engineering my way to masturbation), and knew that not all cultures insisted on monogamy.
And why should they, I thought to myself. At the time, the very idea of monogamy translated, in my mind to, “I love you so much that I and I alone should be the source of all your erotic pleasures.” Even in fourth grade, that notion made no sense to me. While I was still months from losing my virginity (that would come in a triad in the summer between fourth and fifth grade), based on everything I was reading, it was clear that sex was the shizzel. Amazing historical figures had done incredible things in pursuit of it, and folks worked pretty damn hard to make sure they did it in all kinds of interesting and cool-looking ways. Why in the world should I ever restrict someone that I loved from this treasure? Who was I to deny the world of erotic possibilities to someone by insisting that they only rub their wet bits with mine? And in the name of love? The very idea seemed absurd to me, even as a child of ten.
I must have read some reference to the concept of an open relationship, in an article or letter in one of those Playboys or Penthouses. I do explicitly remember reading a story about a key party and finding the idea all kinds of hot, but I don’t remember the first time I saw that particular phrase, open relationship. But I knew it was what I wanted, from the very beginning. And, for whatever reason, I knew that if I wanted it, I had to be clear about that.
From Theory to Practice
In fourth grade, a fifth-grade girl sent me the classic, “will you go with me?” note. She had a light complexion with black hair, blue eyes, and a sharp nose. I was in love and instantly checked the yes box before slipping the note into her locker. That afternoon, we made out in her bedroom, and I brought up the topic of non-monogamy or having an open relationship. Not only was she open to the idea, but a friend of hers was also a play partner, and that group of kids became the triad I would lose my virginity in.
Now I’m old and experienced enough to admit that my own childhood abusive household and that of both those girls almost certainly contributed to our early sexualization. It is true that we were all the children of violent alcoholic parents, and I have no doubt that those girls were both sexually abused, although they never mentioned anything to me. Even so, all of my memories of our interactions are positive ones. And our dates and play sessions as well as attending the sixth grade dance as a trio (quite uncommon in a very small Washington town in 1980) got me through what was a time of terrible domestic violence and abuse of various kinds.
On Halloween night, one of those incidents of violence put people into both the hospital and jail and forced my siblings and me to leave town immediately. I broke up with those girls without ever saying goodbye to either of them. That sudden disappearance left a mark on me, although I can’t speak for them.
Settling into adult poly
My next relationship, two years later, was again in a triad. One that included L, who is now my wife and occasionally a guest on Poly Weekly. Although Minx and I do mention her all the time, she has only made a few appearances behind the microphone. She and I met when I was 14. She was 18, and I fell head over heels in love with her at a glance. It took two or three years of hard work on my part for her to fall back in love with me–but that’s another story.
Over the next 30-some-odd years, L and I have been together, all while both of us have had or shared other lovers. At point point about six years in, some bitter experiences with poly drama inspired L to demand monogamy. However, I simply could not resist opportunities to have sex when they arose, and after some number of my tearful confessions of infidelity on my part (call it four; neither L nor I can really remember), L declared that she didn’t really want monogamy and that we should work out different rules of engagement. And we did.
We did variations of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the While Traveling rule, and Professional Sex Don’t Count. We were long time members of some great swing clubs and, while I have lost my taste for recreational sex, I am still a defender of swingers to those who denigrate that scene. Over the years, we’ve been members of triads, quads, and networks of fuck buddies. We’ve soft swung, hard swung, and had sex vacations. About the only thing we haven’t done is hierarchy in our relationships; we never used the terms primary, secondary or the like. Nowadays, we tend to play only with folk we want to increase intimacy with, and L lets me act as her talent scout. As Christina Aguilera says, “I’ve still got the nasty in me.”
As for the second part of that question, “when did you come out?”–I’ve always been out. My stepfather drove the aforementioned first triad to the movies for date nights and, while we would sit rows behind him and my siblings, he wasn’t a dumb man and would tease me about “swappin’ spit” with two girls at the same time. My grandmother knows me better than I know myself and always has known that I don’t do monogamy. Now there are exceptions to my lack of poly closet, primarily individuals whom the family conspires to keep in the dark. Out of respect for those efforts, I don’t flaunt my polyamory in front of those folks. But for the most part, I’m simply too lazy to be closeted and always have been.
How about you all? What are your answers to the classic, “how did you know you were poly?” and “when did you come out?” questions? Put them in the comments or email me at lustyguy at polyweekly dot com!