When does poly get too popular? "Hollywood's Latest Love: the Open Relationship"
Oh God, are we trendy yet? “Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan, ‘It's Complicated’ Highlight Open Relationships,” declared ABC News this morning, in the heading to an article in its Entertainment section. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
Hollywood's Latest Love: the Open Relationship
By Shiela Marikar | Dec. 29, 2009
Hollywood and marriage have never quite gone together like a horse and carriage. But, lately, it seems like La-La Land's obsessed with the open relationship.
Angelina Jolie, the dark angel of the movie industry, recently told Germany's Das Neue magazine that monogamy, frankly, isn't all that important to her.
"I doubt that fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship," she said. "It's worse to leave your partner and talk badly about him afterwards."
The 34-year-old mother of six added that she and domestic partner Brad Pitt never deny each other their freedom, even if that means being apart.... "We make sure that we never restrict each other."
It's the hot thing: relationships with few rules or restrictions, dating conventions be damned. The free-wheeling outlook need not be tied to one lover. After dabbling in a girl-on-girl relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson in 2008, Lindsay Lohan has moved back to men, reportedly hooking up with Gucci model Adam Senn and introducing him to her family before Christmas.
Lindsay Lohan had a sapphic relationship with Samantha Ronson; now she's reportedly with Adam Senn.
...Bee Gee singer Robin Gibb, 60... has an open relationship with his wife, Dwina Gibb, a bisexual former druid priestess.
..."It's Complicated," the new romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, features a baby boomer marriage turned divorce, turned hook-up, turned love triangle. Baldwin's character, Jake, realizes 10 years too late that he longs to get back together with his wife, Jane (Streep), whom he left for a svelte 20-something. Despite his new wife's hard body, Jake finds sex with his over-50, former wife enthralling.
"My character, I'm not even sure he knows what he wants," Baldwin said in a recent appearance on ABC News Now's "Popcorn with Peter Travers." "He wants out of it, he wants back into it."
For an industry that rarely knows what it wants, the open relationship seems ideal. Let's see if the trend continues into 2010.
Read the whole article (Dec. 29, 2009).
Elsewhere, the celebrity/entertainment site PopEater declares that 2009 Proves To Be the Year Of the Threesome, from Britney Spears' song "Three", to the much-advertised (but ultimately tame) threesome on the teen drama "Gossip Girls", to the fashion-design house Dolce & Gabbana which, "because threesomes were already everywhere,"
filmed a commercial featuring a steamy ménage a trois in an effort to revitalize their brand and seem hip to the kiddies. The ad starts with a young couple getting passionate in a Parisian apartment. When a third man happens upon them, he joins in. As the girl's mother catches the menage in action she lets out a scream and covers her mouth with her hand, flashing the D&G watch on her wrist.
Read the whole article (Dec. 21, 2009).
People who take their life cues from celebs and TV ads are just the kind I hope won't try what passes for "poly" in these contexts because they'll be liable to do it horribly and give it a bad name. And then blame us... for putting ideas into their heads. I hope I'm just being paranoid.
Another sign that we're becoming trendy, with unintended consequences, just crossed my Google News Alerts from the other end of the intellectual spectrum. At York University in Toronto, a PhD candidate in moral philosophy and relational ethics reviews Jenny Block's autobiography Open: Love, Sex and life in an Open Marriage. Marnina Norys writes,
Once I was part of a discussion with a pair of female friends bemoaning the increasing number of polyamorous women these days who were "ruining it" for women looking to settle down with one man. It would come as no surprise to Jenny Block, the writer of Open, that my friendship with said friends dissolved shortly after I admitted to them that I myself questioned the value of monogamy in my own relationships....
Arguably... the acceptance of polyamory in certain social circles is creating an environment that is increasingly inhospitable for those bent on cultivating a monogamous relationship. This is because there is greater social pressure to accept polyamory. The impact of the acceptance sought by Block, then, affects more than merely the interests of two consenting adults in a relationship, and a thorough critical analysis of polyamory would include an examination of the broader social issues at play if and when such relationships become more mainstream.
Read the whole review (in Metapsychology Online Reviews, Vol. 13, No. 53; Dec. 29, 2009).
As I have said before, but now with more urgency:
The people who push for years to get a bandwagon rolling are usually unprepared for what to do when the bandwagon finally starts to move. No longer is it all about a few devoted people grunting and straining from behind to make the bandwagon’s wheels move half an inch. When the effort begins to succeed, the bandwagon starts rolling on its own, faster and faster.
And unless the people with the original vision stop just shoving the rear bumper and run up and grab the steering wheel, pretty soon the bandwagon outruns them and leaves them behind. And their elation turns to horror as they watch it careen downhill out of control, in disastrous unintended directions.
Think of what happened to the psychedelic drug movement a generation ago....
So maybe it’s time for us to pay less attention to just pushing the polyamory-awareness movement, and more to steering it.
If we are to save our defining word from serious cheapening in the next few years, and steer this thing in good directions as it gains momentum, we should, in my opinion, be seizing every opportunity to do several things:
1. Keep stressing that successful polyamory requires high standards of communication, integrity, honesty, self-awareness, generosity, and concern for every person affected;
2. Emphasize that poly is not for everyone, and that monogamy is right and best for many, and that no one need apologize for the relationship model they want;
3. Insist on the part of the definition that stresses respect for everyone and the "full knowledge and consent of all involved";
4. Expand that to not just "knowledge and consent," but well-wishing and good intention for all involved. The defining aspect of polyamory, I'm convinced — the thing that sets it apart and makes it powerful and radical and transformative — is in seeing one's metamours not as rivals to be resented, or as neutral figures to be tolerated, but as, at minimum, friends and acquaintances perhaps even family for whom you genuinely wish good things. (And beyond that, of course, there's no limit to how close you can become.) This is what differentiates poly from merely having affairs. In this way it becomes a generalization of romantic love — into something wider, and more widely applicable, than the dominant paradigm of a couple carefully walling away their particular love from anything to do with the rest of humanity.
And, 5. Warn people that, while poly can open extraordinary new worlds of joy and wonder and may help to humanize the world, its benefits must be earned: through hard relationship-honesty work, ruthless self-examination, sacrifice when necessary, courage to do tough personal growth, and a quick readiness to (as they say in the Marines) "choose the difficult right over the easy wrong."
With the bandwagon now moving, let's not let it run away from us in the next few years to the point that "polyamory" goes mass-market as something careless or trivial, or in any way less than what we know it to be.
This February, the Polyamory Leadership Network is having another all-day "summit" meeting following Loving More's Poly Living Conference, in the same hotel outside Philadelphia. The PLN (74 people worldwide now) formed about a year ago with big ambitions for creating a variety of poly awareness and education projects. But its various committees have been very slow to make much of anything happen. I'll be there. I hope we can organize to get ahead of the pop-culture curve as described above, and steer this accelerating bandwagon.