Skepticism

Atheist Fidelity?

As an atheist, I have the luxury of choosing my own morals free from the constraints and fears associated with belief in supernatural beings or powers. I don’t believe that a Greek God will smite me with lighting bolts if talk back to my parents, nor do I believe that bad karma will follow me if I cut someone off in traffic or in line at the grocery store. At best, I believe in a psychological give and receive sort of karma: if I treat people well, people will tend to treat me well in return. For instance, if I remember someone’s birthday, this person is more likely to remember my own birthday. In a way, I guess, my atheist morality is far from altruistic. I behave well towards other people because it makes people behave well towards me and also because I feel better behaving well. Divine and supernatural powers and events aside, I feel in my gut that there is something good about behaving well toward other people.

One moral I have sometimes struggled with is the concept of fidelity. I was raised in a fairly conservative manner when it comes to relationships. My parents became engaged as teenagers and are still married, happily, to this day. I went to an all-girls high school and did not date until college. When I first started dating, I jumped into a serious, long-term relationship for nearly two years. Since then, I’ve dated much more and haven’t been as serious in my relationships, but I still hold a sort of ideal in my mind: I’m supposed to find one person and fall madly in love forever. Once I find “the one,” I’ll be so certain that I’ll never doubt our relationship, our love, and our marriage, which will last our whole lives.

As I grow up, though, I have to wonder if my ideal for relationships and fidelity really makes sense in the chaotic world which surrounds me. I’ve grown to realize that the initial passion of relationships fades with time and that novelty has an appeal. These days, break-ups and divorces are common. Infidelity is even more common, perhaps. Certainly, there are plenty of people in happy, healthful, committed relationships, but there’s a heck of a lot of infidelity going on, too.

Some people argue that biologically humans are not meant to be monogamists or, at best, are meant to be serial monogamists. Personally, that sort of argument annoys me. I feel this sort of argument was invented by horny sixteen-year-olds. Biology aside, people choose to be in open relationships and choose to cheat on their significant others. If all parties involved are okay with an open relationship, then I’m all for it. However, I think that using biology to justify infidelity doesn’t make much sense. Humans aren’t “meant” to be using the internet or living in warm houses any more than they are “meant” to be monogamous. Monogamy is a social construction, too, not just a biological one. Of course, there are many cultures in which, historically, monogamy is not the norm. However, I feel there has to be some reason why monogamy is an advantageous behavoir in many human socieites.

Personally, I feel strongly that at some point I am going to make a decision to be committed to one person for the rest of my life. I’m comfortable saying this even though I currently have three realistic crushes (i.e. they live in my zip code and are available) as well as half a dozen unrealistic crushes (i.e. yes, Jake Gyllenhaal, I will marry you). I feel that choosing a long-term relationship is somewhat analogous to choosing a college. When choosing a life partner, like choosing a college, I look for certain qualities (he cooks well and is good in bed) and criteria (he doesn’t live in Siberia). Inevitably, there will be several people who fit my standards for a long-term relationship. Like with college, however, at some point I’ll make a decision and not look back.

There were many colleges and majors that appealed to me when I was a senior in high school. After touring many schools (that’s sort of like dating, right?), I picked one college that matched my requirements and was also financially feasible, and I went there. I made a commitment, and I tried not to think about all the other schools I could have gone to. Of course, there was always the potential for me to drop out or transfer, but after a certain point those options didn’t make much sense. After a couple of years of hard work, I had enough invested in my undergraduate institution to make me very loyal to my college. I feel a relationship will be similar for me: eventually, I’ll make a decision and then have so much invested in the relationship that it won’t make sense for me to transfer, so to speak, even when I find myself attracted to others. Though, I am wondering if I might be able to work a Jake Gyllenhaal clause into my prenup if I ever get married… why, unless I marry Jake himself, of course…

Were I a Christian, I might feel more comfortable about my desire for a committed relationship. I could justify it in terms of God’s wishes and feel better about myself for behaving in a way that pleases God. As an atheist, I feel I have to work a little bit harder to justify my desire for a committed relationship. I have to think a little about why I feel that monogamy makes sense, for me, in the long run. Overall, I think atheist morality is more work than religious morality. I don’t feel there’s one moral code that fits all human beings. Instead, I try to live by a moral code that I am comfortable with, and I adapt this code for people around me. That is, I don’t hold others to the exact same morals to which I hold myself. Rather than swallowing doctrine, I have to look at the world around me and logically develop a moral code with which I am comfortable. Again, I have to think about what my morals are and how I can justify them. Of course, I am not starting from scratch. Social conventions, undoubtedly, shape my own ideas about morality. However, at least I am thinking about why I believe in certain morals rather than accepting a given set of morals associated with a particular religious doctrine.

