Polyamory, noun: The fact of having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.
Despite the fact that I'm in a long-distance relationship with a pretty casual approach to monogamy, I’ve been hesitant to check out London's official polyamory “community.” My theory is that poly meet-ups are essentially LARPing for sex, and you can only spend so long pretending to prod people to death with fake swords before you start longing for the real petite mort. However, curiosity won me over. So, last Saturday, I rolled up to “Polyday” (oh boy) at “Dragon Hall” (…) in “Covent Garden” (fine, actually) expecting a bunch of stone-cold weirdos. I was (sort of) not wrong.
Here's a quick break down of the event:
Male ponytails: 34
Attendees wearing tiny decorative pirate hats: 1
Incidents of public cross-stitch: 2
Possible wizard-sightings: 5
A lot of what I expected was there—adult women in gothic corsets and witches’ boots, men named Waterfall, and steampunk hairdos. Also, the vegan, gluten-free, ethically-made cakes were pretty predictable, too. My flatmates who came with me out of "curiosity" (high sex drives/dry patches) wandered away and were promptly invited to play a time-travel card game not unlike Magic: The Gathering called Chrononauts, in a chill-out room next to the gender-neutral bathrooms. It was a lot to ask. Dragon Hall (lol, still) was PACKED. Every room was bursting with three-person couples (triads) or cool open-marriage parents with their kids or hot young gay dudes looking for friends/lovers.
Polyday featured an array of workshops on topics like "Poly and Kink," "Dealing with the Media" (awkward), and a load of workshoppy crafts and arts-based exercises, keenly demonstrated by the man above. However, my favorite activity by far was the "Post-Romantic Dance." This involved a lot of "contact improv," which was basically just rolling your body non-sensually over your partner’s body on the floor in different ways. It was kind of the unofficial activity of the event. Some people were really into it. Like, really, really into it. Like, kinda, me. Everyone should spend more of their day rolling around on the floor with people they've never met. The official vibe of Polyday is about respecting people’s levels of comfort and not touching them unless you guys are partners or have that arrangement and it’s all OK. After one or two workshops, I started to get a non-literal feel for how things went, and plucked up the courage to start some convos during a plasticine modeling session.
Oh right: the plasticine modeling session… The basic premise of polyamory is that it is possible and fine to love or lust after more than one person at one time, and that, with care and communication, you can have more than one (or more than ten, YOLO) successful, happy relationships at once. Naturally, everyone at the event took some plasticine and straws and made "polycules"—little clay representations of the romantic/sexual relationships in their lives. This was mine:
I have to confess, I added a few extra ‘cules out of pressure to fit in. Red is me and my main man. Blue is a coooool pal of ours, and then the two offshoots are basically just boys with accents that I want to smooch. I was peer-pressured, so I kinda lied. But, some people’s were huge: This behemoth was gleefully made by one man named Jamie, who seemed to be the self-appointed Casanova of polyamory world. As everyone around the room explained theirs, more "connections" to Jamie’s massive polycule revealed themselves, which increasingly showed that Jamie was very well connected to a very large proportion of people in the room.
Eventually straws were stretching all over the room and everyone was giggling and doing more of the aforementioned tender rubbing. Jamie was later described to me by one of his lovers as, “A bottomless pit of energy and love. With an unlimited supply of erections.”
This is not Jamie. This is David and his polycule. David's polycule was not as large as Jamie's. David would neither confirm nor deny that he was a wizard.
Although lighthearted, the plasticine modeling had been sexually charged. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, with the exception of one too-intense middle-aged gentleman in very flowy trousers who interrogated me forever about “the nature of trust” and “what does it mean to be a writer and a person in love?” Of course, he was by himself (JUST SAYING, GUY).
Eventually I couldn’t do any more nodding, so I fled the scene. Then I met Sol, the girl pictured above, and I asked her if it was hard to split her time equally between her three boyfriends and a few additional lovers. “Not with Google Calendar,” she said. Touché.
Then it was nighttime, aka bootlegged gin o’clock, which I hadn’t intended to stay for. But I found myself getting increasingly drunk and at this point I had a whole host of new pals (none of whom agreed to be photographed or interviewed on record), and we sat on the floor talking about multiple partner relationships, orgy experiences, and how devastatingly nerdy everyone was. And that’s the thing: THEY KNOW. They all know they are nerdy. (This fact also might explain their lack of wanting pics to be taken.) A man called Dennis, in between kissing his girlfriend and stroking his boyfriend’s legs, told me that he thinks the crossover between nerd-communities like goth or vegan or whatever and polyamory comes from already being kind of on the fringes of normalcy. “We’re already a bit out there, so why not love however we want?” he said, before Jamie came over and gave him a lingering hug.
This is Lydia, she made her shirt herself. Those shapes on it are special poly symbols.
Staying for the party made up my mind that these guys actually have the right idea. Sure, a lot of polyamorists are top-drawer nerds, but they also get more action in a week than you do all year, have a really chilled out life and love philosophy, and, let’s be real, being involved in a “tribe of friends and lovers” is kind of amazing as long as no one decides to put "Helter Skelter" on the decks. As the band continued to sing songs like “The Masochism Tango” and “Hi, We’re You’re Kinky Neighbors,” and the secret booze flowed, people around me started hookin’ up. Nothing crazy, with a few exceptions (randy Italian lady with no bra on, I am looking at you). But there was definitely a somewhat contagious, somewhat sassy vibe in the air. I wondered if I should try and get in on it, and looked around for one of the three or four men without ponytails or skullets that I had mentally noted when I came in. I considered planting a kiss on a charming nerd named Kevin, but his girlfriend Mitzi appeared. I know it would have been fine, but I just didn’t trust myself to do it properly and not cause some kind of polyamorous incident. They kicked us out at midnight or so, and everyone spilled into the streets, laughing, exchanging Twitter handles, speaking Esperanto (???), and making plans to meet up some other time. Then Kevin appeared and offered to take me, Mitzi, and my flatmate out for the evening. That was the end of Polyday. Everyone please think about giving it a go so that there are more babes and less D&D players involved, please.
Follow Monica on Twitter: @monicaheisey