“Monogamy seems to have become synonymous with settling,” writes Kate Menzies in this latest essay from The Under 35 Project. “And settle is such a dirty word, isn’t it?”
When I met my partner, Mariah, I was already dating four people—two of them at the same time (a three-way kind of deal). It had been a busy year. In my defense, I was coming into my body, into my newly-formed sexuality and into my adulthood—all of it. It was college, you know, groovy. And I was very hungry for life. I think that college is the time in our lives that we are dangerously hungry. We just want to eat everything: sex, freedom, change, identities, politics, and drugs. We learn how to want things. Wanting, when you are in your early 20’s, is a full-time job. It’s like a hot summer when the heat is all you can think about; it consumes you.
For Generation Y, wanting is like a religion. We are the babies of the Internet, raised on shopping from inside our living rooms, visiting friends without leaving the house, and receiving endless information. We have a Christmas list of wants. We want our partners to be better, we want ourselves to be better, we want our houses to be bigger and cleaner, we want our jobs and our colleagues to be more fun… the list goes on forever. I think that this cultural paradigm is the root for the resurgence of free love. We 20- and -30-year-olds’s are entering polyamorous relationships because we’re greedy. We’ve been taught by our media, our parents, and even our teachers, that happiness and romance and success lay on the horizon of constant pursuit. There is always something that might make you a little happier.
What if we didn’t have to settle? What if we could have it all?
For us, monogamy seems to have become synonymous with settling. And settle is such a dirty word, isn’t it? It means that you are somehow compromising or denying yourself the chance to have everything.
Jack London said something about hoping to burn out as a blazing meteor—but what if you burn out in the middle, Jack?
When I met Mariah I was dizzy. I was spinning with ideas and fears and sexual impulses like a whirling dervish on X. When we met, she had just gotten out of the Pacific Ocean from a surf sesh. She was all wet: wetsuit, wet hair, dripping nose, glazed eyelashes, black and clean over her aquamarine eyes—Poseidon’s wet dream (pun intended). She was one of my lover’s best friends from back home, and I was told explicitly to keep my hands off. Mariah hadn’t dated anyone before. She was shy and she didn’t like to be pressured. She was finally getting use to the fact that she was different, and she just wanted to be left alone.
She definitely was different and you could feel that right away. She didn’t have to feast on bullshit like we did in order to give our lives meaning. She was unashamed—no excuses and no claims. But I never believed that her being different meant that I couldn’t be close to her or that I couldn’t learn something from her.
It wasn’t an easy road to couple-town. I courted her through persistent phone calls, letters, and care packages for almost four months before we even had our first kiss. As soon as I met her I dropped all the shenanigans I was party to and I gave myself to her completely. I was willing to wait, to sit and to cultivate some patience.
We’ve been together now for 4 years. We live together. We spent a year and one-half in a long distance relationship. We are going to get married. And what I’ve realized is that my relationship with Mariah is what I had been craving. I wanted to stand still to see what was actually happening. I’ve realized that being with her has been my meditation. She is my meditation because I stay, and I stay, and I stay. Like Pema Chödrön says, I don’t leave my seat no matter what the weather is. I watch everything from my place by her side, and I try to stay present in being awake in my life. The chase for ultimate happiness, the ultimate truth, and the ultimate partner, ultimately left me sort of tired. I couldn’t ever experience the present moment because I already had one foot out the door into the future. It’s my relationship with her that has brought me real happiness and romance—the kind of romance that anchors you to the bottom of the ocean.