Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The English Patient

Yesterday on the train I finally finished reading The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. As anyone who's read my profile, this is one of my favorite movies, and I picked up a used copy of the book late last year and I've been reading it off and on since then. It's a very dense, poetic book, much like Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale (which I still haven't finished, so I guess that will have to wait another year). There are wonderful turns of phrase and stories contained in the book, such as Katharine's final wishes in the Cave of Swimmers, which stick out in my mind. But it's also a little difficult to follow because it jumps around in time and place a lot. If you know the movie as well as I do, it helps to keep you grounded on what's happening.

What is amazing about reading this book is how anyone could take it and turn it into any kind of coherent movie, let alone one that collected nine Oscars. That was quite a feat of screenwriting, yet surprisingly it didn't win for that category, although screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella won for Best Director. Frankly, I don't think I would have enjoyed the book as much if I didn't already love the movie.

In other news, I got my first jury summons last weekend, so I might be serving jury duty in early June. Not something I'm particularly looking forward to, but I guess it beats going to work. I was also in a courtroom yesterday in downtown New York for a client on a very large civil case involving one of my well-known clients. And I have to say, the New York courtrooms are so much nicer than the ones I've been in in Texas. But I guess my Texas court experience has been limited to family and traffic courts, and not the courtrooms where the CEOs fight for billions of dollars.

I forgot to mention on Monday that I had another encounter with Leatherman on the train coming in to work. The exact same thing happened as last time - he requested the middle seat, and the other guy who was sitting on the outside got up and left the seat vacant, and Leatherman just kept sitting in the middle seat rather than sliding over. He's determined to sit next to me, it seems. From now on I'm sitting at the front of the car instead of the middle to throw him off. What I really don't like about him is that he sits with his arms locked and hands on his kneecaps, so his arms intrude on my space. In fact, if I weren't on my guard, his right elbow would be touching my left boob. I wish he'd put his arms on his lap or hold his briefcase like a normal person. And that he'd wear less strong cologne!

I went to a free seminar about investing in real estate that was to be given at the LGBT Center on Monday, but the presenter never showed up. I waited for 30 minutes and then gave up. As I've probably mentioned, I'm thinking about buying a house here in New Jersey next year when my lease runs out, so I need to get smart about the process. Last time I bought a house in Houston, I had a lot of people helping me, including an aunt who is a realtor. This time I'm going to be on my own, although I'd like my family in New Jersey to be involved.

Speaking of the family, Tara is feeling much better now, although still worn out from the ordeal she's had to endure this past week. We had dinner last night and watched The Shawshank Redemption, another of our favorite movies. She wasn't really feeling up for fooling around, but I kind of forced her into it because after a week without snuggles, I was feeling super-horny. So after the movie we had a quick roll in the hay before I had to send her home.

Last week I got word that one of my old co-workers from my Houston PR firm was now working for one of my clients down in Houston. He was actually in the office next to mine during the last few months I was working in Houston, and we were pretty good friends. We met for lunch after I left the company and he gave me some job-hunting advice over hot dogs. So I called him up to congratulate him on his new position and catch up with the news from the old firm. We promised that we'd visit next time we were in Houston or New York together. Unlike the last guy from Houston who knew me in my former life, he's not creepy in that stalker-ish way - he's just a nice, normal guy, and I can trust him to be discreet with whatever I choose to share with him about my new life.

The weather is slowly warming up and spring is just around the corner. I'm rather itching to go outside and play some tennis, so if anyone wants to play, drop me a line. Once Tara feels better, I'm sure we'll start playing basketball again before it gets too hot. Plus, I am looking forward to all the great movies coming out this summer, starting with Iron Man this weekend!

Monday, April 28, 2008

An unexpected weekend

This weekend was Bee's birthday, so we had made plans to go camping at Assateague Island in Maryland over Saturday night. Pursuant to these weekend plans, we moved our regular Saturday night fun to Tuesday night, and Tara got Chinese food instead of cooking her usual hot dogs. That was a big mistake, because of all the bad luck, she contracted salmonellosis, probably from eating infected steamed chicken. So she was dreadfully ill starting Wednesday, but we held out hope for a miraculous recovery that would allow the camping trip to happen.

