Though she’s new to poly lifestyles and still adjusting to the terminology, one might call Heidel’s living arrangement a poly-fidelitous closed triad, though she prefers to just call it her pride. Prior to discovering poly lingo, that’s what she called her family: a pride of lions. Heidel’s pride consists of one other beautiful woman, one gorgeous man, three sons, two stepsons, a step-baby on the way, one very, very old pitbull named Jones, two snakes, a bunch of lizards and toads, and one ham-eating Eastern box turtle named Gary. Heidel writes from Central California.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

"Mom, Dad. I’m poly."

So the Lioness was a little upset with me the other day, because I hadn’t told my grandparents about “us” yet. But to be fair, they were the last family members to know. So I figure I had some leeway in breaking the news softly.

I never thought I’d have to “break” some news to them. I was a straight-forward kid (pun intended): I got good grades, didn’t break that many rules, never considered that I’d be in a non-traditional relationship of which they might disapprove. I thought I was blowing it when I divorced my second husband. I was slightly mortified that the second divorce gave my family a clue that I wasn’t the All-American girl they might have thought me. But still, I never thought I’d have to join the legions of ostracized adult children of old-fashioned folks. I was always grateful I never had to say something like, “Mom. Dad. I’m gay.” Honestly, I am amazed at the courage some people have to stand up to disapproving family members.

As for me and my poly situation, I’m nervous as hell to tell my grandparents. As well I should be. Early in our relationship, the Lioness was cornered by our Lion’s mother – she’s one of those textbook monster-in-laws – who took sinister delight in tattling that she’d caught the Lion and I playing footsy in our living room while the Lioness wasn’t looking. Lioness smiled demurely in response and told Monster-in-law, “I am well aware of what’s going on in my house, and furthermore we all sleep in the same bed on occasion, so there.” It was one of the few times in her 13-year marriage that Lioness has been able to render Monster-in-Law speechless, so she was happy to do so, but still considered it her duty to later chastise the Lion and I for antagonizing the woman.

That wasn’t the worst of it. Monster-in-Law created a clan war among the rest of Lion’s family – suddenly I became a hedonistic house-wrecker with a history of harlotry. Lion and Lioness laughed it off. They’d seen this sort of rampage from his family before, and besides, they were the ones with questionable sexual histories – I was a virgin when I met my first husband. So there was some irony in that. But my character had never been attacked in such a way. The ferocity of this familial battle sent me reeling. Eventually, the family calmed down, thanks to the fact that Lioness became pregnant, championed me and my place in her family to all of them, and they’re dawning realization that I wasn’t going anywhere.

One family down. Two to go.

Lioness’ family should have been easier to talk to considering I grew up with them, and for the most part it was. But hers was also more touchy, because we were more concerned about losing them. A few months into the relationship, her mother must have had a psychic flash or something: She called Lioness one day and asked, casually, just what the hell was going on in that house of ours. And Lioness told her. “Is it a sexual relationship?” Mums asked. “Yes, it is,” Lioness replied. And Mums told Lioness she needed a minute, she was hanging up now, but please tell everyone (meaning Lion and I) that she loves them. We sweated for a few days until Mums called back. She was fine. Of course she was fine. She’d known me for too many years not to be fine. I have been her “other” daughter for the last 15 years, and that means something, right? Knowing that we all three “slept” together didn’t change that. But we just needed to keep this to ourselves for a while until Mums figured out how to break it to Pops. Not that he won’t eventually come around, mind you, but Mums knows how to ease Pops into these sorts of things.

Then came lunch with Lioness’ grandparents. Now, I’ve known this girl for 15 years and until a couple of months ago, had never met her grandparents. So, one cool Spring day, we met at a tacqueria for lunch – our nice poly family of five (and a half), and the grandparents. They were lovely people, full of niceties and generalizations. Eventually, the men wandered outside to let the ladies talk, and Lion took leave of his girls with his usual kiss and caress, and thanked me when I reminded him he’d forgotten his hat – as he tends to do. We thought nothing of it until Grandma mentioned that he was lucky to have two girls looking after him. “Why, yes, he is,” I answered. “But it’s not that strange really. We’ve known each other for a very long time.” She was content with that answer, and Lioness was her usual beaming, happy, pregnant self. Her grandparents seemed happy to linger just on the cusp of awareness; and we let it be without explaining further.

So why Lioness insisted I break the news to my grandparents irked me some. She wasn’t necessarily forthcoming with her grandparents. But the problem was that my grandparents were having a hard time coming up with an appropriate term for Lion. They knew he was more than just my roommate. They’d witnessed him comforting me during a particularly low moment in my life; shortly after, my grandfather pulled me aside to admonish that I treat “this one” respectfully and gratefully since he took such good care of me (before you think he’s a codger, consider this is what I get for leaving two husbands). So it’s only fair that they knew the truth. But couching it in language they’d not only understand, but respect, was the tricky part.

Luckily, coming out to my parents wasn’t so tough. Our pride traveled to Arizona for my family’s reunion several months ago. Lion and Lioness have been regular invitees to their gatherings for many years, and both my mother and father – a couple of aging hippies – had long known about the love the three of us shared, though none of us admitted it openly until recently. So, when Lion pulled my father and three brothers aside one evening and asked for their approval of our unusual union, my father laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s about time, son,” he said.

Last week, Lion visited my grandparents to help my grandfather mend a fence. Afterward, he showed off his new, shiny engagement ring. “Look at what the girls got me,” he said, pridefully. My grandparents beamed. “You’re a lucky man, having two girls looking after you,” my grandmother commented. “Although, that means twice the trouble, too.”

Lion smiled. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he answered.

It’s a wonderful thing to have family who recognize when you’re happy and in love. So long as they can see that, it doesn’t really matter what you tell them.

Heidel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Heidel ; May 21, 2007


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