I am a long way off from being married, at this point. Heck, I don’t even know that I ever want to get married. I’m too busy with my MIT classes and with planning geological expeditions to remote corners of the globe. However, I am happy to have come up with a sort of atheistic morality as far as relationships go.

Evelyn

Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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41 Comments

  1. Your morals are well reasoned and self-determined. Perhaps we are seen here "dynamic values", as much as it makes other people giggle or openly dismiss them.

    In practice, static moral is for hypocrites because, ultimately, punishment is based on the material amount of the offense, regardless of the intention or moral grounds of the sinner.

    But beware! I just read today about Lupita Jones, a mexican former runner-up for Miss Universe on her sentimental status: she hasn't found the "ideal" partner because, she says, men don't like women to be so capable.

  2. N.R. Miller, it may be hard to prefer an 'immoral' concept in MOST cases, but self-justification is a powerful thing.

    As I've already stated here, I've served the function of 'just friends guy' with several women over the years. This tends to mean that I'm the one they talk to when things start to head south in their various relationships. But sometimes, what starts out as a form of counseling on my part becomes outrage ('I would never treat a woman that way!'), which then morphs into self-promotion ('I'd be better for you!') and eventually becomes, well, infidelity on her part and immorality on mine.

    Several justifications take place, then. First, we have 'the relationship was going badly ANYWAY.' Next, we encounter: 'Well, she had a history of infidelity' or 'she was just paying him back.' And of course, the version that says 'Well, I'm a lonely guy and that's all I'm likely to get,' on my part. I've used all of those to sort of ease away what is, to me, an otherwise immoral act. The truth is, in most cases, when you're in the moment and a situation that you kind of wanted anyways crops up, things move forward (immoral or no).

    Now, I've taken pains in recent years to avoid that particular situation, as it gets no-one anywhere. But it is a testament to how easily morals can break down and how difficult it can be, for anyone, to maintain them. I hope to never end up in that position again, but if I do, I cannot be certain that I won't act the same way. But, I think, nor could anyone else, regardless of whether they invent their own moral code or use the one belonging to the religion to which they subscribe.

    In terms of criteria for marriage, etc. I take the Penn Jillette route of being flexible on many (if not most) things, but retaining a set of criteria that you will not break, because breaking them would only likely lead to a rather unstable relationship and more fights down the line. I've blogged about it once before here back in November.

  3. Dagnabbit, I didn't spot any typos, I don't feel like just applauding, but I also don't feel like writing a long reply. What am I to do!

    Oh, here we go. :-D "Rather than swollowing doctrine", should be "swallowing". Otherwise, great writing, and I agree with you a lot.

  4. Expatria,

    I tend to draw a really firm line at discussing people's relationships with them. I prefer to talk about how they're feeling and not bring the other person into it. Maybe it's because I do have sexual relationships with so many of my female friends and I don't trust myself not to inject my own interests into "counseling" them or maybe it's that I just think couple's therapy is something that's better left to professionals–or at least disinterested third parties.

    If things are going well in their relationship. I love hearing about it, but if they start to go bad, I don't want to hear the details. Just tell me how you're feeling and don't even ask me for a hug because I'm sure that would make you partner uncomfortable. I always try to pretend that a woman's partner is present when I talk to her. That way I can avoid saying or doing anything inappropriate.

  5. I think people mean two different things when they talk about infidelity or "cheating." One is being polyamorous, which is preferring to have multiple partners. The other is pretending to be exclusive while actually being polyamorous. I don't see anything wrong with being polyamorous, obviously, but I have a big problem with lying about it. That really deserves to be called cheating, while the other does not. I think a preference for multiple partners is just a different kind of sexual preference or orientation, just like preferring partners of the same or opposite gender, and I think it's wrong for people to be judgmental about it. Lying, on the other hand, is just a bad thing to do, and when it involves sex, the results can be particularly devastating emotionally, so I take it pretty seriously.