Friday I took off work so we could get our birthday celebrating in before the trip. In the morning I took Bee to a new spa and got her a facial, while I got a relaxing massage. We came back to have breakfast with the other girls and in the afternoon we went to see Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Then we came home and watched baseball and cooked a special pasta dinner of spring ravioli, then opened a bunch of presents and had our ice cream cake. While we were having cake, we pretty much figured out that Tara's illness was not going to allow her to make the trip, so we decided to postpone it. It was pretty disappointing for everyone, and although on the one hand, it was nice to look forward to a quiet weekend, it also made me feel snakebit after what happened with Joanna's wedding last month.

I've been feeling a bit pensive this weekend relating to Tara's illness. As a secondary in a poly relationship, I am constantly trying to understand what my role is in the larger dynamic of our family. While Bee and I were out shopping for Tara's medicines, I thought about how my relationship has certain benefits and limitations that color the way I feel about it sometimes.

On the one hand, Bee is Tara's primary, so she naturally takes responsibility (with Bug's help) for taking care of her needs, like medicines, food and basic supplies. Since I'm a secondary (in role if not rank) I have no say in those matters since we don't share household budgets.

On the other hand, Tara and I are like two people who are in a long-term dating relationship (dating each other, that is) in that we have no real responsibility toward each other besides making each other happy. And generally speaking, we do a pretty good job at that.

So the question is - is it enough for me to be in a relationship with someone where we just have fun and share each other's lives at arm's length? Where we don't have to deal with one being sick and keeping the other awake at night? Where we aren't concerned about how much money to spend on books versus clothes?

I'm not sure.

Part of me likes being independent and making my own decisions about my household budget and what to do on a Saturday afternoon. Another part of me longs for a relationship where I can care for and nurture someone for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for better or worse until death parts us. As long as I am a secondary, the latter scenario really isn't an option for me without some serious open-hearted talking, which nobody in my family seems to be ready for yet. And frankly, as a secondary, I don't deserve the kind of relationship I'm talking about because I'm not willing to give of myself as completely as Bee gives to Tara. In that respect, I feel rather inadequate compared to Bee's love for Tara, but I try not to let it bother me since I recognize that I'm a secondary and it's not my place to be a primary in this relationship.

But germane to the point, I am simultaneously wanting and apprehensive of being a primary. If it's going to happen, whether with Tara or with someone else, it's not going to be anytime soon. Maybe someday I'll figure out what kind of relationship will work for me long-term, and how to achieve it. In the meantime, being happy with Tara is enough for me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shopping while naked

Sunday was quite productive for me in a lot of ways. I went over to my family's house in the morning for a quick visit, which turned into a bit of a heavy talk with Tara, but fortunately didn't last too long.

Then I went to my local Loehmann's which is closing the store and liquidating everything, so everything was at least 20% off, and 30% for clearance and reduced items. The big find was a white spring trenchcoat by DKNY, which I've been searching for since the weather is getting too warm for my wool coats. I also bought some scarves, a pair of Cosabella pj pants, a stretch lace tank and thong by Hanky Panky and some earrings. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to shop for actual clothes because they had removed all the size tags from all the hangers, so that made it difficult to tell at a glance where my size was located in any particular rack. Plus, I couldn't find a shopping basket, so it got tiring having to carry stuff around in my arms. Also, while it wasn't terribly crowded, I wasn't really in the mood to try on clothes that day.

I had an encounter at Loehmann's too. An older woman and I were shopping in the scarf area, and she blurted out, "You know, you just don't see too many Asian women your height." Normally, this kind of comment really chaps my hide, because it's usually thrown at me from some male passerby who thinks this is some form of flattery ("Wow, you're tall!" is what I usually get). For the record, I'm 5'11" in bare feet. So I said to her, "Yeah, I'm one of a kind." She then proceeded to tell me about her son and his girlfriend and their heights, to which I nodded and kept on shopping. As she turned to go, she said, "Oh, and you're gorgeous, by the way!" I thanked her and she moved on. Memo to all the would-be suitors: I'd much rather be called gorgeous than tall.

