Monday, November 30, 2009

A missed opportunity

I used to think dating was hard enough as a single girl. Tonight I found out how much harder it can be as a pansexual polyamorous girl.

I went to my local public library after work to pick up the second half of my beginner's Russian language course (Polina and her family speak Russian, so it's nice to be able to say and understand a few words with them). After I got that, I went to look over the movies and found Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which I've wanted to see for a long time since I'm a fan of Woody Allen, and it's a poly-themed movie (there's a consensual love triangle between the three lead actors).

I was holding the movie and the Russian course when an older gentleman in a long black wool coat struck up a conversation with me. He was probably in his 50s, well-groomed, and had a polished and confident manner - think Richard Gere, but taller. He asked if I had any movie recommendations, and he noticed the movie in my hands, saying it was a good one. Since I haven't seen it yet, I couldn't concur, but I said I've been waiting a long time to see it.

Now here is the point where, if I were truly brave, I would have said my interest in the movie stemmed partly from my being polyamorous. But, even as generally open about it as I am outside of work, it's not something I typically blurt out upon first meeting someone, especially in a public library (which, by and large, is not a bad place to meet new people for someone my age).
Then he noticed the language course and asked what my interest was in Russian. I said my girlfriend and her family speaks Russian so I was learning to so I could fit in better with them. I also made the comment that this particular course (the Pimsleur method) seems to be tailored for American men going to Russia to pick up Russian women (lots of phrases like, "Wouldn't you like to have a drink with me? at the restaurant? at the hotel?" "Do you want to buy something?") He looked at me and said, "Well, that's something you don't really need."

We talked for a bit about his interest in Russian history, and my family background (my grandfather being a Chinese ambassador to Russia during the Stalinist period). After a bit more small talk about movies, he wished me a nice evening and left. We did not exchange names or contact information.

Now. I'm not saying I was especially attracted to this guy. Frankly, I didn't even make much eye contact with him because I was looking over the movies. He probably interpreted that as me being disinterested. But when I think back upon the encounter, I could have handled it better. The guy was clearly interested in me, or else he wouldn't have started a conversation. But I didn't give him much of a chance or any real encouragement to get to know me. That's not the way I want to live my life, but old habits die hard.

It also couldn't have been too encouraging for him to hear straight off that I had a girlfriend. I'm certainly not ashamed of that fact, but the problem is that the minute you tell people that, nine times out of 10 they assume you are a lesbian and that you are monogamous. It's hard to dissuade that assumption in a casual encounter ("My girlfriend's family speaks Russian, and oh, by the way, I'm polyamorous and also open to dating men" - yeah, that works great.)

The real missed opportunity here is that I was given a perfect opening to say all these things because of the movie in my hand at the time. The conversation could have gone something like this:

Man: Do you have any recommendations?

Me: Well, I found this one, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Man: That was one of his better ones.

Me: Woody Allen? Yep, I'm a fan of his. It's also of particular interest to me because of the love triangle story since I'm polyamorous and pansexual.

Man: Really? What does that mean?

Me: Polyamorous means engaging in multiple long-term, consensual loving relationships with different partners at the same time. And pansexual just means I'm non-discriminatory in my choice of partners when it comes to gender. For example, I have a girlfriend, which is why I'm learning Russian as you see, but I could also become involved with another girl, or a guy at some point and she would be supportive - unless she couldn't stand them, that is.

Man: That sounds really interesting. Maybe we can more about it over dinner - can I get your phone number and ask you out sometime?

It's still a lot to say, but you can see that I missed an opportunity here that might have turned into something. But as they say, you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes.

While I'm certainly content to spend as much time as possible with Polina, I know she would like to see me happy with someone else as long as we could continue to cultivate our unique relationship. I've never been enthusiastic about dating, which is why I don't put a lot of effort into it. But I do feel strongly about being open to the possibility of love when it presents itself, and in that respect, I failed miserably tonight. When the goddess offers a gift, it should be accepted with an open heart.

Perhaps this experience tonight will help me do better next time.