165 - Polyamory Finishing School

"Pinky out! We’re going to polyamory finishing school! Connecting with a polyamorous community is an important first step on someone’s journey so we’re covering the things that will give you a huge advantage at your first meetup. Come learn how to ensure you’ll have the best possible time and set yourself up for success. 


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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory Podcast, we're going to Polyamory Finishing School, etiquette and deport mall. Thank you A-- what is this coffee that you bring for me?

Dedeker: That is what finishing school was for.

Jase: I know that but this coffee you've bring in for me.

Dedeker: I don’t know. You got punked.

Jase: It is like anchorman.

Dedeker: Something like that.

Jase: Polyamory finishing school, we're going to learn about etiquette because connecting with the polyamorous community is an important first step on someone's journey. We're covering the things that will give you an advantage at your first polyamory meetup. This includes tips about how to interact, as well as ways to ensure you'll have the best possible time and set yourself up for success.

Dedeker: Our listeners may not know this yet, but its Em’s birthday today, on the day that we're recording and so, she's not here. She's kicking it up in Paris at the moment, and that leaves the two of us just to record the episode this week.

Jase: Yes, well happy birthday Emily. Let's talk a little bit about the inspiration for this and kind of what it's all about here?

Dedeker: I have like a lot of people who come to me, as clients or as friends or as acquaintances or whatever, who are brand new to polyamory or non-monogamy or any kind of non-traditional relationship. They've all kinds of questions like, how do I do this is, is this the right thing for me, how do I meet other people who are polyamorous, how do I go on dates, how do I--?

On this show and in my own coaching practice, I often encourage people to find some in person community, especially if you're brand new. It's just really nice to be around other people who've been doing this for a while, who have been both succeeding and also making mistakes and learning from them. Where people can support you, can answer your questions, you can see all different variety of ways people do it.

It's just really good to put yourself in that environment, to be able to connect with other people, get support and also have a sense of like, "Is this for me or not." That means that we end up sending a lot of people who are brand new into these Meetups and the thing is that it's not-- I was going to say, it's not like your everyday meet up, but I don't even know what your everyday meet up is.

Dedeker: It depends what kind of meet up it is.

Jase: You may be heading to a discussion group, a processing group, maybe just to hang out. There's lot of polyamory communities that just do like, "Let's go hiking or let's just have a potluck or let's just watch some movies together."

Jase: I feel holy cocktails is a popular one too.

Dedeker: Exactly, where it's just a mixer, to get to know other people. Could be something like a cuddle party-- I know they have more official facilitated cuddle parties but I've also seen more unofficial cuddle parties at retreats or at Meetups. If people decide-- you want to have a cuddle puddle at this particular meet up.

Could be a workshop, could be basically any social situation but within the context of the fact that what's bringing you together is the fact that you are interested in or actively involved in some kind of polyamorous or non-monogamous relationship dynamic right.

Jase: What we are realizing is both from seeing other people do this and remembering back to doing it ourselves is that there's not a lot of social situations that are similar to these kinds of meet ups, unless you're going to other similar things. Like if you're going to a sex positive discussion group, then you go to a polyamory discussion group. There's probably going to be a lot of overlap in what's expected of people, how people behave things like that.

You might have more of a sense of that but if that's not something you are already involved with, there is a lot of stuff that-- It's funny coming up with this list, was a little bit difficult and I definitely asked around to a lot of other people because it becomes so second nature after a while but remembering back to being like, "Gosh, this was all new and different at one point." We wanted to put this together, specifically for those of you who do want to start going to these events and we want you to be invited back to these events.

We want people to be excited for you to come to these events. This list is not a comprehensive list, by any stretch. We want to include some guidelines to make it, so that at your first meet up you can: number one, don't fuck up, number two, don't freak out and number three have a good time.

Dedeker: That's good rules for life in general really; don't fuck up, don't freak out, have a good time, easy done.

Jase: Yes, so those are the categories that we have divided things into here. These will apply, like I was saying, whether it's a polyamory meetup or a sex positive meetup, even if you go to play parties or something more sexual. A lot of these principles and rules still apply because even though polyamory is not specifically about sex or about kink or about swinging or any of those things, those communities tend to have a lot of overlap in their rules and social norms, specifically as a way to help keep people comfortable and keep people safe.

Dedeker: I was just going to mention that these communities often tend to be a little bit closed or semi-closed, a little bit protective for very good reasons. First of all, the fact that not everyone who's going to a polyamory meetup, may be able to be out in their normal lives about what's going on. Just the fact that they're coming in the first place is quite vulnerable.

On top of that, especially if it's a processing group or a discussion group, people are sharing very vulnerable things. Ultimately, the thing is people come to a meet up and the most important thing that they want to feel, is safe. More than they want to feel accepted or feel like they're able to flirt or to make friends or to get knowledge or whatever, people want to feel safe, first and foremost. If they don't feel safe, then they're not going to be able to get any of the other wonderful things that you can get from going to a meet up or connecting to a community.

We've definitely seen a lot of horror stories, we've seen a lot of people unfortunately have to be disinvited from processing groups or have to be kind of "Taken care of." That sounds really dark, not like put them in Simon shoes or anything like that.

