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.