Musings on the Multiplicity of Identity and Interpersonal Relationships
Most people accept and abide love as it is mainstreamed to be monogamous and mercantile. Flowers, hearts, along with ivory trains, and chapels are currencies in the interpersonal economy; wherein its stock market is abound with coupled cohabitants whose exclusivity earns them esteems amongst miscellaneous musings of wedding belles and gallant grooms (Hennessy, 2000, p. 19, p. 64). The prospect of a soulmate makes these stocks worth the investment. So do the happy endings in all those fairy tales.
Personally, my own idea of love is less economized than politicized. I’m a child of the Disney Renaissance (Pallant, 2011, p. 89) and I still love watching whichever of those classics I can stream; and occasionally, I’ll even scavenge my attic for my VCR and plug in the original VHS tapes. However, the older I grew, the less I imposed their ideologies upon prospective partners. The same went for the cheesy love stories in paperback I would sneak into my schoolbag at 50¢ apiece from the thrift aisle. Because, those stories were set in an ideal world, not the real one. Part of the charm is that those intimacies are imagined, but the imagination transmutes only so much in reality. The economy is underlain and driven by particulars and people we can consult to make informed decisions about what makes for a good investment. Not sappy serendipity.
Our mates are concentric and therefore comprehensive. We love others whom love us because we love—or want to love—ourselves. Moreover, love itself is a conscious and consequential act. It isn’t some cosmic coincidence or compulsion. It is a choice we make defined by steps we take (Galician, 2004). So, I choose to actively love myself more than the imaginary; and I choose to indulge the imaginary indispensably, noting what bearing it may have on my reality as well as how I might recognize and resolve any inconsistencies. Like, what do the mainstreamed morals of this economy and its complementary fairy tales truly mean to me? What are the odds of their unlikely coincidences or fates coming to pass? And, how might I transmute those prospects as an Other from the outside looking in? As a woman of colour, I am not afforded the same indulgence that is extended to more privileged positionalities. The reason I don’t find this market and those fairy tales resonant to my reality is because their economized esteems and prosperity are exclusive. To believe wholeheartedly, if not uncritically requires a suspension of disbelief I am incapable of. In love or not, I exist within a cultural context that questions my humanity; a context whose historical and present legacy is operant, if not contingent upon my dehumanization. To indulge the ignorance of bliss is to cede not only realism, but resistance.
And as I resist, I persist. I endeavour beyond the economy and currencies cultivated through displays of affection rather than possession. My marginalizations incline intersectional insights which entail emancipation as much as exclusivity. The connections I invest in heed the hurtful hierarchies which oppress and the markets which commercialize. Discerning that my labour and likeness, myself, are commodities to capitalism inclined me to reflect upon intimacies effective of the industrial complex. Values are encoded within the fleshes and feelings of free enterprise that cultivates every fairy tale and restrictive, ascriptive average. Affection and appeal are advertised with singular objectives which don’t take into consideration that we are multidimensional beings. Our mates reflect us as much as we reflect them—but not entirely. The market’s buyer incentive is operant upon principles of consumption. The customer is always right, because the customer is never satisfied; and they never can be in accordance to what the economy averages and advertises. The market sells us satisfaction in a solitary sense (Hennessy, 2000, p. 80). It charms individual or clustered interests: a selection. It doesn’t entreat the entirety.
Likewise, I just don’t think that just one person can fulfill all of me. There is only so much time. There is only so much I can give and take. And, there is only so much I can share. My most amenable partners have shocked and disappointed me to the point of grief. Until I found myself not just grieving their loss, but grieving loss itself. There were voids which I’d denied in an effort to relate to them and just them; and rescind my reservations. I tried to be the one even if I ended up with zero. Because, the quest for coupling as sold says that your zero is to be expected, if not required. In order to find and keep the one, you become the one; the one which supposedly yields a priceless payoff as happily-ever-after.
