Poetic Imagination: Can I Love You & You??


At what point does experiencing all of life’s richness become over-consumption and greed? I’m always trying to figure out the line between living passionately and fully, and living selfishly. My inability to understand the concept of polyamory is one such example. Polyamory, quite literally the intimate love of more than one person at a time, isn’t widely discussed, except here, here, and here, especially not among respectable marrieds with children (among whose company I’m often somewhat mistakenly grouped), yet it’s an interesting concept.

Marriage and monogamy can obviously be dull, hence the 800 gazillion titles in every bookstore addressing these topics. While I agree that getting all of your needs fulfilled through one person is unrealistic and unfair, it is unclear that polyamory, swinging, or infidelity is a solution. Truthfully, I think free-flowing sexual expression isn’t a healthy solution to issues of boredom or even curiosity. People can hurt each other by going after the golden chalice of self-fulfillment.

But what about flirting? Is it ok to flirt as a way to keep things spicy and alive and to acknowledge that attraction to others is not only normal, but healthy? And when does flirtation stop being harmless and start being hurtful?

Most thinking adults with a dash of sleep deprivation, a house full of young children, and the right combination of lack of free time and extra poundage, would admit that life as a parent can be about as sexy vomit and the runs, but if life is truly only about self-expression, self-realization, and the ability to come clean about one’s deepest desires, what’s to keep us all from devolving into selfish hedonistic users?

Martin Buber’s famous treatise, I and Thou, lays out the great difference between treating another human being as the means to one’s pleasure fulfillment (It) versus treating others as spiritually worthy of our service and solicitude (Thou). American society is particularly enamored of the rugged individualist, who demands her/his needs be fulfilled, come hell or high water. And sex, such as it is, has just become another proving ground for this philosophy.

I am a high romantic with a low bawdy inner life. Emily Dickenson, Jane Austen and Neruda, and Yeats, and Frost, and Shakespearean Sonnets, run through my brain and heart, along with Susie Bright and the like.

As a flawed romantic, is there a place for me in this world? I often feel wholly unprepared and under-armored for the rough and tumble of love and relationships. And like most scared people, toughen up with armor and cynicism to get through. But when the shell breaks, and when another captures my poetic imagination, the depth of this longing for romantic fulfillment is hard to resist. Whether it can be healthily channeled (damn health!) is a matter for the Enacter.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this lovely piece by Robert Frost. If ever there were a country and a time that required poetry, it is us and it is now.

And were an epitaph to be my story I’d have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone:
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

-Robert Frost


17 Responses to “Poetic Imagination: Can I Love You & You??”

  1. April 3, 2007 at 12:05 am

    Oh I could totally get into polyamory if Colin Firth was in the mix. *Drools*

  2. April 3, 2007 at 9:30 am

    I think flirting is great but most of the stay at home dads I know are not so hot, so where else is one going to go to meet men during the day for super charged innuendo laden chat? Answers on a postcard.

  3. April 3, 2007 at 9:51 am

    What an interesting and thoughtful post. Of course, as a teacher/SAHM I don’t see enough hot men to have polyamory be an option. Or unhot men, for that matter.

  4. April 3, 2007 at 11:51 am

    This is a great post that addresses issues that most married people grapple with at some point. Some things my husband and I have discussed:

    1. Polyamory–neither of us are interested in it for us but agreed it would be fine if it were two consenting adults who were interested, etc. I’m a bit of a voyeur on this subject and it appears that SOME couples actually seem to make this work (while destroying others…) Let’s face it, polyamory is the new version of free love and swinging. Just new packaging.

    2. We agreed that if we were married for 20 years (we’ve been married 5) and one of us found out that the other had had a one night stand at some point in the marriage and did not carry on a relationship with that person afterword, neither of us would sweat it by that point.

    3. I told him of a time recently where someone actually flirted with me and how thrilled I was (it’s been awhile–new baby and all) and he was actually happy for me.

    4. We would both let the other have a one night stand for a million dollars.

    5. Angelina Jolie is on both our lists for “the celebrity five we get a pass on” and I’m a totally straight girl.

    I think a lot of the fun for us is in talking about these things, even though our own practices are pretty mainstream.

  5. 5 mama featheren
    April 3, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I def. agree flirting is good for the soul, and anything that’s good for the soul is good for one who shares their soul (and mind and body) with their partner. Ithink my husband gets a kick out of it if another man finds me attractive, simple BECAUSE I would never act on it..sometimes, the outside flirting keeps the inside alive.

