When Your Asshole Coworker Hogs All The Credit: A Metaphor.

Your colleague shuffles up to your desk to ask for help. He’s been working eighteen-hour days to try to hit this massive deadline, but it looks like even with all that herculean effort he’s not gonna finish his project in time.

You’ve been friendly before. So he asks a big favor: would you mind taking on some of his everyday tasks so he can focus on getting this special project done?

You’re no fool, of course. You ask your boss if it’s okay, and your boss has a bit of a crush on Colleague so they’re inclined to help, and so everyone in the department shuffles around a bit to take the slack off of Colleague so he can get it done.

And Colleague knocks it out of the park, like you knew he would – the boy’s got talent, you’ll give him that. Their special project exceeds all expectations, wins awards, gets him up on stage at the annual company meeting where he gives a speech.

“I worked hard to make this happen,” he says. “Eighteen-hour days for six months, using all my skills.”

“Did you want to thank anyone?” the President of the company asks.

“No. I did it all myself,” he says.

Needle scratch, freeze frame, full stop as everyone in the department hates this guy. For good reason. I mean, he did work hard, but if your boss hadn’t liked him, he would have blown the deadline. Without everyone in the department quietly pitching in to make things easier for him, he would be just another failure.

Why’s this asshole talking like he’s a self-made man?

Would it kill this jerk to acknowledge the special treatment that helped enable his hard work?

And that’s privilege to me.

People get enraged when I mention the advantages my gender, race, and health gave me in the same breath as my triumphs. You finally published a book after writing seven unpublished novels? Take this moment to bask in your tenacity! You’ve been working out with your personal trainer three times a week for the past nine months? Don’t mention how other people can’t afford a personal trainer, or are too sick to work with one, that’s raining on your parade!

Look. I work hard for everything I get. There’s plenty of people who have all the privileges I do and haven’t published a book; there’s plenty of people who have the cash I do and haven’t hauled their ass to the gym. Like Colleague, I’ve got a lot of talent and I am not ashamed to show it.

Yet sometimes, because of stuff I had no control over, the company cuts me slack that it doesn’t cut other coworkers. I am excruciatingly aware that some of my less-crushable coworkers also worked eighteen-hour days but couldn’t get everyone else to pitch in and so they failed.

Hard work doesn’t pay off equally. It’s a necessary ingredient in most cases, to be sure, but to believe that effort and talent are the sole criteria for success involves consciously forgetting that the company likes some people a lot better than they do other people.

(In fact, the company likes some people so much that they sometimes cut Colleague slack before he even asks for it, to the point where if he’s sufficiently oblivious he may genuinely believe that nobody helped him along the way, he is truly a Self-Made Man.)

Whenever I acknowledge my own privilege, I have moof-milkers saying, “Stop hating yourself. Recognize your talent. Why do you feel the urge to undercut yourself in your moment of triumph?”

I’m not undercutting myself. When I stand up to talk at the office meeting, I discuss my own hard work, skill, and expertise that allowed me to triumph – but I also take a moment to acknowledge that even if I didn’t necessarily ask for help, I got it in spades, and to remind y’all that instead of believing I’m the Special Project Messiah maybe you should ponder how much more excellence we might get if the boss had crushes on everyone instead of just me.

I’m not hating myself.  I’m thanking my co-workers for helping, and acknowledging the reality that though I put in a lot of effort, it wasn’t all me.

Because I’m not an asshole.

Dear Monogamous People Dating Polyamorous People: Don’t Go Camping.

So I hate camping – for me, the outside is largely a space I endure to get to new air-conditioned places. I hate sleeping in things that aren’t beds, I hate the bugs, I dislike weather.

But let’s say I like my partner. And my partner loves camping. Can’t function without regular doses of sunshine and campfires. And the only way to really spend time with my partner is to go camping with him and his friends.

So I tell him, “I’ll go camping with you, but you’ve gotta do all the camping work for me because otherwise I won’t bother.”

And because he loves me and is just happy I’m along for the ride, he agrees to take on the additional work.

So he chooses everything in my camping backpack and packs it neatly for me. When it comes time to set up the tents, I don’t bother to learn how it works: that’s his job, and maybe his friends too. I’ll grudgingly eat what food they make at the campfire – it’s not as nice as going out to a restaurant – but if there’s a way I’m supposed to get rid of the trash, that’s not my job.

