What I Don’t Like About Kitchen Table Polyamory

So Kitchen Table Poly sounds like an ideal arrangement: All your partners should be comfortable sitting around the kitchen table, old friends sipping coffee and sharing merry conversations. What’s not to love?

Well, for me, kitchen table polyamory is a lot like democracy in Iraq: it’s a great idea if everyone just sorta settles on it, but a terrible idea if you have to invade and force people to do it.

Full disclosure: I try to do kitchen table polyamory for the very real sense that eventually anyone dating me is gonna meet my wife, and you’re gonna be hanging out in our living room at some point. If you’re all about “I like you but why would I want to hang out with her?”, it’s probably gonna go poorly unless we meet only at conventions, which I don’t do much any more.

And to be honest, I like my partners. They’re all dazzling personalities with interesting stories to tell, great opinions, funny jokes! I understand that there are folks who are like “I don’t want to know about anyone else you’re smooching,” but for me personally, it’s awkward when the people I love treat the other people I’m dating as radioactive jealousy-mines to be avoided.

I’m not gonna monopolize the conversation with talks of my other sweeties, but if something interesting and relevant happened to them, I’m gonna tell that anecdote. So yeah, if it’s all envy and resentment, we’re probably not gonna last long.

As such, I try to settle for a “have a beer with” polyamory – I want to be able to belly up to the bar with my sweeties’ sweeties, have an amiable chat, tip the hat when I see them in public.



When I see Kitchen Table Polyamory practiced in the wild, all too often there’s this Amway-style pressure – Oh, you’re dating me, now you’ve gotta be BEST BUDDIES with my partner! I’ve set up a date! Now you have to talk! Are you friends yet? Are you friends yet?

And again, there’s nothing wrong with being friends – but I also feel that friendship has to come naturally and from a freely-chosen sentiment, not from a “I will wrassle you to the kitchen table and you will LIKE it, mister.”

Because that – and its sibling pressure, “You must now have sex with everyone I’m dating” – is often a way of slamming people face-first into dysfunctional relationships, covering over very real issues with this crusty spackle of “FRAAAAANDS.” It can be a joyous smothering where yeah, the new person is crossing boundaries and being a douche, but this is our lovely kitchen and do you really want to mess up the linoleum with your petty complaints?

(Or the old person! The time you’ve been in the relationship should not be the measurement, the quality of the time you currently have should be. But that’s another essay.)

Friendships shouldn’t be mashed together like some sort of sex-lubricated turducken, but evolve naturally out of common happinesses and goals. And while some shun the kitchen table because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH I CANNOT BEAR TO LAY EYES UPON ANYONE WHO MIGHT POSSESS THEM IN A SMOOCHLY FASHION, which is, yeah, often a little problematic, well….

Some people like a little space.

I said I try to be beer-buddies with my metamours, but sometimes a fine indifference will do. I don’t have much in common with them, but they make my sweetie happy. They seem perfectly functional as a metamour, but I don’t particularly regret not having time to spend with them….

And that’s okay. What’s important is that everyone is content with the arrangement, not that we’re being herded into a circle by enthusiastic shippers shouting “NOW KISS.”

Kitchen table poly is fine as an ideal, and I certainly aspire to practice it. But it’s not wrong if it doesn’t happen. And the folks who are trying to make fetch happen are often jovially expecting people to suppress their own instincts for the will of the group, which is a dynamic that often allows weird traumas to fester and spread.

I would say I could cheerfully kitchen it up with about 80% of my partners’ partners. The remaining 20%? I don’t consider them toxic – I generally wouldn’t date someone who was attracted to someone I thought was actively bad for them.

But those folks, well, I don’t know much about them, they don’t know much about me, except that hey, we’re both dating this one person and we think they’re pretty neat.

That’s enough.

Leaving The Pandemic Behind Is Like Giving Up Soylent

It started as a wacky experiment that my wife and I did – “Let’s drink nothing but nutritional sludge for a week! They say you can survive on nothing but Soylent, the food replacement drink – but what’s that experience like?”

The answer: Pretty crappy. Soylent – at least back then, I’m told they’ve improved the formula somewhat – was like drinking heaping glasses of pancake batter with a sandy, bitter taste at the bottom. And near the end of the week, we came to dread the taste; Soylent turned the pleasure of eating into a regular discomfort we had to tolerate to survive, sighing as we lifted up the cup full of gray muck to choke down another couple of thick ounces.

It wasn’t fun.

But it was oddly safe.

My wife and I were – are – both heart patients, and our weight and cholesterol readings are constant undertows of anxiety. And as such, though we did not realize it because the experience was so normalized, every meal was a mild fearpoint.