Loehmann's is an interesting place because they are one of the few stores that have open dressing rooms. I've heard that sample sales in New York are the same way - basically there are no private dressing rooms and you just have to grin and bare it in public if you want to try something on. At Loehmann's they typically have a large mirrored room for the ladies to try on stuff, with private stalls for those who want to wait for them. When I went to the store on Broadway last week with my friend Lori, there were several women in the communal dressing area trying on clothes while stripped down to their bras and thongs. Fortunately I remembered to wear decent underwear so I could do the same (although I wasn't wearing a thong that day).

Seeing strangers naked or unclothed makes me feel kind of ookie. Which is strange, since I really don't have a problem with my own nudity (although I'm certainly not as comfortable about it as my friend Agnieszka), despite the fact that it wasn't a common sight in my house growing up. I can remember exactly one time seeing my mom naked, and once or twice seeing my father's genitals (and one of those was in the hospital when he had hernia surgery). My older brother and I weren't that shy around each other, though. Of course I've had my issues in the past with my body image, but nowadays I fully embrace the idea that nudity is natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

Anyway, back to Sunday. After Loehmann's I went to Costco and bought some groceries and a sleeping back for our camping trip this upcoming weekend. I went home to unload everything, and did some laundry and handwashing of my new purchases and some of my bras. Watched the Rockets get beat by the Utah Jazz in the first game of the NBA playoffs and ripped some of the programs off my DVR to DVD-R. I also cooked up a huge pot of fried rice and made some General Tso's chicken from Costco to go with it for dinner.

Afterwards, I was feeling some acute loneliness, so despite an uncomfortable phone call with Tara just prior to leaving, I went over to my family's house, planning to sit and read my book in their living room and just be quiet with them. Tara dragged me upstairs to her studio and we talked through some of the lingering issues that have fallen out of this past week's drama until about 1:30 a.m. It was a lot longer than I had planned on staying, but I'm glad that we finally got some unspoken things out that had threatened to fester.

I will also put in plug for a new book on polyamory that appeared on my email list service today. You can read more about it here:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A date at the museum

I had a lovely date with Tara today, but first, an update on the softball game from last night.

First off, we played on the Great Lawn in Central Park, which is always a treat. They are some of the best fields in Manhattan, plus the views of the city around us are breathtaking, especially as the sun sets and the buildings light up. We scored six runs in the first inning, and one more the whole rest of the game, and held off the other team to win by two. At the plate, I'm still looking for my first hit of the year, but I had a sacrifice fly my first time up, and the second time, with a man on third, I hit a come-backer to the pitcher and ran to first, thinking for sure I was going to be thrown out. But instead, the pitcher saw the runner break from third and tried to throw him out and they fumbled the ball, allowing him to score and leaving me safe on first. So depending on if you score that a fielder's choice or an error, I think I got another run batted in (RBI), giving me two on the night, and the margin of victory. So at least I'm contributing.

Today I woke up early after a fitful night's sleep and picked up Tara to go to breakfast at our favorite diner. As you probably know, the Pope is in town and was at St. Patrick's Cathedral giving mass on TV while we ate. We were a little concerned that this might interfere with our plans to visit the Met, but since the church is so far from the museum (both on Fifth Avenue), we figured we'd avoid the Pope show altogether.

However, when we got close to the Met, we saw a sign that said Fifth Avenue was closed from 86th all the way to 42nd, which is before the Met. We went down Park and tried to get in at 81st Street, and there was a NYPD traffic van two cars ahead of us. As we crossed Madison, the van pulled over, and were likely closing 81st behind us to prepare for closing 5th Avenue for when the Pope left St. Patrick's, so we barely made it to the museum garage in time before we would have been shut out.

At the Met we walked all the major galleries and some of the special exhibits that are getting ready to leave next month. Here's a picture of me in my colorful spring outfit at the Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing:

At the Temple of Dendur

From the Met we went to Hiram's Hot Dog stand in Fort Lee, NJ for lunch, and then stopped at the Papa Beard's bakery to pick up some chocolate cream puffs. Then we stopped by National Wholesale Liquidators, where I bought a gigantic can of stuffed grape leaves, and some flatbread for myself and Bug. Since it was getting late, and we were both suffering from gallery fatigue and food lethargy, I took Tara home and went to the Chinese grocery store for some tofu and baby bok choy to make for dinner. I got home and promptly crashed for a couple hours until everyone came over for Saturday night dinner.