Jase: They have to be disappeared.

Dedeker: As in like, "We got to go, send the admin of the group, to go talk to this person and tell them to like not do this behavior or ask them to not come back again." Obviously, that's not fun for anybody because especially sometimes for people like a Meetup or a discussion group is the only community that they can turn to or it's the only source of other like minded people that they can talk to.

Unfortunately, if someone makes a mistake or they ignore some particular etiquette unintentionally or intentionally, make someone feel unsafe. Then suddenly, they are cut off from what could be there only source of community, which is sad for everyone. That's why it's time for finishing school, so kids get out your books, put on your head; it's time for polyamory finishing school.

Jase: I feel music should have kicked on right there.

Dedeker: We need some kind of like harpsichord music, what's like princess music.

Jase: No, definitely something by Paco Bell or Grams, something like a waltz maybe with a harpsichord in there. A nice small chamber orchestra, anyway just imagine that's happening right now.

Dedeker: Earlier, when we listed those three things: don't fuck up, don't freak out, have a good time, that's actually our categories for today. We're going to be tackling the category of don't fuck up and a nicer way of saying don't fuck up is care for others around you.

Jase: Like we're saying about the importance of making sure that other people feel like you're safe and that you're someone that they want to spend time with, this is what that is, is don't fuck up, don't get yourself disinvited from an event or make people uncomfortable, so they stay away from you or don't invite you to the other after parties or whatever, I don't know what it is. This is the don't fuck up category.

For some of you listening, some may be really basic while others may be surprising or, "Oh, you know what, that makes a lot of sense. I'd never thought of it." Or for you this could all be new. Depends where you are in this community, how much you've interacted with it. We're going to get on, going on down the road, I lost it there.

Dedeker: You lost the train, what we do in finishing school, you'd like-- I don't know what you do in fishing school, you'd like put on your high heels and get on down to the tea Party or something. I'm going to drop it and just actually jump into it.

Jase: Drop it like it's hot.

Dedeker: When you go to a polyamory Meetup or a sex positive Meetup or something like that, especially if you're brand new. It may be the first time that you're around people who are polyamorous, it may be the first time that you're around people who are openly of a variety of different sexualities; maybe openly pansexual or asexual or demisexual or anything like that.

Maybe the first time that you're around people of a variety of gender identities, and so because of that it's very important to be mindful of those identities and to be as respectful as possible. For instance, things like people's pronouns. Some polyamory Meetups that I've been to, when everyone goes around and introduces themselves, they clarify which pronouns they use, not every Meetup does that.

Jase: Even if they do, if you're at a Meet up with like 50 people, I often I'm like, "Wait, what-- I’m not going to remember anyone's names or pronoun." This will probably come up in conversations.

Dedeker: If you find yourself in a situation, where you missed gender someone or use the wrong pronoun and they correct you on it. It is good etiquette to apologize but you also don't need to make a big deal out of it. Often the case of this-- This is the best metaphor that was explained to me is that when someone corrects you on something like this, whether it's a pronoun thing or a language thing or whatever, think of it like a friend telling you, "Hey you have a little bit of spinach on your teeth."

The same way you be like, “Oh, thank you and I'll go take care of it." You're diligent, you don't make it into a huge deal and you also don't start argue with your friend, "Hey, no, I don't have spinach on my teeth, you're lying." Well, that's how people respond to being corrected on language sometimes.

Jase: I suppose so, yes. This is a big one that we're already taking for granted on this episode that you respect the fact that people might use pronouns for themselves; that you might not have picked for them and that might be a new thing for you. Probably, for a lot of our listeners that's not that new a concept. It's just to keep that in mind that-- the other thing, we've had a number of guests on the show, who've said essentially something to the same extent but just like, "If you're someone who uses especially a non-traditional pronoun, people are going to fuck it up."

That is a part of your life, unfortunately. As someone else to be respectful of that do your best to remember what pronouns they prefer to be used for them. If you mess it up, it's just like, "I'm so sorry." Then correct yourself, that's it, doesn't have to be any more discussion than that.

Dedeker: Also, if you're not clear, it is okay to ask, in certain situations, if you can do it in, again, in a not big deal kind of way. Often, you'll find people will appreciate being asked in the first place.

Jase: I will say, that the way to ask that is to say, something along the lines of what are your pronouns? What pronouns do you use? Rather than saying, like so are you like a sheer, here, there--

Dedeker: Just made my stomach turn.

Jase: Exactly, so just ask, "What are the pronouns that you use?" Next, this one is we're saying people may come at you with-- no come at you-- They may respond, when you're talking with them with all sorts of labels about their sexuality, about their gender, about their types of relationships things like that.

Dedeker: Well, I found some Meetups again, with the introductions thing. Sometimes, if it's a Meet up that does introductions, people will launch into their whole I'm bisexual or I'm pansexual, I have two partners, I have a primary partner or I just open about my relationship, sometimes people will give a little bit of history.

