I came out as bi and poly to a lovely friend of mine the other day who was great about it. Two things prompted my telling her. One was that it is becoming increasingly difficult not to mention A and M in conversation. They’re important to me and my relationships with them have become a big part of my life, to the extent that it is almost impossible to fill anyone in on what I’ve been ‘up to’ since the last time we met without mentioning them.
The second reason was that a mutual friend tends to frequent a place A and I are often in and around so it’s not impossible that she will see us together at some point. If that happens, I think she would probably get in touch with our friends to tell them or ask them about what was going on, and personally I’d rather my closer friends heard about it from me first. I’d rather short-circuit any gossipy stuff where it matters. I’m not terribly concerned about what she might say to anyone she knows – that’s her prerogative – but people we both know and who matter to me I’m a little more concerned about. Of course I could just tell her, but we’re not close enough and I don’t particularly want to. It’s an effort to bring up the whole poly thing because, in the heads of the majority of the people around us, H and I have been neatly filed away as straight and monogamous for years now and attempting to change that would draw more attention to our relationship with each other than I want. And more than the attention itself, it’s the type of attention that bugs me. It’s the way people ask questions that tells you whether they’re genuinely concerned and interested or just asking because they think you’re a freak – I’ve spent enough time getting the latter for other reasons to know the difference.
So that’s two local friends who know, and a third that I shall tell at the next opportunity. There are one or two other people in particular that I want to tell, but I don’t know when or how. Otherwise, I’m fairly open and visible when I’m out with either M or A in places where acquaintances might spot us. These are not people that I have any kind of investment in so I’m not concerned about what they might think or say, though I’m happy to talk about it if asked. I doubt I will be though. I do still hesitate to refer to either A or M when talking to people I know through work or casually, but then I don’t really mention H either to people I don’t care about to some extent, so while I may feel a twinge or two when I let something particularly relevant slide, it’s not a huge deal.
What I am still worried about – and I’ve mentioned this is previous posts – is one of H’s friends seeing me with M or A as we’re not out to them. My own friends I can deal with. His, I’m not so sure about. I know I’d feel quite defensive and I’d probably be tempted to imply that he wasn’t monogamous either just to make myself look less ‘bad’. Also, I think that in some cases M might be easier for them to handle than the idea of me being with another man because, thanks to what folks have started calling the ‘hot bi babe syndrome’, my bisexuality could be read as being about pleasing H, thereby allowing it to still fit to some degree into the whole heterosexual-men-are-the-center-of-the-universe thing. But there’s no room within that trope for my relationship with A. They couldn’t stick with the idea that I’m doing it ‘for H’ because that would make them question his orientation, which is something most of them would probably prefer only slightly to chewing lightbulbs, so they’d have to consider that I was doing it for, well, me.
(Wow. I am honestly amazed at the chorus of ugly words that started howling through my head as I typed that. Talk about conditioning.)
Also, where H could be seen as gracious and tolerant for ‘letting’ me have my cute little relationship with another woman (not to mention ‘lucky’ by some definition because the idea that he wouldn’t have sexual access to my girlfriend is too bizarre to consider), it is unlikely that he would be seen as anything but weird and possibly insane for standing by while I got involved with another man. The way I see it, that is because, au fond, women still are considered property and men are considered owners. No matter how ‘equal’ and ‘modern’ your relationship or you yourself may be, no matter whose name you take or don’t take, who does the cooking or the cleaning, who earns more, who takes care of the kids, etc., when you get right down to it, the wife is still considered the husband’s property. Oh the husband may ‘belong’ to the wife too in some ways, but really it’s only because he allows it. If he really wanted to, he could put her right back in her place, and we all know where that is.
All these assumptions make it even more difficult to explain that some of us resist the trope right down to its roots. Yes H and I are married and yes that gives us certain benefits and perks that make our lives more comfortable, but outside of that, our relationship is ours. Before I got married, my father asked me why I would willingly enter into a relationship that was inherently unequal, and I replied that it was because I knew it wouldn’t be. He was skeptical and, to be honest, I was a lot more unsure than I let on, but hey, we did it. Our relationship is our own. Neither of us falls neatly into the category of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ other than legally, and H generally avoids using the terms when he talks about us – in fact, I tend to use the former far more than he does. And our relationship happens to have grown to the point where it can accommodate my involvement with other people without that involvement threatening my relationship with H.
But while I’m secure in my relationships and in what I’m doing, I hate the idea of H being thought of badly. I know, I know. It’s the people who would do that who have the problem, not me or H (or A or M, for that matter), but it’s still hard to stomach. I also know that it hasn’t happened yet and I am probably not giving his friends enough credit, either, painting them as some kind of knuckle-dragging medieval ogres (preemptive strike, anyone?). And yet here I am tying myself up into knots over it just the same.