Dear Anna, I was very irked at a friend who recently said she was “too in love” with her girlfriend to “go poly.” Was she implying that people in open relationships don’t love each other as much as other people? What should I say to this kind of thing in the future? Can you write a column about that please? — Poly Wanna Crack-a-Bitch
Anna says: As difficult as it may be at times, countering rude behavior with more rudeness is rarely an effective strategy to change someone’s behavior. We’ve all heard the expression, “An eye for an eye makes very few people understand polyamorous relationships.” Yes. So, first, I’d suggest that you not make references to “cracking” or “bitches” when dealing with rude or clueless people. You can keep the parrot part, however.
Second, remember that some people have never taken a Gender Studies class or interacted frequently with non-monogamous people or attended one of Sting’s Tupperware parties. Put another way, some people don’t understand polyamory, and rely on stereotypes or misconceptions when making small talk. If you’re feeling generous, you can always channel your annoyance into a “teachable moment.” As I said in my second column ever (look at me all lazily repeating myself this week), “The more people realize that not everyone fits the ‘traditional’ relationship mold, the less shame and stigmatizing will be associated with it.”
Autostraddle has a pretty good stereotype debunker on polyamory, if you’d like to passive-aggressively send that link to your “friend.”
You could also tell her that you’re “too in love” to passively accept the stringent nuclear relationship guidelines society dictates. Then send her to this flowchart on lesbian relationships
But try to avoid coming off as overly aggressive or defensive. Sticking to facts and exposing generalizations are the best way to counter such encounters.
Some people unnecessarily criticize alternative relationships/sexualities when they are battling insecurity in their own relationships. We find unfamiliarity threatening, and tend to lash out. I’m going to circle back to Arizona now because it’s my home state and I miss it, but also because it proves the unnecessary threat point really well. Arizona’s Republican lawmakers, bolstered by the far-right fringe and ever frightful of all that is foreign, tried to pass a law banning karma. Karma!
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a professional tweeter/blogger for Mother Jones and a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.