Too Many Bananas in This Bunch

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By Maria Padhila

It is the last day of vacation, and we’re down to the last banana. This is a miracle of timing and targeted consumption, because I managed to get way too many bananas, for which Isaac has been teasing me all week. “Heh heh, why don’t you eat another banana? Oh, you already had one banana this morning?” etc., in his best Beavis and Butthead style.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

So this is why you’re getting a random bunch of bananas this week.

First, the Showtime poly show, Married and Dating, is back for another season. In the quad, Jen, is always the black sheep, the one who asks questions and pushes the group; I’ve got a soft spot for her — well, she’s dating a mono guy. This synopsis on Gawker is remarkable for its combination of empathy and critical eye. Here’s a chunk:

What “Polyamory” captures so precisely is the joy of talking about sex — the great American pastime of sitting down with friends (or lovers) and unpacking whatever crazy relationship situation you find yourself in at any given moment.

There’s a particular exhilaration when it comes to polyamory because there’s no normative model, nor could there be. The complex interplay of feelings and comfort levels expands and alters as more people are added to the mix. A new consensus dictates new rules. And even as you determine how everything fits in the first place, you find yourself relating to society hand-in-hand-in-hand — a different way of presenting all together.

This points to why I’m not a fan of the “aw, shucks, we’re just as boring as any other relationship” model of sharing stories. I happen to think no one has a boring relationship, even those whose primary relationship is with themselves (i.e., all of us). It’s interesting! Why not talk about it? Beats the hell out of talking about weapons systems. And I’ve got the same reply to those who have the comeback about “oh, polyamory, it’s all about the drama.” So almost 50 years of network TV soap operas about straight mono couples (I’m dating that to the debut of Peyton Place, 1964), that wasn’t too much drama, oh no.

We look at other people’s relationships from the outside and point to the elements that bother us, never seeing those in our own. I’m guilty of this, always dragging out the lesbian second-date joke (what does she bring on the second-date? A U-Haul) to snark over friends’ lesbian drama, without for a minute stopping to remember all the straight couples who have declared love-at-first-sight-I-can’t-live-another-day-without-you and changed their lives accordingly, for better or worse (so to speak).

And that’s the impulse behind the HBO documentary, Americans in Bed. This show also looks at a poly/mono couple. I am so glad to see this kind of relationship getting some attention and traction. People who have questions about poly always bring this type of relationship up, and it’s pretty common. But many of the official spokespeople don’t like to address it, because the general public can only conceive it as a situation where the mono partner is being walked on and the poly partner is wild and free. Nobody is going to say the combination is easy, but it’s there and it gets negotiated in a lot more diverse ways than the general narratives would admit.

I’m thinking about one couple I know; she must always explore and can’t be happy with one relationship and is also a fighter in the marketplace, bringing home the soy bacon and then some. He is by no means a wimp — you’d believe me if you saw him — but his calling is to be a father and to take care of the home. To follow that calling takes a lot of bravery and sacrifice. Both are doing what they want and what is good for their children, thanks. But the message from both the mono and the poly community is that “these things never work.” I’d humbly ask everyone to back off a bit and give people a chance — you may be wonderfully surprised.

Which brings me to another thing that appears to be driving some people bananas. It’s an essay on Good Men Project by blogger Ferret Steinmetz.

He also writes and presents about poly and kink, and has had various accusations of various things leveled at him, but what I’ve always noticed in his writing (in addition to its readability) is his ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes (probably what makes him a prolific fiction writer as well). His essay “Dear Daughter, I hope you have awesome sex” went viral recently.

The gist is that he’s tired of the whole “I’m gonna lock her in a room til she’s 80 and no dirty man will ever touch her” meme. I hate it, too. I don’t hate men. I don’t think teaching offspring that any sector of the human race should be written off (by virtue of a physical characteristic or two or three) benefits them in any way. In fact, friends who were raised as racists have said this is abusive, and I don’t disagree.

Yeah, OK, you’re making a joke. Except you’re not. You’re denying your daughter agency and independent thought. What’s next, an arranged marriage?

The comments, of course, are either congratulatory or make the immediate leap — maybe in this case, call it a stumble — into accusing Steinmetz of ignoring his duty to protect his daughter from abuse and disease. I have to wonder why these people assume he has not provided for his daughter’s education about her own body. (The question of why people assume that anyone who has any kind of sex will immediately be diseased forever and pregnant — also probably with welfare-sucking twins — is one I will never solve, alas.)

