Dear Poly Chick: When Someone Says They’re “Poly”
Dear Poly Chick/Poly Dude is a collection of anonymous queries that have been submitted by people through the Site, our Facebook page or Email. The answers provided are our opinions, formed through years of being immersed in polyamory. Take our advice with a grain of salt (or pepper). We have no boundaries, so ask us anything! If you want a Chick-specific or Dude-specific answer, let us know; otherwise, we’ll surprise you!
Dear Poly Chick,
What do you think when you hear someone say, “I am poly”?
When someone tells me they are “poly” my instinctual reaction is, “poly what?” seeing as how the word “poly” is a prefix, meaning “many” or “multi”1. Someone can be polydactyl (having extra fingers or toes), Polynesian (the peoples of Polynesia), polylingual (one who speaks multiple languages), polytheist (belief in more than one deity), polymathic (someone well versed in many areas), or even polyamorous.
But I know that’s not what you’re asking; once it has been established that they mean polyamorous, my mind goes into a whole new flurry of possibilities. Since most poly people are unique in their own way (we’re all unique snowflakes), I try not to make any assumptions of what their particular experiences of being poly are. As a brilliant woman I know once said, “as many people that there are who are polyamorous, there are that many different ways of doing polyamory.” For this reason, I tend to ask a lot of questions: How many partners do you have/want? What type of living situation or relationship structure(s) are you in? How long have you been poly? How did you come into polyamory? What does being poly mean to you? I’m a natural information gatherer and try not to answer complex questions like this without gaining at least some context first.
So, in a sense, I suppose my mind stays relatively blank, allowing the other person to slowly fill it with information as they see fit. Of course we all have our biases, and I am no exception to that, but for the most part I am more curious than anything else. In addition to this, I often feel a sense of understanding and solidarity; I might be more inclined to think they will grasp where I’m coming from in my own life, or be open to the types of things I’d want to discuss. Since polyamory isn’t always talked about in the open, it’s nice to see other poly folk wandering about; it reminds me that I am indeed not alone.
1 Poly-. (n.d.). In Wiktionary. Retrieved October 18, 2012, from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/poly-