by David Wraith
When people ask me how long I’ve been poly, I tell them nine years. This is technically true. I’m not even sure I knew the word “polyamory” before 2001. But the truth is, I’ve almost always been this way. When I was 11, I was introduced to “Rachel,” the resident bad girl at our 125 student Catholic school. She caught my attention because she bore a slight resemblance to Wendy Melvoin, the guitarist from Prince and the Revolution and one half of the duo Wendy & Lisa. Wendy was my first lesbian crush and while I didn’t know it at the time, Rachel was my second. Rachel and I became best friends, but she was two years older than me and way more interested in my childhood friend, “Henry” who was 16 at the time. Rachel and Henry began dating and the three of us would hang out together often. They both, individually, confided their relationship problems to me and I tried very hard to be as honest as possible with each of them without betraying the other’s trust or saying anything that would harm their relationship. Sometimes they would have sex in front of me and while this was disturbing, I pretended not to be bothered. While I was never physically involved with Rachel, I was (for better or for worse) a part of their sex life and the three of us were sort of a triad. I was navigating some difficult waters for a twelve-year-old.
Fast forward seven years. I was 19, engaged, my fiancée, “Kay,” and I were awaiting the birth of what would have been our first child when she confessed to me that she had feelings for my best friend from high school, “Jimmy.” I suspected that Jimmy had feelings for her as well, so I gave them my blessing. Jimmy and I stayed friends while he was sleeping with my pregnant fiancée and sometimes the three of us would hang out together. This was 1994, and most people did not understand our relationship. Things fell apart, in my opinion, because Kay and Jimmy didn’t know how to handle our unique arrangement. I had to keep reminding myself that Kay and Jimmy were new to this kind of situation, while I had been getting used to it since I was twelve-years-old. In a way, it was all I knew.
Jimmy moved to the east coast and we didn’t speak for years. Kay had a miscarriage and re-united with her girlfriend. While the smoke was still clearing, my sister provided the monogamous perspective and explained to me that my relationship had failed because by “sharing” my fiancée with my best friend, I had shown her that she wasn’t “special” to me. Her theory was that things might have worked out if I had gotten jealous of Kay’s attraction to Jimmy and forbid them from dating, thereby proving how much I loved her. Having no one around who could understand my version of events, for a while, I almost believed she was right. I was 20-years-old, didn’t know the word polyamory and had no non-monogamous community to turn to for support. Trying to explain what I was going through to my straight world friends was like trying to explain death to a dog.
So there it is. I guess I was doomed to a life of non monogamy (and dating lesbians) from the moment I saw Wendy Melvoin rocking out to “Let’s Go Crazy” in the movie “Purple Rain” back in 1984. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned since then is the importance of finding a supportive community for whatever you’re into. In a way, I guess that’s the reason Sex Positive St. Louis exists.
“Are You My Baby,” performed by Wendy & Lisa