Jase: I want to say first, if this is a community that's new to you, some of these terms you're going to like, "What?" Like, "I've never heard of that." The good news is that as you become more familiar with the terms, they become easier to figure out that we've had times where someone's talked to us about this semi porous polyfidelitous comment that they live on. Those are words that none of us had ever heard in that sequence together but because we're familiar enough with these terms, we're like, "I have maybe a rough idea of what that means but--"

This is very important and this is the second rule here, is don't assume that just based on the label that someone gives to describe themselves, that you understand what that means because for example, could be something as simple as saying, "I'm polyamorous." That might mean something very different to you, than it does to me, than it does to Yolanda or whoever it is. We all might have a very different meaning for that or it might be similar.

We don't know until we have more of that conversation and the same goes for even something that you might think is more-- like should be a universal meaning, like something like bisexual. You might think, bisexual, I know what that means; you have sex with men and women. That might not actually be what that means for that person, they might have a different relationship to different genders, they might actually not think of things in a gender binary but don't like to use the term pansexual, they prefer bisexual because it's more understood.

There's a lot of nuance that could be going on there and so this rule is to just not assume. If someone says that they're hierarchical or non-hierarchical or non-monogamous or open or bisexual or any of those things, don't assume that you know exactly what that means.

Dedeker: Don't assume that based on a person's relationship status orientation that you can tell whether or not they're available or not. I've seen how it happen a lot.

Jase: We're going to get to that even more a little bit later in this too, but yes that's a good one. [laughs]

Dedeker: Related to that, if you are socializing with someone, it's great to ask specifically, "How would you describe your relationship orientation or your style like?" To give a more in-depth description of what it is that they value, what it is that they actually practice? Again, bearing in mind that we have a limited number of words in the English language in general, not everyone defines the same word, the same label, the same way. It's okay to be curious about it and to ask for clarification.

Jase: Yes, I didn't want to say too, I really like the wording of this particular question of just, conversationally, like how would you describe your whatever it is, your relationship, your orientation, your identity whatever because it's not saying, "What are you or what do you do?" It's not trying to get them to put a label on themselves. You're just saying, "How would you describe it?" Which really just means, please describe it to me, I want to know. It asks it in this way of saying, "I respect the way that you choose to describe yourself and that's what I want to know. How would you describe your ex?" I really like the wording of that question.

Dedeker: Along the same lines, asking someone-- It's better to ask more open-ended questions like that-- like how would you describe or things like that. Rather than saying, things like, "Do you have a primary partner? Do you have a secondary partner? How many partners do you have?" I can't even tell you the number of times I've gotten that, in professional interviews, also. As I said, along the same line, if you want to ask say, "Well, what does your relationship landscape look like?" Possibly, I don't know, to be totally honest I'm a little bit torn about the idea of being so upfront and asking someone what their dating situation is.

Jase: Well, this definitely depends on context. If it's just like, "Hey, my name's Jase, what's your relationship landscape look like?" It's because I want to trim your hedges.

Dedeker: Oh dear.

Jase: Sort of like landscaping.

Dedeker: I see, like you want to put down some sword, if you know what I mean.

Jase: Do you have a landscaper at the moment? I don't know, anyway bad metaphor. More after you've asked the question, how would you describe your situation and they say, "Oh, I'm non-hierarchical, demisexual, polyamorous, sapiosexual." You're like, "Okay, cool."Maybe you talk more about what all those things mean to them and then maybe during that conversation you could say, "Oh, so what's your relationship landscape look like? How long have you been doing this?" Put it in with some other questions, rather than just like, "Hey, I just met you. How many partners do you have?"

Dedeker: It's also--I don't know, I'll be totally honest, I'm coming down on more the side of if it's important for you to know, this person will tell you.

Jase: That's a good point too.

Dedeker: Anyway, but if it come just-- The important takeaway is avoid the questions of specifically like do you have a primary or do you have a unicorn or what's your number-- what's your exact number of partners? You need to report it to the polling report of directors. Moving on, another tip is if you brought someone with you, if you brought a friend with you to a Meet up, if you brought a partner with you to a Meet up, if you brought multiple partners to a Meet up, always make sure to have some periodic check ins.

Even if it's just a simple, just a potluck and hanging out and having a discussion, just make sure that they want to continue, that they still want to be there, especially if you're in a context where there is any physical contact, if it is. If it happens to be a Meet up that has a cuddle puddle or if there's any sexual or nudity component to the Meet up.

Again, this is not every polyamory meetup that meets but definitely a lot of sex positive Meetups will. Always have check-ins with the person that you brought, to make sure that they're still there, they're still having a good time, they're still feeling comfortable. Jase and I come up with secret signals, that's a great thing to do.

Jase: I was going to bring that up; it's worth talking about just having like a little bit of a pre-talk about what your signals are or possibly a code word or something like that. It could be anything; your code word is that you're going to say that you just have to respond to a text from your grandma or something. You could be in a conversation and go, "Oh, my phone buzzed." Then, you can say to your friend or your partner, "I have to go respond to a text to my grandma."

They know, oh shit that's-- I'm having a really bad time, I need to get out of here codeword. Or I just need a moment code word or it could be, "Hey, I need you to step outside with me and like talk with me and help me through this." You can come up with things. We've done like a number system before, where you can just check in, and hold up a number of fingers for how you're doing and it's like—

You can number it however you want like, three's like I'm having a great time, two’s like I'm all right I can stay if you want to stay and one is like please get me the F out of here. You can come up with your own system but I definitely found it such a relief having that in place beforehand, even if you don't have to use it because then you know that they're not wanting to and you're missing it. It takes a lot of anxiety off, even if you're not using it because you know it's there.