Were we putting too much salt on this food? Were we endangering ourselves by having this turkey breast instead of a salad? Oh, God, we’re drinking the whole milk, not the skim we should, will this kill us? Here I am eating Chex Mix, I probably had too much…

What we discovered is that every time we ate, we had a low-grade anxiety because we knew we were never making the optimal food choices. We were always having a little too much, a little something wrong, sacrificing perfect health for the qualities of taste. And that constant push-and-pull of “Should I eat what I want, or what’s good?” was a continual tension –

A tension we didn’t even realize we had until it was removed. Soylent wasn’t great, but it was impossible to eat poorly when you were on Soylent. It wasn’t fatty, it wasn’t sugary, you couldn’t possibly want too much of it.

Soylent was just… there.

It was safe.

You could not hurt your diet with Soylent. It was the padded room of foodstuffs, where maybe you didn’t want to be there but it was all bland choices that couldn’t destroy you.

Obviously, we left the Soylent behind after a week. Food tastes good. It’s hard to give up.

Like socializing.

If you’re an extrovert, you’ve probably spent this entire time itching to socialize. And if you’re an introvert who’s been penned in not able to see anyone at all, you’re probably desperate for a hug. But for a lot of us, locked in with our partners and roommates….

The pandemic is Soylent. We don’t like the blandness it’s enforced, but it’s been safe for us – we couldn’t overcommit ourselves, we couldn’t drain our socialization batteries, we didn’t have to worry about whether we should go to that party or whether we should find more friends.

We had no choice. Every day. We choked down the same options given to us to be safe, which was none.

And now the pandemic is lifting, slowly, as we get our vaccines – keep wearing masks, people, normalize that stuff – and a number of us are looking at the future ahead with a weird mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

Like actual food, we miss the taste.

Like actual food, we realize there are bad choices to be made ahead.

And it’s like, yes, we absolutely want to get out and see people, but at the same time the silence let us tune in on this weird tension in our lives where we realized that we liked people, but choosing when and how and which people to socialize with held a certain strain that we never paid attention to before because we never had the option to tune out.

That volume is rising in the background. Things are starting to return to – well, I don’t know about normal, but whatever the new normal will be. And there will be gatherings, and there will be trips to see sweeties, and there will be new socializations again. And all of them will be good on some level…

But how do we reacclimate ourselves?

What do we do with this realization that we hated most of the pandemic, hated most of the lockdown refusals, but there was some tiny part of us that vibrated in resonance with the relaxation of not being expected to see anyone again?

Again. It’s not such a resonance that we’re tuning out altogether – this is sludge. The people are a delicious salad, or a steak, or whatever food rumbles your tummy. We’re not not going to choose seeing the folks we love.

Yet there is a part of ourselves that feels worth protecting. Is there a way to encapsulate this tiny hermit inside us and still keep our friends?

Terrible as this has been, is there a way to extract the still, nourishing parts of the pandemic?

Remember When The Government Could Do Things? That’s Back, Baby!

This last Saturday, I went down to the Wolstein center to get my vaccination, and it made me remember what I loved about government.

Because the Wolstein center is now processing 6,000+ vaccinations a day, and it is starkly functional. They’ve taken over a basketball arena and converted it into an emergency center, where all the details are taken care of for you – you get texts telling you when you’re ready, there’s spaced lines with rows of soldiers and cops cheerfully guiding you to your spot, there’s translation centers for people who don’t speak English and transport available for folks who can’t work the distance.

There’s no out-of-pocket expense; the parking is free, they didn’t ask me what insurance I had. I waited in my seat, six feet apart, and they brought me water if I was thirsty.

I wasn’t thirsty for water.

I was thirsty for functional goddamned government, and I was slurping from this beautiful fountain of competency.

I have been so tired of Republican commentary that the government is invariably inept, hilariously bad, so corrupt and outmoded that it is incapable. And yes, the government is often inept, hilariously bad, corrupt, and outmoded, but:

a) That’s often not worse than capitalism, which when it tries to help large masses of people decides “Eh, there’s no profit there” and lets them rot (also see: getting high-speed internet service out to the sticks), and:

b) It often (though not always) happens because bad-faith actors (like many Republicans) are sabotaging the damn thing (also see: the post office).

Look, the government has to solve complex problems – if they were simple, they’d be fixed. I’ve likened those issues to legacy code – everyone thinks large problems are easy to solve until you look at all the edge cases the old and terrible solutions are actually handling.

And while capitalism solves some problems very well, it falls flat on its face when you expect it to fix issues that a) don’t make a lot of money but are necessary services, or b) the fixes harmful side effects that can be “solved” by dumping waste out into the public space.

