The biggest news since the births of my four children: I’ve been approved for an office space. A tiny little white box of a room with a sliding window, a mini-sink, and a view of the brick building across the street. It has a ceiling. And a raw plywood floor. A lock on the door. And a shared bathroom down the hall. It’s hot in summer. Cold in winter.
Mine. With my books and papers and notecards and storyboards arranged just so, and exactly where I left them the day before. I was the mom who thought the babies would sleep in a Moses basket at my feet while I wrote everyday from ten to two. I’m the woman who said, “I won’t lose myself to parenthood. I will keep my identity.” I was the writer who by some miracle, which I’ve always believed was nothing more than a sympathetic jury, won a Literary Arts Fellowship for a drama I wrote on the bathroom floor while my toddlers tried to shake the door down.
I’m a woman who lives by impossible standards. I overcompensate at work, at raising children, keeping the house, maintaining relationships. I’m a workhorse wearing blinders so it looks like I’m just plowing forward, like I’ve got it all under control. But it feels like I’m failing. Everyone. All the time.
They used to tell me, me with my leaky boobs, just make time to write. I didn’t. I couldn’t. (FYI in my world there’s no such thing as Just. Just abort. Just adopt. Just write. It all breaks my heart. It’s supposed to break my heart.) But even if I didn’t fail at the time thing, there was the space issue. One notecard left on any free surface of my house was immediately vacuumed up by the universe. Single sock heaven.
And all the while, I was failing the voices too. The ones in my head.
I’m not a writer who doesn’t know what to write. Beautiful, painful, complicated characters and scenes. All without breath. I’m not saying they’re interesting or that I have any talent at all. I’m just saying they’re always there. Years and years of micro notebooks in the minivan, voice memos on my phone, sharpie on my arm, anything to mark whatever comes at me or out of me as I go about the momming and working and housing. And always the broken fantasy of a room of my own. The impossibility of it.
There was no money for childcare so the children, the four of them, had to be in school full-time. Also the two-year payment plan for twins in kindergarten had to be payed off. And I had to find my people. Which I did, eighteen months ago. Sage Ricci, Tom Spanbauer, and the Dangerous Writers. The exact right place for a story so itchy in my head and my hands it was beginning to show up as eczema. Then I had to ask for extra hours at work to help pay for the space and when that unexpectedly fell apart the whole thing nearly came undone.
But after all these years in, after all the waiting, I finally arrived at Fuck It. I’m doing this thing even if I can’t afford it. I’m getting rid of cable. I’m downgrading the internet. Whatever it takes.
A tiny little white box of a room with a sliding window, a mini-sink, and a view of the brick building across the street. It has a ceiling. And a raw plywood floor. A lock on the door. And a shared bathroom down the hall. It’s hot in summer. Cold in winter.
It’s so mine I could just cry my guts out.
I had the opportunity recently to sit down with some non-monogamous friends to discuss the unique circumstances of their relationships. At the table were wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, all interconnected. Some of them were parents. I’ve had many conversations like this (especially since working on Inviting Desire, The Dawn of Sex) and a couple of questions routinely come up: 1. What is polyamory? 2. Have people come out to their friends, family, kids? There are a couple of routine answers. Someone always states what polyamory is not.
“It’s not a fuck fest,” they say.
They, meaning almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about this.
When I first went to Burning Man someone suggested I check-out Poly Village. I was scared. I didn’t want to wander into a place where people assumed my presence meant I was willing to have sex with them. So I stayed away, far far away. But through the years I’ve begun to understand that there exists as many variations of sex, love, and marriage as one can imagine. What sets polyamory apart is the intention of all parties involved to be honest and open with one another, for all parties to consent to their unique agreements, and for the possibility of meaningful relationships to occur. It falls miles away from the monogamy model that most of us grew up with. It’s a lot to wrap our minds around, I know.
Another common theme in these discussions is that nearly everyone I’ve spoken with has been judged harshly for their lifestyle. Wives, husbands, lovers alike have all at some point been portrayed as the villain or the victim. Some have lost friends. Some have been ostracized by their parents or in-laws or siblings. Some have had friends distance themselves because they didn’t want to be associated with a person who identifies as poly for fear that they’d be identified as poly themselves. (Take out the word poly and insert the word gay, black, Jewish, Muslim, etc., and see if that changes anything.) If you know me then you know I’m a person who listens. You know that people tell me things they’ve never told another human being in their entire lives. When I say that the vast majority of non-monogamous people I’ve spoken with have been shamed in some way, you know I speak the truth.
I have never understood why what takes place in a person’s bedroom or in a person’s personal life is reason to judge or shun or shame that person. Where consensual adults are concerned I simply can’t fathom what would justify one human judging the head or heart of another. If you’re one who enjoys sex please consider your fantasies, think about the touch that brings you pleasure, think about all the intensely private moments you’ve shared with your spouse, your lover, your friend… is it really our place to judge such personal information? Should we have the power to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for all people? Straight, gay, bi, transgender, monogamous, poly, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist. Consent. Free choice. Acceptance. Love. Isn’t that what’s important?
Anyway, there’s this rad poly-friendly apartment complex in New York City (I’ve linked the piece below) and here are a few choice quotes I pulled from the report. You’ll have to watch the video to see who said what. I grabbed what I could while my kids were demanding more mac n’cheese.
– “Polyamory is not sleeping with whomever. It’s having relationships with more than one person.”
– “It bums me out that I have to be anonymous because I’d be happy to share it with everyone. It’s really important for people to understand what polyamory is…”
– “…as long as everybody involved knows and consents.”
– “…you don’t have to be polyamorous to live in the apartment complex, you simply have to be respectful of other people’s life choices.”
– “Being in open, consensual relationships forces you to be much more communicative, much more in touch with who you are, what you want.”
Here’s to the pioneers who are mapping out a more loving and respectful road for all of us to travel on.