PolyAnna’s Musings: Opening Doors & “Just Coffee”

My partner MB is a great guy. My hubby, a great guy. Lucar– awesome guy. I am lucky to have them in my life. They are good men. Men who care about their partners, who aren’t intimidated by a smart, driven woman.

MB isn’t with me because of I co-lead the local poly meetup. He could care really about my position of relative leadership within our community. He respects it, he understands the challenges it sometimes presents– for me as a leader and for me as his partner.

The other night I was waffling about accepting an invitation to coffee. Sure, it is just coffee. Only it isn’t. It is opening a door. And that friends is a huge deal, on several levels.


Strictly speaking as a woman– dating is hard. I don’t have a magic decoder ring. I have developed through trial and error, a pretty good screening method. Not fool proof, but it is there. It is better, I have found to meet people, who I have met at poly events or in person in a non-dating context. Say a cocktail party of a trusted friend, a poetry reading, an event related to the community.

Women (and I am sure men too– but my experience is as a woman and I am only qualified to speak to this– that does not implicitly or explicitly deny the other possible lived realities– but I am only speaking about my experience. Fair warning– comments of #notallmen or other such comments, seeking to derail my narrative will not be entertained.) when dating– often engage in a variety safety assessments. Meeting in a public place, having a safe call, telling friends where they will be, obtaining some info about who they are meeting.) I do this, my bestie does this…

Further, while speaking with someone new in this public place, I often assess exit options, who in the public could be an ally if things go badly. I have ducked out the back door of a Starbucks once when I figured out my date was unstable and no was not going to go over well. It was scary. It was also rude, but I felt I had no other option.

Let’s talk about the word No!

No one loves to hear a No, when they have already decided in their head it is a full on yes. And this is actually what keeps me from dating the most. I cannot fake attraction. If there is no spark, I trust my gut. I have learned that my “little voice” is not wrong in the moment. If my “little voice” is saying No in that moment– I listen. And I am not heartless. I know first hand, watching my husband and partner go on date after date and wading thru OKC– that the good guys often have a hard time. I have explained time and again, it isn’t you guys, part of it is the system. And it sucks.

But the emotional blackmail and manipulation that I have experienced when I have clearly said– Hey, you are a great guy but I just don’t think we have that much in common, or I am not looking for X,Y or Z. Well those experiences have made me think sitting on my sofa is a better option, eating chocolate and watching Netflix requires almost no emotional energy– something that if I am honest is often in short supply.

And no, not every man I have had coffee does these things. Again– no magic decoder ring. I have no way of knowing who will hear my no with grace and who won’t… and experience has driven home, how bad, this one cofee or this open door could be.

I do not have time for the 34 texts an hour explaining what a great guy are, if only I would give you a chance. I do not need the repeated emails. The accusations that I am a bitch. The passive aggressive comments at events we both might end up at. Back in the day, a guy I made out with a party called my phone every 5 minutes for three hours straight leaving answering machine message after answering machine message. It was scary.

And understand– being a publically visible, out, poly leader as a woman (and I am guessing maybe this applies to other gender presentations, but I am not sure.) I get a fair amount of unsolicited and unwelcome attention. Emails, messages on social media platforms, wanting to talk to me about poly or the community. Maybe they are legit and maybe they are aren’t. Honestly, it is hard to tell. In many cases, it becomes clear within a reply or two and then I am left to sort it out, either provide the requested information or shut it down. All of which takes emotional energy and time. Part of this is part of being a leader, but I am unsure it happens to men in my position. In any event, it takes time and energy, in a way that I am less and less than comfortable with.

Understand I welcome questions– but within a certain set of boundaries and my answering questions is not an invitation to ask me to coffee. Come to an event, meet me in person, in a safe setting. Make the small talk. Get to know my partners. In short, do the work, do not expect me to be the one doing all the work.

And this, I think is why when MB acknowledged the other night– yeah, I know it isn’t just coffee. Not really. I sighed in relief. He doesn’t really understand the feelings, he admits he cannot imagine what it is like to be in my shoes, he can try, but he doubts his imagination is even close to my lived reality,  but he has come to understand my angst. He understands that while it should be “just coffee,” my lived reality is vastly different than his– and as a woman and as a leader and as someone with a very full life already– “just coffee” is a luxury I can ill afford.

And understand– all this angst is unfun. I truly want to be open to possibilities and to meet fun and interesting people. I do. And in a perfect world, that would mean, having coffee, when the mood stricks me, with no angst– but my real life experiences have taught me that reality is far, from the perfect world.

I am not sure what the solution to this are. First of all, I think talking about it is helpful. I also encourage my partners and other men who are allies to talk about these issues. Listen thoughtfully and refrain from being defensive when your female-identified friends, co-works, lovers, partners talk about their fears and realities.

It has taken me years to feel ok with telling my story. In part because in the past it was often dismissed, so it was easier for me to just say– I am not a people person, or you know, I’m an introvert. I am slow to warm up. All of this is true, but the real reason? The real reason is– for every door, I successfully and safely open– there are a dozen that lead to alot of emotional labor and worries about my safety, that I frankly– no longer have time for.

So Netflix and chocolate it is.

I suspect I am in pretty good company.

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