I took Freaksexual’s advice and went along to a poly gathering the other day. It was just a friendly, relaxed catch-up at the pub and since a few people I knew from another group were going I decided to take the plunge. And it was actually a lot of fun. I’d planned to stay maybe an hour at the most and ended up leaving three and a half hours later. I met some lovely people and while there were maybe one or two people there that I might possibly be interested in somewhere down the line (as well as a few to whom my first reaction was oh god I hope I never see you naked), it wasn’t about ‘finding’ someone anyway.
H couldn’t come along this time and now I really wish he had because I was basically with a room full of people who seemed to extend the same acceptance and general goodwill that he usually projects. Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to be a closed, schoolyard-type situation but I didn’t expect such a huge welcome either.
I loved the range of people too – everything from people in fetish gear to Hawaiian-print shirts, professors to service industry workers; foreigners, locals, different races (for once!), different belief systems, transfolk, bi folk, straights, gays, young people, older people, whatever. Sounds like some kind of utopia, doesn’t it? And yes my view of it may have been a tad rose-filtered given that I’m brand new and don’t therefore know any of the issues that people are bound to have with each other, but I certainly didn’t pick up on any undercurrents around where I was. It helped though that this lovely woman monopolized me for a bit until her boyfriend showed up with other people who joined us. They, plus the people I knew already, formed a sort of current – they’d drift off and then drift back so I’d always be moving with a few people.
As the evening wore on, people turned to cuddling and snogging, which, while lovely to see, I didn’t really feel like participating in – well, OK, I didn’t exactly refuse the cuddles offered; I love cuddles – so I left amid promises to come to the next gathering and keep in touch, etc.
The funny thing was, on the way home, I suddenly got butterflies in the pit of my stomach and this load of doubt just hit me out of nowhere. I wanted to crawl into my bed and hide for a few days, or forever really. Everyone there had seemed so together, so sure, so happy, even, and I felt a bit like an impostor, someone who’d talked her way into perhaps more than she could deal with. I felt much better when I told H about it and went over how much I liked the people I met, but that breathless feeling kept jumping out at me for quite a while after. It stopped eventually and I was left with just the good bits, but at the time I was completely blindsided by it.
It did help to consider that, given that I’m a bit of an introvert, being in and surrounded by a crowd for over three hours – irrespective of the friendliness of said crowd – took a lot more effort than I realized. H also pointed out that I appear just as together and sure of myself to people who are even newer to this than I am. What was possibly freaking me out was that the people I met were simply ahead of me and I didn’t know if I could or would measure up. That does tend to be an issue for me – not feeling ‘good enough’ sometimes – but it’s more a niggling doubt than something that can be debilitating. The trick is, if you wait out the fear, usually, it’ll settle into something more like respect, which can then help you move forward.
In my case, that means going to the next gathering. I’m actually already looking forward to it.