Dating a lot kind of comes with the turf when you’re poly. At least, for me it does. Putting yourself out there like that just ends up involving a lot of date attempts —some are great and go on for hours, the chemistry is there and you end up making out furiously in an alley. Others will be unbearable and you can’t get out of there fast enough, looking for any excuse to go. Some will fall somewhere in between, not being very good or bad, and it’ll take you a few dates to really be sure if you’re into the person you’re sharing pints with. But how do you know that the person you’re sitting across with is comfortable and into the fact that you date multiple people at the same time? And how do you figure out who to date?
When I first opened up my relationship, I didn’t expand my horizons too far. I (like everyone) had always had my extra-relationship crushes, and now had the option to act on them—admit them to myself, to my partner and then maybe make out with some beautiful people. It was like being a kid in a candy store: I had admired and lusted after people for weeks/months/years, and now could do something about it! For a few months, when I was exploring the turf of dating new folks, that’s all I needed. It was easy, because I knew these people already. There weren’t any gigantic surprises—I knew their middle names, they knew what foods I hated. Simple.
But after a while, I realized that just maybe dating only friends or people I already knew wasn’t the best idea. In any relationship there’s the possibility that things can go sour, and if I kept it within my friend circle, I’d be losing a relationship and a pal, which would be doubly shit. So I did what many single and poly people before me have done: I took to the big, wild internet. Namely, OKCupid. Friends monogamous and otherwise swore by it. I had never done the internet dating thing; there had never been a need. One wintry day, I took the plunge.
It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Remember those quizzes in the back of YM, CosmoGirl and Seventeen? It was a lot like that. I answered a whole whackload of questions—some intimate, some ridiculous—posted a picture or two, word-vomited all over a profile and BAM! Done. My friend (who I was dating at the time) warned me that I might fall down the rabbit hole of OKC. He was right. 4 hours later, the snow had stopped falling and it was dark out. I had stopped answering questions, and the messages started appearing.
Thus started the great strangers dating train. The convenient thing about online dating and the way that OKCupid is organized is that you’ll know more or less immediately if someone is entirely, genuinely, absolutely not right for you. Profile questions about homophobia, racism, sexism, and other gigantic red flags make it easy to see if your politics and views are completely incompatible with someone else’s. I appreciate this. It takes that guessing game out of meeting someone at a bar, having an interesting conversation with them only to find out that they are harbouring some deep-seated issues about ladies (which is never convenient, as I am, in fact, a lady).
I read a few messages and responded to the ones that interested me. I also sought out some cute profiles and did some messaging of my own. This was a bit more scary. While it was explicit on my profile that if you’re messaging me, you need to be OK with the fact that I have a primary partner and that I’m in an open relationship, when reaching out to people I had no idea if they would be down with the fact that I’m poly. In the end, some were and some weren’t. Others were also trying it out for size, and it was something we bonded over. Then there were the True Gems who told me, Baby, I’ll have you breaking up with your boyfriend so fast. Baby, no. I promise you won’t.
A blessing and a curse of OKC is that it removes a lot of the potential for first date awkwardness. There’s always a few things to talk about off the top, based on mutual interests or something notable from their profile. OKCupid takes a bit of the risk away from going on a date or two with someone that you’ll just never jive with, but it also takes away part of the excitement. You generally know what to expect (unless someone uses a picture which looks nothing like them… this happens sometimes and is the WORST), which can sometimes lead to there not being an attraction, but this sense of obligation to give it the old college try, since you like all the same books and all the same bands. (Public Service Announcement: This is not a good reason to date someone.)
Recently, I’ve taken a step back from the whole online dating thing. I haven’t got the time—the people I’ve got in my roster (which makes my dating life sound like a baseball team, which I love) are great, and I don’t want to oversaturate myself. I’ve also rediscovered the excitement and risk of dating people I meet out in the world. I like a balance between the two—the reliability of an online medium is great, and I’ve met some truly excellent people there. Attractive humans who I’ve dated for a long time now, and I bet I wouldn’t have met otherwise. But it’s a pretty special thing, to be out in the wild and feel that chemical attraction to someone… and then being able to do something about it. So, go on. Make a move. Whether you go talk to that cute girl at the bar or join an online dating site, let me know how it goes.
Previously on the Poly Diaries: “You’re Doing What?” On Coming Out As Polyamorous