My Year on Twitter.

December 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm (Polyamory, Real Life, Uncategorized) (, , , , )


I started my Twitter account on January 1. My hasty first tweet, now lost to all except the Library of Congress, contained a mortifying language error for someone so obsessed with the written word. Over 6,000 tweets later, I don’t care so very much about those mistakes. But I do care very much about Twitter and the friendships I have formed there.

Twitter was, from the beginning, my hiding place and my outlet. Alice Digitalis is the expression of my id, sloppy and sexual and loud sometimes, serious and contemplative and introspective sometimes. I didn’t hold many thoughts back. I wasn’t trying to entertain anyone, but I built a small following anyway, I suppose by being real – not always about sex, not always about self-examination, but an odd mix that showed I was human. 

It was intended to be a place to share my sexual thoughts, discoveries and adventures, primarily. At the time that I started using Twitter, I’d realized how much I’d let my sexual self stagnate, how much I had turned off in favor of being wife, wage slave, caretaker, supporter of others. I missed my sexual self and I wanted her to come out and play. I didn’t intend to use Twitter to meet sex partners, or even to flirt, but just to express the desires, needs, memories and fantasies that I couldn’t express anywhere else. This blog came about as an extention of that, a place for longer ramblings about sex and relationships.

A few months into the year, I met someone with whom I felt a real connection, for the first time in years, and began the first true polyamorous relationship in the context of my open marriage. Some of the ups and downs of that relationship have been chronicled via Twitter, for better or worse. A lot of the self-examination necessary in maintaining open relationships has spilled on to Twitter. My emotional breakdown and my work to regain emotional strength at the end of summer also found its way onto Twitter. My discovery of an intense new love and the sudden snuffing of that flame have also been exposed to readers’ eyes.

After that last event, however, I felt stifled. I started reconsidering what I was doing on Twitter. I found myself more frequently deleting posts that never made it to the timeline. I censored myself, and I hated doing it, but I was afraid. I was feeling exposed and vulnerable and raw. I knew things I said could be twisted and misinterpreted. I was suddenly hyper-aware that once the words left my fingers, I couldn’t control them. I lost my enthusiasm for sharing my random thoughts, my sexual drives, my lonely contemplations, my moments of weakness and wanton desire.

I’m slowly getting it back, that freedom of expression. It will probably never be the same. But my relationships will never be the same. I will never be the same. We change in every moment, with every breath.

I can honestly say I love Twitter, the short form, the need to be precise in each expression. It helps me think and focus. It has helped me grow. It is not the safe place I thought it was, but sometimes I think all safety is an illusion. I’ll keep taking the risk. I’ll keep yelling small stories and bad jokes and sorrows (to paraphrase The Weakerthans). I’ll keep sharing the messy highs and lows, feeling sorry for myself, finding moments of peace and contentment, and sharing what passes through my brain. In a world where perfection is unattainable, it is the perfect place for my sort of nonsense.

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Primary, Secondary, Tertiary & Worthless.*

July 15, 2011 at 10:19 am (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , , , , , )


*Title stolen from a Tweet by @BadPolyAdvice.

I know there is no right or wrong way to “do poly”. There’s no rulebook everyone must adhere to. I’m not going to say that poly people should all think the way I do about how they refer to their relationships. I’m admittedly new to poly and doing a lot of thinking, exploring, and wondering, so I’m no expert at the practical application of the poly philosophy to real life. That said, I do have a point I want to make, and I think it’s valid. Regarding relationships and labels, we need to think carefully about why we use the labels we do, and what that says to others, and how it affects our thinking.

Many of us are resistant to certain labels, or labels of any kind. But there are some benefits: labels serve to identify people and things in ways that can be commonly understood, and I don’t think that, as a society, we’ll ever stop using them. I do think that we need to use all labels with care, because the words we choose can sometimes say much more than we mean. And by using words that carry so much weight, we may be limiting our thinking about the things we are labeling, and this applies particularly to polyamorous relationships.

