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28 October 2009 @ 09:47 pm
"Just get a schmoopy boyfriend, duh!"  
...or, The Bitter Spinster's Lament)

Several of my polyamorous friends have been lamenting the state of their love lives lately, as humans are wont to do. This third guy doesn't want another secondary, I haven't had sex in a week, blah blah cry-me-a-river-cakes. Meanwhile my -- well, I have to say sex life, as I have absolutely no love life at the moment -- has also been slightly complicated. In a long chat with J. one day, she very earnestly informed me that what I needed was a schmoopy boyfriend. Here's part of the IM exchange that followed:

me: well, if I had one this wouldn't be an issue
but despite many years of trying, I've never had one
so if that ever becomes an option, my life will improve dramatically
but this is all I got
*is annoyed*
J.: chant with me, "I can do SO much better than this"
"I WILL do so much better than this"
J.: It continues to baffle me how people who say to themselves, "I am desirable and capable of getting what I want" generally do, and people who say to themselves, "I am not particularly desirable, and I will never get what I want" rarely do.
me: I don't think that's true, though - it's all very puritan and american, all "hard work will make your dreams come true." lots of people with tremendous ambitions and expectations of success fail utterly.
J.: true again, to a point
people who seek The Perfect Relationship are doomed to misery
people who seek The Good Relationship are much, much happier
me: all I want is the Remotely Passable Relationship, though Good would be fantastic. but then, all the guy who lives in the refrigerator box wants is a hot meal and a cozy bed, but he's unlikely to get it either... and I rarely fully appreciate the fact that I've got that all the time
or how impossible a dream it is for a lot of people
and I'm like, well, just get a job! like other people are like, just get a relationship! duh!

It may be a metaphor that only bears up under so much close examination. I've never personally been financially destitute, at least not within memory -- even when I had absolutely nothing but debt, I still had middle-class parents happy to lend me money and positively eager for me to move back in. Technically I experienced extreme poverty as a baby, but by the time I was two and I have actual memories, our family had moved into the realm of the reasonably well-fed, clothed, and housed. So I'm not going to say that life without romantic love (and that specifically -- I'll come back to this) is "like" trying to survive without life's physical necessities. Maybe if we limit the scope to the inner life or the emotional life... but we're starting to get into distinctly flaky territory here. Maybe, if it's not too sentimental, I could say that the absence of love is to the heart as the lack of shelter is to the body -- though again, it's not as though homelessness has purely physical effects.

And why romantic love? In a life full of incredible friends and two extremely doting parents, why am I still unsatisfied? There are a couple of facets to this. One is that romantic love encompasses the depth of parental love -- this is someone, or someones, for whom your happiness will always be their highest priority -- and the freedom of the love your friends have for you -- unlike your parents, who (one very much hopes) are biologically and socially compelled to love you, your friends chose to love you. But the other point that needs to be made here is that the privileging of romantic love is very much culturally-defined. My conversation with Julie touched on this point too: in many eastern cultures, the parent-child bond is considered unequivocally the most important in life. And I'd argue that, until fairly recently, the same could be said of "western culture," and can still be said of some western cultures. But for middle-class American white people, Disney has convinced us that romantic love is more important -- especially, of course, for women. (And once again, I blame the patriarchy.)

But to get back to the rambling conversation I had with J.: the rubric we worked up was something like, poly people with multiple partners, especially if you have a primary (and, for my money, doubly especially if you're married or lifelong committed), live in mansions. Castles, even. Castles of Looove. Monogamous married/committed people live in five-bedroom Victorians or generous ranch houses in the suburbs (of Looove). And so on. By this reckoning, I am living in a refrigerator box (of Bitter Spinsterhood). With occasional stays in the shelter (of Fleeting Sexual Encounters).

So when my poly friends go on about how the ceiling is leaky in their fourth bathroom, I can only sympathize so much. I mean, to step out of the metaphor for a moment, I actually am a homeowner, so I understand the frustration of a leaky ceiling. And when your ceiling is leaking you're not appreciating the fact that you have a ceiling at all, you're just upset because it's leaking. I also wouldn't expect the guy who camps in front of my work building to appreciate or sympathize with my leaky ceiling. And telling him about my leaky ceiling is probably just going to make him angry and bitter.

The upshot of all this (vaguely masochistic, on my part) emotional rhetoric was that poly people -- I love you guys, all my lovely poly friends -- but sometimes, poly people need to STFU.

This doesn't apply to single poly people, and I know they're out there. I could be poly as the day is long, it still wouldn't change the fact that I can't get a date I want to go on.

Which, again... the actual guy in the actual refrigerator box? Probably has his tiny violin playing "My Heart Bleeds for You" right now. Or he would, if he had a computer and internet access. The point being, I suppose, that we've always got to have a degree of perspective about ourselves.

(For the poly perspective, check out J.'s take on this subject at ipcookiemonster)
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Carla M. Leecarlamlee on October 29th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC)
One is that romantic love encompasses the depth of parental love -- this is someone, or someones, for whom your happiness will always be their highest priority -- and the freedom of the love your friends have for you -- unlike your parents, who (one very much hopes) are biologically and socially compelled to love you, your friends chose to love you.

I wonder how much being adopted changes this for other adopted people. Because for me, I get both of those from my parents. Deep, uncompromising love, but they chose to love me AND my biological parents loved me enough to do what was best for me, not try to keep me in a bad situation just because I was their kid. So while I can look at what you've said there and say, okay, logically that makes sense, I have a really hard time figuring out what that feels like.

I mean, I'm crappy at relationships, whether I'm in a poly situation or a monogamous situation, so obviously having the different views of love doesn't necessarily make relationships easier, but I wonder what it does change. I'll have to think about this.
pointnopointpointnopoint on October 29th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
"Maybe, if it's not too sentimental, I could say that the absence of love is to the heart as the lack of shelter is to the body -"

I know how you feel. I've been able, however, to build quite a good life for myself without this at the moment. And, just to play devil's advocate for a minute, having romantic love is great, but it doesn't sustain. Having been in a six year relationship previously, you really have times when you can't get enough of each other, times when you are just tender or times when you can't stand being around the person. I love romantic love and have experienced it, but I also realize it is somewhat of an illusory concept.
I also have never thought of myself as a spinster, even though some people might consider me one. I just consider myself the person who saved herself and her partner from a really unhappy marriage and allowed both of us a second chance at life and love. He's married now, I'm not. I wish him well, and go on. What else can you do?
he_who_wanders on October 15th, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC)
[Context I followed a post by ipcookiemonster on another site here because I found the conversation interesting. Apologies if this comment is unwanted obviously you can delete it ;) ]

I don't think the difference is between poly, mono, and single. I think the people who live in castles are those people that know themselves and what they need, and have the skills and opportunity to obtain those things. I suspect there is also something in here about the skill to accept that they can't have everything they need all the time and better accept that by focusing more on what they have. I think there are monogamous people who are as happy as any poly people and feel they have the love and support they need from their partner, friends and family. There are also likely folks who are happy single, that need is filled by some other purpose. The obvious purpose that leaps out is religion but I suspect there are others.

Thanks for posting your thoughts I found the ideas on the love of family and friends vs romantic love interesting especially the question about what we are programmed with by our society.
Many thinky thoughts swirling around now.