Dedeker: The next one-- I feel like this one could be an entire episode honestly, but these things come up a lot in discussion groups or processing groups where-- maybe more in discussion groups and processing groups, where maybe someone says to you that they were hurt by something that you said. Maybe it was intentional or was unintentional, maybe it could have been any number of these things that we're telling you to not fuck up on, maybe actually fucked up on, all of us have in the past and so maybe somebody got hurt.

The best rule of thumb especially if this is your first visit to a meet up is to focus on acknowledging the hurt and apologizing and making it better before you rush in to defend yourself.

Jase: Can I clarify real quick about making it better, it is just that making it better, I would exercise some caution in that phrasing just because what I see is; someone will say something, someone else will be hurt by it and they'll express that. Then, the first person says, "Well, what I actually meant by that was this."

They think they're fixing it, when the way that feels to the person who was hurt, is that either that you're just trying to explain it away, you're defending yourself or you might actually be saying the same thing or more of the same thing that offended them in the first place without even realizing it because maybe you haven't spent the time getting to the bottom of what it is that really affected them.

Just don't, apologize and say, "I really had no idea, that wasn't my intention. I'm so sorry if you want to talk about it more, I'm open to that but you don't have to." Right of that; don't try to fix it in the way of like explaining it.

Dedeker: If the situation is such that you feel it was just so ridiculous that this person got hurt and you're expected to apologize and there's no way you can drive with that. This group may not just align with your values. That may be an indicator that -- I would say still apologize and don't try to make yourself right or turn it into a big thing, but that may be an indicator of like, "Okay, I feel a particular way about certain issues, and this group seems to value different things, so maybe this is just not the group for me." That's okay.

Jase: Honestly, if your decision is, "Okay, this isn't a group that I want to be a part of." Leaving that group by still doing the right thing and apologizing and being polite about it and not being defensive about it, is still going to work out better for you. There's no scenario where being defensive or trying to explain yourself will work out to anyone's benefit, so just don't.

Dedeker: We're going to get into a little bit of a subcategory here, which is physical contact. Now, of course, there's so many resources on the Internet for guidelines and etiquette for specifically like play spaces, cuddle spaces, sex parties, things that are definitely very focused on we're going to be contacting each other physically and probably sexually.

We're not going to go into a whole comprehensive list because there's definitely a lot of resources out there about that. We're just going to cover just a couple simple ones that you may come up against, when you're going to a meet up. The first one is before any kind of touch, ask for consent that means a hug, that means even casually touching someone's arm or touching someone's back, the best rule of thumb is to avoid it or ask at the very least.

I found that so many times when I ask someone if I could give them a hug, they give me so many points for asking in the first place. It just shows you're savvy, you get it, you're a safe person to be around, you're not going to violate anyone's consent intentionally or unintentionally. It's a good easy way to just demonstrate that like you're cool.

Jase: That's a huge one-- is asking before going in for a hug or handshake or anything like that, just saying, "Would you like to shake hands or hug?" Just asking the question before going in for it, just wins you so many points because people are like, "Oh cool, this person gets it." Especially, if they know that you're new, they might be like, "Oh dear--"

I've had other experiences with new people to this, who felt like, "Everyone's just down, to get down here and so I don't need to ask these things." In fact you have to ask for more because there is a lot of overlap like I was saying before between play parties or like kink fetish events, as well as polyamory events or other sex positive events because a lot of the people crossover between those communities.

Some events will incorporate multiple sides of that like a lot of kink events, will have a lot of polyamorous people at it because there's overlap in those communities, where a polyamorous event, might have a lot of people who are in the kink scene. There's going to be a lot of overlap, so a lot of these things apply across those but in all of those communities things like this will take you very far, just asking.

If you do, just not even thinking and like you put your hand on someone's shoulder or the back or something and you realize it go, "I'm so sorry, is that okay or would you rather that I didn't?" If they say, "No." Say, "Thank you for letting me know, so sorry." Or if you say, "Would you like to have a hug?" They say, "Actually, I'd rather not be touched right now."

Say, "Thank you, I really appreciate that you know that about yourself." Make it into a compliment about them because ultimately it is. It is scary to say no to somebody and we should be praised for that rather than like, "Oh gosh, I’m sorry." Then they feel bad because they hurt you for trying to just take care of themselves.

The next one I want to talk about here, in a related way, is that some polyamorous events might be more of a social mixer sort of thing, where it's still in a public space like a bar or something but people might be making out or they might be talking sexy with each other or something like that or it might be an event that does have like a clothing optional area and is more of like a sex positive event or maybe has naked cuddling or just cuddling in general.

Dedeker: Usually-- just to give people a sense of how this actually manifests, most of the meet ups have been, like if it's at somebody's house and they have a hot tub, then hot tub's clothing optional, we're going to have a discussion group first where you must have your clothing on, essentially. That's how it seems to manifest in a lot of spaces.