All in all, today I think Tara and I finally got back to being ourselves again. Time, love and beauty can cure most ills in this world. And while I recognize the value of putting troubled times behind us, I also believe in the value of having some record of how we got where we are, and learning what lessons we can from that history. As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and I don't want a repeat of the negative parts of this past week.

Friday, April 18, 2008

100th post - week in review

Just a short post today, since it's Friday and I haven't posted all week, practically. And yes, as you can see, this is the 100th post on this blog, which is a nice milestone.

Tara and I have had a rough week together following Monday's date, but we are working our way through it. I wouldn't want to say that these incidents get easier over time, but each time they happen, at least we're learning more about how we deal with conflict and recover from it. No relationship is ever perfect, so even when things turn south, it's still an opportunity to learn something about the other person that will strengthen the relationship in the long run.

Wednesday I went to my regular PolyNYC meeting, where we had a speaker talk about building satisfying sexual relationships. Unfortunately, there were so many people there, and many of them were first-timers or just poly-curious, so it ended up being a Poly 101 question-and-answer session, which I didn't really have the patience for, so I left to catch an earlier train home. On the one hand, I'm glad that more people are expressing an interest in poly, but on the other hand, I wish the presenter (an alternative lifestyle attorney who is very pretty and a good speaker) had stuck to a script and not let the presentation become dominated with opinion after opinion.

Thursday Tara and I spent a quiet evening together while Bee was visiting her parents for her birthday, which is coming up next week. We went to Burger King and came back to my place to watch the Yankees-Red Sox game. Hopefully it was enough to be peaceful and grounded so that we can get back to being our usual affectionate selves.

And today I have a softball game in Central Park that I need to get dressed for because we're leaving the office in 15 minutes. Wish me luck - maybe I'll get a hit today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Beautiful Mind

Monday night is date night for me and Tara, as it's usually the night that Bee has her yoga class, and Bug has the house to herself to do computer maintenance. Yes, there are actually people in the world who enjoy keeping our computers running - nature loves diversity, remember? You go, Bug!

So last night I took Tara to Amazing Hot Dog near home and we had dinner while watching a bit of the Yankees game against Tampa. I got the Oriental dog (of course) and the Phoenix dog, while Tara got two Jersey Breakfast dogs. The interesting thing about these hot dogs is that they wrap them with bacon and then deep-fry them. Plus, all the toppings reminds me of Pink's in Hollywood, which I had the opportunity to visit about four years ago. They don't call me the queen of condiments for nothing!

After dinner, we went back to my apartment to watch A Beautiful Mind, one of my all-time favorite movies that Tara hasn't seen before. It won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard) and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly). The last award I felt was richly deserved (albeit it should have been the Best Actress award, not Best Supporting), not only for Ms. Connelly's performance, but because this is one of the few modern movies that celebrates the female spirit.

Not to give too much away for those of you who have not seen the movie, but while the story is ostensibly about Professor John Nash and his achievements, the real driving force behind all his accomplishments was the heart lesson he learns from Alicia, his wife. She teaches Nash that it is the heart, not the head, that holds the secret to the truths we are all seeking. Without Alicia, John Nash might have still been a brilliant scholar and mathematician, but he would not have lived a life worthy of such admiration. When I speak about the female spirit, I mean that the true achievement in the movie is not really the mathematical or mental struggles that are overcome, but the triumph of the heart over the head, of love over logic, that moves the viewer.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fried tofu

It's a slow day at work, so there's time to blog. I had just the restful weekend that I needed, and feel much more refreshed this week. Hopefully that will sustain me until Friday.

Saturday I went shopping at Burlington Coat Factory for a raincoat, but didn't have any luck finding one I liked. I did buy a couple cute casual tops - they always have bargains there for cheap stuff. I also ran my usual errands, which included a trip to the Chinese grocery store because Bug requested something different than my usual vegetable dumplings for Saturday night dinner, so I bought some tofu and hot chili bean paste to do some experimental cooking. I picked up Tara in the late afternoon and brought her to my place for some afternoon cuddling, then brought her home so she could take care of her errands and I could finish cleaning up my apartment for family night.