I don’t like camping, and I came along. I’ve made my sacrifice by just arriving.

Everyone else should just accommodate me.

Yet here’s the weird thing: as long as I hold the repellent idea of camping at arm’s length, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever have any positive camping experiences.

I won’t learn what kinds of sleeping bags maximize my comfort, because I’m too busy complaining that these aren’t beds. I won’t find a favorite camping food that my boyfriend didn’t think to mention, because this isn’t something I’m investing time in and so why should I put in the effort to research anything? I won’t get the satisfaction of knowing I learned to survive in the wilderness, because I’m so upset by having to be out here that I’m forcing my boyfriend – and everyone who goes camping with him – to simulate a non-camping experience.

I mean, I’m probably never going to adore camping. But I’ll have a much better experience if I say, “Okay, I don’t like this, but what aspects of this camping trip can I make work for me?” And maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find some camping tricks that make the experience tolerable, and even on a good day I might find it kinda nice, even if honestly I’d rather stay at home binge-playing the new God of War.

Now.

If you’re a monogamous person who’s dating a polyamorous person because that’s the only way you can get intimacy with this amazing person you found, I sympathize. Polyamory’s hard enough on those of us who chose it organically, and I can’t imagine how painful it must be for you to date someone who’s got other lovers aside from you.

But don’t go camping.

As someone who’s seen a lot of polyamorous dynamics, one of the most consistently dysfunctional is, unfortunately, “the monogamous partner who feels resentful that they had to choose this lifestyle, and feels they’ve made enough of an effort by simply tolerating this weirdo situation, so they’re gonna make him do the rest of the work.”

That usually manifests in terms of things like “Please ensure your other lovers aren’t anywhere I can see them, even if they live in town and are friends with our friends,” leading to frantic campaigns where they’re asking Frankie please, don’t come to this party or Lois will get upset. Or concepts like “All my jealousy is your fault because this wouldn’t be happening if you just gave up this open relationship, so whenever I’m sad for any reason you have to drop everything and rush back home.” Or reactions like “You do what you want on the side, but I’m just going to pretend this is monogamy and walk around all the ugly bits until I’m literally forced to acknowledge that you have anyone else in your life.”

That’s camping behavior.

And look. I’m not saying that you have to go out of your way to be besties with all of your partner’s other partners, or to date seventeen people you’re not interested in just to balance the scales. Monogamy is a perfectly valid relationship choice, even if that choice gets complex when you’re dating a poly person.

But what I am saying is that too many mono-poly relationships crumble because the monogamous partner never bothers to explore the potential advantages of polyamory. They spend so much time trying to change their partner’s and their partner’s partners behavior that they never wind up developing their own coping mechanisms for jealousy.

And it falls apart.

What I’m saying is, I know camping sucks. (I really do loathe the outdoors.) But if you’re gonna be polyamorous, seek whatever advantages you can. It’s definitely weird being friends with your partner’s other lover, but if you make that connection they can give you insights into your relationship – or just occasionally be more generous in handling the inevitable scheduling snafus. Learning how to tolerate your partner’s other sweeties at parties can help assure you that they’re not some perfect seductor, poised to snatch your lover away from you. And treating your jealousy as something that you have to learn to handle instead of demanding everyone else do the heavy lifting will help you learn self-sufficiency on the days your partner may be too distracted or upset to properly soothe you.

It’s not what you might have chosen. But you love this person. And honestly, as long as you’re demanding they do all the camping work for you, they’re gonna spend a lot of stressful time setting up the campground to your satisfaction and will spend less time with you, actually enjoying the outdoors in your presence.

It’s not ideal. But learn to set up the tent anyway.

You’re here. Might as well make the best of it.

Han Solo Is Not A Lead Character: Why SOLO Bombed At The Box Office

So Solo “bombed” at the box office this weekend, which is to say it brought it more money than all the people reading this article will ever earn if they all put their paychecks together.  Still, for a Star Wars movie, “half of what Rogue One brought in” is not good news for Disney, so everyone’s scrambling to explain why Solo disappointed. 