And I’ve been told for years that our government not only DOESN’T do anything, but it SHOULDN’T do anything. Kids are being shot up in schools? Well, that happens. Cops are murdering minorities for no good reason? Can’t expect cops to fix the problems. A deadly pandemic spreading across the country? We can’t ask businesses to shut down or pay people to stay home, that’s not what we do.

Slowly, I’ve watched the concept of government get reduced to “We bomb people and prop up bankers,” and I am livid.

If your government can’t protect its own children, it does not deserve to be a government.

So when I went down to the Wolstein center and saw our army being used to protect us and our cops keeping traffic flowing and our federal government’s guidelines being used to figure out how to distribute the vaccine properly – because Trump’s plan of “back a dump truck full of vaccines up to your door and drop them on your front lawn” was not actually a “plan” so much as “a hope” – I was moved.

Here was a man from the government, and he was here to help. And fuck Reagan in his cold, dead corpse; it wasn’t scary, it was good.

Government can be helpful if we hold it to task. There’s always boondoggles and waste, but that happens in corporations too – nobody ever talks about the time Uber wasted 2/3rds of their ad budget on fake ads, because we don’t discuss or disclose corporate waste. You make anything big enough, it’s gonna hemorrhage a little cash somewhere.

But I think it starts with saying, “The government can do some things that capitalism can’t.” Which is a terrifying idea, to the capitalists, because they hoover up a lot of money by convincing everyone that they alone can fix the problems.

I wasn’t a fan of Biden. But I think – I hope – that he can make the case to America that there’s some things that government is necessary for. Not all things; I like a little capitalism bringing me PS5s (or not, oops).

But some things go better with government help. My vaccination was one of ’em. And I’m sure it’ll turn out that there were operational problems in the vaccine rollout, and that’s good, because we hold our government to task in a way that we don’t hold most corporations responsible. It’s our money we’re paying.

And if we’re gonna pay it, I’d rather it go to feeding the poor and promoting public health instead of drone-bombings. Call me crazy.

(ALERT: As is usually the case, I have a policy of not allowing people to promote right-wing talking points in my threads. Dissent is allowed, but if you’re gonna be spouting bullshit like “Don’t forget Trump got you that vaccine!” when Moderna started working on a vaccine months before Trump rolled out Operation Warp Speed, and then Trump passed on buying additional vaccine dosages – then y’all are gonna get booted.)

Did I Mention My New Podcast? Well, Maybe I Didn’t.

I’m very sleep-deprived this week, so let me remind you that the third episode of my podcast “…And We Will Plunder Their Prose” is out – this one studying the writing techniques of the most excellent FINNA, by Nino Cipri.

(It was just nominated for a Nebula award this week, so I’m glad to see that many others thought this delightful story was worthy of acclaim, too!)

Anyway, FINNA is about an interdimensional IKEA – and I talk about how Nino Cipri takes an idea and makes it personal, finding and expressing their voice. I really liked this one way more than I thought I would – and based on a reading from them at a convention, I thought I’d like it a lot – so check it out.

(Also, in case you missed it, my first serious YouTube video is up – 3 Reasons The Trench Run is the Best Action Sequence in Star Wars – so check that out, too, if ya like. LOOK MA I’M ARTING.)

I Made My First YouTube Video! Go Take A Look!

If you’ll recall, I promised myself that I’d make imperfect art in 2021 – not waiting until my skills were immaculate, but shaping everything as good as I could make it and then flinging it out the door. And since I’ve always wanted to make YouTube videos, take a look at my first:

It’s called 3 Reasons The Trench Run is the Best Action Sequence in Star Wars, and hey, it features a chubby guy in an X-Wing flight suit, so comedy.

Take a look if it’s up your alley, like a subscribe, comment a Patreon, do whatever the heck it is you do with YouTube videos. I’m not actually sure.

(Though yes, technically it’s not my *first* YouTube video – I made one wayyyyy back in 2007, which aired on The Magic Show, and I’ve posted several videos from my phone, but this is the first modern professional video I’ve made where I intend to do more.)

{exhales deep breath} And also my new podcast dropped today, discussing Finna, by Nino Cipri – a phenomenal novella about adventures through an interdimensional IKEA. Finna just got nominated for the Nebula award this Monday, so I’m glad to see people acknowledging its quality. Check out my podcast on it, which discusses how Nino (and, by proxy, you) found their inner voice.

{exhales until lungs crackle like dry paper bags} AND ALSO my newsletter went out today, detailing my Seven Steps To Creating Literary Magic Systems, so if you feel like subscribing to that, then hey, the link’s there.

…and that’s all the content that I created for this week! {looks around} Holy gosh, that’s more than I thought. Go me!