Jase: The rule here is that just because something may be allowed at an event and maybe you're doing something with someone at the event there, who's into it and you're both consenting adults and you're into it, keep in mind that you're in a social situation, you're in a group. Just because the two of you might be enjoying what you're doing, someone else might not be okay with that.

It's important to realize whether there may be established spaces for this, if it's any kind of sexual contact especially or nudity, someone may be very uncomfortable just that you're standing there next to them in the kitchen naked because there's a clothing optional pool outside. Being respectful of those things and just being aware that just because something's okay in general or okay in one place doesn't mean everyone's going to be fine with it.

Another example of this is, if you are someone who's more in the kink scene and maybe you and a partner or someone you've just met, you found out you have similar BDSM roles that you play, might talk to each other using certain language that to another person would be very offensive but you two it's not. This could be-- this is a whole range of things, it could be racial slurs, it could be just master-slave sort of talk, it could be just calling each other names or things that in a normal situation would be very offensive but for you this is hot, it's part of your play.

To the person standing a few feet away, who can hear this, could be really upset by hearing you do this. Just be aware of the situation and not assume that just because you've met someone who's into this, means everyone there is okay and comfortable with it. You might think you had a great night and really connected with someone and then you might be asked not to come back because someone else was made really uncomfortable by you.

Dedeker: Yes, just the main thing to bear in mind but consent becomes this bigger thing when there's people around you even if you're not touching them. They still need to be consenting to be around your sexual activity or nudity or whatever.

Jase: Yes, totally.

Dedeker: We just finished our first, what is it, our first semester in Poly finishing school, is the don't fuck up semester. I don't know how they break up--

Jase: Does the finishing school have semesters? Yes, I don't know.

Dedeker: I don't know how finishing school breaks up their school year or even how long you're supposed to go. Anyway we're going to move on to our next semester here which is don't freak out, which is another way of saying take care of yourself when you go to a Meet up.

Jase: These are going to be a little more things to help you feel good while you're at an event and to get along well with any partners that you might bring or things like that. Let's get into it. Number one here is, if you're going to go to a polyamory event with a partner, again especially if you're both new to this but I would say, just any time this is a good one, is to check in with them before the event and to find out how they would like you to refer to them.

Do you want to be called partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, person I'm dating or just your name. It's good to have this conversation beforehand because you don't want someone's feelings to be hurt because maybe you go in and say-- Maybe you've just started dating recently and you go in and say, “This is my boyfriend, Jim Parsons. He was just in an audio book for Marlon Brando."

You're introducing him and then later, he's like, "Whoa, boyfriend, jeez. I feel like you're claiming me here. I'm not really cool with that." Or imagine another scenario where you go in and you say, “This is Jim." You don't give a label and then later he's like, "What? You weren't proud of being my boyfriend; you wouldn't want to just use that word." It's better to clarify beforehand.

Dedeker: Along those lines if someone asks you about your partner or your friend or whoever it is that you brought. Maybe they're asking, "What relationship landscape do they have? Or are they available? Or are you okay if I go flirt with them or whatever, the best response is to say, "You can go ask them." You don't have to be a dick about it. You can just be like, "I think it's probably best if you just go, talk to her about it, " or "Go, ask him about it."

Rather than trying to speak for your partner whether it's, "Yes, totally go flirt with them, " when they're like, "Gosh this person is totally not my type at all. Why would you do that to me?" Or if you're like, "No, you can't go talk to them," which is just weird and controlling. The best thing is just direct people to go talk to that person face to face.

Jase: I will say that even not for something as direct as that, but even just generally asking opinions or how people think about things. Say someone's talking to you about your experience with non-monogamy or what brought you to it so far and they'll say, "What about your partner? What's their experience with it?" You'll say, "You know, you should probably talk to them about it. I think and understand how it is, but it probably better to hear it straight from them instead of from me."

I will say this is something that I've actually gotten, people, telling me later on that I did that and that it was something that they really appreciated. It was actually not even about partners specifically but about Emily and Dedeker when we were at events talking about polyamory stuff as multiamory and that people might ask questions about like, "What about them? What are these things for them?" I would say, "You should probably go ask them about that, I'm sure they'll be happy to tell you."

Then I've got feedback from someone else later they're like, "When you did that I was like, Wow, that's such a cool thing that you didn't try to speak for them." This will also kind of like asking for consent in other things really shows that you get the fact that even though you might be in a relationship with someone, you don't speak for them. They are their own individual person with their own thoughts and feelings.

Dedeker: Definitely. To piggyback of that, if you run into a couple or someone who says they're a couple, whatever that means, if it's a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, life partner, roommates even, don't assume that a couple can speak for each other. Also, same thing if you're half of a couple don't assume that you can speak for your partner like we were just saying. Evaluate what each partner says to you separately.

I feel like what I hear happened the most often, like the typical, this is going to sound really negative, but I feel like it's the typical unicorn hunter pick-up line is for the guy to go up to a lady and be like, "Hey, my wife thinks you're really hot." Maybe that's true, maybe the wife has expressed, "I think this person's really hot and I feel too scared to go up and talk to them so why don't you go and talk to them?" That's great, sure, maybe a little bit funnier whatever, but always take it with a grain of salt. Talk to people directly. Always verify things directly. Don't assume that two people are on the same page just because they happen to be in a relationship together because a lot of relationships is not being on the same page I found.