Here’s my theory: It’s not that Alden Ehrenreich does a bad job as Han Solo (he does well), or that the troubled production brought bad vibes to the box office (though that didn’t help), or that the movie’s terrible (the first half of the film is flat-out wretched, but once Donald Glover steps in as Lando everything smooths out delightfully).  

It’s that Han Solo is not a lead character, and should never have been given a movie to star in.  

Now, if you’re not paying attention, you might think that Han is a lead character – after all, isn’t he one of the three iconic characters from the original Holy Trilogy?  And yes, Han is certainly prominent.  The movie couldn’t function without him.  

But the role Han Solo plays is not lead.  Leia and Luke are the leads.  

Han is there to push Leia and Luke’s characterization, forcing them to make decisions that in turn make them grow.  Which makes him a supporting character.  

This theory is brought to you by a YouTube video called “Pirates of the Caribbean: Accidentally Genius,” which is an hour-long dissection of why Pirates is so good – and, by proxy, why all the sequels fail.  And one of the main takeaways from that close analysis is that the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow ’s main function is to push Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann into questioning their approaches to life. 

Will Turner is a quiet, talented craftsman, but he doesn’t know when to break society’s rules to get ahead.  Captain Jack is the guy who shows Will the benefits of cheating.  

Elizabeth Swann is a  woman who’s been brought up to believe that she’ll be a trophy wife, though she longs to be something else.  Captain Jack’s incompetence and lack of ambition helps push her into stretching her muscles until she becomes an active participant in her life.  

And Captain Jack Sparrow is… clever.  He remains clever.  But in terms of character arc, Jack Sparrow learns jack squat in the course of the movie.  He’s fundamentally static – which is good, because we don’t want him to change!  What we love about him is that he’s a wastrel, a backstabber, he’s reliably unreliable.

Giving him a character arc is going to be unsatisfying, because any change we make to him will inevitably move him in a direction we don’t like.  If Jack learns to be more responsible?  Then he’s not Captain Jack Sparrow.  If he learns to be more backstabby?  Then he’s an outright villain.  

You don’t want to give Captain Jack Sparrow a main storyline, because right now, where he is, is literally the most fun place he can be.  He’s perfect as-is, because he’s fun to watch – but put him on the main stage, where the emotional backbone of the movie rests upon us being invested in having Captain Jack evolve into someone new, and we discover there’s a reason why Will Turner isn’t as show-stealing as Captain Jack but is much more fundamental.  

(As, in fact, we did discover how disappointing it was, squeezing poor Jack into the role of “hero.”  Even if the first Pirates is so damn good that people keep shuffling back to the theaters in the wan hope that the next sequel will be even 20% as good as the original.)  

No.  Captain Jack Sparrow is there to pressure other people into evolving.  That’s a beautiful, noble role.  Every bad decision he makes is in order to force someone else to grow in order to make up for Jack’s flaws, and as such Captain Jack Sparrow is the ultimate plot device.  Throw him into every pirate movie, he’s gloriously useful!

You just don’t make him the center of the damn film.  

Now.  That’s also Han Solo’s role.  

Han’s there to contrast against Luke’s farmboy optimism, and to force Luke to grow.  It’s Han’s refusal to get involved that forces Luke to learn how to convince smugglers, and it’s Han’s refusal to go on the final mission to the Death Star that makes Luke seem more (suicidally) heroic.  

Likewise, Han’s there in movie #2 to take duty-bound Leia and force her to choose between what she needs to do (smooch Han) and what she wants (lead the Rebellion), leading to a kick-ass scene at the end Empire.  (“I know.”)

Which is not to say that Han doesn’t get some character development – he does, because those first two films are beautifully plotted.  He has a very narrow change from “cynical” to “not cynical” in A New Hope, and then goes from “I stick my neck out for no one” to “self-sacrifice” in ESB.  And then…. doesn’t have much to do in Return of the Jedi aside from be snarky, because that’s as far as Han can go.  

Like Jack Sparrow, there’s only so much you can change Han before he becomes… well, not Han Solo.  Much like Will Turner, Luke can go all the way from “dream-struck farm boy” to “badass black-clad destroyer of Hutts” to “cynical island-bound suicide,” and (with varying levels of success) those are all part of his evolution.  Part of what we love about Luke is that we get to watch him grow.

