Tres Chic, Polyamory

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Tres Chic, PolyamoryI think it was on that fateful Sunday when I came out to my Dad as non-monogamous that the idea of non-monogamy as something chic, cool, “up-and-coming” really cemented itself in my mind. If you read that post, you’ll remember that it was actually my aunt questioning me on love and relationships and then questioning me again on the ins and outs of non-monogamy, on jealousy, on how you can love someone who loves someone who loves someone… and so on and so forth, and that my Dad simply overheard.

My Aunt is the kind of woman who, although not really cool, has the money to afford her the time to read up on all the underground things most people don’t know are chic until they’re mainstream. I imagine she drinks coffee at 10am and leafs through arts magazines and psychology magazines. Perhaps she even does the Sunday Times crossword. The point is, at some point during my conversation with her she mentioned that, oh yes, she had read an article about polyamory and gosh, how interesting and progressive. A little too progressive for her, of course, with her rather possessive sensibilities, but isn’t it exciting how these things change and develop over time?

Whilst I don’t really take my lead from my aunt who can be somewhat over-enthusiastic – apparently she’s missed a few articles on the rise of apathy – this is a significantly more positive framework for non-monogamy than the kind of negative responses it can sometimes elicit, and when I think about it, this set of middle class Mothers (yummy-mummies, I believe they’re called) aren’t bad allies to have: they’re smart, they’re literate, they’re loud.

For myself this isn’t quite where non-monogamy sits: a world where carpets are hoovered twice a week and children have excessively balanced diets isn’t exactly familiar to my twenty-three year old, student cum sex-writer self. In fact, I’d like to pretend I don’t care at all about what’s “in” and what’s chic; and for the most part, I don’t. But it is rather nice to accidentally slip into that world; and like I say, I’m definitely happier when the things I love are considered chic, compared to when they’re looked at suspiciously from the corners of peoples’ eyes.

It also reminded me of a time, about a year and a half ago, when I invented a particular scenario for myself, wherein the prospect of being non-monogamous made me feel proud; like I was standing for something new and exciting. Just a story, a fiction, but something to imagine.

This is how I wrote it then:

I arrive at [a]party with a man none of my friends know. Let’s call him Sam. Sam is not who I am “in a relationship with” on Facebook – not that I use my Facebook relationship status, but you get the idea. I introduce him to my friend Grace as my boyfriend, and then Sam goes to find a drink.

Grace turns to me, puzzled and asks, “Sam? I thought you were going out with Tom?”

I smile, “I am.”

Grace raises a skeptical eyebrow: “Where’s Tom?”

“With his girlfriend.”

Grace grows ever more confused. “I thought you were his girlfriend.”

“I am. He’s with his other girlfriend,” I answer happily.

When I wrote this little scenario it struck me as such a perfect moment of happiness: four people who have found their own way, and are content in their somewhat alternative choices.

Reading it back to myself now, it seems rather twee. Something pleasant to live but a little embarrassing to dwell on. Nevertheless, I still like the idea of it, because whilst a moment of pride and the sense that you have worked hard to achieve something different is no great basis for non-monogamy in general – by which I mean, “I want to look cool in front of my friends” is really not a good reason to buck the trends of monogamy – it still seems to me that moments like this could be useful. Thoughts and imaginings used as incentives, as aspirations, to do that work in the first place. It’s not a perfect reason, but it might be something to look forward to.

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Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

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