"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light'st flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel."
- Sonnet 1, William Shakespeare
I wonder if the notion of romantic love is lost upon the polyamorous? Well, perhaps I should re-evaluate the question - let me rephrase: I wonder what constitutes a date for poly people?
I think of the idealistic perspective of love introduced to monogamous pairing and think about all of the fanciful expectations. I remember the "process": I will charm her and inspire thoughtful and engaging conversation; I will treat her to an audacious dinner and fill her belly with rich and decadent food; I will slowly inspire her confidence, her trust, and the love we will make will be legendary and earth-shattering; we will confide in each other, share secrets, cry together over lost love and painful trials; there will be a meeting of parents, a shaking of the father's hand - a loyal stare that suggests, "Yes, I am employed, can be trusted, am relatively clean with decent aftershave, and I won't violate your daughter unless she really wants me to badly..." kind of man-shake - and a suave conversation with the mother that inspires a kind of mother/daughter jealousy; we will talk about naming children; there'll be an announcement for marriage, cute French titles exchanged ("fiance"), the shopping, the venue, the dress, the food, the guests, the fucking ring - oh, Jesus, the _fucking_ ring, of all things - all of the crap that constitutes the marriage itself, and THEN....
... happily ever after.
Boom. Pop. Bubbly. Fireworks. Romance achieved. Everybody have some cake, dance the polka, and go home. You're done. Zip. Finito.
I realize that I'm patronizing the whole asinine process but it's really rather trite, predictable, and so idyllic that it becomes a compulsory craving: "Everybody else gots this, so I gots to haves it, too." And therein rests the beautiful naivete that it brings: romance... in a package.
So let's pretend for a moment that the poly person isn't playing their game from the mono playbook and are actually not dreaming about the "perfect" future together on day one but are actually focused on the here, the now, the attainable, the realistic.
"Let's see," rationalizes-out the poly person. "This chic is available on Tuesdays and Fridays; her husband wants her on Sundays; there's a tertiary in the mix who wants to see her on Monday, she has BDSM munches on the second Wednesday of the month, so that leaves Wednesdays on weeks one, three, and four for me. Checking my calendar - well, crap, I'll have to bump my wife to Fridays - bump, my wife, Fridays, oh, man that's a funny, ahem anyway - then there's the whole problem with Sally, she's going to hate this competition but I know that Marc will really like her. But, SIGH - If I can't move my primary to another night, this is a no-fly situation. I should explain this to her. She'll understand."
Then both of our poly-persons delve into this logistics conversation which isn't entirely romantic and really has nothing to do with complementing her hair, drifting into her eyes, or caressing her soft skin. This really has more to do with answering the question: Logistically, are you a good fit?
I feel poly people are enlightened lovers and with all seriousness I believe that they're operating in good faith when they're overtly concerned with how a new addition could impact their schedule with primary and secondary relationships. Instead of thinking, "What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun...", we're thinking, "Gads, is two hours on Wednesdays really enough to meet my sexual/emotional needs?" Eh, kind of takes the fun out of it.
Also true that poly people don't have a model for an ultimate end-game that we'd see in traditional monogamous pairings; maybe, idealistically, we believe we can balance all of the complexity of our lives and this person will merrily fit in as if she had always been there - that's likely the most perfect of outcomes. We don't have the euphoria, the ring exchange, the announcements, or a bounty of toasters waiting for us on the other side of an exchange of vows. We don't have the romantic idealism to push us along as we might find in monogamous relationships. We are simply "here", in the moment, perhaps with no other future commitment, experiencing life as raw as it is without the sugar or promise for something greater, brighter, whole. There is, well, just _now_, and what can be given now. Where that is a conversation, a passionate kiss, a massage, a hug, a spanking, a lustful and explosive romp, or just a minute to talk about the weather. I wonder if the notion of romantic love is lost on the polyamorous... one, because our love model isn't predefined, and two, because now is all we have to give?