Likewise, to a lesser extent, Leia.  She’s all duty in the first one, reluctantly romantic in the second, and by the third there’s the vague promise she might be the next Jedi.  Leia didn’t get as much of a chance to grow, but motion was built into her arc.  

Han, however?  We don’t want to watch him grow.  We learned everything we needed to know about him before he walked out of that cantina, and we loved him as-is.  And if you think you can spitball something that’s more appealing than Harrison Ford in his most iconic state, well, shucks, you give it a shot.  But I bet you any change you made to Han frickin’ Solo would be way less satisfying than Han Shot First Solo.  

So where’s a prequel get to go?   

I mean, you’ve got limited range.  Because it’s a prequel, we know Han has to end up cynical and self-involved.  Having that be seen as a fall from grace – i.e., “Han was in a wonderfully happy place and wound up embittered” – would be a hell of a downer film for Star Wars’ light froth.  

So where do you go?  

The moment the film was announced, I said, “Okay, Han’s gonna go from a doofy kid to an experienced smuggler, because that’s really the only story they can tell.” And without too many spoilers – yeah, that’s what happened.  

I think the reason Solo wasn’t met with a lot of enthusiasm was because audiences are smarter than you think.  And people intuitively realized there were one of two outcomes here: either we get a Han Solo that’s not the Han Solo we love, or we get the Han Solo we love in a by-the-rails movie with no character-based surprises along the way.  

Now, we do get a few character-based surprises in Solo – but significantly, none of them have to do with Han, who is theoretically the guy who should be surprising us.  The lead role in Solo falls consistently flat despite Alden’s heroic efforts because what you have in Solo is a static character who’s meant to surprise other people into adapting to his shortcomings, and you’ve given us an entire movie where we instead watch Han dork it up. 

(Because I don’t know where people got the idea that Han was mega-competent – if you watch any movie with Han Solo in it, it’s literally his job to screw up whenever they need to raise the stakes.)  

As such, the pitch of the movie was underwhelming, feeling more like a marketing team than from someone who understood Star Wars.  As other, wiser, folks have noted, a Leia movie would have drawn cheers – not just because Han’s another straight white dude, but because Leia had room to maneuver.  

As it was, what we got in Solo was a film that spends a lot of time asking “What don’t we know about Han Solo?” – questions like “Where’d he get his gun?” and “Where did those golden dice come from?” – and not a lot of time asking questions like “What do we like about Han Solo?”  A smarter prequel would have put Han in the backseat again, the way he was in Force Awakens and the original trilogy, to pressure someone new into becoming something – as I think Ron Howard tried to do with the screenplay he was given, but by then it was too late. 

Now.  To reiterate.  Solo is not a bad movie.  I enjoyed it a lot.  But it is a slight movie, which is a bad thing when you’re an entry in the most famous space opera of all time.  It’s space opera, with huge sweeping sagas and great character turns and magnificent sacrifices, and in Solo what we have is a guy who goes from “less competent” to “more competent.”  

And I’d argue that the reason Solo doesn’t seem like a Star Wars film to many people is because of that choice of lead.  They chose a guy who wasn’t meant to be center stage.  They didn’t know that some characters are popular because they don’t have to do the heavy work of evolving into new people – folks like Han and Jack Sparrow steal the show because supporting characters are the Peter Pans of the stage, they never have to grow up, and as such they can be funny and flawed and beautiful and memorable and wonderful. 

I love Han Solo.  He’ll always be my co-pilot.  

But they shoulda given the film to someone else.  

Yes, I Love The Royal Wedding

My grandmother lived next to me, in the duplex.  We lived in our own lightless world.

Because I had school on the far side of town, and had to get up at 5:30 in the morning to take all the buses to get to school.  Nobody was up.  Walking to the bus was a grim, dim experience, trudging past endless rows of darkened houses; it felt like the world had shut down, and I was the only person alive.

My grandmother was up, though.  She was the only light on in the whole world.

So I walked next door and parked myself next to her, her jigsaw puzzles, and her coffee.  And we’d chat.

My grandmother loved her tabloids.  And I loved to read anything.

So we’d chat about celebrities – “You see what Madonna did?” “Oh yes.” “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with that.” “Neither do I!  She has a right!” – and we’d discuss which papers were good and which were trash (The Star was invariably accurate, The Enquirer was always spreading lies), and we’d debate which celebrity marriages would make it and which would crash.