  6. I think it’s bullshit to talk about what kind of relationships people are “meant to have.” The only serious issue is, what kind of relationship do you and another person choose to have.

    As my screen name implies, I’m most comfortable in “friends with benefits” relationships. I think women are just the most wonderful people, and I love having them as friends, and I usually feel a strong sexual attraction for women that I feel close to. If that attraction is mutual, we usually end up having sex. I never make any promises about “fidelity” (or, as I like to think of it, exclusivity) nor do I have any expectation that they will. All I ask is that they tell me if they have had any unsafe sex, and I hold myself to the same standard.

    When my friends enter into “serious” relationships with other guys, I usually feel some ambivalence about it, because I miss being sexual with them, but I respect their choice and, if it makes them happy, I’m happy for them. There are only two things I won’t do. One is to have sex with a woman who representing herself as being “faithful” to another partner, the other is getting involved in a sexual relationship with a heterosexual couple. The latter is just a personal preference, but I see the former as more of a moral issue. If you promise someone monogamy, or anything else for that matter, it’s just not right to deceive them. If you’re not comfortable about being in that kind of relationship, that’s perfectly understandable, but you have to be honest about that with your partner.

  7. "I have to think a little about why I feel that monogamy makes sense, for me, in the long run."

    Do you really? Consider this: Humans have instincts too, but as a side-effect of our expanded cerebrum, those seem to be "shattered", with different people expressing different instincts to various degrees. (There are also "imprinting" or "prepared learning" components.) Oddly enough, this works pretty well. That is, people tend to come out with fairly understandable adaptations to the environment they grew up in, and that also includes the timing of when various urges kick in. In your case, it sounds like your "program" is to build up your own stake (that is, your schooling) and pick a mate later. In the meantime, you're not so much "auditioning" mates, but getting a handle on the possibilities so as to make a better decision later.

    Likewise regarding altruism in general. It's a basic strategy which *could* be arrived at by rules ("it's the right thing to do") and/or experience ("it makes people behave well towards me"). But as part of our social repertoire, we also have an instinctual/ prepared-learning hook for it: "I feel better behaving well". This is one case in which I'm happy to embrace the "received wisdom" offered by evolution; Altruism is actually a pretty popular idea among higher vertebrates, and I think that's because it works.

  8. Whenever the subject of monogamy and humans comes up, I cut and paste [part of] one of my old newsgroup posts:

    Keep in mind that, although there are many claims that humans are

    "pair-bonded" ("imperfectly so" according to Melvin Konner), or

    "monogamous" (according to Helen Fisher "This does not suggest that

    partners are sexually faithful to one another"), these claims rely

    on equating sex with marriage (when a casual knowledge of human

    relations demonstrates that the two are only coincidentally related)

    and the type of semantic gymnastics seen in the quotes above. These

    quotes often come just before or after statistics that contradict them,

    as per this Sarah Blaffer Hrdy quote: "Humans, of course, provide

    another example of facultative monogamy. Approximately 20 percent of

    human societies are monogamous, 80 percent polygynous."

    Food for thought…

  9. Since marriage is outside my expertise, I'll just comment on the altruism/selfishness thing: I think it's a false dichotomy or something: Altruism is just an effective, if roundabout method of satisfying your selfish desires.

  10. [Note: I'm making this up as I go along…]

    It seems to me that "morality" is simply the brain putting checks on emotion. In many situations, it is emotion (anger, lust, hunger, curiosity) that drives what people do, and morality is the brain stepping in and going "no, I'm not going to give into that emotion".

    So fidelity is more about the emotional reaction to a situation. (Note that if there was no temptation to cheat, there would be no consideration of fidelity vs infidelity.) If the emotional reaction (be it lust or love or revenge or…) is greater than the brain's ability to check it (and its ability to check may varying from person to person let alone situation to situation) then actions will happen with whatever consequences, which usually aren't considered at the time.

