Thursday, December 22, 2011

Labeling Humans

Some time ago, I found myself snuggling in bed with a very peculiar man. In addition to the three first names he rotates through rather capriciously, this man calls himself many things, including a polyamourist, a kinkster, a vegetarian, and a burner. The man likes to know what and who he is, and he likes to talk about it. Of course, his peculiarity made him all the more attractive.

During a blissful moment of post-coital calm, that glorious haze of endorphins was unfortunately disturbed by his compulsion for naming things: it was time for "the talk". Perhaps sexist stereotyping gave me the illusion that I would be spared embarrassing prematurity when discussing the perimeters of a relationship as long as I, the lady, held my horses, but in this case the inquiry was the whim of the gentleman. Understanding his emotional vulnerability, and wanting to be delicate, I still couldn't help but be annoyed when I was asked:
"So... do you think of yourself as my girlfriend?"

We had been on a few dates, and I liked him. I imagined that we would keep on having dates, and that I would keep on liking him. But try as I might to tell him how I felt with sincere, honest words, my efforts weren't as satisfying as what he was looking for: the word "boyfriend". That was the one word to assure him that my interest in him was real, despite the fact that I was telling him straight in the face the realities of my interest. Without the word, it just didn't do the trick...

I embrace all kinds of culture/counterculture, but labels don't turn me on. Polyamorous, bisexual, hetero-flexible, genderqueer, submissive, vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, democrat, libertarian, girlfriend, boyfriend, secondary lover... these types of words make me instinctually uncomfortable because I find that en lieu of using these words to accurately portray what might organically exist in a person's life, a person might intentionally create their lifestyle to be within the parameters of the label's constructs. And as a person full of essential contradictions (I was born this way), I believe that because of this, conscription to labels is disingenuous. Furthermore, for people without an intimate awareness of the label or what it might specifically indicate, the lingo can be alienating rather then helpfully descriptive:
"What the fuck is that?"
"A polyamourist is a slut who likes to talk about it a lot."

So, if I agreed, was I then his girlfriend? What exactly does that mean to a polyamorous person, what are the expectations involved? What does the word "polyamorous" mean to the conventional and unsuspecting family of that person? How do they feel when he and his two girlfriends go out to lunch together? And what does it mean that each of those relationships are called the same thing, but are nothing alike?

I've spent the last six months discovering these questions and seeking drafts of the answers, and reasonably enough it's been a roller coaster. A happy one for the most part, each discovering and exercising our freedom as well as celebrating our attachment. I would still rather call him my gentleman caller, or my secret agent lover man, or something of equal panache and accuracy, but I'm not so caught up in my opinions to rob him of the wide grin that spreads across his face when I call him my boyfriend. I love that smile. 

And he can call me his girlfriend, but we both know that I'm not "taken".

For more of the boyfriend, check out Igor: Conqueror of my Heart and Distance: Emotional Problems of Nomadism.
The latest from Seduce and Confuse can be found HERE, for your reading pleasure. 

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