By Maria Padhila
I need to drop 10 pounds. Could I just fall in love, please?
You know you’ve thought that once or twice. New love — new relationship energy, as many both in and out of polyamory call it — is one fine drug. It takes the place of food and sleep (and common sense).
A speaker at the Loving More conference called it “the fuzzy pink stupids.” You may choose between NRE and FPS, depending on your mood. NRE sounds like “energy,” and FPS sounds like a curse. Actually, it might depend which side of the love you’re on for the terms you choose. If you’re in it or enjoying it, even the secondary side effects, it’s energy. But if it’s making your partner impossible to live with, then get out the F-word.
Everything about the New Other is so fascinating and exciting. You want to know everything. That coffee cup they use! Their adorable slightly torn underwear! Their conflict with their fifth-grade teacher! You talk about these things for hours, if you can get hours. And then you go to your other partner, bubbling over with the conversations, and he or she looks at you like you’ve lost your mind and says: “My goodness, I never knew until this very moment that you were even remotely interested in NASCAR.”
One way you know love is going beyond this stage is that the trivia of the Other still retains some of this glow. You still care. How you know it’s not is that everything starts to annoy you. A man’s snores are music one day; and then you can’t even stand the way he breathes. Been there, but only once or twice. Most of the time, my infatuations transform into true love and reality, the kind that will last forever if no one tries hard to kill it.
I think my biggest ally in this has been relying strongly on my sense of smell. I’m serious. If you want to find the one or more who is truly meant for you, trust pheromones. The first person who invents a scratch-and-sniff online dating site will have a 98 percent success rate for matches. I’m sorry if I’m creeping anyone out, but it works.
(Reading this is going to make Isaac laugh. We are a family of amateur athletes, and we spend half our life cycling sweaty laundry and getting in and out of the shower; we have bumps and bruises and sprains and black toenails and ragged fingernails. I’m known to run across the room screaming for him to stay away from me and holding my breath when he walks in after a run or a ride. The other day, we went with our daughter to a Bikram class and left a puddle behind us like the Dead Sea. A loved one can smell great while they’re sweating through sex or even a day at the beach or a game or two of tennis. But after the five-mile point in serious biking or running, anyone, no matter how much you love them, will smell horrifying. You start burning off all the yucks — emotional and physical — and it’s obvious. I can’t even stand myself after three miles. But under more relaxed conditions, Isaac smells good for sure, like hay and a baby. Chris always smells good; his health conditions mean he has zero body fat, and I think all smells and toxins just go right through him. He smells like old books and iris root.)
But this brings us back to weight loss. I’m in a perfect storm of sloth conditions right now. Menopause has been symptomless (doctor says that’s thanks to all my exercise) except that my weight is creeping up. Despite all my exercise. But I have to admit I have sacrificed at least 10 miles a week on the altar of polyamory. Another five miles has gone toward work. That leaves about 10 miles of actual running a week. And some of the time I’m not running, I’m making tasty things for Isaac and hanging out with him drinking all those fancy beers and wines we like. (Chris doesn’t drink, and like me, he appreciates food, but if we eat what most people consider a normal amount, we just get sick.)
I’m not being a size-ist or food disordered here. Ten pounds for me is like 30 for someone else. I feel it in my back and when I run — it’s not comfortable. I’d like to throw down a reminder that the size thing works in reverse. Telling someone thin to ‘eat a sandwich’ is just as lame as telling someone of a different size not to eat one. Chris recently got a ticked-off email from a sort-of ex who “accused” me of being “anorexic.” That’s really not a term to throw around lightly, nor should it be used as an insult, in my opinion. I mean, would you say: ‘Oh, she’s so annoying, I think she has rheumatoid arthritis, you know’?
No, what’s happening here is too much of the good things. When I stay up at night to get my work done, I find myself eating a handful of chips every hour to help stay awake. While they might be whole grain, organic and non-GMO, they are still made from a grain loaded with sugars and fried in oil. They are, if you think about it, just one step removed from doughnuts.
