We have a sense that so many things are like an escalator: there’s a beginning where you must start, you certainly can’t get on in the middle, and you mustn’t start at the other end and work backwards! Life has a certain order and woe to you if you don’t follow it!
Which is one reason why, for my current WIP (work in progress) set in Medieval France, I wanted to start with a married couple and then have them fall in love long after they’d been married and having sex. It seems pretty odd to us today but it wouldn’t have been in that time period for certain classes. I liked the way it started at the “end” and worked backwards.
As a person who practices polyamory, I’ve tried to be conscious of what’s often called the “relationship escalator” and the expectations — often unspoken and even unthought — that go with it. The model of poly that I prefer is one that considers each and every relationship a designer relationship crafted by the people in the relationship to something that will work for them (and maybe just for them)1.
There was a call recently in to Dan Savage that struck me as indicative of the way we’re in a period of change. A caller was upset. She felt that learning about her new boyfriend sexually was important and should happen early in the dating and her new partner didn’t want to have sex, even after a month. The presentation of the problem was very matter-of-fact. Sex is important in relationships! Of course she expected it early on! They were having problems because of two very different models. Their escalators weren’t running in the same direction. Or speed. Or something.
Another model that’s changing is the issue of exclusivity. Do you start out dating lots of people and narrow the field down to The One? Or do you start out getting to know this new person exclusively and open up later? What makes the most sense to me is realizing that this is a question to be asked.
Nothing is harder for people, for society, than having obvious questions be among those that can’t be asked. As children “But why?” is a powerful, urgent question. It should still be among adults, but isn’t often. Sometimes that’s just because “everyone knows” and sometimes the questions are treated as “sinful.” Either way, we don’t ask the questions we need to ask.
What’s the point? I suppose I need a point. The point is that in my writing I’ve enjoyed questioning assumptions, whether it is, as in my first published novel, a matriarchal culture that believes women are the natural hunters, or my WIP that has a couple married first and lovers later, or in my life where asking the question to be open or not is a question to be asked. There is no escalator, or if there was one, it’s an idea past its prime. Start where you need to start and don’t let anyone tell you that’s not the way on.
Welcome to the post-escalator age. Go ahead, ask your questions.1. Let’s face it, EVERY relationship is a “designer” relationship. It’s obvious. But it wasn’t until I started being poly that it became glaringly obvious that I had to treat every relationship — friend, lover, family — differently and consciously decide what that relationship should be for me.↩