They weren’t big conversations; just little passing discussions as she was putting together her jigsaw puzzle and I was frantically scrambling to do my homework.

But to a friendless boy who entered a bubble of isolation for two hours on his commute, those tiny discussions were life.

And of course, the crown jewel of our conversations were Diana and Charles.  We loved the royal family, because they were the perfect celebrity – they were born to the lifestyle, so it didn’t seem quite as cruel to look in on them.  They knew the deal: they got to be rich, in exchange for living in a gilded cage.  And the struggles as they tried to be stoic and yet remained relentlessly human were fascinating – they were held to flawless standards, yet griped and bitched and dorked it up despite all that training.

(Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much where my concept that no human is a paragon of virtue comes from, because honestly, with all the pressures applied to the royal family, if you could squeeze the humanity out of someone to make a person conform flawlessly to arbitrary rules, the royal family would do it.  But no; they flailed in the press’s eye all the time, merely by making mistakes that ordinary people wouldn’t have thought twice about.)

And Charles and Diana, well, that was a fairybook gone wrong.  We loved Diana like the tabloids did, we loved the ordinary girl made into a star, and I did not yet understand how relentlessly destructive celebrityhood could be.  I think of Ta-Nehesi Coates’ words on Kanye West: “There’s ample evidence, beyond West, that humans were not built to withstand the weight of celebrity.”

The tale of Diana was unusual and resonant because our journey, the journal of the readers, mirrored Diana’s perfectly.    Usually the tabloids get something dramatically wrong in any story, but in this case everything they got wrong was something that Diana personally believed at the time: that Charles genuinely loved her, that being made into a princess would be a magical goodness, that the tabloids were good and the royal family was something more than a bonsai-contorted remnant of humanity, twisted into position by tradition and remoteness.

And as the reports came in and Charles made his mistakes (“Are you in love?” “Whatever ‘in love’ means,” he said), Diana’s commoner dreams were dashed in real-time with our own hopes so that our heartbreaks were intertwined.

She became the Peoples’ Princess because we had travelled one step behind her.  My grandmother and I knew she had been foolish, but we also had been foolish, and so we forgave her.

But I remember those early days of Diana, back when we were all flush with hope and dreams; I remember getting up with my grandmother at 4:30 in the morning, each of us setting our alarms, to get up early on a school day of all things.  I remember both of us sitting rapt by the television, watching the spectacle quietly, knowing nobody else we knew gave a crap about this wedding but it was a big deal to us and so we watched it in this tiny, dark little pre-morning world that was shared by us and us only.

I was late to school that day.

It was worth it.

And so to this day, I know more about the royals than most people would suspect of me.  Back when I was a punk, with a torn T-shirt and piercings and a regular mosh pit, and I still would spout very firm opinions on Camilla whenever anyone brought it up.   (I’m not excusing what she and Charles did, but honestly, she gets shit on so much for not being Diana, and honestly, who could?)

And now that I’m 48 and a fiercely-liberal science fiction writer, I suspect a lot of my friends will be thrown by my deep and abiding love for the royals.  But I adore the Queen, and I’ve been hoping the best for Harry, and honestly William and Catherine leave me cold but why am I so enwrapped in silly gossip?

I could justify it, but really, it’s just an old habit – one that makes me happy.  I think of my Gramma, and I think of that world we created, and it’s still alive even if only I’m here to sustain it.  (Though to be fair, my wife also harbors this secret love, which is just proof we’re suited for each other.)

So tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early, and turning on our television, and I can’t wait to see what dress Meghan wears.  We’ll be gossiping at the ridiculous hats, and seeing how uncomfortable Charles looks in the role of father as he walks her down the aisle, and it’ll be early with the lights all off and on some level I’ll be nine years old again and having brief talks with my Gramma.

Long live the Queen.

Long live these odd traditions.

I’m In A Kickstarter For Compassionate Fantasy Stories About Mentally Ill Characters! Check It Out.

I’ve had a decades-long battle with mental health, struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder and social anxiety.  As such, I can tell you that the ways that people with mental illness are portrayed in fiction are… not good.

