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Month: January 2010

Bucking Monogamy

Thoroughly perforated by Puritanism, we Americans are quite sure that if something feels really, really good, it’s probably very, very bad for you. Like shooting smack, watching porn on your boss’s computer, or digging to the bottom of an order of Outback’s Aussie Cheese Fries.

Love affairs are another example. In order to reap the toe-curling rewards of conventional romance — from the shivery intensity of new sex to the unparalleled peace of enduring intimacy — we must also abide the inevitable tedium of monogamy. We must accept and embrace the thrill-sapping sameness that yangs true love’s yin.

Or must we?

A covey of free-thinking, free-loving dissidents is bucking Puritanism, bucking monogamy, and, frankly, bucking anyone else who’s game. They practice what they call “polyamory,” or being openly — and therefore ethically — involved in multiple intimate relationships.

“Poly,” as it’s called for short, encompasses all sorts of consciousness-expanding configurations: from stick-straight to gay-as-the-day-is-long, from married couples with separate-but-not-secret lovers to a trio of adoring roommates who share more than the water bill. It’s not polygamy and it’s not “swinging.” It’s consensual non-monogamy with as much emphasis on love as on sex.

The Getting from Giving

It’s the same absurd episode every year. About a week into their winter break, my children take on the properties of common pond leeches.

Lazing around in their pajamas day after day, they suck down eggnog and cookies ’til the gifts come, then invariably whine about what they don’t have: the proper batteries, the money to buy what they really want, the opportunity to see that dreadful chipmunk movie …

That’s when I lose it. That’s when I go into self-righteous harpy mode, decrying their ingratitude and asking if they know what “entitlement” means and how profoundly unattractive it is. The lecture ends when I get to: “Why are you so spoiled?” Because the answer is a neon billboard-sized arrow pointing directly to their spoiling, entitled mother.

I admit it. I’m not the very model of magnanimousness, not the emblem of altruism. Sure, I leave pantry booty at the mailbox for canned food drives. I lower my window at off-ramps to toss a Washington to the fella with the pleading eyes. But I ain’t what you’d call a giver.

I’m well apprised of society’s ills; I’m just not accustomed to asking, “What can I do to help?” And much as I want the world to be a better place, I’ve never felt capable of making it so.