The way we label our relationships is troublesome for me.  In poly relationships, it’s very common to refer to your partners as primary or secondary.

Primary: first or highest in rank or importance; first in order in any series, sequence, etc.; first in time; earliest.

Secondary: Next after the first in order, place, time, etc. belonging or pertaining to a second in order, rank, etc; derived or derivative; not primary or original.

There are a lot of reasons to use the primary and secondary labels for your relationships. It sets a clear rank and hierarchy; it establishes who is most important to you, and therefore who will get the most of your time, which is a finite quantity; it helps manage expectations among everyone involved; it establishes boundaries. Frankly, it’s just handy to put your lovers in order. Right?

For a lot of reasons, I have a general resistance to hierarchical definitions. I find them belittling. To see them used in terms of intimate relationships irks me. To me, it says, “I have compared Partner B to partner A, and Partner B comes up wanting. Partner A is better.”  This seems like a value judgment; and because A is primary, he/she gets the most, and B gets a little less. Do value judgments and comparisons have a place in polyamorous, open relationships? I don’t think that they do.

Ranking implies a decrease in value the farther down the rank you go. It also implies there is less to give for the lower ranks. With time, yes, we are all limited, and we have to make choices between work, self care, chores, friends, lovers. But is love a finite quantity? Do we have less love to give each successive partner?

Isn’t that what we’re arguing against by being poly in the first place – that starvation mentality, that there’s only so much love to give and then it’s used up?

I also wonder if using the primary label closes one off to possibilities. If I say to each new potential partner, “I have a primary and he’s most important”, that does help towards setting expectations about the amount of time and attention another potential partner could receive. But to me, it could also say, “I’ve already compared you to someone, even though I don’t know you as well as I know him, but I already know that you can’t measure up to him, even though I don’t know you as well yet.” That immediately erects a wall: you can come in, but only this far. It could restrict how that relationship might grow.

But the fact is, I don’t know what might develop with a new partner.  I may have met my primary first, chronologically, but it’s certainly not inconceivable that there might be another person out there who is also compatible with me. And I could potentially have – gasp – my primary become my secondary. Ouch for him! (1) So do I use the primary label to protect my chronologically first lover from outside threats?

Is it inconceivable to have peer relationships, with equivalent amounts of love being exchanged?

Polyamorous: pertaining to participation in multiple and simultaneous loving or sexual relationships.

That’s a really fundamental definition, but I think sometimes it’s good to go back to the fundamentals. Multiple and simultaneous. Not greater/lesser. Not superior/inferior. Not primary/secondary. Multiple, simultaneous. No ranking of one against the other. No comparison. Just concurrent.

Human beings have value. It can take a while to discover exactly how much value any given person brings to your life. My argument against using hierarchical labels is that it creates a barrier that could prevent you, and your new/potential lovers, from experiencing organic growth in a relationship. When you tell them from the outset that the possibilities are limited, regardless of what qualities this new person might bring or what potential they might have, you’re closing yourself off. That’s not loving behavior, to me.

Being open means being without limitations. When I use words that erect a hierarchy, I’m setting limits. I’m not open.

I’m sure there are many arguments to the contrary of what I’ve expressed here. This is all my own opinion, based of course on my own limited experience. For me, personally, I know labels of some kind are needed, and I’ve taken up the terminology suggested in this article from Loving More: anchor and ancillary. They feel less loaded to me; they’re not as commonly associated with hierarchy, but still carry weight. I like them, and you’ll see these terms used in this blog in the future.

(1) To be honest, however, I admit this is unlikely. Since I’m married and have the legal, financial and other entanglements that come with marriage, I’m not sure how logistically my husband could become a secondary partner. I suppose we could remain married but live apart; or we could have additional partners live with us in a group marriage. But knowing myself as well as I do, I feel like these configurations would be unlikely, at least anytime in the near future.

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