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East Coast Slut Chronicles: Long-Distance Polyamory

http://www.pdxscene.com/magazine/2019August/index.html

Avatar By Marilyn Belle

*All names changed for privacy reasons. 

PORTLAND, OR

Full confession: I love being a slut. 

I’ve bounced between that word being hurtful and being freeing, and it took me a long time to reclaim it in a way that feels healthy and true. I spent years wanting more out of my sex life and being unfaithful to partners, until I met Kennedy and finally started exploring kink and polyamory. We have our primary relationship, but I can still indulge the slutty side of me that LOVES casual sex and the thrill of the new. Finding the right balance in poly has been tough for us, and after a first attempt last year that left us both feeling sore, we threw out our rules and started over, keeping just one: communication about EVERYTHING. No surprises. The only limits we had were kept within our dynamic; for example, neither of us would play in DDLG with anyone else, and we’d both save suspension, something we’d never done but were both excited about, to try with each other for the first time. 

When I left Portland in March, to live on the opposite coast for the summer, we were curious how it would change things being both poly AND long-distance. Polyamory is hard, and long-distance relationships are hard, and putting them together is, well… extra hard. But would it be easier since we could better separate our lives and develop more autonomy? Would it be easier since we wouldn’t be competing for time with other partners? Or would it be harder since we’d be more disconnected from each other? Would it be harder to feel like a priority with other people so much more easily available? Leaving Kennedy behind was terrifying. It had taken us so long to get to a good place with poly, and I worried that putting the pressure of distance on it would break it. Not to mention my growing involvement with our mutual friend Gray*; how could I maintain not one, but two long-distance relationships, AND slut it up while traveling? I’d jokingly said something to Gray and Kennedy one night about wanting to “Fuck my way up and down the east coast” – and per their encouragement, that made it into my Tinder bio. Secretly, it was my goal to get laid in every state on the east coast, and Gray and I made a bet: which of us would fuck more people within the next year? Despite my excitement about my upcoming trip, I didn’t expect it was going to be easy. 

KEY WEST, FL

My first night of “real vacation,” I’m sitting by the pool at my hostel, messaging a Tinder match, when another guest, a guy who’d walked past me several times – no doubt building up the courage to come talk to me – asks if I want to go with him and his friends to a gay bar – which I totally do. With Kennedy’s okay, I join them. Dylan* is incredibly handsome, an army boy, and the group of guys he’s with are hilarious and charming. I click with more than one of them, but I have the most chemistry with Dylan and we flirt endlessly. We all go back to the hostel, sit on the porch for hours talking, and when everyone except Dylan and I, go back out to close down the bar, we jump on the chance to take advantage of the empty hostel room. 

Florida: check. We stay up past sunrise and finally at 7am I fall asleep in Dylan’s bed for a few hours before they have to leave to catch a plane back to Italy. We’re Facebook friends now, but we haven’t talked since then. I have to be honest: that first night in Key West is far and away the best night I have during my whole month of travel, and not just because of the sex. I’m free. I’m courageous. I’m social. I drink in all of that exhilarating energy, and the next day, exhausted, but electrified, I get to tell Kennedy all about it. 

“Did you get laid?” He asks me, and I get to say yes with no twist in my gut. 

The second night, my Tinder match from the night before invites me out for drinks. He says he’s kinky, which is exciting, but I know to take that with a grain of salt (there are lots of people, especially men, who cry kink in this world). Again I check in with Kennedy, not wanting to push things since I was with someone just last night. This time, with his okay, he also gives me a request: if I’m going to be exercising this newfound privilege often, he doesn’t necessarily want to always know. 

So I go out for a second night in a row, and this guy is right: he is kinky. But I can’t take him back to my hostel where I’m sharing a room with six strangers, and he can’t take me back to his hotel room where his friends are crashing, so I get fucked in a hotel bathroom – and it’s some of the best sex I’ve ever had. He walks me back to my hostel, joking that I fucked him back into sobriety. If I’m ever in Indiana, he says, let him know. 

I want to gush to Kennedy about how crazy good the sex was, but I don’t know how much detail is too much, especially since he’s asked for less communication  – for the first time, I feel a bit disconnected from him. 

My last night, I don’t tell Kennedy before I go on another date. Navy boy. I’m not sold on him, but I’m on a roll and I don’t want to quit. When my rendezvous is disappointing, I want to gripe about it to Kennedy, but I don’t feel like I can be unhappy when I’ve gotten laid three nights in a row. When we talk I feel distant and a little bit guilty. I don’t like feeling like I’m hiding what I’m doing. 

MIAMI, FL

I go out on a Tinder date with a guy named Eli, and we click so well he’s got his hand down my pants before we’ve even left the bar. But we’re running into the same problem I had in Key West: I’m in a hostel, and he’s sharing a hotel room with his work colleague. We try my car, but it’s been parked on a car elevator and the valet stands there awkwardly asking if we want it brought down. We settle for making out against the side of a building and decide we’ll try again tomorrow. The next night, he’s got the room free for a few hours and we fuck with all the built up tension from the night before. After, he buys me a drink at the hotel bar and we hang out for hours playing giant Connect Four and talking about music. He’s from New Jersey, and when I tell him I’ll be in New York in a few weeks, we decide to try to see each other again.

