“A day before I sent Malcolm the email saying I wanted to break up, I came across a term online: solo polyamory. It described a person who is romantically involved with many people but is not seeking a committed relationship with anyone. What makes this different from casual dating is that they’re not looking for a partner, and the relationship isn’t expected to escalate to long-term commitments, like marriage or children. More important, the relationship isn’t seen as wasted time or lacking significance because it doesn’t lead to those things.”-Haili Blassingame, “My Choice Isn’t Marriage or Loneliness.” The New York Times. April 2, 2021.
It starts with an email that reads like a PR piece for an event. It has talking points. She’s trying to sell it.
This piece seems to be generating a lot of discussion on Twitter, to the point I’m hearing about it, and I don’t use Twitter. And, sure, it’s sophomoric and stupid. You don’t break up with people you are in relationships with over email. She’s adopted the passive voice of the corporation to try to spare herself, and perhaps this man, some pain.
The effort is inept, but I think the heart of it is kind. They graduated from college, and they lived on opposite coasts. This man was her first boyfriend. They’ve been together for five years. While there are a few exceptions to how this plays out, the normal course is a breakup, typically within a year. This is obvious to anyone with any life experience.
Another thing that becomes obvious to everyone over time is that relationships are defined by limits. She says:
“My entire girlhood had been consumed by fantasies that were force-fed to me. Love and relationships were presented as binary, and in this binary, the woman must get married or be lonely (or, in classic novels, die). The path to freedom and happiness was narrower still for Black women. Even in our extremely loving relationship, I had felt confined.–ibid.
To be in a relationship is to be confined. But, it is through constraints that we open up other kinds of freedom. Infinite options are just another kind of confinement. At some point, you choose or time chooses for you. Even in polyamorous relationships, there are limits. In fact, I’d wager that there are more limits in polyamorous relationships simply by virtue of the fact that there are more people involved, even if those limits may not apply all the time. But, there are limits because relationships imply limits.
It’s easy to crack on the naiveté of the author of this article. But, there’s an important lesson to be learned. When you learn something new about yourself – your needs, your wants, your desires, your thoughts about who you are – keep it to yourself and the people that care about you, at least for a few years. Integrating insights is hard work, and it takes time, particularly when they are part of the process of identity formation and how we define ourselves.
In general, it’s a good idea to work with the garage door up, to share your thoughts and processes in how you think about the world and how you do whatever it is that you do. But, your feelings, your sense of identity and your issues, and we all have issues, are not where you do it.
When you close the door to go to the bathroom, everyone knows what you are doing in there. There’s no need to throw open the door and put yourself on display. It isn’t doing anyone any favors, least of all yourself.
So, close the door. Keep that shit to yourself. Work it out. Flush when you’re done, and as a courtesy, light a candle or a match on the way out, so the person behind you can focus on their business and not yours.
6 thoughts on “No. 1 Rule: Keep Your Shit to Yourself”
I gave one perspective; you gave another. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all men are gold-star prospects. Men have their own problems. The difficulty for both sexes of entering adulthood and behaving responsibly and considerately is pretty amazing now that social mores, manners, and decorum have all been relaxed. I wonder if at some point society will wise up to how we’ve been sold an empty bill of goods with all the self-indulgence on offer. So we’re not really in substantive disagreement, just commenting on different facets of the same problem.
That’s my sense as well. A bit of truth about unrealistic expectations of others and low expectations of ourselves applies all the way around. And, I’ll try to keep my salty talk nuder control when talking with you, in order to do my part to fight these relaxed social mores! =)
We’re entering a new era that is redefining all the basic patterns of pair bonding, opening up possibilities of nodes and networks. Very nontraditional. In the process, much of the inherited wisdom and programming is being swept aside, making the new landscape nearly impossible to navigate. We’re recreating the wheel, in effect, with rationalizations to excuse the interim flux and disappointments. I don’t envy anyone entering adulthood now, and it’s likely to take decades (time we don’t have) to shake out.
Agree. It’ll take time to work out. In the meantime, don’t work out your shit in public. Talk to someone who cares about you, a therapist, etc. Don’t work it out on Twitter or other social media. It’s a basic idea that needs repeating in an environment where everyone wants to show off their every wart and mole. Agree it’s a hard time to navigate, although I think in many ways more fun than the time I grew up in. But, no accounting for taste, right?
More fun? I hear anecdotes that many are simply giving up in rank frustration. I don’t offer advice, but it was recommended at my blog that if one plans to have children, do so when young and stupid. Delaying into one’s 30s or 40s, now commonplace, appears suboptimal for all sorts of obvious biological reasons.
Also, according to some, women in particular seem to have bought into princess narratives (blame Disney) and severely overestimated their chances of being swept off by Prince Charming to a life of luxury — especially when those who check the necessary boxes (height, square jaw, hair, abs, intelligence, education, humor, personality, but mostly independent wealth) are < 0.1% of the population. And many of those dudes are playboys uninterested in golddiggers.
I’m reminded of that Anaïs Nin quote a lot these days: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” I sometimes go out and imagine what it must feel like to be a young woman in my early 20s and try to look at the available men from that perspective. It seems to me that there is a lot of male entitlement, quite a few men aren’t really bringing much to the table, and often, they don’t even have preliminary control over, much less competence managing, their emotions. A man that is comfortable with feelings? What, did I just hit the lottery? Then, you add in that not only do you have to civilize this fucking man-child, starting with getting him to consistently put the toilet set down to doing a competent job in the innumerable tasks that are required to not live in squalor, but you have to do it in a world that almost universally pretends he’s the better half. How’s it look from that frame of reference? I think I’d put off marriage and the kids too, perhaps forever! When I hear some self-described incel make the kind of comments in your second paragraph, I’m sure of one thing: he’s the problem. Pick up your game, son and hustle a bit. All you have to do is be marginally better than this pool of dudes, and it ain’t that hard. Princess, my ass, the problem is thinking a frog’s a prince. Take responsibility for your own transformation, and then, look for the kiss.
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