Now, for the past few months we've been having family night on Saturdays at my place, and I've gotten things down pretty much like clockwork when it comes to cooking dinner (I make fried vegetable dumplings, white and fried rice for Bee and Bug, Tara makes hot dogs, and I usually make something quick and easy for myself, like ramen, Mediterranean dips or some kind of frozen food). But Bug's request for something different kind of threw a monkey wrench in the timing of the whole works, so everything kind of got done at different times. Luckily it wasn't off by too much though.

I had read an article in the New York Times food section this week about frying tofu and that inspired me to try to fry tofu for the first time. Of course since both Bee and Bug are vegetarians, I couldn't follow the recipe in the paper, but I remembered a fried tofu dish in my youth that consisted of hot bean paste and sauteed green onions. I fried up the tofu with canola oil and the bean paste mixed together, and added the onions at the end, cut into long pieces. I think it turned out rather well for a first attempt - Bug finished it, but it was a little too spicy for her palette. But it was fun trying something new in the kitchen and not having it turn into a disaster.

Sunday I woke up with a headache and feeling very lethargic, so I stayed home all day watching episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles off my DVR and copying them to DVD. Lethargy slowly turned to melancholy, but I managed to pull myself together enough to go with my family to see the new IMAX film, Shine a Light starring the Rolling Stones and directed by Martin Scorsese. Going to the movies is always fun for me, even if it's a subject that I'm not that interested in. I've never been a fan of the Rolling Stones, and probably never will be. What was interesting was that the concert was filmed at the Beacon Theater in New York, where Tara and I saw Porcupine Tree a few months ago on our anniversary. Maybe they will do an IMAX concert of them someday when they get more famous.

Anyway, all in all, it was a restful and enjoyable weekend, and just what I needed to rebound from last week. I hope everyone had a nice weekend too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

So sleepy...

I am tired. It's been a long week, especially since I didn't have a proper restful weekend, with my trip to Philly. Plus, this week has been so busy with the softball game on Monday, the poly meeting on Tuesday, and doctor's appointment after work on Wednesday for my allergy shots, then I hit the gym after that.

Tara came over last night feeling frisky (we hadn't seen each other since Monday) and she managed to get me excited enough to play with her, but I promptly fell asleep afterwards, and she had to let herself out to go home. I'm sure we both feel a little awkward about that, but seriously, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open even when she was kissing me. But I certainly didn't want to turn her away, and frankly, the best part of the night for me was falling asleep in her arms, my head on her shoulder, hearing her whispered endearments in my ear as I dozed.

Having an intimate relationship isn't just about rubbing slippery body parts together - it's the love and mutual understanding behind the expression that makes the activity worthwhile. Best not to be so focused on the goal that the reason for getting there is lost, right? I'm trying to learn how to let go of "making progress" in my relationships and just let things come when the time is right.

Not much else to say right now, other than I'm planning to spend a lot of time in bed this weekend, hopefully not all of it alone. :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Molested - again!

This day is not starting off very well. Last night after my women's poly group (which was great, very nice people) Tara and I had one of those difficult talks about the future, which is always a tricky topic for us. We weren't fighting or arguing - we were just talking. She always tells me that by living one day at a time, the future will be here before you know it. John Lennon once sang, "life is what happens when you're making other plans." I do really try to live in the moment, but when the moment is unsatisfying, it's hard not to dream of better things.

Maybe I need to watch Rent again. I might do that tonight.

So I ran into the molester on the train again this morning, who I'll call "Leatherman" from now on, since he wears a leather jacket, which I don't like touching me (see previous post "Molested on the train" - March 5, 2008). The cars on my train all have rows of two-seat benches and three-seat benches. I always sit in the three-seat benches on the inside, because I'm one of the first people to board so I have my pick of seats. As the train fills up, someone will eventually sit on the far inside seat of my bench, leaving the middle seat open. On especially busy days, someone will request the middle seat, and the outside person will either stand up to let them in or slide over next to me and give them the outside seat. Generally, no one likes sitting in the middle seat, so those go last when the train is extremely crowded.

