Help, My Polyamorous Neighbor Hates Me For Rejecting Her Husband — The Fairer Sex Files
Life advice: Don't drunkenly text a picture like this to your neighbor with some slightly-misspelled version of "I made a bedsheet tent, are you still awake?" unless you love opening big, awkward cans of worms. In other news: I'm thinking about installing a breathalyzer on my phone.
So listen, I love my neighborhood. I love it because it is full of trees and uncharacteristically friendly people. A year since moving into my lovely-if-tiny studio apartment in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY, I've met a ton of my neighbors. That's pretty uncommon in New York, and really awesome.
I hit it off quickly with one downstairs neighbor in particular, a man we'll call Rob. Rob was smart, handsome and a writer like me. My friend Michael insisted he was gay, and we spent weeks arguing about it. Then one night I came home and found a note slipped under my door from Rob, which I thought would finally settle it:
So it didn't end the argument, but after that Rob and I hung out several times -- reading each other's work, talking, watching bad TV. It was pleasant! Then one day I ran into him on the stoop...with his wife.
Initially I felt pangs of guilt, because I had definitely been semi-interested in him, though nothing had happened. I quickly let go of the guilt when it was clear that I was the only one who felt weird. The next time I saw him though, Rob continued to flirt and made no mention of his wife, and so in true, Jackie-cannot-censor-herself-even-for-a-second form I blurted out:
"Do you have a...regular marriage?"
He laughed, shifting his feet. "Is it that obvious? No, we're sort of poly."
Ah, polyamory. A concept many of my college friends had experimented with, and been universally burned. Polyamory is a lot like socialism -- it sounds like goddamned utopia, and would totally work and be the best thing ever if it weren't for all those pesky human parts of us like greed, jealousy, and desire.
It's a rare couple that can successfully pull off polyamory -- in fact I have never, ever met one -- but I don't doubt that they exist. If you can be married and love someone and also be totally cool with banging and/or being in relationships with other people, then please email me and tell me how, because that sounds really fun. Maybe.
A few weeks later, I came home from a night out and was pretty tanked and bored, so I texted him at 1am to see if he wanted to hang out, with the above picture. He found me listening to blues records and we made out a little. Once we were kissing, I realized I was just drunk, and he looked a whole lot like Robby from 'Dinosaurs' up close -- I just wasn't really attracted to him. (Plus, he made some comment about how women always call him feminine, which is the quickest way to deflate my lady parts, and also he told me he wanted to "sex me up," which...what?)
I disengaged gracefully, told him I was drunk and he should go home. You know, to his wife. Here's where it gets confusing: Over the next few days he sent me a bunch of needy-sounding texts, telling me that he missed me, and asking when we could see each other again. I wanted to see Rob -- he was my friend and writing partner, and he was fun -- but I didn't want to make out with him again.
I pulled up my bootstraps and opted for honesty. Well, the kinder, edited version of honesty; I didn't find it necessary to mention how much he looked like he was wearing a teenage dinosaur costume when he leaned in to kiss me. Instead I told him that I thought he was great, but I had realized that I was coming to the part of my life where I was ready to be someone's "favorite," and since he already had a favorite, spending romance-y time with him might be confusing or distracting for me. We could totally hang, I assured him, but we would need to just be friends.
He didn't reply for a good couple of hours, even though I saw him through his window while walking my dog (and promptly ducked behind a tree and pretended to be on a phone call. Go team well-adjusted human.) When he finally responded, he sounded injured. He said that he felt rejected, and I was sort of baffled. While I have empathy for the "feeling of rejection when someone says she prefers the company of others to your exclusive company"...Uh oh, another song break time:
Anyway, while I get that and have been there, Rob also had a wife who had like, vowed to love him forever. If marriage is your goal, then all of the other stuff is just extra, once you find your mate, no? Sure, attention from other people is really nice and makes you feel like you've "still got it" or whatever, but ideally the attention of other's should not be what gives you your self-worth, so calm down.
What pissed me off/confused me was not that Rob had asked me to accept his a-typical arrangement with his wife. I was totally fine with that, or I wouldn't have decided to drunkenly pounce on him while Muddy Waters was playing.
Here's what was bugging me: You know that overeager kid in elementary school who always took a second piece of birthday cake before the teacher has made sure everyone had a piece? That's Rob -- if love was cake, he was going back for seconds before everyone had firsts, and you don't do that to your friends, no matter how much you love frosting.
So I told him that (including the cake metaphor which is like SHUT UP, JACKIE) and I gave him an ultimatum: if we were going to be friends he was going to need to let this go or risk pushing me away. I'm not the type of person to hang around in a situation that makes me uncomfortable for very long.
Here's the good news: a few months later, I have successfully hung out with Rob a couple of times, and it hasn't been that weird. Sure, when we sit on the couch we're both thinking about that one time, but he doesn't make an issue out of it, and neither do I. Yay, adulthood!
HOWEVER -- Every time I see his wife, she gives me the stink-eye.
I asked Rob about her, without telling him about the stink-eye part, and he told me that she knows everything. Of course she does, she's his life partner or whatever, it wasn't shocking. He assured me that she has no problem with the fact that we made out, and I believe him. Why? Because she's not giving me the jealousy stink-eye, she's giving me the kind of look you might give someone who dumped your best friend. It's that "you don't know what you gave up" expression, smug and removed. We definitely won't be friends any time soon.
POLYAMORY IS EXHAUSTING.
Jackie Mancini is the associate editor of GuySpeed and an unabashed lover of large breasts, porno, foul mouths and loud music. Her childhood diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder is most likely responsible for her current position as the only female employee of a men’s website. Her column ‘The [Fairer Se]X Files’ appears every Wednesday. You can read more of her work here, and you can also follow her on Twitter.