It was the summer of 2003 and I fell really hard for this idealistic doctor whom I met at a weekend conference. A few weeks of late night phone calls and emails later, he managed to charm the bloomers off me before surprising me with something I’d never heard of before.
“I’d like you to be my Number Two.”
For a second there, I thought I had caught some virus that affected my hearing. But I heard it right. He wanted me to be his Number Two.
Turns out, he was dabbling into this thing called “polyamory”.
Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly], meaning “many” or “several”, and Latin amor, “love”) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It is distinct from both swinging (which emphasizes sex with others as merely recreational) and may or may not include polysexuality (attraction towards multiple genders and/or sexes).
Yes, basically, it’s having your cake and eating it, too. Lots of it.
Needless to say, I was stumped at first. Then I asked him, a bit too enthusiastically, “so can I have my own Number Two?”
He stared at me, probably surprised at how quickly I was warming up to the idea. “As long as I approve of him or her,” he said in a quite unsure way. Hey, I can play this game, too, you know, I wanted to tell him – again, a bit too enthusiastically.
So I called my Danish ex-boyfriend who had wanted to get back with me anyway and told him that I was now polyamorous and would he be my Number Two. Needless to say, that did not go over very well, and I learned a few Danish curse words in the process.
Long story short, polyamory did not work for me but in the course of regaling two of my friends, a couple, about my misadventures with the good ol’ doctor, I discovered that they had an unconventional love of their own.
“I’ve talked to the missus,” the husband said to me during dinner while his wife was in the other room. “And she said yes. You’d be perfect.”
“Perfect for what?”
“For our lifestyle,” he said, a twinkle in his eye. “You know how much I’ve liked you, don’t you? You can’t imagine how long I’ve wanted to sleep with you.”
Swinging or (rarely) partner swapping is a non-monogamous behavior, in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. Swinging can take place in a number of contexts, ranging from spontaneous sexual activity at informal gatherings of friends to planned regular social meetings to hooking up with like-minded people at a swingers’ club. It can also involve Internet-based swinger social networking services online.
And for the second time in months, I wondered if I’d fallen into some rabbit hole or taken the red pill instead of the blue pill. I’d known these people for years. They were the most romantic couple I’d ever known and I had to admit, their public displays of affection often grated at me because sometimes it was just way overboard, but I figured, hey, it’s just how they roll.
So this was what kept that spark in their marriage all those years? Variety was the spice of their lives?
Anyway, to make this long story short (again), I marched over to my girlfriend in the other room and asked her if she really did say that it was okay for her husband to sleep with me. Reluctantly, she said yes. “I really don’t want him to, but he’s wanted you for some time.”
“So you mean when you guys would tell me that you loved me, you meant it in that kind of way? Not the ‘we’re-friends-kinda-way’?”
She looked at me like I sprouted an additional head. “You mean you had no idea?”
So that summer of ’03, I discovered, not just how other people indeed rolled when it came to love, but something about myself that I’d never been so keen to admit until then.
Turns out – I was pretty conventional in many ways, especially when it came to love.
Old-fashioned even. Romantic. One-man woman – that kind of thing.
Which is actually kinda exciting.