Poly and Jolly for the Holidays
Tonight is the longest night of the year. The solstice happens tonight (December 21-22) at 12:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year and begins its seasonal return with the promise of new light and warmth to come. Such is the root and symbolism behind the season chosen for Christmas and many other festivals of light and hope in this darkest time of the year.
Last weekend Sparkle Moose and I again went to an overnight Longest Night party with about 50 Human Awareness Institute (HAI) and Network for New Culture type folks, way out in the icy New Hampshire dark. We poached ourselves in the crowded hot tub, belted out Christmas carols around the piano along with a Hanukkah classic rewritten to make latkes the Maccabees' secret weapon, and wrapped a Yule log with red and white ribbons. Into the ribbons we each tucked notes with wishes, then set the whole thing ablaze to send the smoke of the wishes into the world.
Back home, our Unitarian Universalist church had a full-bore religious-type carol sing Sunday morning, then in the afternoon a rollicking, kid-oriented "Occupy the Holidays" service with comedian Jimmy Tingle as twilight descended outside. We are blessed, and we say again: count your blessings while you have them.
To celebrate the season, here is a roundup of poly holiday jollity and other matters. Some is new, some is reprinted from last year or before.
● Here is Cunning Minx's recent Polyamory Weekly podcast #297, "Poly for the holidays":
Sometimes it’s tough to be poly over the holidays. Which relatives are you out to? Can you introduce your lover to your auntie May? How do you schedule family time? Listeners wrote in to ask the toughest holiday-related poly issues, and cohosts Joreth and Puck help Minx to sort them out:
How to introduce non-spouses
How to prevent your poly-aware daughter from letting closeted poly relationships slip in front of the “in-laws”
Is being closeted OK to certain relatives?
How do you handle feeling secondary and isolated?
How do you manage economic disparities?
How do you deal with missing some and disappointing others?
● On Planet Waves, Maria Padhila writes about traditional Christmas dreadfulness among normals (with a long shoutout to me and my last year's poly holiday roundup): ‘Tis the Season for Burl Ives’ Weapons-Grade Earworm.
● Terisa Greenan has produced a music video for the abundantly poly Bone Poets Orchestra's tune "Christmas Down South (of your Mason-Dixon Line)". It features rooftop singers Christopher Bingham and Sue Tinney with um-friends down below. Cute! There's a PG version and an R-rated version for your holiday viewing pleasure, depending on the sensibilities of visiting relatives.
● Last-minute gift hints? I list the 12 polyamory books that have come out in the last 3½ years, with brief descriptions of each, at the end of this post.
● If you're attending or hosting a family gathering for the holidays, chances are good these days that it's not quite traditional:
Four in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete
Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2010
As families gather... more people are accepting the view that wedding bells aren't needed to have a family.
A study by the Pew Research Center, in association with Time magazine, highlights rapidly changing notions of the American family....
Indeed, about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete....
When asked what constitutes a family, the vast majority of Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, fits that description. But four of five surveyed pointed also to an unmarried, opposite-sex couple with children or a single parent. Three of 5 people said a same-sex couple with children was a family.
"Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn't dominate family life like it used to," said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. "Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them."
"More Americans are living in these new families, so it seems safe to assume that there will be more of them around the [holiday] dinner table"....
The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29....
Read the Time article.
● For example, Joreth describes her multifarious Christmas plans as a radical atheist out poly:
...But with everyone reminding me that I'm "different", it got me to thinking ... how does a skeptical polyamorous atheist deal with a holiday that is more or less seen as a religious family holiday? Apparently, people want to know.
...First, I talk to all the partners and metamours who will actually be able to be present (i.e. the local ones and anyone who can travel). We discuss who has any pre-existing traditions, and how strongly everyone feels about those traditions....
...One of my metamours has a very strong attachment to decorating the tree, exchanging gifts, and spending the 2 days with her loved ones. On Christmas Eve, she likes to sleep out in the living room, under the lit tree. On Christmas morning, she likes to exchange gifts while sipping hot chocolate. Well, the rest of us think this is a fine and dandy way to spend a couple of days with loved ones, and since no one has any other traditions that they feel more strongly about than she does about her tradition, that's the one we all do....
● "Around the holidays, you tend to get a spike of interest [from others] in your family," writes blogger sexpositiveactivism. "I find this frustrating because in choosing to only be selectively out about my polyamorous status, I necessarily get stuck telling some lies, and I’m a big truth-teller...." See Poly Holidays and the Difficulty of Telling Half-Truths.
● In Canada's gay-newspaper chain Xtra, "where queers conspire":
Multiple partners doesn't have to mean more stress
By Liz Stembridge | December 23, 2008
'TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY (AND POLY). Competing demands from multiple partners can certainly add to holiday stress, but there are plenty of ways to make it work.
..."I plan on spending equal time with both of them. I planned something special with A and planned something special with B. As far as actual Christmas Day, which I celebrate, I plan to be with my family.... It is just a way to make things fair and to avoid hurting feelings."
Maggie, who has been in polyamorous relationships in the past, says competing demands from multiple partners can certainly add to holiday stress.
"Oh, was I ever dreading the holidays," she says of her holiday experience while dating two women a few years back. "First off, my parents are not thrilled about my being gay... so one girlfriend is awkward, I couldn't imagine them knowing about two...."
See the full article. The illustration and ads may be NSFVG (Not Safe For Visiting Grandmas).
