BRIAN LIFTS A PINT of beer from the table with both hands and slowly pulls it to his mouth as though it were a super-sized sippy cup. Convulsing from relentless bouts of giggling, giddiness and grinning, he has to forcefully lasso his lips into the requisite “O” shape just to manage a swallow.
He repeats this awkward, nervous action again and again.
Sip. Swallow. Giggle. Grin. Sip. Swallow. Giggle. Grin. When finally he does manage to speak, what comes billowing across the table of our tiny booth at the Virginia Café is a contrail of heart-shaped platitudes. “She’s got these sparkly eyes, a cute little laugh,” he gushes, eyes blinking off somewhere into space. “I totally have a crush on her.”
Tall and meaty, with soft features and longish brown hair, Brian (he asked that we not use his last name) has a date tonight. But the “she” he is drooling over is most definitely not his wife. Nope. While the 38-year-old computer data analyst is here trying to calm his pre-date nerves with alcohol, his wife, April, is back at their East Side home whipping him up a couple of vegetarian herbed cutlets. These Brian will eat later, with his date, down in the basement, while April stays upstairs. And after Brian and his date are done eating, they’ll settle in for a little one-on-one.
My puritanical mind—which was raised on the Good Book back in Arkansas—hurls mental stones across the table: Cheater. Adulterer. Pervert. But apparently that’s just me being a narrow-minded monogamist. Because for April and Brian, sleeping with somebody else isn’t lying. It’s a lifestyle—specifically, polyamory, a word that derives from the Greek word poly, meaning “many,” and amor, the Latin word for love. Last fall, even as they took their vows in front of friends and family, Brian and April knew (though most of their guests didn’t) the unique rules of their arrangement. Both would be allowed to pursue romantic or sexual relationships with multiple people simultaneously, as long as they had permission from one another and were honest about their intentions, and as long as neither objected to the other’s chosen partner… till death do us part.
Some might call them weird. Others might call them amoral. Just please—don’t call them “swingers.” For unlike those who stray from the marriage bed purely for sex, polys (as polyamorists are known for short) profess to be a higher-minded lot, in hot pursuit not just of orgasm but of intimacy. What they want are multiple respectful, nurturing, long-term relationships—a kind of Dr. Phil-inspired emotional approach to love that in recent years has helped move polyamory away from the edges of the sexual fringe and attracted more people to its ranks. After all, who wouldn’t want more love, more sex and more meaningful connections with like-minded adults?