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White Chicks Syndrome - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
March 13th, 2009
09:26 am

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White Chicks Syndrome
You'd think that being polyamorous would be freeing. After all, you'd reason, you can sleep with other people - a whole area is opened up! Intimacies with other friends abound! You're running amuck on a field full of daisies, all fetters broken!

Interestingly, at least the way we do it, that doesn't happen. We open up the "sex" room and shut down others. Because we discovered once we eradicated "sex" as "the thing we do with each other and never ever with anything else," we needed to replace that with someone else. In the absence of physical intimacy, in-jokes and strange rituals expanded to become our sacred space.

For example, there is a three-letter word I say when I am happy that I cannot say to anyone else. I'm not even gonna type it here. Though I started off saying that happy-word to Bari, my ex-fiancee, and used to say it to anyone, over the years it has drifted until it belongs to Gini. If I ever say that happy-word to another person, Gini would be heartbroken, because that word is Us - and I not only respect, but I cheer her choice to clasp that part of me as her own. No matter what else happens elsewhere, that word is something other folks cannot touch.

I call this "White Chicks syndrome," because years ago, when I wrote a post on movie adultery, the poly folks responded much more strongly than the monogamous. If you're dating someone poly and promise to see a movie with them, you'd damn well better not see it with anyone else. And at the time, I summed it up by saying, "There's something intrinsically funny about the idea of someone saying, 'Sure, you can suck my husband's dick, but nobody sees White Chicks with my man.'"

But for many, more standard-skewing poly relationships, it's not that we're lacking things that we won't do with other people. For normal folks, tongue-kissing another person is right the fuck out, but who cares if you see White Chicks with them as long as there's no sex? For us, we've simply switched some of the cultural mores around so that the things that we consider personal are things that we've built ourselves. I mean sex, cool as it is, isn't exactly something you discovered. Whereas the three-letter happy-word is something that evolved from who we are, a deeply personal symbol that has an intrinsic meaning to us. Society never told me that the happy-word was sacred, there were no books and TV shows devoted to the dilemma of whether The Good Boy would say the happy word to someone else - no, that was all us, our decision.

(There's a post somewhere about happily giving things up for people you love - I was happy being monogamous with Gini, and I'm happy being polyamorous. In both cases I sacrifice something I could enjoy with others, and I don't ever mind or resent that absence either way. If you feel irritated and resentful at every change you have to make, chances are good you're gonna wind up in trouble later on... But as I said, that's another post.)

Which is not to say that we're superior. I just find it amusing that in our flavor of poly, we're just as protective of our secret rituals - we've just redefined them to suit our needs. And I'm curious as to what other people have discovered as their personal rituals - the tiny markers that define you two as a couple.

(93 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:andrewducker
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)
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I've seen friends carry over silly couply things from relationship to relationship and always felt odd about it. To me, those are things you build up together with someone else, and they belong to the pair of you. To just drop someone else in as the other half of your double act made it seem like partners were just interchangable.

I'm sure they _weren't_. But it always had a tinge of that for me.
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From:zarhooie
Date:March 14th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
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This.
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From:elissa_carey
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
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The main idea there is the intimacy you maintain with another person, a relationship marker that sets your relationship with one person as different from another although you may love both people equally. When I was still in an open marriage (different from polyamory in that it was really just about sleeping with other people), for me one of the lines that shouldn't be crossed was hand-holding. When looked at objectively, it seems odd that I would be okay with someone having lots of hot monkey sex in every conceivable way with my husband, but I wouldn't be okay with the simple physicality of holding a hand. For me, though, it's never a simple physical thing, but symbolic of a deeper relationship with emotional and psychological aspects added in. The emotional and psychological aspects were supposed to belong to me alone.

I can easily see in a polyamorous situation, where you don't have exclusivity in the emotional realm, developing (if there isn't already) different sets of boundaries and markers, like in-jokes, words, phrases, and certain activities that are exclusive to a person, instead.
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From:aiela
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
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I once had a three way with my ex-husband - the only one we ever had - and while he was okay with me having sex with the other man involved, he spoke up and was unhappy with me kissing him. So in the context of a sex-only open relationship, I totally get trying to keep emotional attachment symbols like hand holding out of it.
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From:aiela
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
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We have little sayings, little responses to things that make no sense without the context of years together and our private in-jokes.

My mind is blanking on the moment about things that are 'only' for us, but we do do the movie thing, but I suspect we'd do that even if we weren't poly, since we do have a lot of friends and tend to do things with them when the opportunity arises, relationships or not.

