Rose Fox spent Valentine's Day with the woman she calls her "girlfriend-in-law" — that is, her husband's girlfriend. Why not? They're friends, they both love choir practice (which happened to fall on Valentine's Day), and, of course, they both love Rose's husband, Josh.
Josh spent the night at home alone, catching up (ahem) on his sleep. The only other time he really gets a lot of rest is when his wife is off visiting her girlfriend, who lives across the country. But since lately Rose has been flirting with his girlfriend, she might not be flying out as often.
And that's the beauty of polyamory. It's so simple!
Polyamory is the name of the movement that promotes loving lots of lovers. For some reason, it also promotes a lot of potluck suppers. Go figure.
The movement is not to be confused with "swinging," wherein icky people have sex with other icky people they'll never see again. (Unless they're being blackmailed.)
Nor is it to be confused with cheating, because polyamorous people are supposed to be completely honest about who's doing what. And who. Some poly couples are so honest, in fact, that they share an appointments calendar.
"It's like being a soccer mom with three kids. 'Can I take him to soccer? Can I make it in time for her ballet class?'" Rose said. "Except we're adults." And except it's not soccer.
Rose runs a monthly meet-up in Manhattan that generally attracts about 10 of the poly curious. Hers, however, is not the only game in town.
Film and TV producer Justen Bennett-Maccubbin runs a rival discussion group, Polyamorous NYC. His events attract about two dozen people, many of whom, he's proud to say, are "hipsters."
And though it sounds like a crazy (or maybe typical) New York thing, there are polynumerous polyamorous groups all over the country — and world. Loving More, the non-profit institute that runs seminars and a magazine about the movement, is run by a mother of three in Denver.
Like other outsider groups before them, the polyamorous are trying to gain acceptance as a painfully normal, even prosaic bunch, which perhaps explains why they've adopted a cute little mascot: the parrot. Think "wanna cracker" and you'll see why it represents the poly. (And the pun-ny.)
Justen, who is gay, realized he was polyamorous when, at 19, he dated his first couple. "It was infinitely more interesting!"
I'm sure it was. Rose had her own poly-revelation when she was 14, away at summer camp, and her boyfriend called to tell her he was dating someone else.
"My stomach fell like a rock," she said. Then she realized her boyfriend wasn't actually dumping her, just adding someone new. A lifestyle was born.
Within polyamory, there are no limits on the number of people one can "date" (as the practitioners politely put it), or their sexual orientation. The slang tells it all. There are triads (groups of three), quads, "tribes" and "TOCOTOX" — "Too Complicated To Explain." There's also the plaintive plea: "PWP" — Poly Wanna Potluck.
So, will this group someday become as accepted as, say, transsexuals?
"We've got the Bible going for us," Rose said. The Good Book is filled with polyamorous husbands, at least. And it's not like strict monogamy has had such a great run through civilization.
"I think most people, by their nature, are not monogamous," said Justen. "If you look all the way up to President Clinton, monogamy is the exception, not the rule."
Well, maybe that's not the best selling point for the movement. But the polyamorous do have some real insights when it comes to love and even marriage. Consider the life lesson Rose learned on one polyamorous vacation a few years back.
"It was me and Josh and his then-still-wife and her boyfriend and his involvements and it went out from there — about eight or nine people," Rose said. "We all went to the wine country for the weekend and the problem was: One person wasn't feeling well." When you're not feeling well, she noted, "you really want your partner's attention."
The weekend fell apart as one lover couldn't pay enough attention to the next lover, to the next, to the next. "It was a disaster," Rose said. But she did learn one thing: "Attention is the currency of relationships."
Pay enough attention to your beloved and he or she may never show up at a polyamorous discussion group. Or potluck.
Lenore Skenazy is a contributing editor at the New York Sun. ([email protected]), find out more about Lenore Skenazy and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.