Jase: I want to say that I've actually had personal experience with this. Not even with something as major as like someone really misrepresenting their partner like saying that they are polyamorous and then you find out later actually the other partner wasn't quite so okay with that. Even just on a smaller scale, just about if I'm hanging out with a couple in terms of what we want to do tonight. Whether that's do we want to all make out or if that's like do we want to hang out later, go to another place or do we just want to go home and go to bad.

Whatever it is that I've definitely made the mistake of one part of that couple would say something and the other part of that couple would say something and in my head I was putting those together into one message and only later realizing that I'd completely missed what one person was trying to say because I was assuming that what both of them were saying were coming from the same mind instead of going, "Wait a minute, I'm getting different signals from each of these instead of thinking that, I heard this, but then I heard this from the other person so they must have changed their mind." Does that make sense?

I feel that's kind of difficult to explain, but don't assume that couples have a hive mind with each other because they don't.

Dedeker: Yes, that makes sense. As far as social interaction goes, I think all of us can take ownership of a little bit of social awkwardness to any extent. Some of us are extremely socially awkward, some of us are just a little bit socially awkward, but everyone has a tiny little bit of social awkwardness. That weird anxiety that comes up of meeting new people, especially if this is your first time going to any kind of meet up like this and not knowing what to expect.

Again, it can be hard to figure out what's the social script. What do we talk about at their polyamory meetup? Do we only talk about polyamory? Do we only talk about our relationship landscapes or orientation or whatever? What else do we talk about? We can do an entire episode on how to have conversations with people, that's another thing. There's actually a lot of good resources out there.

Jase: There's also a lot of bad resources.

Dedeker: There are some bad resources, but there's also some good resources for if you are the kind of person who has trouble striking up a conversation in social situations. Generally, some things to avoid, a good strategy is just to avoid complimenting people on their physical appearance. Just to avoid making people uncomfortable. You may be thinking that maybe you have no intention of being sexual and no intention of being creepy, no intention of flirting and you just want to compliment someone on how good that jacket looks on them, but to that person they feel like, especially if they've been getting that all day, every day from the men that they work with or whatever, that it may get received in a way that you didn't intend.

It's best to just avoid that in a meetup situation. There's plenty of opportunities to do that if you get to know someone a little bit better or as you get more intimate with someone, but it's just a good rule of thumb to avoid giving an impression that you're creepy, basically.

Jase: I feel like I have a slightly different opinion about that or I would say the complement of like, "That's a really cool jacket," actually is a good alternative.

Dedeker: Really?

Jase: What I think what really should be avoided all the time is just like, "You're so cute or you're so pretty."

Dedeker: Or you're so beautiful. That makes sense.

Jase: "Hey handsome."

Dedeker: If you're like, "Those are cool earrings," versus like, "You've got a really pretty jawline."

Jase: [laughs] Right. I originally wanted to say if it's specific about a certain thing like, "Those are really cool boots that you have, " or, "Those are neat shoes," or "I love the color of your hat," whatever it is, but things like eyes and smiles, no, don't. Just don't because it's too cliché. There's this association with this old-school sort of pick up-iness to it and it's just not a good look to quote the McElroy brothers It's just not a good look. Just don't do it. Find better things to talk about. You're better than that. Be better.

Dedeker: Compliment them on something particularly moving that they said during the discussion because that also demonstrates that you're actually freaking listening and paying attention.

Jase: That is actually a great conversation starter.

Dedeker: Definitely.

Jase: To say, "You mentioned thing during the discussion," and go from there. On the other side in terms of taking care of yourself something that I realized was really important and I've talked with a few people about this actually. This is a pretty big one, and this is to be gentle with yourself and prepare to be challenged. This has a lot of different meanings, but basically, especially when you're new to this community, new to a sex-positive community, but even just newly exploring non-monogamy yourself, you almost certainly will come up against some things that you might have strong reactions to.

This could be something like the first time seeing your partner flirting with somebody else or something like that could be you might have a very visceral reaction to that or something that actually comes up. I've seen is at a polyamory meetup because they tend to be very open and accepting and kink-friendly and stuff like that.

You might be doing introductions going around, and someone might say, "This is my slave. I speak for her. You can't speak to her without my permission," because that's their role that they have and for them, that might be totally cool and fun. It probably is. That's something that they enjoy doing it so much that they want to speak about it publicly in this group. It's very possible that for you that could actually make you very upset to hear it, because that might activate something for you that is troubling or upsetting.

It could be someone where they refer to each other as like daddy and little girl or something and that, for you, could be really upsetting and could activate something for you. Just come and go in and be aware those things might happen and to just be gentle with yourself and respect that other people's worldviews might be different from yours.

Dedeker: That kind of stuff, that might be something that's more likely to come up at something like a munch for instance. For those of you that don't know a munch being on fetlife they have social meetups that may be sexual or non-sexual in nature that are referred to as munches.

Jase: Basically, for the community, it's like a non-sexual social event. It's generally referred to as a munch.

