The Polyamory Interviews: Tess and Otis
Otis is 35, an artist and designer. Tess is 30, an urban professional. They've been together for seven years.
How did you decide that polyamory was something you wanted to incorporate into your life together?
TESS: Long before I'd ever heard of polyamory, I was having "open relationships." With Otis, I agreed to keep our marriage monogamous. However, monogamy felt foreign to me—the only way I knew how to be faithful was to switch my sexuality off almost completely. When we entered the BDSM scene, and saw people around us having loving, committed polyamorous relationships, it became clear that poly was my sexual orientation. After months of negotiation, including some very intense therapy sessions, Otis and I decided to make a go of this poly thing.
OTIS: Early on, honestly, it was a tough time. I struggled with accepting polyamory because I came from it with the preconceptions of monogamy. But I don't think I would ever go back to a strictly monogamous relationship.
What have you learned from the process so far?
OTIS: I keep hovering around the word "articulate." I have learned—I am learning—how to be more emotionally articulate. How to exercise my attraction to others, and how to create intimacy with someone without bringing in a pile of assumptions or agendas.
TESS: Trying to repress your sexual orientation is exhausting and painful, and it's impossible to have honest emotional relationships. For our marriage to survive, Otis and I had to get honest about our needs and desires.
How have your expectations for polyamory changed since you first began?
TESS: Everything's changed! When we began, I was certain that I knew exactly how to do poly—I was the girl who'd had multiple "open relationships," right? Ha! I knew nothing about how to do this with integrity and compassion. I also wanted to rush immediately into a passionate secondary relationship with someone I loved and had amazing sex with. A year or so down the line, with both modest successes and massive failures under my belt, I'm more interested in making friends and fostering intimate connections with people in a variety of different contexts.
OTIS: In the beginning, I looked for other partners as a way of mitigating the loneliness I was experiencing. I have slowly learned that so does not work. If I am lonely, that's a problem for me, and maybe a problem with my marriage. That has to be dealt with before I can even think about a date. Where (my poly) interactions have been successful, they aren't about what I can't get from my wife. It's about learning how to bring certain things back into the marriage. I can't explain it as anything other than a dynamic intimacy.
What are you looking for from polyamory now?
OTIS: I don't have the time or the emotional bandwidth to harbor two complex emotional relationships, so I'm looking for BDSM play partners and friends... And I still don't know if I want to have genital contact with someone other than my wife.
TESS: It's very much in progress. Short term, I'm interested in trying what I define as a "fling"—a sexually intimate relationship with another kinky person whom I see once or twice a month. I'm interested in eventually fostering a secondary relationship with someone I love and cherish, but who understands that Otis is my number one, lifetime commitment.
OTIS: The other day, I had a play date with this incredible woman. We talked and we played and I was happy to be spending time with her. And the best part of it was, it was okay with both of our partners. It was a clean interaction, I left feeling happy to have spent time with this person, and I left not feeling moony or desiring to co-opt more of her time or energy. In other words, I walked into a room, experienced the joy of being intimate with this person, we agreed that it was a rewarding experience for the both of us, and I took that joy home to my marriage. That's just cool... What has been the most valuable lesson is that the hard times end, and they make the good times sweeter. Not just because they are over, but because they make the world bigger.
FRIDAY 5/12LITTLE RED STUDIO
Erotic dance and spoken-word entertainment in an intimate, art-studio setting, with some audience participation. Little Red Studio, 328-4758, www.littleredstudioseattle.com, 6:30 pm, ticket prices vary, RSVP required.BACK DOOR BASICS: ANAL SEX 101
Babeland sex educator Audrey teaches her favorite subject: the anatomy of anal delight, cleanliness concerns, prostate pleasures, safer sex, anal sex toys, and how to get started. School of One, 523-5544 or www.schoolofone.com, 8–10 pm, $20 donation requested.
SATURDAY 5/13POLY POTLUCK
Open to people of all genders and orientations who are involved in or interested in polyamorous relationships. Wet Spot, www.scn.org/~spg or 728-4533, 5–8 pm, $3–$5 donation, membership not required.UNDERWEAR PARTY AT THE EAGLE
Dance in your skivvies and compete in the "Biggest Basket" contest—winner gets an iPod shuffle. A clothes check will be provided. Seattle Eagle, 314 E Pike St, 9 pm, 21+.
MONDAY 5/15THE LAST MOONDAY PARTY
Come say farewell to the monthly fetish-fashion event and photo opportunity. To close out the event in style: scantily clad female wrestlers! The dress theme is, appropriately: "Black: The Funeral." Fenix Underground, 109 S Washington St, 405-4323, 9 pm, $5 in fetish wear, $15 in civvies.BLACK-EYED PEAS & PUSSYCAT DOLLS
Indulge your fetish for bouncy hip-pop, soft-core burlesque, and "lovely lady lumps" at a sports arena in Everett. And who knows? Maybe Fergie will pee herself onstage again. Everett Events Center, 2000 Hewitt Ave, 1-866-332-8499, 7:30 pm, $35.
TUESDAY 5/16ASCENSION: YOUNG ADULT DISCUSSION GROUP
This discussion/social group for sex-positive 18- to 35-year-olds is held on the third Tuesday of every month. Wet Spot, firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-9746 for info, 7–9 pm, $1 donation, membership not required.