    (This sort of leads into a discussion on free will, etc., but I'll leave it there.)

    [Also note that I'm speaking without experience in being in these situations, with what I'm saying able to be generalised outside of the fidelity discussion.]

  11. Of course, it's always possible that we'll be able to put people inside a brain scanning machine and see that a different part of their wiring lights up when they're acting "altruistically" and when they deliberately maximize their own pleasure. Unfortunately, this recent article in Nature is behind a subscription wall, so I need to get myself back to MIT and steal their wireless. Abstract:

    Although the neural mechanisms underlying altruism remain unknown, empathy and its component abilities, such as the perception of the actions and intentions of others, have been proposed as key contributors. Tasks requiring the perception of agency activate the posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC), particularly in the right hemisphere. Here, we demonstrate that differential activation of the human pSTC during action perception versus action performance predicts self-reported altruism.

    Until I get a crack at the article myself, I won't be able to tell if descriptions like the following (from Medical News Today) are accurate, but hey, it's interesting nonetheless:

    The scientists were surprised by the results. They were expecting to see activity in the brain's reward centres. And for the results to show that people who perform altruistic acts do so because they feel good about it, hence the expected activity in the reward centres.

    But what they found was that another part of the brain was also involved, and it was quite sensitive to the difference between doing something for personal gain and doing it for someone else's gain. This part of the brain is called the posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC). The pSTC sits in the back of the brain and appears to help us tune into perceiving and giving meaning to the actions of others. It is not focused on reward.

    In the next stage the scientists asked the participants questions about type and frequency of their altruistic or helping behaviours. They then analysed the responses to generate an estimate of a person's tendency to act altruistically and compared each person's level against their fMRI brain scan. The results showed that pSTC activity rose in proportion to a person's estimated level of altruism.

    The researchers suggest that the study shows that altruistic behaviour may arise from how we view the world rather than how we act in it.

    "We believe that the ability to perceive other people's actions as meaningful is critical for altruism," said one of the team.

  12. In a way, I guess, my atheist morality is far from altruistic. I behave well towards other people because it makes people behave well towards me and also because I feel better behaving well.

    I used to think this about myself, but then I spent some time in actual introspection, and I realized that it isn’t really true. If I’m faced with a situation where I can be immediately helpful — say, if a total stranger who I’ll probably never meet again asks me for directions — I almost always do help out, without giving any consideration to how it will make me feel afterwards. At the opposite end, I can also engage in a prolonged intellectual effort because I’ve determined “it’s the right thing to do,” even though a different activity of comparable difficulty will bring me more direct benefit (and leave the rest of the world no worse than if I did nothing at all). So, I don’t really believe the theory that altruism is at root vanity.

  13. Oh yeah… just because humans aren’t universal life-bonders doesn’t mean we *can’t* be monogamous! But the strength of those bonds can vary widely; they can often be broken by stress, betrayals, events, or simple neglect. For humans, love has all the variability of life itself, but also some of its fragility — accordingly most relationships need to be tended and fed in their own various fashions, or fall prey to entropy or competition.

    Cheater *types* — that is, those who pretend monogamy while actively playing the field — are another issue entirely. The thing is, in terms of evolution, that’s a perfectly good strategy. But it’s fundamentally opposed to the evolutionary goals of monogamy, so naturally the two sorts don’t approve of each other! ;-)

  14. EXPAT,

    You're talking about self delusion, tricking yourself into doing something you might otherwise consider imoral. I'm talking about whether there is a difference in personal prefrence and presonal morality when you are not baseing your morality on a theistic belief.

    In your example you're essential saying that at the time you considered what you were doing as being moral or at the least, not immoral.

    Personaly I ascribe to situational morality, yes there are many absolutes but almost every situation is fairly open.

  15. “Humans, of course, provide another example of facultative monogamy. Approximately 20 percent of human societies are monogamous, 80 percent polygynous.”

    I hate to be nitpicky, but I don't think polygamy per se, and statistics on it, are particularly enlightening about this topic. The overwhelming majority of polygamy is one man with several wives. While this makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint (the man can father many more children than he could in a monogamous set-up), it is often tied very closely to misogyny within the pesky little social constructs we humans have. Many women in such situations have few alternatives.

