Ten Times I Have Misunderstood Monogamy

[1] One day, while drinking coffee, I asked my mother what she thought of non-monogamy. ​I think they’re doomed, those kinds of relationships, people don’t work like that, ​she answered. ​Like what? ​I asked. ​Well, first of all, they’re jealous​. She sits back, takes another sip of milky coffee. Why all these ambiguities, I wonder, why “people,” why not “I.” Wouldn’t it be more productive if we just talked about ourselves? I remain skeptical that jealousy can be explained from the third person.

[1a] My mother’s use of the third-person plural implies that she, the speaker, is not a member of the aforementioned group, either ​the jealous o​r ​the non-monogamous​ — or, to get really technical, that she is not a member of the group ​people​. The possibility is raised that these groups are one and the same, are in fact only collapsable into a bacteria-shaped mass made of​ the jealous​, ​the non-monogamous​, ​people​.

[2] Abstraction: if you only ever have an emotional relationship with one language, does that make you linguistically monogamous? If I only write in English, does this make me a kind of monogamous? How about when you love a place deeply and do not leave it, are you spatially monogamous?

Still from “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?” (2005) dir. Miguel Arteta

[3] I saw a ​short film​ by Miguel Arteta and in this film an interviewer asks people on the street, “Are you the favorite person of anybody?” The final passerby states with conviction that they are ​not​ the favorite person of anyone. When Arteta offers the individual an orange, the passerby answers, “My girlfriend might like one.” The crux of the film revolves around the idea that the audience should be unsettled by this couple which does not necessarily consider each other as their “favorite people.” In a sense, monogamy here becomes synonymous with favoritism.

[3a] When I first heard this question I couldn’t stop thinking about it, not because I wanted to pick my favorite person, but rather the inverse, I wanted to know who would pick me as their favorite.

[3b] First out of curiosity, then out of narcissism.

[4] Perhaps we would be better off if we divorced the problem of the relationship from the problem of love. Maybe that’s where the whole issue started in the first place. When I took math in elementary school, my teacher would use this one symbol on the whiteboard with a squeaky pen. It looked just like an equal sign, except a very small question mark hovered over it. This sign meant we couldn’t be certain as to whether or not these two things were, in fact, equal. I find myself wishing that this sign had a verbal equivalent in which you could equate two things, but with some lingering doubt: love/relationship, monogamy/favoritism, jealousy/non-monogamy.

[5] Migration to cities led to a lack of space which led to couples sleeping in the same bed. A friend tells me this. The rise of democracy led to the demise of polygyny—men did not want to vote for leaders who had more wives than they did. This second fact I read in a journal somewhere.

[6] I sometimes think that all cultural fascinations are derived from the fear of the same thing. In this case, our contemporary cult of monogamy must also derive from some fear of monogamy. When the institution of monogamy was at last discovered, people were so fascinated and so terrified that in the end, they were satisfied.

[7] I’ve had this fantasy before where I am locked in my apartment with every person I have ever met and they crawl over each other with an anxiety like ants in the sun and, because my apartment is not big enough to hold everyone, I can’t even get them out.

Anais Nin with veil-shawl, sent to Dr Rank, 1934

[8] I remember reading a collection of the diaries of Anais Nin, called ​Mirages of Anais Nin (1939-1947). I thought two things very strongly, the first that, would she let us touch her diaries like that, was I perhaps the unwanted reader of something deeply private? The second was that she had a diverse and nuanced relationship with her lovers but that she belonged fabulously to herself. I revisited the book this year, thinking those same two things over again. She wrote, “As soon as I try to make ONE love, ONE creation, I am broken by the impossible. LET NO ONE EVER DARE TO SAY I DID NOT TRY TO GIVE MYSELF TO ONE LOVE OR TO ONE CREATION — LET NO ONE DARE TO SAY I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PAINFUL DIVISION.”

Three days later, January 30th, 1941, she wrote, “Deliver me from obsessive love. Let me dance. People think I only crave lovers or worship. Nobody knows I am crying out tragically for my very existence. I only exist in the body of my lover, as a body within the body of my lover […] I do not exist outside of love. I have never been to a museum alone, to a movie alone, for a walk alone. I have written not to be alone.”

[8a] Apathy is the state of having no feelings about the issues presented. Ambivalence is the inability to choose between persuasive options. The latter involves a negotiation. Nin participated in the latter.

Image courtesy of Jeromyu

[9] We are walking down Karl-Marx-Allee and in my mind this street has no end and looks the same all the way down. The buildings are tall, like big slabs that lean inward, and we sit outside of a kebab shop between these inward heaving buildings. My teeth hurt because the beer is cold and because the outside is cold, too. I ask you, What are you doing this weekend, and you said you are going to a club in Mitte. I said, I saw that party and might go too, want to go together? You told me you were going with someone else already, but you hoped it wouldn’t be weird and maybe we would run into each other. It was a nothing-moment, a moment where nothing happened, and we continue walking to the movie theater, but I can’t stop thinking about the nothing-moment. I probably looked jealous during the nothing-moment because I hadn’t known you were already seeing someone else. Intellectually speaking, I know jealousy makes you look selfish and in fact, the most embarrassing prospect of the whole situation was that, beyond looking​ selfish, I might actually ​be ​selfish. If, in this case, I was between ​looking​ jealous and ​being jealous, I was perfectly ambivalent.

[10] On the window ledge we have two ceramic doves. They mirror each other and look at me with hard black eyes. We found them on the street and they came as a pair.

Tastes They Left

L. was a secret. You can’t know anything about him, except maybe that he stole a lot of coffee from Pret A Manger.