Many (most?) of my identities are outside of the mainstream. I’m not exactly sure why that is or even how many different reasons contribute to it (though I have a few ideas). As is often the case, the “why” is not particularly relevant unless I thought these identities were problematic but I don’t. I no longer feel anxiety due to identifying as polyamorous, anarchist, apatheist, psychonaut, sexual fluid, etc.
But, that hasn’t always been the case.
There was a time when I felt completely lost and broken because I was different. I felt alone, I lacked community, I felt like the only one that saw the world the way I did. Luckily, in each case, I found a word, an identity, a flag that I can wave. Words have power, words give strength, words can unite people.
I’ll never forget how I felt when I came upon the word “polyamory”. Throughout my life I’d felt a certain discomfort with monogamy, it felt unnatural and as soon as I rejected my religious upbringing my practice of monogamy fell by the wayside. Being outside of monogamy was, ironically, lonely. I wasn’t someone who wanted just sex and I wasn’t someone that was willing to cheat. I wanted companionship, openness, and love… but serial monogamy seemed pretty terrible and I often wonder if we would have less serial monogamy if we had a culture that allowed polyamory.
So, throughout college, I practiced what I called “responsible non-monogamy”. I had three rules that guided my sexual and emotional interactions with people: I was upfront about not wanting monogamy, I always wore a condom, and I never hooked up with someone the first time if either of us were intoxicated. I wasn’t looking for fuck buddies, I wanted friendship, emotional connection, and sex.
And, you know what? It worked pretty well for me. I’m still friends with some of the women that I had this, what I now know of, polyamorous relationship with.
I was kind of concerned that when I left college things would change. Hookups are fairly common in college but as I moved to Washington DC and “the real world” I expected things to change, but it actually didn’t. I kept being honest and open about my views and I found many partners to connect with. Sure, sex was involved, but there was also going to movies, going on dates, cuddling, hanging out, and loving each other.
Still, I felt alone. There wasn’t a future for someone without an identity and I really didn’t feel like I had one.
Then, I stumbled upon the word polyamory on Tumblr and everything connected. By typing nine letters into the Google search bar I was produced with millions of pages that spoke to me and who I was. I found an online community that leads to real-life connections. I had a label, a word, something tangible to grab on to that helped me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself… I had a community.
It was empowering and I’ll never forget it. There is strength in words and power when we can find a word of our own.
Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”