● If you live in a multipartner home, are you affected by people who don't know how to address their cards and letters to all of you? (Or who pointedly refuse to?) Some people are — as was discussed on LiveJournal. Posts tehuti:
I am one part of a quad. We're about as out as you can get without tattoos or neon signs. :-) Some cards have come addressed to all four of us, some only to the legally married couple, one even came specifically to only one of us. In at least one case, a card sent to just the married couple was from people who know better. These cards are actually quite useful. We're getting a really good idea of which of our family and friends "get it" and which ones don't. Mostly, it's family that's the problem.
● Here's Mistress Matisse — a high-end professional dominatrix, member of a longterm poly vee, and columnist for Dan Savage's alternative newspaper in Seattle — with a thoughtful piece on bringing her partners home to her relatives' traditional gatherings in Georgia: Bringing Poly Home:
...I suspect that having me show up with Monk instead of Max is going to be challenging to my kin.
...My biofamily is quite clear about the fact that they don't wish to know about the kinky side of my sexuality. But my observations of other people's coming-out experiences make me think that some families actually have an easier time accepting kink than they do polyamory.
...I suspect the difference is that kink doesn't seem to reliably make vanilla people question their own relationship choices. At least, not to a point of discomfort. But rare is the person in a long-term monogamous relationship who hasn't been attracted to another.... Too often what I've seen is someone more or less saying, "If I have to suffer, you should, too!"
● Don't miss this sweet classic video from 2007: a jingly-bell quad from Poly Victoria in Australia singing The 12 Poly Days of Christmas, as shown at the top of this page. The final verse (copyright Anne Hunter):
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true loves gave to me
Twelve minutes alone (sigh)--
Eleven Christmas dinners
Ten jealousy cures
Nine long discussions
Eight dozen condoms
Five Ethical Sluts!
Four sandwich hugs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee.
● Polyfulcrum offers some holiday thoughts and experiences:
...I am strongly in favor of not coming out at major family events!!! There is a certain sick draw toward dropping the poly nuclear bomb at such occasions. Resist the temptation! ...Tell people in smaller groups, answer the questions, deal with the shock and awe, and be prepared to have people tell you that they always knew there was something different about you/ going on. Then, by the time the next family gathering comes along, it's part of the family fabric; weird fabric, but hey, there's always got to be an eccentric, right?
...We finished [Thanksgiving] weekend by hosting a meal here that was open to our friends in the poly community, as they often stand in as our family of choice (particularly for me, as I don't have relations close by). It was much more satisfying than the mandatory family event, because it was a conscious choice.
● If and when you come out to your family of origin, you might ease the shock a bit with some nice, positive news articles showing that at least you're not a lone nut, but part of a (supposedly) hip social trend. Find a bunch at my category Show Your Parents!
● Citi Kittie, who's in an equilateral QQF triad, has tales to tell:
...The next people we told were Alexis's parents. They were both stunned. Her father said, "I'm going to need another glass of wine." This from a man who only drinks beer.
But they seemed to adjust quickly. Seeing how happy we are together made it easy for them to accept our triad. Then they proceeded to tell the rest of the family and suddenly I had a whole new set of people to buy birthday presents for.
When her grandma heard she giggled and said, "Oh, I didn't know you could do that." When she thought about it some more and said, "Well, I don't think it's for me." But she's been sending the three of us Christmas cards ever since.
Later, at a party for her parent's 30th wedding anniversary, we met Alexis's entire extended family, over ten aunts and uncles and cousins by the dozens. Most made no mention of the fact that we have a different kind of relationship. Except Aunt Sadie. After talking with my wife and I for a while she said, "Well, I wanted to meet you and make sure you weren't creepy."
...My mom said it's not a good idea for my wife and I to have someone else living with us. She said, "What if you need to fight?"
Surely we can fight while living with someone. Growing up I had a brother and a sister and we fought all the time. So I think "fight" might have been code for "make a baby." And "why do you want Alexis to move in with you?" might have been code for "when are you going to give us some grandchildren?".
● The number one musical hit during Christmas week 1945, writes Randy R. from Ireland, was "I'm in Love with Two Sweethearts, and They're Both in Love with Me" by the British crooner Issy Bonn. A heartstrings puller. Toward the end of the song it becomes clear that one of them is his aged mother, but still.
● And finally, here is Noel Figart with one of her Polyamorous Misanthrope columns, on the meaning of the holidays beyond any lovers-and-relations problems: The Holiday Spirit:
Mama Java, she loves Christmas. A lot. It’s her birthday, and she was named for it, after all....
I have always thought of Christmas as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
UPDATE: Just after Christmas this showed up on reddit/r/polyamory. It begins:
POLY WORLD PROBLEMS II, XMAS EDITION
Again: Poly Problems in this thread are like First World Problems: issues that only poly couples know.
My current poly problem: when my GF visits for the holidays, my wife sleeps in the other room with her BF. We have a nice house, but the walls are thin. One of us will wake up, hearing the other having sex with their SO, and listen. This leads to them having sexy times with their SO, which is heard by the original couple, who get turned on again. This leads to a dueling-banjos...scenario where both couples end up collapsing around 5 am, completely destroyed, and we're all haggard the next day.
Another Poly World Problem is that people, even those who know we're poly, get us things like a gift cert for a Massage For Two, a pair of Santa hats, or two bottles of wine to split between the three of us. Even though they KNOW we're in a committed triad.
What's your Xmas Poly World Problem?