I am in the poly closet. The door isn’t lock, nor is it shut. I keep it open enough to let some light in and allow the cats to come and go as they please. With one foot I step out of the closet from time to time, peering around the door to let trusted friends and loved ones see what I am hiding inside. But one foot always stays in the closet. The list of justifications I have for keeping that foot so firmly anchored is long and I will save that discussion for another day. This is not how I want to live my life, but a necessity.
In the beginning when getting to know a new partner there is that magical time of new relationship energy. Suddenly your step is a little lighter and your smile is a little bigger. You want to take a megaphone to a crowded park, scale the nearest monument, and proclaim to the world how great this person is and how much joy they bring to your life, but realize you, nor your partners have the bail money, so you settle on telling your friends and family. You want to tell the important people in your life about how your new partner’s eyes look like a stormy sea of greens and blues, the great date you had, the amazing sex, or the first time “I love you” crossed their lips. If this was a monogamous relationship there would be no hesitation, but because of societal norms, I do hesitate and hide that part of me away in the closet.
I am not here to debate the merits of Valentine’s Day; if it is a real holiday or a marketing scam by the card and candy companies. I am a firm believer that love should be cherished and celebrated everyday. Much to the annoyance of Jack, I also believe you cannot tell someone you love them too often. Maybe it is the hopeless romantic in me that had films, like Say Anything or 10 Things I Hate About You, set unrealistic expectations for relationships, and in turn, Valentine’s Day.
Having flowers or candy delivered to your office should not be unrealistic, but for me it is. I work for the government in a position with a morality clause. My colleagues know I am happily married to Scott, which would make them question why I am getting flowers from someone named Jack. Something as simple as going out to a romantic dinner with Jack on Valentine’s Day would also be completely unrealistic unless we drive an hour or more away. Jack also has one foot anchored in the same closet, as his parents are unaware that he is poly. As both of us grew up in the area, with parents who are very active in their respective communities, the chances of meeting someone who knows them/us is too high a risk.
Valentine’s Day in theory is all about celebrating love. Realistically it comes down to celebrating love that society has deemed socially acceptable. Stores carry boxes of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but they sell more then just boxes with one flavor of chocolate. Not everyone wants a box of just pecan delights, so they also sell assortment boxes. If the candy companies can understand that one flavor of chocolates may not satisfy everyone’s tastes, why can’t society understand that having only one partner may not be for everyone? Now, instead of looking forward to Valentine’s Day, I am frustrated that I cannot celebrate all the love I have in my life.
I am frustrated that Hallmark does not make cards that represent polycules (but thank you to all the Etsy shops that sell them). Frustrated that I cannot take Jack home to meet my mother or bring him to family events, both of which I would have done long ago if I was in a traditional monogamous relationship with him. Frustrated that people cannot open their minds to things beyond the societal norms. Mostly I am frustrated at myself. I am not brave enough to take that step out of the closet into the unknown, frightened that I will lose my job or my mother will never speak to me again.
No matter if you are in the closet, living out and proud, or somewhere in-between like myself, your relationship(s) and love are valid and should be celebrated this Valentine’s Day. This Valentine’s Day, if possible be with the people you love. Celebrate the love you have with them and when you do get frustrated remember the love you are feeling in that moment and hold it with you. As for me, this Valentine’s Day, I will be enjoying my assorted box of dark chocolates while surrounded by the love of my polycule having a quiet night in. Happy Valentine’s Day!