For one woman, non-monogamy is an understanding, not necessarily a practice.
A few weekends ago, my girlfriends and I decided to have a drink night. For most girl crews, drink night usually starts out with a few friendly cocktails and pointless compliments on each other's outfits (the question, "oh my god where did you get that?" is a surefire sign that you need a few more drinks in you to make the night more interesting). Soon enough those friendly cocktails ended up being more than a few harshly honest pitchers as we started to commence into the dirty ritual every woman has been guilty of enjoying: talking crap about other girls. From "she's way too tubby to be wearing that," to, "he's way too hot to be doing her," we ranted on and on as if we were Perez on The View. We were cruising No Mercy Street. Eventually we started to soften up as we got onto the subject of our good friend Jesse, who had broken up with her more-than-perfect boyfriend Jeremy. It had turned out that Mr. Perfect had been cheating on her for six months with his hometown friend.
During a fifteen-hour train ride from Philadelphia to Orlando, Jeremy was taking a nap and Jesse decided to check her Facebook on his iPhone. Suddenly a text message reading, "I cannot wait for you to be inside me," appeared from a mysterious contact labeled "K". Still in denial, Jesse thought that maybe it was one of those inside lets-pretend-we're-gay jokes he had with his buddies. But after fuddling around with the screen she finally got into his inbox and discovered multitudes of dirty messages from "K". By the next train stop it had all come out. "K" was Kristina, an old fling from high school, whom Jeremy had been sleeping with for several months. His only explanation was that it was only sexual. Jesse made him get off at the next stop and find his own way to Florida. Then she gave him three days to move out of the apartment as soon as he returned to Philadelphia.
Good for her, I thought. My friends were shocked Jesse reacted so calmly. When she returned to Philadelphia she didn't talk about the breakup and moved right on. My friends started to dictate the proper solutions.
"She should at least give it a cry."
"Yeah, she needs closure."
Consecutively, each of my friends professed, "I have never cheated," followed by confessing, "Oh I've been the 'other' girl, but I would never cheat." As all eyes laid on me, I debated on whether or not I should be honest with my friends or just pull the innocence card. Instead I said, "Maybe they should have tried an open relationship, I mean, after all they started out long distance." My friends gawked at me as if I were Judas at Jesus' table.
"Liz, you're either with someone, or you're not."
I was immediately annoyed by that statement. First of all, I have had my fair share of being cheated on and cheating. But second, how could my friends judge me for suggesting a relationship based on openness and options right after a marathon of gossip and even confessing that they have been the 'other' girl? It was such a double standard. From then on, I decided to keep my mouth shut whenever the subject of monogamy ever came up.
Call me the bizarro romanticist, but I like to think that strict monogamy is to open relationships as Communism is to Democracy. It's like apples and oranges. With Communism one is to believe that apples are the best, there is nothing more to life than just apples, even if the apples are rotten. With Democracy, apples can be your favorite but every once in a while you'll have an orange. Yet no matter how many oranges you have, you'll always go back to apples—they're just sweeter.
For the past five years, my boyfriend and I have had this apples and oranges relationship—and it's apples and oranges that have kept us smitten with one another. My last two relationships ended horribly after one of us cheated. Most of the time, as Jeremy had so poorly put it, it was just sexual. But in reality, the sparks had died between us and secretly we both tried to find something or someone else to fill the void. Today I'm in a relationship where we put all of our cards on the table. We are honest about our feelings with one another, and we're honest about our feelings about other people. Every once in a while he tells me that a really cute redhead cruised him at the coffee shop. I respond by showing him a dirty text message one of my guy friends sent me. The result? We just laugh at each other, then have amazing sex driven by the attraction other people have for us. Everyone assumes that the term "open relationship" means crazy orgies and more sex with other people than with each other. Although it certainly can involve that, we barely do it. What remains consistent is the understanding that it is an option.
Unfortunately, my friends would never understand that concept. Up to this day, none of them know anything about my relationship. And I'm fine with keeping it a secret.