    Fortunately, with the amazing advances in contraception, women now have far greater control over their reproductive systems. Simultaneously, we have had far greater freedom in the relationship choices we make. Those pesky little social constructs haven't quite caught up yet, though. "Polyamorism" is still a relatively new term, and merely recording the number of societies that condone multiple wives doesn't really reflect the advent of this movement, which has really only gained public attention within the last 15-20 years. Even now, most people (here in the midwest, anyway) would have no idea what the term means.

    I guess my point is that polygamy and polyamorism have entirely different meanings, connotations, and social implications. I don't think the one necessarily reflects the other. Perhaps, even, the percentage of non-monogamists would increase with the increasing acceptability of women choosing to have multiple partners.

    Does this mean that humans as a whole SHOULD be one or another? In my opinion, that's a ridiculous argument to make. Each person needs to decide for themselves what kind of relationship best suits their needs.

    In conclusion: good work Evelyn for thinking hard about what a relationship means to you! I think more people should think this hard before entering into one – a lot of heartbreak would probably be avoided.

  16. “Polyamorism” is still a relatively new term, and merely recording the number of societies that condone multiple wives doesn’t really reflect the advent of this movement.

    I couldn’t agree more. polyamory is about loving more than one person. In societies where polygyny is practiced, however, I see no evidence that love has anything to do with it. The number of wives a man has is simply a reflection of his wealth and social status, so women in these societies are merely another form of property.

    As a polyamorist, the thought of marrying one woman seems ridiculous. Marrying ten would just be ten times as ridiculous. Polyamory is basically incompatible with the concept of marriage. Even couples where both partners are polyamorous only marry out of convenience, so they can obtain the legal benefits that marriage provides. That’s not to say that they don’t love each other deeply, simply that they love others who are outside the marriage just as deeply.

    The existence of polyamory isn’t new, but it’s recognition is, as you say, relatively recent. In the past, polyamorists either married and tried to lead straight lives, usually ending up cheating on their partners, or married other polyamorists and got involved in the “swinging” lifestyle. In either case they were condemned as being immoral, and in fact, some aspects of the lifestyles to which they were confined, due to ignorance of their sexual orientation, really were immoral. Taking marriage vows and living a lie has emotionally devastating consequences for both partners, and often, monogamous partners would get dragged into the swinging lifestyle by their polyamorous partners. Also, some couples who participate in swinging aren’t really polyamorous at all; they simply use their partners as bargaining chips for sexual favors and other consideration, so again we find women being treated as property.

    So what’s new is that polyamorists have found a name for what they are, and we’re learning to come out of the closet and lead lifestyles that are open and honest about who we are.

  17. As an atheist, I feel I have to work a little bit harder to justify my desire for a committed relationship. I have to think a little about why I feel that monogamy makes sense, for me, in the long run.

    I agree with your sentiment, but not the word "justify." I like to think back to when we were toddlers and how we learn things, such as it doesn't feel good when somebody steals a toy out of your hands – don't do that to other people, and so on. Blake's quote mining mentions "empathy," which I think is something we better gain over time through experience beginning at that age when our egos are being constrained by our parents teaching us social mores that mostly benefit our species or allow us to function in society. But besides "empathy" I think "jealousy" plays a big part, and we appear to be hardwired with it.

    David Harmon recently brought up the Apple of Discord; Greek mythology is full of jealous gods and mortals, heck, "envy" made it to being a Deadly Sin. We can't seem to get away from the emotion of jealousy. A harem may have been socially acceptable, but read the literature and they were still jealous and at eachother's throats. In some parts of the world it is STILL ok for a man to be brutal to a cheating wife than vice versa. In Houston, some women just run over their cheating husbands.

    Anyway, my point is it causes discord. And if you don't want to cause discord in the family unit (better for society) then you don't push people's buttons. It may be a healthier thing too – do you want your mate possibly picking up diseases and such? Though Buck Fuddy disputes that if one is careful. So, a person isn't going around propagating the species, so what purpose would a non-monogamous relationship serve? I try to think of what would be the good of it, but I can't see one.