So I'm dozing with my sunglasses on as usual, and there's another man already sitting on my bench on the outside seat when Leatherman comes up and requests the middle seat. So the first guy stands up and lets Leatherman sit down next to me, but then instead of sitting back down, the first guy wanders off to find another seat, possibly because Leatherman is rather large and it's a tight squeeze for them to sit next to each other. So the outside seat is now open, but instead of sliding away from me and leaving the middle seat unoccupied (which most people would have done), Leatherman stays in the seat next to me and proceeds to take off his jacket and settle in, like we're a couple or something.

At the next stop, a woman does sit down and occupy the outside seat, so now the bench is full. But Leatherman is doing his expanding thing again and we are again bumping and lightly rubbing against each other from the movement of the train. I decided I'd had enough and sit up straight to minimize contact with him. His cologne is really strong too, which is irritating, but I'm wearing scent too, so I can't really complain (today it's Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline). The rest of the trip I just fidget to keep him at a distance as best I can - crossing my arms, playing with my iPod, and turning to look out the window.

So over the weekend I had a pleasant trip down to Philadelphia for my training program. Traveling by train is so much easier than by plane - no security checks, no boarding calls, no cramped seats, no safety briefings, no annoying air pressure changes or loud and bumpy takeoffs and landings, etc. etc. Prior to moving here in 2006, I'd never traveled by train before, so it's a relatively new experience for me.

The classes themselves were very stimulating, and it was very energetic being in a room of 60 accomplished professional women, most of whom have MBAs or other advanced degrees and have been high-level executives in the past. It made me think about the issue of sex-segregated education and how girls might benefit from being educated from an early age separate from boys. When I see what happens in women-only spaces when it comes to education, I feel that many times in co-ed situations women's voices get lost or drowned out by men, whether due to bias on behalf of the instructor or the general female tendency to defer to males, or other reasons. So it was quite illuminating just from the perspective that it's the first time I've ever attended a formal women-only event related to work.

Monday night I played my first softball game in a couple of years (I sat out last season because of my surgery) and didn't do that well - went 0-for-3 with an error at second base. However, I did catch one infield fly ball for a final out to stop a rally, which was about the only positive thing I did. We did win the game, 10-8. I also almost got hit by a thrown bat when I was playing catcher, and got hit in the leg with a hard-thrown low ball on a play at the plate that I failed to catch because my vision was impaired by the catcher's mask - luckily it was in my calf and didn't bruise, but it hurt a lot for the rest of the night.

Monday was also the first time I'd taken the tram to Roosevelt Island, which was a pretty neat experience, almost like flying over Manhattan and the East River. Usually that kind of experience has been confined to ski slopes.

Alright, back to work for me. Hope everyone is having a good day!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The importance of touch

Tara came over last night and we talked about what happened on Monday night. While I admit that my first instinct when there's trouble is to pull back, I'm trying to get her to have faith that I'm not going to make the same mistakes I did last year when I almost walked away from everything. I'm a lot stronger now - with my own identity, with what I want in life and with my love for her.

Plus, great sex cures a lot of relationship ills, something we didn't have last year; at least the sex wasn't that great for me because I was still recovering from my then-recent surgery. I could get all scientific about orgasms and the release of oxytocin, but suffice to say that physical intimacy is very important to me, probably more so than to most people.

I'm one of those people who communicates through touch. I love to cuddle, with platonic as well as romantic partners, and tend to give a lot of hugs. I love to give massages - again, both platonic and sensual - and touch in a variety of ways using my hands, feet, legs, arms, nose, lips, even my ears sometimes. I truly believe that people don't touch each other enough - again, because of all the societal boundaries and limits we've placed on ourselves. We're taught from the earliest ages to keep our hands to ourselves, not touch other people, or even ourselves in certain ways, and we've lost that ability to share through touch (unless you're visually impaired). These days, everyone interprets touching a sexual advance, but that's like saying every greeting is a come-on. We've limited touching to a handshake or a quick hug, and made all other touching associated with sex. It's one of my issues in being non-conformist that I'm trying to cultivate a healthy attitude toward communication through touch.