Usually, the folks with mental illness are the villain, when in real life they’re far more likely to be abused than to abuse. And if they’re the hero, the mental illness is something to be overcome, where they get to the end of the story and break free from all this annoying trouble to never feel sad again!

(That, or they realize that medication is for chumps and they chuck away the drugs to emerge wiser and stronger, which is something that diabetics and heart patients should also do, apparently.)

So anyway, my friend Vivian Caethe got sick of that and decided to Kickstart an anthology of compassionate mental illness portrayals in fantasy settings – and she asked me to write a story for it.  So assuming it funds, I’ll be telling you the story of Rivan and Eleanor, two suicidal wizards who fight to save the world because their madness gives them unique skills.

And the anthology also has some other pretty kick-ass authors like Cat Rambo and Jody Lynn Nye, and the stories will be looked over by a professional psychologist before publication to ensure authenticity.  And if you’re a writer who likes submitting to anthologies, yes, if it funds it’ll be accepting submissions.

As it is, Unlocking the Magic is 70% funded, so it’s almost sure to get there – but I think it’ll also be a great read.  So if it sounds up your alley, take a look!

I Aspire To Be As Good As I Tell You I Am.

“You’re dating Ferrett?” people would ask my long-time girlfriend when they found out we were dating. “I’ve read his essays on polyamory!  They’re so sweet! He must be wonderful!”

She’d always pause and shuffle her feet. “Well,” she’d finally say, “There’s a bit of a gap between writer-Ferrett and actual Ferrett.”

Which is true. I mean, I told you a story yesterday where I was extremely generous with my wife’s time, and I’ll tell you the heartwarming lessons where Ferrett Thought Something Dumb and then Ferrett Learns Better and then Everything Is Okay In Weaselland again, but…

Everything I write about is a curated version of who I am.

The art of the essay is boiling things down into a single gem of philosophy, and sometimes my life is too painful and messy to extract a coherent thought. Writing about the argument I had with my ex just before we broke up, a splintered screaming match where we both acted like assholes and I don’t know that either of us learned any lessons from it?

What’s the sense in exposing my personal life to present that ugliness to you?

I do have moments of genuine connection, sure, but there’s also the many more moments of what I aspire to be and fall short – I meant to schedule our next get-together but instead got caught up chasing this new flirtation, I meant to listen their complaints but instead I snapped at them for inconveniencing me, I meant to be okay with them dating people but instead guilt-tripped them for not paying attention to meeeeeeeeee.

Writing’s about presenting moments of change. And some shit doesn’t change. Relationships are an endless struggle to battle back the old habits, and there’s often nothing new to report, you just know you shouldn’t do that next time.

There’s ugly arguments in La Casa McJuddMetz, often instigated by me. Stupidities perpetrated, repeatedly, also by me. Thoughtless cruelties I enacted. And yet those aren’t really essays because there’s nothing exceptional about those moments, I just stayed out too late with a date again and forgot to call, again, and Jesus how could you and you’re right Jesus how could I.

So when I write about a beautiful moment I had, and people comment, “THIS IS THE KIND OF POLY I ASPIRE TO BE,” I always cringe and go, “So do I” – because that moment is so beautiful simply because it’s not the usual mixture of lovely moments interspersed with oh fuck I did it again, didn’t I?

Yet there is good news, because writing about what we aspire to be encourages us to be better. The nicest compliment my girlfriend ever gave me was when she said that the gap between writer-Ferrett and actual Ferrett had narrowed to the point where they were almost the same. I’ve become a much different person over the last ten years, in part because I keep holding myself to high standards.

But the problem with that is, if you tune in only occasionally, you come away with the impression that Whoah, this glorious parade of beauty is what polyamory is supposed to BE.

It should.

But I struggle to get there most days myself.

The reality is, well, reality. I worry that society has this binary focus, where someone is either a PARAGON OF BEAUTY WHO DOES POLY WELL or A STUPID FUCKUP WHO RUINS POLY FOR EVERYONE ELSE. And the truth is, if you talk to my exes – or even my current partners – you’ll find plenty of times I did not provide that glorious polyvana and instead was insecure, clutching, nasty, untruthful.

The good news, such as it is, is so were they.

We all blow it on occasion.

That’s just how this is.