It’s sad when the perfectly fine foods that kept your ancestors going become like a poison to you, but it’s happening to all of us in these days. Corn in itself is not so bad, but what’s been done with it in the food factories it makes it a one-way trip to Type 2 diabetes. Palm oil is another one of those foods from another of my family trees that’s actually good for you, but not in the way we usually encounter it stateside.
So I am trying to change my habits to eat like my ancestors did — in style if not substance. Not that trendy Paleolithic diet. I mean that they ate simply, and usually not much, and not always with a lot of variety, most of the time. On the feast days and festivals and harvests they ate and drank a lot, and then went back to austerity for most of the time. I’ll let you know how it works. (Or you can read about it in the Oprah magazine. The Pagan Tribal Peasant Diet.)
New Relationship Energy works the same way. When I’m feeling it, the pounds fall away, I can run for miles, and the poems come pouring out of my fingertips. When I’m not in that state, it’s a true temptation to seek it out. Its accessibility is somewhere between corn chips and crack, and the long-term damage it can cause likewise falls in between that caused by those other substances. Here are a few things I’ve picked up and learned on my own about NRE:
- If you’re with someone who’s got it going on, don’t get stupid. Breathe in the fuzzy pinks. Secondhand smoke can eventually kill you, but secondhand NRE can get you some pretty lively times, if you don’t go into sugar shock. Your partner will be charged with rushes of highly erotic energy. It won’t be directed only toward the other person. It’s meant entirely sincerely for you, too. Every bit of love I feel for someone else makes me appreciate and love the Other one, too, and vice versa.
- You could waste it and sit in the corner and say, well, it’s just secondhand free-floating stuff. That’s your prerogative.
- Poo-poo’ing the NRE does not stop its vital force. You could accuse your partners of being addicted to NRE. You could sneer, after they express their amazement over a leaf or a star or the pattern made by the coffee grounds going down the drain: ‘Oh, that’s just the NRE talking.’ You could stop and think why you’re doing that. Is the new relationship really, truly depriving you of time and attention and affection? Then you need to do something about that, renegotiate boundaries and conditions. Are you jealous that they don’t feel that way about you anymore? Are you jealous that you don’t feel that way? None of these questions will be answered, none of these problems will be solved, by putting your partner’s feelings down, so why waste energy that way?
- It can make you do very stupid things. So keep some awareness handy. Have you seen the video of that lovely but probably addled young woman making love to a palm tree in Miami at a music festival? I have a feeling she was affected by a stronger substance than NRE. But the point is that this energy is not confined to people. The person riding it feels their love extending to an often erotic relationship with all of nature or even society. When I was full of NRE-type energy, on a high over a new phase of life and new creative project (and incidentally, had just stepped up my training significantly), I had an experience in the forests of Northern California in which I wanted to suck on protuberances in the redwoods. But I am a good girl, and I do not go off the trail and disturb sensitive native species. But I wanted to. Like the joke about the Zen hot dog goes, make me one with everything, you know?
- Even non-poly people use the NRE drug. You know you have. It ranges from a little bit of fantasy salting the home sex to a full-on obsession with a new job or new creative project. If you recognize what’s going on and talk about it, and your partner’s not an insecure person, you can both have a lot of fun with it.
At the very least, remind yourself that it won’t be there forever. And when it goes, the love won’t always go with it. I spent the first two years of my daughter’s life in a haze of oxytocin-fueled adoration. This doesn’t mean I stopped loving her after the chemicals wore off. This also doesn’t mean I was so besotted that I couldn’t tell her not to touch the pottery on the shelf or not to bonk the other kid on the head with the stuffed giraffe.
NRE is the flood that pushes the new channel through, the root that breaks up the clumps of earth, the storm that clears the air. Observe, enjoy, partake when it comes your way. If you don’t know what happens to people who resent the intrusion of romance, you need to read some of the classics of any culture’s literature. They’ll tell you. Be a love-hater, and you’ll be the next to get shot with the arrow or struck with the lightning. Let the punishment fit the crime.