    Personally, I don't think we are meant or should or have to mate for life, but I do think while one is in a relationship they ought to be monogamous because jealousy sucks! I'm selfish, I don't like that rotten feeling of jealousy. I worked with a woman once who was having an affair with a married man and she was so miserable most of the time while he was spending time with his family on holidays. Who wants that? That's mental self-flagellation. And besides, if you're with somebody why do you want to be with someone else? I can't relate to that – if I was thinking of somebody else then I'd leave Person X or figure out the issue. Maybe I'm just vain. :-)

    So, yeah, preference is yours. The Golden Rule, I think, is part of it. If you have an agreement with someone and you break then that hurts trust. If you can't adhere to that then be honest (like Buck Fuddy apparently is). But I think self-preservation is as good as any reason.

    Hey, reread Othello – lots of pathos in that! :-)

    I’m comfortable saying this even though I currently have three realistic crushes (i.e. they live in my zip code and are available) as well as half a dozen unrealistic crushes (i.e. yes, Jake Gyllenhaal, I will marry you).

    On a sillier note: three crushes in the same zip code! You crush-slut, you! And I thought I was crush-fickle! :-)

    (Actually, I'm not really fickle at all…crushes are superficial…and fun. P-; )

  18. Myeh, monogamy and slips are for little old church ladies in blue polka dot dresses and granny panties.

    Not for me, and not for Kate! Our hearts are big enough to accommodate more than one person at a time, and so is our bed. We don't do blue polka dot dresses, and if there's anything under our miniskirts at all (that's getting to be a less and less frequent occurrence), it'll be a thong.

    (Disclaimer: I have written authorization, notarized and in triplicate, to speak for Kate on this issue!)

  19. Expatria…"your bodice hath assumed a most pleasant shape this season" cracks me up. But seriously, you and "The Sorrows of Young Werther" should (re)aquaint yourselves. ;-)

    I wish I still had this pin I stupidly gave away to someone I met through a friend's Bar: it was a picture of Mona Lisa and it just said, "Fuck art. Let's dance." He was an architect, so he appreciated it. Lots can be said in less than five words. :-P

    JanieBelle, as others have said, I don't see a problem with people who want to have simultaneous (not serial) relationships if people are willing to accept that – but "monogamy is for little old church ladies?" Heh, heh, read the Bible in a hotel room… And who is Kate?

    Bah, you Massachusetts-centric people…everyone knows some of the best crushes emanate from 06510 and 06511. Don't knock a zip code until you try it! :-P

  20. I wish I still had this pin I stupidly gave away to someone I met through a friend’s Bar: it was a picture of Mona Lisa and it just said, “Fuck art. Let’s dance.” He was an architect, so he appreciated it.

    I'm sure Art appreciated it too. ;-)

  21. Melusine, would it make you feel better if I sang of the crush status of such wonderful locales as 06712, 06468, and 06269? Or if I spoke of the ribaldry associated with taking '69 south' to get to 06510? :-P

  22. Expatria said,

    I’d probably have fit in better in the era of courtly love…periodical meetings, flowery correspondence…it’d all fit my sensibilities far better than today’s method.

    I always preferred the sonnet approach, myself. It's worked. . . once. But then, sonnets sit naturally with me, 'cause I'm the sort of "romantic" who can nurse a totally unrequited crush for well over a year without surcease, or indeed letting anyone know about it. Verse is such a miraculous medium for concealing feelings and hiding away one's soul!

  23. Expatria,

    That was a truly lovely letter, regardless of circumstance! :)

    Melusine,

    Since when do little old church ladies have anything to do with the bible? They only read the parts they like to slug people over the head with.

    Who is Kate? Heh. That's a bit of a story. The "Some Classic Posts" section of my blogroll mostly concerns Kate. Fireworks tells about when I first met her, Kissing Corporal Kate is about our first kiss, My Lover Is Freaky involves "little old church ladies in blue polka dot dresses and granny panties".

    Her blog is in my blogroll, too. Mostly she collaborates on mine, but she has her own for things she wants to say herself.

  24. JanieBelle said: Melusine,

    Since when do little old church ladies have anything to do with the bible?