There were a couple of comments to the effect that “the ones who think men are so bad are probably the same ones who have used and treated women badly. They think everyone else is just like them.” Huzzah!

The column is meaningful to me because I’m taking something of the same approach. Though we’re gradually going into biology and details, my major message to my daughter is “don’t do anything regarding your body or heart that you do not completely enjoy.”

Because she’s not going to completely enjoy anything if she knows she’s taking a risk with her health or a risk of creating a being. She’s not going to enjoy it if she’s nauseated from drinking (we’ve talked about this a lot, too, and she’s got my genes, and I’m miss half-a-glass-goner). She’s not going to enjoy it if it’s in a furtive location (until she’s older and wants to play around that way with someone she trusts) with a dangerous person.

But I must now point out the obvious, as Steinmetz did: she’s a human. She’s not my property. Raising a child does not mean that child is your property.

And about that “not protecting her from abuse” thing? Wow. You’d think these people had never encountered the fact that rape and abuse are crimes of violence that are the fault of the criminal and have less than nothing to do with whether a person who is a victim of these crimes has sex, enjoys sex, or does not have sex. I’m tearing my hair out here, guys. And my hair costs a lot of money. So get a clue and help me stop.

Steinmetz himself addresses the question of how his daughters are doing in a later post. Because the concern people show for other people’s children on the internets is so touching. Until it comes to putting some of their taxes into child health care or free school meals or food stamps.

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8 Responses to Too Many Bananas in This Bunch

  1. skipntro says:

    Maria, thank you for your love. Thank you for the love you put out into the World.

  2. Geoff says:

    P.S. Ms Winterson is a favourite author of mine, too. Not only that, she selected one of the best collections of eight records on the BBC’s long-running Desert Island Discs program(me).

  3. Geoff says:

    Thanks for the reply, Maria. I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer a q&a on matters sexual – Sun and Moon Aquarius, celibate gay man, now sterilised by chemo/radiotherapy for cancer (my 8th house, of course). Sorry if I gave the wrong impression (Venus conjunct natal Neptune today) but wanted to give you a little encouraging input from this side of the pond.
    I would guess that facebook or Twitter would be a better option for finding out what Britain thinks of polyamory in this seemingly unswinging 21st century. There’s probably a lot more going on under the surface than ever could have been imagined.
    All good wishes.

  4. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Polyamory – Greek for “loving many” – is the practice of being in multiple emotionally invested relationships with the full consent of all parties involved.

    succinct definition! Thanks Jude,

    And thank you Maria. I read you every time, quietly from the edges of my mono world, gazing over into the unknown relationship terrain of the rest of my life.

  5. mariapadhila says:

    Thank you for adding to the bunch! More bananas please, and peaches and mangoes and what all! Bananas are not the only fruit, to paraphrase a writer I like 😉 @geoff I saw that programme (supercool I get to use extra letters) also written about today–with a more inflammatory headline proclaiming something like the death of monogamy–well, no, and neither is there any reason for it to die. Might you or another person you know be interested on doing a q&a from your culture’s perspective? We get the same kind of thing here–“oh, that’s something those people in Sweden or Brazil do” attitude. I think difference is a backhanded pride in America’s weirdos and eccentrics–there’s still a spirit of, see, we allow for anything out here on the wild and free frontier!

  6. Judith Gayle Judith Gayle says:

    I so enjoy your column, Maria, and appreciate your writing style but I confess that I don’t follow the topic too closely so I don’t know if this article I ran across has been posted here before, but I thought the info added to the discussion.

  7. Geoff says:

    As you may be aware, Maria, polyamory is almost never discussed in the British media. There is, I think, a general feeling that we just don’t do that sort of thing! You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I looked at the Top 10 list of most-read articles on today’s BBC website and found:
    Like many articles in the Magazine section it trails a programme, in this case on Radio 4, the BBC’s talk and drama station. It will be downloadable after transmission on Tuesday (EDT), although I’m not sure it will be available in all domains. Word is spreading!

  8. Sarah Taylor Sarah Taylor says:

    Superb, Maria – thank you!

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