After that, Kennedy retracts his request to be left out of the loop. We’re operating on a semi-don’t ask, don’t tell policy, but not communicating at all has taken it to a place of disconnect neither of us are comfortable with. I would continue to check in with Kennedy before anything else happened, as he would with me. 

Gray and I talk nearly every day, and he tells me that his pursuit of a relationship with our mutual friend Elle* has dead-ended, much to his disappointment; she doesn’t want to be poly, and he doesn’t want to be monogamous. I know he cares deeply for her despite their differences, and I’m sad for him, but I’m also happy that things don’t have to end between us just yet.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL

I take a break for a night. This is a stopover anyway, not a destination, and after the last week in Key West and Miami, I’m exhausted. Gray calls me later that night. He’s had a few drinks, and he misses me. Gray isn’t one to often express his feelings so readily, so it’s a relief to tell him I miss him too without feeling dramatic. I’m surprised when he asks, nervously, “Do you think you could ever tell me you love me?” Since we got together a few months ago, we’ve had several of the “what are we” conversations, trying to find a balance that won’t cause any rifts in his long-time friendship with Kennedy. This is not something I’m expecting. It’s true that my feelings for him run pretty deep, and our chemistry both in and out of the bedroom is off the charts, but we’ve both known from the beginning we have to be careful in this. I’ve never considered that I could be in love with anyone but Kennedy, nor do I really want to be, but I don’t think it’s a ridiculous thing for me to say, “Maybe, down the road, yeah. I could.” I feel a flutter in my gut that’s both excitement and anxiety. He asks me to send him some pictures later, in the interest of pining for each other. 

In the interest of don’t ask, don’t tell, I don’t tell Kennedy about this conversation.

SAVANNAH, GA

I match with a few people, but one I talk to all day and when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to meet up. One is a married guy who looks like he knows how to treat me right, but that falls through too. I go out to a bar, get slobbered over by a drunk woman who wants to know why I’m not dancing, and get asked, pityingly, if I’m there alone. It’s not my scene, and the cute bartender hasn’t looked my way twice. I go home, and late that night I meet up with someone who gives me the strangest sexual experience of my life. It’s the first time I’ve hooked up with someone without going on a date first, and I’ll spare the nitty gritty, but it involves a strange sequence of events, the improper use of toys I don’t consent to using, and some tactics that I’m sure he picked up in porn, but that don’t translate to real life. 

When it’s over I’m a bit shaken and anxious about the possibility of infection due to his mishandling, but I’m afraid to tell Kennedy what happened – to explain why I’m feeling so bewildered and concerned, I would need to share some pretty explicit details that I know would make him uncomfortable. I tell him it was odd, but I don’t tell him why specifically. It seems like he doesn’t want to know more. I call Gray instead, raving about the absurdity of what I’d just been through, laughing with him in shock. I find myself thinking, Why can’t Kennedy and I be this open? 

RALEIGH, NC

I match with someone who is aggressively dominant, sending messages that are both exciting and troubling. He tells me to come over and exactly what he’ll do to me, and I get the feeling that if I go, I should share my location with Kennedy. He may be harmless, but he comes on a little too strong for being a stranger. I send Kennedy screenshots of the conversation to get his opinion. He agrees: he gets a bad vibe, and asks me not to go for my own safety. I go out with someone else instead, to an arcade bar and then back to his place, where I receive, for the first time, the compliment, “That was the best head I’ve ever gotten.” I go back to my hotel feeling pleased with myself, and I ask Kennedy if he’d like to hear this detail of my excursion that I’m happy about. He says, “Good job, I’m proud of you.” It feels really good to share with him. 

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA

 Kennedy is surprised to see that on my FetLife page, I’ve referred to Gray as a secondary partner.  He thinks this implies a certain seriousness that he wasn’t expecting. I know I haven’t been clear with him regarding the nature of my intimacy with Gray, mostly due to fear that it will create discord. Kennedy and Gray have been friends since childhood, which poses some complications in my relationship between the both of them. Kennedy asks me to be completely honest with him, and I am; I tell him about the conversation in St. Augustine and how I’ve been developing deeper feelings for Gray that I know are reciprocated. 

Kennedy isn’t happy that I haven’t been communicative about this. He reminds me that we’re not supposed to keep anything from each other, and that our rule dictates no surprises. He’s uncomfortable with how serious Gray and I are getting, and asks if I’ll back things off a bit. We argue over the phone for a long time, me being stubborn in my assertion that he can’t tell me what to feel, and that it’s unfair how he’s trying to control my secondary relationship. I know I’m being selfish, and after too many hurtful things said back and forth, I back down. I know he’s not trying to be controlling, he’s just asking for some consideration. He’s not even asking for me to end things, just to tread carefully as we move forward and try to keep my emotions checked; I have a habit of falling too fast and too hard. Neither Gray nor I wants to back off from this, but Kennedy has to be my priority. There is no room for this kind of selfishness in polyamory. I have to think about it from his side, and we have to both be happy. 

