On Wednesday of this week the number of kid members at Acorn doubled from two to four. Stephanie and Sean’s two kids, Elan and Adira, were joined by newborn, Tullulah, and Sappho.
It is a big deal to go from one family with two kids a couple years apart to three families with kids ranging from newborn to eight years old. It shows an interesting stability in Acorn, which has long been a culture dominated by more transient young people.
To my optimistic eye it harks the beginning of a golden age, in which Acorn uses its considerable resources to make all manner of enviable things happen here. I’m game.
Presidential candidate and corporate crony Hillary Clinton wrote a book some years ago called “It Takes A Village“. The central thesis of the book is that the lives of individuals outside the immediate family are tremendously influential on kids. And while i disagree with Hillary on everything from drones to the Iraq war, this is one place we agree. [Though i would point out Chelsea does not have a village, she has a security detail. My son Willow has a village.]
Yahoo News came through here and wrote a fine piece about parenting in the community which has just been published. The community has a quite mixed relationship with the press, and this mostly positive article strikes a good balance of the problems with the parenting program and the advantages. The article outed the community as being mostly polyamorous and the liberal author apparently got that this is not a detriment to the kids. In fact, it is a boon. What is really true is that Twin Oaks is an “embrace diversity” community, which means we don’t tell our members what to do in terms of diet, spirituality, relationship models, smoking, really anything. The article also inspired a number of inquiries to the community through our Facebook page, which of course is the wrong way to get in touch with us (write firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, read the webpage about the community before you ask any questions). We don’t have all the answers about parenting at the communes. But what is clear to me is our kids are happier, better adjusted, more curious and more self aware than the kids i bump into in the mainstream, on average. Turns out villages are important.
Often, i find language police annoying. Some definitions of words shift with time. The word ambivalent has drifted from its original meaning to be torn by opposing feelings about something to being indifferent. When people use the word, i listen to determine which of these meanings they are using. Mostly, i don’t tell people they are using it wrong.
Strangely, 400 years ago the word “nice” meant “silly”. So now, even though nobody uses it that way, when ever i hear the word “nice” i check to see if i think they might really mean that the thing is silly.
There is an important exception to this “no language police” self-rule. It is distinguishing between envy and jealousy. Wikipedia puts it well.
In its original meaning, jealousy is distinct from envy, though the two terms have popularly become synonymous in the English language, with jealousy now also taking on the definition originally used for envy alone.
At least in theory, monogamy is simple. You have one partner, you are sexually, and perhaps intimately, exclusive with them. You come up with agreements as to what that means, you defer to this relationship if any other interests should come along. And you are good to go.
Polyamory in contrast is complex. There are multiple partners with different desires, dreams and ideas. There need to be agreements about how new partners get added. You will need to have safe sex discussions. There are often crowded schedules to be coordinated. There is also embracing the inherent inequities in poly. There are hierarchies or configurations or interrelations which need to be negotiated.
Some of the most poorly charted territories (because they are all quite different from each other) are relationships between metamours (partners of partners). These are often people who have not chosen directly to be involved, perhaps a strange old friend of your new friend. But these people can potentially have a significant impact on your life. If a metamour goes into crisis, you can expect your lover to support them, potentially trashing the carefully laid plans you have. If a metamour moves to Italy, your lover might want to visit them there, taking them far from you. If a metamour wins the Nobel prize, your personal life could become much more public than you were thinking it was going to be.
There are of course positive metamour effects as well. If your partner has selected well (and they did choose you after all) it is possible a metamour can support you when your partner is being hard to understand or acting like a jerk. If you are lucky, a clever metamour can call your partner out when they are being ill behaved towards you. And if you are really lucky, metamours can become important intimates in your life. I first met Shal as my lover’s lover and he has become one of my closest friends, long after the romance that brought us together has faded away.
This post was inspired by the above comic, which nicely defines two terms. Especially for people who are new to polyamory or have partners at significant distance there is often the practice of “parallel poly”, where metamours have very little interaction with each other and may not even have met.
But what most experienced poly people are looking for is what Tikva calls “kitchen table poly.” The idea that even if you don’t have a direct romantic relationship with your partner’s partner, they are still important to them and thus like family to you.
And these generalizations are exactly that. You could easily have an experienced pair of metamours who don’t spend time together and operate “in parallel”. Or you could have a couple or more folks who share lovers who are quick to find each other and become friends or even romantic partners. One long time lover of mines partner practices HONCing – the Happiness Of Not Connecting. We have nothing to do with each other and when we are in the same town we avoid each other.
Rita Mae Brown said “An army of lovers can not fail.” And while i don’t like military metaphors generally, i get the sentiment here. If you want to get past your jealousy, one powerful way to do it is to hang out with ruffled hair and a fuzzy bathrobe at the breakfast table with someone who deeply agrees with you about how wonderful your lover is.
For more poly comics go to Kimchicuddles.com
Other posts on polyamory and honest seduction:
- Central versus Primary – two different forms of your most important relations
- The problem of Polynormativity– What happens when the mainstream embraces poly culture?
- Can Polyamory Destroy Rape Culture? [Re-post] by Tikva
- Ok Cupid Blues and Greens – OKCs struggle with connecting poly people
- Old Guard and Young Turks – on taking care of monogamous people who flirt with you
- The Myth of Equality– Why do people keep pretending poly relationships are somehow equal?
- Is Swinger interchangeable with Polyamorous? – Clarifying definitions and super complex Venn diagrams
- Minority Relations Models – just because you are poly, does not mean you are not an asshole
- Transcending Jealousy and the Shakespeare Challenge – New words for new ideas
- Non-Euclidean Honeymoons – Is it possible to have two honeymoons in parallel?
- Rabble Rousing – Pitching Polyamory to Conservative Christians
- December is Postcards – Love letter writing is the soul of honest seduction
- Clever Hacks – Playboy and Beyond– Using hacktivism is tweak sexist culture
- Honest Seduction website – Disclosures, Love letters and radical intimacy
It was about midnight at the fabulous Validation Day party. Willow and the gaggle of friends who had come up for his 13th birthday were no doubt safe killing zombies or the digital equilvalent somewhere on our 450 acre campus. Sky and i caught each other between songs on the dance floor.
“Do you have Willow tonight?” i asked
“He does not need us, he is a teenager now.” Sky quipped
And while it was mostly a joke, there was some recgnition that even in the insular world of the income sharing intentional community, our son was becoming more independent, more self reliant and less in need of direct supervision or support from his flock of parents.
Sadly, we retreated from the lovely complex rules of Capture the Flag 2.0. It was deemed too hard to teach and we were in a hurry to get out into the cold and get playing.
Willow’s team won twice before the cold overwhelmed the group. [Pro tip – attrition. Wait for the other team to have too many members in jail and then overwhelm their strained defenses.] This game had lots of running through the woods which makes it easy to wipe out and out maneuver your pursuer. The kids seemless intergrated in the small handful of Acorners i brought over for the fun.
Willows friends almost all either live in the commune now or did at one point. One of his best friends is Adrian, who left the commune when Willow was 2. Adrian is now 17 (Willow is 13 if that was not clear). But like many kids who grow up at the commune, there is some special home like aspect that brings them back to visit and maintain friendships. A dozen years ago Adrian did child care for Willow. Now they team up to take on zombies or their digital equivalents via online chat.
The parents will stick around for a bit longer, in case he needs us for something.