I call him the SexBrit. (Sexit was also considered, a la Brexit, but it was deemed a little too on the nose by my female friends.) We meet about once a week at his well-appointed apartment. He mixes me cocktails; over the winter it was Manhattans but we’ve transitioned to an Aperol Spritz situation now. We catch up and chat. Then we have sex. Really, really good sex. Then we talk some more. Then I go home.
He’s not my boyfriend. Sometimes we talk about the other people we sleep with or are seeing, which is a healthy part of any non-monogamous relationship I see myself in. He’s funny, sexy, respectful. I sometimes wonder, could he be my Primary? (A sort-of main squeeze, in non-monogamy parlance). Perhaps, though he doesn’t have an interest in that concept as of now, and I am fine with that. He is, simply, a person I like to speak to and have sex with, after which I walk home and starfish in my own bed, happily satiated, single, and unencumbered.
He is not “mine.” He will never be “mine.” He’s not “the one,” will never be. I will never have to parade him around to parents, friends. I might parade him around to other lovers, if we both decide that’s fun. A year ago, before I’d started down the path of non-monogamy, I’d be wondering where it was all going with SexBrit. Now, that question doesn’t even enter my brain — and I feel more stable and self-knowing than I ever have before.
A close friend, who is not non-monogamous, asked me why that is. I thought about it a lot, and here’s where I’ve landed in my journey so far: When you are not seeking “the one,” your romantic life becomes less of a burden. Instead, you start to see the specialness of all your someones: friends, family, lovers. We are taught that one person is supposed to be everything for us, our counselor, lover, caretaker, partner, best friend, confidante, cheerleader, etc., when in reality no one person could (or should have to) be all of those things to anyone else. As I’ve become more firmly, vocally, non-monogamous I’ve started to appreciate and savour the roles everyone plays in my life, and to allow them to inhabit those roles fully.
My need for a sexy Brit who makes me Manhattans and knows his way around my body? Satiated. My need for a friend to listen to my fears, my concerns that I’m not doing enough and will never be enough? Satiated, by a totally different person (several people, actually – sorry, friends, I can’t afford therapy right now). My need to love and nurture? Satiated, by friends who also need my ear, my shoulder, my advice.
A bonus? Now that I don’t need one person to be everything to me, I find myself able to better inhabit the roles I am supposed to inhabit for my friends, lovers, family, too. That’s where the expansiveness comes in – when you can be with someone you love and feel large in your role with them, you grow taller. And all of us – women especially – deserve the space in our lives to grow whichever size and shape we damn well choose. Like turtles, or those square watermelons from Japan.
There’s no way I can count the number of ways the world has tried to make me smaller over the years, but one instance stands out in particular. When I was 14, my doctor (Dr. Macbeth, whose dramatic name was as potent to me as his handsome and slightly intimidating looks) suggested I go on the birth control pill, not because I was sexually active but because I had some acne and some low level menstruation “issues” — i.e., my period was irregular. My mother and I both accepted the suggestion without question and never thought, then or later, about how the pill might affect my body, my sex drive, or my desire.
When another doctor suggested, more than a decade later, that I should consider an IUD, I said that I had heard they were scary and risky, that they made women infertile. My doctor said these were stats from the 1970s related to one model of IUD that had grown to mythic proportions. “I suspect,” she said, “some doctors talk women out of IUDs because they’re beholden to drug companies who make much less money if women install a device once every ten years instead of buying a pack of pills every month.”
In 2010 I got the copper IUD and within two months, I was waking up every morning to explosive, beautiful, Technicolor wet dreams. Masturbation became an obsession. Every man I saw was an object, every moment potent with sexual possibility. My long-term partner at the time, a workable though bland lover, started to take a backseat to a much more productive fantasy life.
Less than two years later, that partner and I would be sitting in front of a couple’s counsellor trying to figure out why I was so fitful, why my mind roamed and why I “suddenly” couldn’t quite fit the box of wife and mother for him, for anyone. What did I want?
There, in that office, with the nice counsellor in her pastel sweater, with her neat shelf of books, it was clear on some level that I wanted an ethically slutty life. It’s all I’d ever wanted. But my body unlearned it through the pill, and my mind followed. It was just one obstacle that stood in the way of me realizing earlier in life that monogamy wasn’t, and was never going to be, right for me.
I still don’t have all the answers. But I do know that society still turns their backs on women when they choose to stand alone. When they say, “I won’t belong to anyone. I’ll be free,” we pity them for missing out on companionship, for missing out on motherhood. For all our forward progress, this is still very much the deal if you choose to strike your own path.
You can take that deal, or you can light it ablaze. I choose fire. I’m most present, powerful, and self-possessed when I make my own rules. When I continue to build my non-monogamy building strong, tall, and deep.
I have learned: I love sex. I’m slutty. I have amazing friendships, uncommon lovers, a glorious and mostly understanding family. I can’t wait to meet my primary. I love my vibrator (his name is Michael Fassbender. He never asks me to be anything but me, and if he could clean the bathroom I’d be in front of Congress lobbying for humans and silicone to get married tomorrow.) I want a family. I want my own happiness. But above all, I want me.
Kaitlin Fontana is a non-monogamous writer, director, and producer and an award-winning essayist from Fernie, B.C., who now lives in Brooklyn. Read more from this series, including reason she chose a non-monogamous life, her first foray into online dating and what happened when she fell in love with a married, monogamous man.