"Poly Philly: What's that like?"
Yesterday's post was on the first of the two long articles that appeared this week about the Philadelphia poly scene: the one in the upscale Philadelphia magazine. Here's the other, in the alternative weekly the Philadelphia City Paper.
It begins with a long account of February's Poly Living conference put on every year by Loving More. (Here's my own quite different report from that event.)
Poly Philly: People all over the city are practicing ethical non-monogamy. What's that like?
By Mikala Jamison
From the front of the buzzing-with-energy events room of the airport Embassy Suites hotel, Robyn Trask instructs everyone to rise from their chairs and turn to their right.
It’s late February, freezing outside, and Trask, executive director of the Loving More nonprofit, tells the 200-plus polyamorous (or poly-interested, or poly-ally) people to get cozy.
Take the shoulders of the person in front of you, Trask instructs. The woman who is now behind me, Tori Sidenstricker, tells me I’ve got to play along, too. Prompted by Trask, she starts to massage me. Sidenstricker is simultaneously having her shoulders rubbed from behind by John Michael Neal, then one of her two male partners.
“Now say, ‘I appreciate you,’” Trask says. I’m at the end of my row; I have no shoulders to rub. I feel a degree of relief, and also very much like the outsider I am.
“I appreciate you,” the assembly echoes twice more. Once re-seated, three women sitting in front of me blissfully exchange kisses.
Soon, renowned polyamory writer, activist and educator Franklin Veaux will deliver the keynote address while wearing bunny ears.
“For those of us who can tell our stories, we are normalizing this,” Veaux says. “We are not monsters for doing this.”
Veaux implores, “We have to keep telling our stories.”
A few minutes prior, the group had been instructed to keep the PDA to a respectful minimum — no making out on the hotel lobby’s couches; please be fully clothed in the lobby — and some will soon change into fancier dress for the “Bohemian Nights”-themed Polyamory Dance Party. When I popped into the dance later on, the first song playing was “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” One guy had on shimmery harem pants. [That was me! –Ed.]
So began the 10th annual Poly Living 2015 Philadelphia conference....
...But beyond the touchy-feely workshops, the conference serves a distinct purpose — to help educate and connect a growing community. Poly Living conferences usually attract 130 to 180 people; last year brought in 175 and this year, 210 people from all over the country attended. Poly Living was actually founded in 2005 right here in Philly.
“Whether you’re monogamous or poly, we’re really not taught these skills to have really healthy relationships,” Trask says. “That’s why we do these conferences; we help people learn how to do this.”
From Friday to Sunday, there are workshops on the basics of poly (emotional issues, safe sex, common concerns); coming out; jealousy; poly parenting; ditching the “rules” of poly; abuse in poly; gender in poly, even a faith-based workshop taught by a minister.
...Some poly relationships can evolve into [the Relationship] Anarchy model, says Phillip Weber, 30, one of the creators of the invite-only Facebook group, Polydelphia, which has 230 members, both poly people and allies.
Weber has six female partners in addition to Tiffany Adams, the partner he lives with in Bensalem. Adams has one female partner and three male partners. They each spend time with their other partners frequently — some once a week, some once a month. Weber might have three to five date nights in a week, but it’s flexible — he uses Google Docs and a Google calendar to keep everything straight. That’s common in poly, he says.
“It’s definitely like, ‘All right, this relationship is final because we’re sharing Google calendars,’” he says with a laugh.
Some of Adams’ partners date some of Weber’s partners. Adams doesn’t date any of the people Weber dates — but that’s not a “rule,” just how it is — that’s kind of what relationship anarchy is about.
Weber says his group of partners is “more free than a lot of people,” but for him, relationship anarchy is the closest definition of what they do:
“Everything is negotiable; relationships themselves aren’t more important than the people involved, and all relationships are one-to-one,” Weber explains. “If I start a relationship with Tiff’s boyfriend or girlfriend, that doesn’t give her [Tiff] any particular control over that relationship. … Third parties don’t control relationships.
...“People had to be a lot more entrenched and careful about who knew [about their poly relationship] 15 or 20 years ago,” he says. “So those [older] relationships are a lot more tight-knit and cellular.”
Four [local] online groups I found for poly people had popped up in 2014 alone — Weber’s 230-strong Polydelphia group, along with three groups on Meetup.com: Greater Philly Alt. Lifestyle and Relationship Social Tribe (304 members), NY/NJ/PA Solo Poly & Relationships Anarchy (RA) Network (104 members), and Black & Poly Philadelphia (52 members).
Another Meetup that started in 2007, Philadelphia Mindful Polyamory Meetup Group, has 931 members, and the Phila. Polyamory and “Open” Relationships Discussion Group, started in 2010, has 390.
I asked Weber if he thought polyamorous people are happier than monogamous people.
“A lot of happiness is prevalent in the poly community, and in the monogamous relationships that exercise the same skills, like consideration and thoughtfulness,” he says. “On average, I see a lot of happier poly people, but I think it’s just a matter of skills, it’s not necessarily built into the relationship structure.”
A challenge of monogamy, he says, is that there are just assumed rules and agreements, “the cookie-cutter, romantic-comedy version” of relationships, that couples implicitly agree to without talking about. That doesn’t happen in poly.
“The worst feeling is the idea that someone will hit you with, ‘’If you’re dating two people you can’t love them equally or the same amount you could love one person,’” Weber says. “That’s basically the challenge that I find, this idea of scarcity. The healthiest way for poly people to look at it is the only truly scarce resource you have is time.”...
Read the whole article, nearly 4,000 words (April 9, 2015).
IN OTHER NEWS, The Looks Like Love To Me triad had their ABC Nightline appearance bumped forward from last night, possibly to next Thursday night. They write, "Some other news out there in the world took the spot. Gives us more time to keep shining up our website! Have you noticed some spiffin' up in the past day or so?"