Annual Holiday Poly Post!
I'm a softie for holiday ritual, and a ritual right here is my annual Christmas roundup of poly holiday stuff new and old. So without further ado....
● Break out the music. When Bone Poets Orchestra played Poly Living West in Seattle two years ago, lead singer Chris Bingham declared from the stage that any band hoping for commercial success (something that's eluded BPO) had better do a Christmas song. Here are Chris and his life partner Sue Tinney...
...from a video directed by Terisa Greenan of "Christmas Down South (of your Mason-Dixon Line)". Also starring um-friends down below. Here for your holiday viewing pleasure are the PG version and the R-rated version , depending on the sensibilities of visiting relatives.
Bone Poets Orchestra and its previous incarnation as Gaia Consort have been a fount of poly-themed music for like forever. If you're looking for a last-minute present, their CD Belladonna Smiles has just grown and grown on me. To listen to a selection of their poly songs, see Footnote 1 below.
● Speaking of last-minute presents, don't forget my pithy descriptive listing of all 31 polyamory books since the movement took shape nearly 30 years ago.
● After Christmas last year, 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?
● Another discussion got rolling on reddit/r/polyamory more recently, What tips can you offer for a smooth poly holiday season?
Things that make it work for us:
1. I define what I need out of the holiday (seeing lights, eating pie, big family-style dinner, decorating a tree) and find a way to do it on my own even if the SO's are busy/ not into it.
2. Figure out the schedule in advance (we start working on it now) and set aside extra days off to clean/ relax/ not do anything.
3. Set a dollar limit on gifts and stick to it. Last year we did $10 per storebought gift, + one handmade gift + one cooked gift per person. It saved us a ridiculous amount of money and stress.
4. As the newest/ most controversial member of the family, I don't assume I have the right to be at everything.... I'm at peace with that and respect that, though honest when it hurts a little.
5. Be super clear about what people's needs are for space and quiet.
6. Go to bed early! This one is HUGE. Being exhausted means people get sick or emotional or just worn down.
7. Take time to be alone and think about what things feel like and mean. It's easy to get caught up in a whirl of tasks and forget to feel things.
● This is the time of year when polyfolk most commiserate and share advice about homecoming visits to bio families who don't get it. Here is Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast #297, "Poly for 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 [little] 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?
● "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.
● On Planet Waves, Maria Padhila writes about traditional Christmas dreadfulness: ‘Tis the Season for Burl Ives’ Weapons-Grade Earworm.
● And on a positive note: Reid Mihalko is a longtime poly and sex-pos activist who's now a professional sex-geek relationship lecturer (book him for your campus). He has just put up four videos "so you can change how your holiday relationships are this year and for years to come":
...My geeky, online gift to you: short, practical, and unexpected solutions to add ease and foster natural connection and magic to your holiday. I grew up watching my parents struggle with relationship skills and know the anguish that can create within a partnership and for those caught in the crossfire.... I made it my life's mission to change how people connect, so no one has to suffer the way my parents and siblings did.
1. Are You a Cat or a Dog? Learn How To Create More Romance Now
2. Mastering Saying What's Not Being Said
3. Don't Walk On Egg Shells. Be Yourself For The Holidays
4. What Your Lover's Body And A Wineglass Have In Common
● If you're attending or hosting a family gathering, chances are it's not so traditional as it used to be:
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....
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....
● 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 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!"
● 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.
...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?".
● And to close, here's an old classic dating back to 2007: a jingly-bell quad from Poly Victoria in Australia sings their 12 Poly Days of Christmas:
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
Seven Google Calendars
Five Ethical Sluts!
Four sandwich hugs
Too much attention
And a quick course in polyamor-ee!
1. Some poly songs from Bone Poets Orchestra / Gaia Consort:
● Their devotional "Three" [lyrics] [mp3] has become an informal theme song of the annual Loving More East retreats.
● "Family" [lyrics] [mp3] was used in the soundtrack of the poly documentary "When Two Won't Do" (2002) and later became the theme song of "Family" the web TV show (2008-09).
● "Move to the Country" [lyrics] [mp3] is a friendly self-satire.
● Another satire: "Perils of Poly" [lyrics] [mp3] ("Oh, if we all dream together/ Can we nightmare too?").
● Moving and deep: "Goodnight" [lyrics] [mp3].
● "Yes!" lyrics (scroll down); listen.