One of my frustrations when it comes to living an “alternative lifestyle” (excuse me while I vomit a bit in my mouth) is when my life and its “style” gets misrepresented. Polyamory is no less victim to this than bisexuality is.

There are individuals in my circle of friends who’ve managed to cock-up poly for others around them, and I find this profoundly sad. Poly has been something that’s allowed me to experience more love in my life, that has allowed me to explore deeper connections and friendships and to follow my heart when it leads me towards a greater intimacy. It works for us, and by ‘us’ I mean my Master and I, primarily because of our open and frank communication with one another, because of our deliberate and gentle honesty. There’s a lot of love in this arrangement, and it’s the love that makes it work.

Meanwhile, I hear stories of other people who go about their business and call it poly. It makes me sad, if not angry at times, because what these charlatans do reflects on everyone who lives a poly lifestyle. There seems to be a fair amount of confusion seeded by these peoples’ activities, and much as I’m the last person to decry the sluttish side of life, when people are being misled, it makes it hard for me to not want to scream at someone.

Poly was something that happened very organically to me. I had a relationship with a person who said if I wanted something, I could ask for it, and we’d see what we could work out. He’s a very nontraditional man that way, iconoclastic even, in that he doesn’t subscribe to the construct of the relationship as always and forever 100% monogamous, a-men. The ironic thing about this is that of the pair of us, he’s the monogamous one. Not that he’d turn down an opportunity presented to him, more just that he doesn’t seem to develop feelings for others in the same way that I do.

That’s what I mean when I say that poly was something that happened naturally, as if it was just a part of the way-I-am. I loved friends, I was close with friends, and sometimes, sometimes, I found myself aching to want to kiss them, hold them, to be closer and closer and closer. Obviously, this isn’t feasible in every situation the feelings arise in, and I feel it necessary to point out here that these feelings are a rare occurrence. That said, when they happen, it’s a powerful thing — and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to resist the urge to just taste, to brush lips over a forehead nonchalantly, and feel your heart beat just a little bit harder.

I didn’t always understand what it was that I was doing. My very loving and well-loved friends were willing to dance the dance with me, and there was joy in playing. I won’t pretend it was always butterflies and rainbows and hot breath on necks, but what joy there was was transcendent. Even the times when I couldn’t have what I wanted so deeply, the joy at just the wanting made it worth every minute. I wanted to experience this more, more. I wanted to explore and keep exploring.

Once upon a time, for the first time, the whole process happened backwards. Instead of falling in love first, a casual acquaintance indicated that she and her girl would be interested in such play. I say I did not know what I was doing because of the fact that I had failed to recognize by this point that it was the intimacy of close friendship and the vulnerability that comes with confiding your secrets and sins to each other which resulted in the love, which resulted in the delightful feelings underneath my sternum. So, imagine my surprise when I played with these girls and found it a hollow experience, ending with me knowing what it was that I wanted, only because I had failed to achieve it.

It’s with this background that I look at people self-identifying “poly” having casual sex with multiple partners and spotty safeguards. Their “relationships” leave people feeling hurt, used, alone, rejected, and insignificant. These are people engaging in casual sex under the umbrella of poly, and it leaves their sex partners feeling like what they want (ethical, loving, responsible, safe, comfortable, trusting non-monogamy) isn’t what polyamory is.

This is part of the reason why I wanted to spend more time writing about these relationships that I have. It dawned on me a short while ago, when the new lady was telling T about how what we have is what she always hoped that poly would be. This is really what it’s all about, and it’d be a darn shame not to share the joy with the world.