Except there’s no one. Our Selves are indefinite, infinitesimal composites of personality and positionality. Rather than avert or abridge my reality to acclimate that of another, I would rather redistribute my relativity and reckoning. Moreover, I am of a reality from which I cannot divorce unlike those whom are privileged within marriages to ignorance. I cannot divorce myself from the very real, very visceral psychic and physical bearings the legacy of colonialism and capitalism upon my Other being. Polyamory is one of the many mechanisms through which I endeavour and engage within emancipation. It is not an undivided, individualist intimacy nor is it indiscriminate free love. In the emotive and erogenous economy, for me, polyamory is a means and ends of transcendence. It provides an interpersonal model of relationality and sustenance that includes exclusivity, desire, and distinction.
Polyamory came to mind as I started to think more on reciprocity and how attractions are mutual. I reflected on how interpersonal counterparts comprise and compromise. Whenever it came to my relationships, I found that I would shrink instead of flourish. There was no secret garden, because we were solitary seedlings whose roots would mangle. We were sheared to share within the soil, as if incongruency hindered intimacy. It was only once I diversified within a crop that I could withstand the elements and begin to bear harvest. My happiness was sown under the conditions of clear boundaries, communication, honesty, and loyalty in addition to the realism of my relationality being interdependent as well as interpersonal; which means my intimacy is not so much imposed as interchanged. There are parts of me that resonate not just with one, but with more with one than another and vice versa.
In our relationship, we have our unique strengths, weakness, compulsions, and baggage—which creates a diverse dynamic and support network between us. Our relations are constellatory, not ranked. There is no better or worse for me. I devote my time and energy to them in particular ways which complement their preferences and personalities. I also acknowledge how polyamory manifests in its entirety for me, as I possess privileges of my own which are gendered and material. I am neurodegeneratively diseased and racialized; I am also a cis woman who can scarcely afford food, shelter, and a post-secondary education; with two racialized and abled-bodied cis men whom can also scarcely afford the same. My privileges affect me as much as my marginalizations which coalesce to underpin my connections to myself and others.
Certain sensual and cerebral likenesses emerged after I acknowledged my aspirations and deconstructed my desires. I realized that intimacy cannot subvert insecurity or isolation. Then, I resolved to set and maintain firm boundaries rather than always accede or negotiate my boundaries. I wouldn’t minimize my multiplicity in some attempt to become the one, which is what had defined my prior non-polyamorous relationships in addition to monogamist commercialism and currencies. I strove to unlearn the respectability politics of censure and denial I had internalized. Finally, I forgave my family and friends whom had demoralized dissent; because, how could they have ever imagined that I would grow to conceive of their conflation: of capital with convention, and the ideal as idyll. They were not unlike anyone else I had known afflicted by an idiosyncratic intimacy of one: tough customers whom were swindled by the spools they were sold; believing if they spun intently enough, their yarned yearnings could yield a gold fleece. To them, an opt-out was unheard of. So were the realities I had spoken to: the reality of the sandy spinning wheel, driven by the disavowal of myself, operant upon the propulsion of my pricking my fingers over and over again.
Polyamory may mean different things to different people, but for me, it isn’t about percolating free love. It’s about mitigating the multidimensionality of attraction and making intimacy more inclusive. Interpersonality is manifest in many ways and there is nothing wrong with non-polyamory, however the latter is vastly overrepresented; and desire and demand are demarcated in accordance to that ideal. For me, to subvert that ideal is not a mandate for revolution. It is simply a means for me to diversify and dignify the dimensionality of my desire. It is an identification instrumental to oppose a system of singularity, empiricism, and essentialism. Non-polyamory is fine. The effigy that economizes or emphasizes its supremacy or quintessence are ludicrous.
Galician, M. L. (2004). Sex, love & romance in the mass media: Analysis & criticism of unrealistic portrayals & their influence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hennessy, R. (2000). Cultural study, commodity logic, sexual subjects. In Profit and pleasure: Sexual identities in late capitalism (pp. 74-110). New York, NY: Routledge.
Pallant, C. (2011). Disney Renaissance. In Demystifying Disney: A history of Disney feature animation (pp. 89-110). New York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Group.
Fallen Matthews: "I am a Black, Métis cis woman and current grad student in gender studies, with concentrations in interpersonality, existentialism, and social theory. I've been published in Model View Culture, The Coalition Zine, Social Dissonance, and the Journal of Comparative Media Arts; in addition to my erotic fiction under the penname Fallen Kittie.