What's interesting is that my birth family was a stereotypically reserved Asian family that rarely touched each other with affection (although I learned the art of massage from a very early age because my mom has chronically sore shoulders). We would never hug or kiss each other, and in fact, I probably haven't seen my parents embrace each other more than 10 times in my entire life growing up. It just wasn't who we were. On the flip side, we didn't physically abuse each other either. Despite this rather cold upbringing, or perhaps as a reaction to it, warmth and affection expressed through touch is an essential part of all my personal relationships, intimate or not.

I have a very busy schedule in the next several days. I have been invited to attend a prestigious training program for women MBAs at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania sponsored by one of my clients, a large investment bank. Unfortunately, that means I'll be in Philadelphia all weekend, but I think it's worth it for my professional development - plus I've always wanted to eat an authentic Philly cheesesteak. It will be a nice refresher course for me, since it's been 10 years since I earned my MBA at the University of Houston.

Monday I have my first company softball game of the year after work. I bought a new glove Monday night and I've been molding the pocket with a softball and a rubber band. Obviously I lost my old glove in the fire of 2007. Tuesday night I have my first meeting of a new poly women's group in the city, which I'm excited about. As you might expect, at most poly groups, the men outnumber the women, so women's viewpoints tend to get overlooked. As I'm typically more comfortable around women in the first place, I'm hoping this will be a good group to discuss poly issues and ideas.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why Poly?

I'm sure a lot of people read my blog and all the polyamorous articles and stuff and think I've advocating the lifestyle. Personally, I feel that everyone is poly by nature, and it's society that has conditioned us toward monogamy. There's a recent article in the New York Times Science Times section that quotes an author of a book titled, "The Myth of Monogamy" that says the only 100 percent monogamous animal on the planet is a parasitic flatworm that lives in the gills of freshwater fish.

In Most Species, Faithfulness Is a Fantasy - March 18, 2008

This makes sense to me because most of us grow up in families where we are encouraged to love both parents, any number of siblings, half-siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, multiple grandparents, etc. And it's obviously natural to have more than a single offspring and love them all equally. So the concept of loving many people equally and without favoring one over the other is ingrained in us from birth, and then suddenly when we get to be young adults, the rules change and we are required to choose a single person (just one!) that we will love as our partner/mate for the remainder of our lives. Naturally there are evolutionary imperatives that favor monogamy when it comes to having and raising children, but even those I believe are partially influenced by culture. Personally, I think the high divorce rate is a pretty compelling argument against the "naturalness" of monogamy.

All that being said, I'm not saying poly is the answer to relationship troubles. On the contrary, being poly is HARD. There are probably just as many, if not more poly breakups as there are among mono folks, from a percentage standpoint (obviously the total pool is a lot smaller). Poly requires a lot more communication and twice or three times the level of commitment than being a serial monogamist, where you're only dealing with one relationship at a time. And although I feel poly is the more "natural" state of being than monogamy, it's also completely contrary to 99.9% of the population's most deeply held beliefs about the nature of romantic love and the nuclear family.

Last night was the latest of a long line of train wrecks in my poly world, and I'm working on recovering from it. It's too personal to share details, but suffice to say I learned a valuable lesson: you have to be sure about what you really want, you have to communicate it clearly, always balance your needs and the needs of others, and if you're not sure about anything, then keep it to yourself before you stir up the pot until you are sure.

Being poly is like taking an advanced course in relationship skills. It's not for everyone. I'm not 100 percent sure it's right for me. But like a lot of people who enter the poly world, we do it because it fits our situation. We find ourselves in love with more than one person, or in love with someone who's in love with someone else, and we're not willing to throw that love away. So we either embrace our "poly-ness" or we reject it and move on. One thing I don't think works is to try and have it both ways, to believe in monogamy but act polyamourously. That course of action is only going to postpone the inevitable dissolution of the relationship with a lot more hurt and trauma than ending it quick and decisively.

Polyfolk are the people who are okay with breaking society's rules, especially if we're not hurting anyone to do so. We just want to live the way we must in order to be happy, even if everyone else thinks what we're doing is "wrong" or that we're crazy. I've broken societal taboos in the recent past - a lot of us have. We just have to have the courage to be ourselves, no matter what. It's a lesson I've already learned from hard experience.