    You said "monogamy is for little old church ladies…" I was trying to say something without having to say something, and I apparently failed. Pay no mind. ;-/ So, you'd like to have Pete Stark's babies, eh? :-)

    Expatria said: And by the way…ditto on the whole ‘quietly nursing unrequited crushes’ thing…except for me there were usually no suitable outlets and the long-enduring types always ended up spilling out in some exaggerated way…I wish I could sigh and say “Ah, youth…” but I don’t know that I’ll EVER get past that sort of thing!

    But unrequited love is the muse of the damned…it makes for good writing, art and film, at the very least. You and Blake can be The Piners. (As on SNL, there were The Whiners.) :-P

  25. But don’t look for any in 02140. I lived out there…no crush-worthy folks of either gender! :-P

    As far as polyamory goes…well, I don’t think I could handle it. I can barely deal with monoamory, and staying anamorous has been my best way of avoiding hardship…

    But I should say that I have nothing against polyamory: For those who can stomach it, I’m sure it’s quite wonderful. But I don’t think I could handle spreading my attention amongst multiple people. I’ve always been the sort that can only handle ‘thinking’ about one other person at a time, be it a crush, relationship, or even those self-deluded indiscretions I alluded to above.

    A lot of it deals with the whole jealousy thing, as Melusine points out. I don’t have enough trust in myself to think I’d be OK with multiple partners each doing their own thing, so I wouldn’t want to try it. Hell, it’s hard for me to imagine even being involved in modern casual dating. It doesn’t make sense in my head for some reason. “Wait…you’re getting a drink from somone else…but I just…HEY!!”

    I’d probably have fit in better in the era of courtly love…periodical meetings, flowery correspondence…it’d all fit my sensibilities far better than today’s method.

    Dearest Cornelia,
    I trust that my letter finds you well. It’s been ever so long since last we met. My kerchief still carries the scent of your perfume, but I’d not risk inhaling deeply for fear I might exhaust the supply! I shall treasure it always. Your bodice hath assumed a most pleasant shape this past season, if my footman’s report is to be trusted. I do so hope your father consents to our match, though I must admit hesitation. Upon our last encounter, when our hands chanced to touch for no less than six seconds, my breeches could barely contain my excitement! I can scarce imagine the raptures of our nuptial bed. Do you long for me, fair Cornelia? Does this letter bring a hint of rosy pink to the fair pallour of your girlish cheek? Enough! If I don’t hear from you this next fortnight, you risk unbalancing my humours to the saturnine and bringing me the horrors of melancholia! Please dear, think of me fondly…

    Yours, always
    Wm. deMontague, III

  26. Melusine, would it make you feel better if I sang of the crush status of such wonderful locales as 06712, 06468, and 06269? Or if I spoke of the ribaldry associated with taking ‘69 south’ to get to 06510?

    Not really, Expatria, apparently you never really lived if you didn’t go down the mountain to 06410. Now, I know somebody who can back me up on this! :-P

  27. Ah, well, Melusine, 06410 was also a good place for crushes as I recall. I believe I hosted nearly one per summer each of the three years I worked at Holiday Hill, though I suppose that WAS on the border of 06410 and 06712 in the end, wasn’t it? :-P

    And Blake, sonnets were the only type of poem I’ve really considered do-able, as my minor OCD-like tendencies have a hard time coping with anything much more free-form than that. Sonnets have nice, precise metres, specific rhyme schemes, and even thematic guidelines! Who doesn’t love wrapping things up, or turning them on their head, with a witty couplet at the end?

    I’m just impressed you got one to WORK! My admiration for you seems to grow with each new factoid you drop on us.

    And by the way…ditto on the whole ‘quietly nursing unrequited crushes’ thing…except for me there were usually no suitable outlets and the long-enduring types always ended up spilling out in some exaggerated way…I wish I could sigh and say “Ah, youth…” but I don’t know that I’ll EVER get past that sort of thing! :)

  28. Melusine

    Sorry, I've just been so covered up with stuff I want to blog about that my brain isn't shifting gears. I missed it.

    Glad you're reading! Yep, Pete Stark is my new crush. Between you and me though, I don't think he'd last an hour with Kate and me.

    I'd hate to be responsible for causing him to be unfit for office!

    ;)

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