So aspire, man. If you like what I do, use that as your lighthouse to navigate by. Just realize the lighthouse is actually another ship bobbing on a turbulent sea, one that occasionally shines bright and occasionally has to pry its wrecked self off the rocks.

But there will be arguments. There will be dreary fuckups. There will be ignoble breakups. I have ’em, you have ’em, everyone has ’em.

Keep those aspirations high, though, so when you screw up you remember to better. I think that’s the best we got.

What’s It Like Having A Heart Attack When Your Wife’s Visiting Her Boyfriend? One Of The Most Polyamorous Stories I Know.

When I had my heart attack five years ago, my wife was out of town visiting her boyfriend. Which led to an interesting dilemma:

When do I tell her what’s going on?

Because my heart attack was a subtle heart attack. It was not clutching my chest and shouting, “THIS IS THE BIG ONE!” It was lying in bed with a dull ache that kept me from falling back to sleep. I almost ignored it, but then I thought: “You know, the last time you ignored a chronic pain, it turned out you’d been walking around with a burst appendix for four days.”

(True story. I also likely burst said appendix in a mosh pit at a Rise Against concert with my daughter, but that’s another tale for another time.)

So I went into the ER, convinced I was wasting my cash. And the ER wasn’t sure, either; my EKG was fine, my blood levels were normal.

Do I ruin my wife’s weekend – she only gets out there every couple of months – for what might be a false alarm and some annoyingly large bills? I mean, if I’m in no actual danger, then there’s no sense making her worry. But if there’s a risk and something bad does happen, shouldn’t she deserve to know?

I finally texted her around 3:00 in the afternoon, when they said they were thinking about keeping me overnight, and it had become obvious that this was at least serious enough to discuss. I told her that this was a precautionary measure, everyone was just being super-careful – despite two rounds of blood exams and a battery of tests, nobody had found anything yet. Our daughter was here looking after me and so was our friend Heather, and I was fine.

(Which I was. Because I grew up with my Uncle Tommy, who was a hemophiliac who had regular hospital stays thanks to his condition, I find hospitals to be comforting. If I was scared, things would have been very different.)

She opted not to drive back. I was probably fine, and in good hands.

It wasn’t until my eleventh (!) hour cooling my heels in a spare bed that they finally, finally, confirmed the enzymes in my blood that my heart was in trauma. I was indeed having a minor heart attack, and sure enough the pain tolerance that let me walk through a burst appendix was shrugging off the cries of thrashing cardiac muscle.

But by then it was 11:00 at night. And she was three hours away.

“Don’t drive down now,” I told her. “You’ll put yourself in danger, driving sleepy and scared, and all you’ll do is sit in an uncomfortable chair next to me while I doze. I need you tomorrow morning, so get rest, get up early, and come to see me before I go in for my catheterization.”

“You sure?”

I pondered it. “I’m sure,” I told her. “I’d rather you get here rested and without a car wreck.”

And here’s where the polyamory kicks in.

She snuggled into bed with her sweetie, anxious and concerned. And her boyfriend said, “You know, I was thinking of putting the moves on you, but it feels a little disrespectful.”

“Are you kidding?” she shot back. “I guarantee you he told me to stay here because he knew sex with you would be the best kind of distraction for me. If you don’t sleep with me now, he’s gonna be pissed.”

And she was right. Because polyamory, for us at least, is about priorities. There wasn’t much I could do for her in that hospital bed except make her life worse, and though I wanted her – I always do – I didn’t need her then.

Whereas what she needed was an intimacy that I, at the moment, could not provide, and someone I personally trusted was there to deliver that. Because while Gini would return to dote upon me while I had a triple bypass and a hellish recovery, on that particular night my needs could be banked and hers prioritized to help bolster her against what was sure to be more stressful days to come.

We joke about it. Because yeah. On the night of my heart attack, she was with her boyfriend. And that was where I wanted her to be. Because I loved her.

That’s hard to understand if you’re not polyamorous – or if you’re more terrified of hospitals than I am. But it’s real. And it was good, and continues to be. Because for us, the dating isn’t something we do when we’ve got spare time – the dating is rooted deeply in our lives, with partners who are friends and support methods, and when we’re in trouble they’re not jettisoned aside but drawn closer.

It’s not always easy, mind you. Sometimes poly’s hard as a heart attack. But when it works, it makes all the other crises so much easier.