  6. 6 Meg
    April 3, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I believe polyamory can work for people who need/want more than one partner IF (and only if) they have an excellent relationship with remarkable communication. both partners must always be 100% honest with not only their partner, but with themselves (which a lot of people aren’t even if it’s subconsciously). If these things all fall into place well, then I believe it can work.

    That being said I don’t believe it’s for everyone. Some couples, who are interested in expanding their love life may find what they need through voyeurism, whether it be in a swing-club, strip-bar or a porn movie or through toys, role-play, etc.

    I think we all have a place in this world with our beliefs and needs and that there’s someone out there who can share those for us (well, multiple people actually, I don’t think there’s simply ‘the one’). For every romantic who only wants to be with that one person, there’s another, and for every person who feels strongly that their life be polyamorous one, there is their counter out there somewhere.

  7. April 3, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    I think, unfortunately, that there is not a societal acceptance of “flirting” within monogamous “married up” (as my daughter calls it) types. I personally don’t find flirting offensive, however, if I do it, what does the other person expect? What does their spousal unit expect? Are they all under this level of understanding that it’s okay and harmless? Probably not.

    Something like this requires a bigger change than just within a relationship. It requires a broader understanding from society — as well as, perhaps, a breaking down of the “holier than thou” institution that is marriage. Maybe when my daughter is of “marrying age” it won’t be such a big deal to just not get married.

  8. 8 Meg
    April 3, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Kristen, I respectfully disagree with you.

    Most of my friends (say, aged 22 to 40) have marital agreements that flirting is okay, just as long as it’s hands off, emotionally detached flirting.

    More than that, single adult households out-number married adults – only 1 in 4 households contain a married couple.

    I really don’t think it’s “a big deal” to get married now. Most of my friends don’t take the plunge and quite a few of them decide to actually get married not because of the lifetime commitment – they’ve made that without a piece of paper – but because they want that dream wedding they were raised to want.

    Times have already changed… they’re just continuing to evolve. But that’s just my opinion…

  9. 9 PunditMom
    April 3, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    And thanks for the pic of Mr. Darcy a la Colin Firth!

  10. 10 Swampgrrl
    April 3, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    I think polyamory sounds good in theory but it would be devastating for me in practice. I just don’t think I could wrap my head around it, if what we mean by polyamory is having multiple serious(ish) companions. A one-night stand wouldn’t be anything I’d be thrilled to hear about but it would be far less devastating for me. As for flirting, I don’t think it’s a big deal and I don’t think my spouse does, either. It’s perhaps the thing that guarantees (to the extent that a guarantee is possible) our monogamy.

  11. April 3, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Ah, flirting again. I’ve always been accused of being a major flirt, and maybe I am, but only if you define flirting in a very specific way.

    You know that feeling you get when you’re on a first or fifth date with someone and you’re trying to learn about them and show them that you’re interested in them? That’s how I try to be all the time.

    I pay attention to other people, I take interest in their lives and try my best to empathize with what they’re saying.

    When I do it with women of around my age or younger, some call it flirting.
    When I do it with men, it’s “guying around.”
    When I do it with older ladies, it’s “You’re so sweet.”
    When I do it with my students, it’s “You’re so patient with teenagers!”
    When I do it with children, it’s “You’re like everyone’s fun uncle.”

    But honestly, it’s just interest without pretense.


  12. April 4, 2007 at 9:43 am

    A lover’s quarrel with the world? Yeah…that’s me TOTALLY. The thing about polygamy (and I think of it just another word for slavery) is that men have no problem having several children with different women. Polyamory rarely gets off the ground because you’d have several men competing for the affections of one woman and never being completely sure of their paternity if she should happen to get pregnant. Men are too insecure to live like this. Women aren’t all that into polygamy either, but I think centuries of being programmed “to serve” have warped some of the members of our gender. A very thoughtful post.

  13. April 4, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    What the hell is wrong with flirting? Lets you know you’re alive, lets you know your looks haven’t completely gone to shit, and lets you know that the hour you spend in the gym every other day isn’t entirely for bullshit.

    If I were married and someone flirted with my wife, I’d be all, “go you! was he hot?” Him flirting with her is telling me that I did well in my choosing.

    Flirt away. Nothing wrong with it at all.

    Don’t hump their leg. That might be over the line.

    Or maybe not.

  14. April 7, 2007 at 6:30 am

    Well, having spent 18 months sorting things out, my short answer is: I think you’re dead wrong.

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