Dedeker: I feel like those are the events where you may hear people being very open about like, “This is my daddy, or this is my little girl or this is my puppy or whatever.”

Jase: I'm actually bringing this up though because I've seen this happen at polyamory events. I've talked to people who've been upset hearing it. Fortunately, in this instance they were able to then reflect on it afterward and go on, since then they're more comfortable understanding that different people have different worldviews and approach that differently. That very first time being confronted with it, especially you think you're going to a polyamory meetup to discuss relationships, I don't want you to be blindsided by that, that's why I bring it up. It could look a number of different ways, but just be aware of that.

Dedeker: Again, if something uncomfortable arises, maybe it is the first time that you're seeing your partner flirt with someone else, if you've brought a partner to a mixer and you're seeing that or your ex-partner walks into the polyamory meetup. I've definitely had a lot of friends and clients who experience that. It's totally okay to take care of yourself. It's okay to just take a break, excuse yourself, go get some air, go to the bathroom, go somewhere where you can reset rather than just trying to grit your teeth and make it through this meet up and just trying to keep it together or maybe you don't keep it together and then there's a big dramatic falling out at the meet up.

If you need to step out, or if you need straight up leave, that's fine too. You don't need to beat yourself up, you don't need to explain yourself to anybody. It's okay, to totally take care of yourself in a situation like this.

Jase: Yes, with that shall we move on to--

Dedeker: We're done with second semester?

Jase: We’re done with second semester.

Dedeker: Okay, I guess it’s trimester, yes.

Jase: Final trimester of finishing school and this trimester is all about having fun, having party times. Well, okay, having fun. Whatever fun looks like for you.

Dedeker: When we go through this big list of "don't do that, don't do this use the shrimp fork not the salad fork." You can get really caught up in like, “Gosh, I'm scared. I'm going to trot on somebody's toes or have a bad time or someone's going to kick me out or whatever.” Ultimately, you go to these events to have fun and to connect with people, to have a good time, to have a positive time rather than a negative time.

Jase: I think that going along with that, that really if you go in with a mindset of I want to learn about this community and find out how I might be able to fit into this community, how I might be able to be a benefit to this community rather than going in saying, "What can I get out of this?" Just starting from that mindset is going to get you a long way and will probably end up achieving what following all of these rules would as well. Our hope is just to make that transition a little bit easier here.

In the spirit of that, if you go into any kind of a polyamory, especially if it's more of a social thing and not just a discussion group, regardless, is to go in with the intention of making friends and not finding dates. The funny thing about this one is that going in with the intention of just, "I want to meet people who do this, I want to hear what their stories are, I want to know what their deal is, find out what they're into." Making those friends will end up getting you more dates and relationships, not only in the long run, probably even in the short term right then, than going in seeking dates.

I can't stress enough how important that is of just going in to meet people and make friends because it might not even be someone or someones, it might not even be all these people at the meetup group that you end up dating, but it could be their friends that they say, “You're also into you know air hockey, I have a friend who's also polyamorous who loves their hockey, they're in a competitive league, you should talk to them about joining their competitive air hockey league” I don’t know where I came up with that example. Those exist, and they must, right?

Dedeker: They have to. I'm sure they do.

Jase: They have to.

Dedeker: I'm sure, yes.

Jase: All right, competitive Air Hockey Leagues. Just going and making friends is going to make it much more likely that people are excited for you to come back to this, they're like, “That's Dedeker, she's so cool. She talked with all of us, she was really nice.” People who didn't meet you will hear, “Yes, she was really cool, we just talked and it wasn't weird at all, she wasn't trying to hit on me.” You know what I mean? That this, not only in the short term, but also the long term, is really going to serve you well.

Dedeker: I know that you as an adult, it's hard to make friends. I totally get it. You don't need to put a bunch of pressure on yourself of like, "I got to make a friend tonight." It just means something simple like talk to people that you're not attracted to or avoid talking only to people that you're attracted to and are hoping to sleep with or go on a date with.

Talk to people who are of the gender expression or identity that you are not normally attracted to. As in, if you are heterosexual, if you're a heterosexual man, talk to other heterosexual men or not heterosexual, just talk to other men. Don't just go talk to all the ladies and avoid all the guys. Talk to people that are older than you think that you would normally make friends with or even date, or younger or whatever you know. Just go in, you got nothing to lose really if you're already dedicating your time to being at this meet up, that's your evening. Just enjoy it for what it's worth.

Like Jase says, it is going to work out better for you in the long run for being able to connect to community rather than treating it like a meat market essentially. Which is often how we see people get asked to not come back to a meet up.

Jase: Yes, and like Dedeker is saying, it's not like you have to go in with this pressure to make best friends or people you're going to hang out with after this, but just be polite. Make friendly people, you don't even have to put the pressure on of like making, “Oh my gosh they have to become my friend outside of this.” Just be nice to people, have conversations with people and you're going to have a way better time.