(There are decisions we only make with the consent of the other, etc, but nothing like your three-letter-word come to mind.)
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From:zoethe
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
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*Three-letter-word!*

I love you.
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From:supremegoddess1
Date:March 14th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
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You guys are too cute.
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From:fabricdragon
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
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i think thats because there has to be something that is "us" intimacy...

well, lets see...my hubby and i have several RPGs that evolved from group games (which broke up after a while) to "just us" worlds and characters...we tend to refer to them the way other people quote books and movies....
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From:blazepoet
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
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We have our own three-letter word. And the weekly sushi ritual. And the “tuck” ritual. It is very interesting to see the things that become sacred and special as time goes on. And yes, the little things tend to have some of the deepest meanings.
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From:evaleastaristev
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
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For myself and my fiance, it's something small that developed when we were poly, and has maintained into monogamy. He started calling me Lady. Just something simple, but I won't answer to it from anyone else. All other nicknames, they're fair game for anyone to use (on penalty of bodily harm for some of them that should remain unsaid into eternity), but that one, is only for him.

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From:nex0s
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh yeah. My husband and I call each other Bunny. No one else.

It's weird though - sometimes our family members, I guess to mock us a bit, will try and get in on the act and call one of us Bunny and it's just...Very very offputting. Mostly because they don't realize it started off as "fuck Bunny".

Um.

Yeah. No one else is Bunny. Even if I have sex with them!

N.

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From:forestmaster
Date:March 13th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
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I read a story along those lines a long time ago called the Taboo of Oobat. It basically swapped eating/showing ones mouth and teeth to another person for having sex and it was good for thought in my impressionable college years.

Tiny markers for us as a couple would include some phrases that have meaning for us based on shared experiences or nicknames or the like... common bonding rituals. I am sure more will develop with time and shared experience, too. Occasionally we'll do something about reserving the right to see a movie for the first time as something we'd like to do together, but it's not an always thing to have to watch all movies for the first time together... :)
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From:aiela
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, all movies for the first time together would get very, very complicated!
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From:atdt1991
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
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You know the part in Invader Zim where Gir says, "I saw a squirrel! He was going like this! fft fft fft!"?

Well, it was something Lucy and I watched together early in our relationship, and in some weird way we can't explain, it got abbreviated, and now we'll look at each other and go, "fft!" "fft!" and ... that's love, right there.
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From:ba1126
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
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We have a secret hand signal. At happy times, fun times, it says "I love you, and I'm happy to be sharing this with you." But more importantly during difficult times, this signal says "I'm with you, I love you, and we'll get through this together.
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From:bleakwinters
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
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With my fiance and I, it evolved from the Romanian form of 'I love you': Te Iubesc. His predictive text came up with ve gubera and that's our thing. I say te iubesc to one other person not in my family (and not my boyfriend), but not ve gubera.

On the other hand, my boyfriend and I are too early into a relationship to think of these things. We enjoy it as it comes along, and I think there will soon be in-jokes and all that.

(And that advice you gave me over PM/email? Thank you. A few days after I got the confidence to think I was worth it. The guy and I are dating and in love now.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)

mores

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I think it's interesting that you make a point of saying that society didn't tell you the happy word was sacred, just after recognizing that it was only a switching of cultural mores. Actually, it's not a switching of mores as much as a switching of objects on which to focus within the same mores. Society has told you that in a relationship you need to have something that is only shared between the two of you and you have complied.

Anyway, I'm a frequent reader, first-time commenter. And I don't mean to imply any negativity about polyamory. Though monogamous now, my relationship with my first (deceased) husband was polyamorous and lovely. I just don't think that those of us who choose to live in that way should see ourselves as so outside of society, when we all respond to that same feeling of needing intimacy, and just express it differently.
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From:zillah3
Date:March 16th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)

Re: mores

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This is exactly what I was thinking, and I am very monogamous.
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From:bec76
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
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Jeremy and I have developed a shorthand language, and a ton of in-jokes, and nicknames that never get used for anyone else. However, I'm having trouble calling anything more concrete to mind - unless you count the dogs. It's almost as if we were poly from the start, if you consider that both of us brought a dog to the relationship as well. The doggboys are ours, and only ours, and that's a definite couple marker to me: shared responsibility.
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From:ladiefare
Date:March 13th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)

This one combines with the "Hidden trigger syndrome"

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That thing which is so ingrained that you don't even realize it's a "thing" until it smacks you in the face.
We have 2 children,born nearly 5 years apart.For 18 months or so of that 5+ year period I was with child.
Between my first and second pregnancy my hubby got in to the habit of kissing my preggo belly after making love(at least when he was on top lol)It carried over, unintentionally and as a routine (habit)ritual , so to speak.
Neither one of us thought about it.
When we had our first relationship I witnessed him do this to her and felt like I'd been smacked with a brick.
He had developed a habit ritual and I didn't know how mine that habit was , until I witnessed it being shared.
I realized it was "MINE" in a very primal way. I had earned it by carrying his children.It meant something that was very exclusive to me and I hadn't even really acknowledged it.
So a conversation was had and feelings were hurt and guilt was felt for a few days.
We got through it but I felt almost guilty in making him think about having to monitor himself in a moment when ,let's face it, thinking shouldn't be an issue.
Even though we didn't think about it, it was that important to me,and him, once we had.
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