I definitely had a period of time where I went to any kind of polyamory event being like, "I really hope I find someone to date or to sleep with or to express interest in me," or something. As soon as I was able to make that switch to just being like, "You know." Especially, when I was going to an event by myself, not with partners, being able to go to that and say, "Whatever, I'm just here to talk to people. Maybe I'll start a little game for myself, like I want to hear five different people's Polly origin stories during the night." Just something to give you something to keep you occupied. I've had so much more fun and made so many cool connections and made really good friends at events like that, that I wouldn't have made if I was going in just looking for dates.

Dedeker: As far as having those conversations with people, again, it doesn't have to be all about their relationship background or history, or origin story just ask open-ended questions show interest. Talk about maybe the things they brought up during the discussion group. These are basics of just being a good conversationalist essentially.

This is going to lead to the next one, that if you're introducing someone, as in maybe you brought a partner, you brought a friend and you're bringing them into the conversation or you're introducing them to someone else, open up with saying, something awesome about them. As in not going, "This is Jase, he's a VFX artist or a podcaster," or, "This is Jase he's single." Or say, "This is Jase, now that I'm on the spot, I can't think of anything awesome about Jase."

Jase: Jeez, terrible.

Dedeker: "This is Jase, he's also in the middle of doing Inktober right now." This is in the future when it's October again and you're doing Inktober again. Recently, I introduced to people where I was like, “This is my friend so and so, they're thinking about opening a restaurant soon. Just having an awesome thing to say, that's a great way to kick start the conversation, to help your friend immediately feel welcome and there's something to say. That they're not just going to be like the wallflower in this conversation. Just create some good vibes.

Jase: Totally. I also want to say, about the open-ended questions thing is that it's better to ask an open question like the ones we mentioned earlier, like if you do want to talk about polyamory, how would you describe your relationship orientation or something like that. Rather than guessing for them in asking the question. Does that makes sense? Like going in and being like, "So, I saw you talking to these people, are you polyamorous?" Or like, "So you're gay too?" Instead, asking the questions, rather than starting with an assumption, you're going to get more interesting answers that way.

Dedeker: Yes, definitely. Along that same line, if you're going to some community meetup and you're just learning about non-monogamy or polyamory or trying to figure out is this right for you, get multiple opinions from multiple people on the different ways that people do it. Make your own decisions about that. Every time I go to a discussion group, it always just amazes me like, “Wow, people do this so many different ways.” As soon as I think that I've seen everything, someone shows up and it's like, “Wow, I've never seen that before, that's crazy. That's awesome and unique and beautiful and I love it.”

There's people doing it all kinds of ways. Not all of them are right, not all of them are healthy, not all of them are going to jive with you, but some of them may. Again, whatever anybody says to you, if anybody is trying to insist that the way they do their relationship is the right way, take that with a grain of salt.

Again, that's a good game to have at a polyamory meetup, like you were saying about getting everyone's origin story or just kind of see how many different stories can I get from people about what their relationship landscape is or about what their practice of polyamory or non-monogamy is. From there, you can see what seems cool, what seems not cool, who seems to struggle with it, who seems to really enjoy it. You just continue to deepen your education which is going to help you have a better sense of what are the options are available to you moving forward.

Jase: Help you explore and decide on your own values and your own boundaries and things like that. Say that you're someone who, maybe you're here listening to our podcast today because you had never heard of polyamory before, maybe you were sort of familiar with it, but you met someone you liked and they are polyamorous and you said, "Okay, I'm going to give this a try because I want to date this person." They said, "You should listen to Multiamory and then come to a discussion group with me."

Then in that case, it's a great of example of, just because this person you're dating has been polyamorous before they met you, doesn't mean that they know everything about it. It doesn't mean that they do everything about it perfectly. It just means it's something they've decided they want to keep pursuing. It's like imagining that you start dating someone in your monogamous life and assuming that everything that they say about how dating should go is the way that it goes.

That would be an absurd thing to think. I think people will often do this with polyamory. I've definitely dated people who are new to it where they ask me a lot of questions as if I have the definitive answer to it, as if there's kind of one set way that works. The truth is there's not, I'm always learning, and that's what we talk about on this show. Finally, if I can bring it home here.

Dedeker: Do it.

Jase: Our last one is, if you're going to an event that has drinking at it and you're someone who drinks alcohol, just keep it to a minimum. If you need to find a way to measure that, to keep yourself to a minimum, do it. Don't just trust that you're not going to drink too much. I understand that drinking can help with social lubrication, can make you less anxious to talk to people, I get it. I definitely get that if I'm going to be in a social situation, I'd like to be drinking, that definitely helps me deal with it.

I've seen so many people, so many good friends of mine who will be at some kind of an event, they'll have a couple of drinks early in the night and they'll be getting along great and they'll be like, "Wow, this event is awesome. People are really liking me. I've connected with all these people. This person asked me to go do this event that they do with this other social group." All this stuff. Then another couple of hours of the event go by and they end drinking too much, either becoming too pushy or just being a little too sloppy or too loud or too vulgar or something.

Then, later in that week, it's the awkward, the other person comes up with this excuse to uninvite them to the event that they asked them to come to. Literally, this is true story that I've seen many times. This isn't just like a one-off story. Especially when you feel like, "I'm doing great." Don't celebrate that with more drinks. Just keep it to a minimum. That's my story.

Dedeker: Yes.