I have no luck finding a date for that night, and my motivation to go out alone again is dwindling fast. I feel stuck, and I waste too much time waiting to get replies instead of having fun. Kennedy tells me I have to stop basing my decisions around the possibility of getting laid; if I want to go out and listen to music, I should go out, who cares if I’m alone tonight? This trip is supposed to be about me, with the action on the side being a perk, not the goal. He’s right. I’ve been focusing so much on trying to win this bet with Gray, drinking in my sluttiness like I’ve been stuck in the desert and not spending enough time on me and what I really want. I go out dancing alone, forgetting about boys, and Virginia is the first state I don’t get to check off. 

I finally tell Kennedy about my concerning experience in Georgia. He says, “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t tell me things, especially if it’s something regarding your safety. We’re in this together, no matter what.” 

BALTIMORE, MD

Remembering Kennedy’s advice to focus more on me, I go to a bar with live music by myself. I message someone to meet me, but when he doesn’t reply I don’t let myself get disappointed. I get hit on by several creepy and persistent guys, to the point that another woman comes up to me pretending to know me to get them off my back. I can hear the disgust in Kennedy’s voice when I tell him about it. “I’m sorry you have to deal with shit like that,” he says. 

The second night, I match with a British guy on Bumble who, after a slew of sexy messages which imply that he’s kinky, too, invites me to go see a movie. We fool around in the back of the theater, and when we leave I’m so turned on I can hardly walk. He says he’ll text me when the coast is clear for me to come over later. 

He never does. I call Kennedy hours later, nearly in tears in sexual frustration over some prick I don’t even know. “Why don’t people want to fuck me?” I ask him. He’s sympathetic, but he says, “You can’t take things that happen in online dating personally.” I know he’s right, but this is the first time I’ve ever really used dating apps and I’m not used to it. I feel bad for complaining to him when I’ve been more active than he has, and I feel like I’m taking him for granted. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA

I almost have a threesome with a couple I meet on Tinder, but the first night I’m there they’re busy, so instead I take myself out for dinner. The next day, I explore the city, and spend too much time talking to a guy who has a very brief window of time in the afternoon if I want to meet up. I check in with Kennedy, who asks, “Is this really how you want to spend your time?” And when I really think about it, it isn’t; I’ve only got two days there and I don’t want to waste a whole afternoon in some guy’s apartment. So I don’t. I keep exploring, and I get lunch with a girlfriend.

That doesn’t mean I can’t go out that night; my couple wants to meet up late, around 10pm, and I’m overly ambitious when I decide to try to squeeze in another date before them. I can’t decide between three different matches, so I send Kennedy and Gray screenshots of their profiles for an opinion. They both choose the same one for me. “Is this too much?” I ask Kennedy, and he says, “I’m happy to help.” I can’t tell if he’s humoring me or not. 

My date runs late and when I message the couple to see about meeting up, they tell me they thought I wasn’t coming so the guy’s gone home for the night. I’m disappointed; I’ve never been a unicorn and I was intrigued by that experience, plus my date was amply mediocre. Gray reassures me we’ll have plenty of threesomes together in the future. 

NEW YORK CITY, NY

Eli and I have been sexting for two weeks since Miami, and I’m so excited to meet back up with him. I know I can count on good sex with him after last time, and after my recent experiences I need something I can count on. I don’t bother getting on Tinder or Bumble or Feeld to try and connect with anyone else. The first night, though, he tells me he’s working late and won’t be able to make it until tomorrow. I’m bummed, but it just means I’ll be looking forward to tomorrow night, and as long as we can hook up at least once I’ll be satisfied. The whole next day I spend walking around New York without worrying at all about what I’ll be doing that night – until he tells me he can’t come that night either. 

I call Kennedy from a park bench completely crestfallen. I had been looking forward to this so much. I know I barely knew the guy, but we’d had a good time together and it’s disappointing. Kennedy tells me again what he told me in Baltimore, “You can’t take things that happen in online dating personally.”

So I hop back on my dating apps to scope out a potential suitor for that night. Apparently I’m not the type for New York guys, because I have very few matches. One says, “Send me more pics, I can’t tell if I’m attracted to you or not.” Kennedy tells me that guy’s a pig, and I know sending pictures is a desperate plea for a boost in self-esteem, but I do it anyway. The guy’s into me, but it doesn’t work out. I decide I don’t care; I’m seeing a Broadway show, and that’s enough excitement for the night. Another guy doesn’t message me until 1am, wants me to come back into Manhattan for drinks. I tell Kennedy, “I tried so hard to get a date and now that someone wants me I don’t feel like it.” He says, “You wanted to go out, so you should go out.” But I’m exhausted, and getting sick of the reality of being a slut. I tell the guy no. 

On the phone the next day, I mention to Kennedy the possibility of driving to New York sometime in the summer to see Eli, and it accidentally sparks an argument. “That’s a long way to drive for someone you barely know,” he says. “You never told me you liked him that much.” It’s not that he minds, but it’s the Gray situation all over again, albeit on a lesser scale. He says, “You can’t expect me to just know how you feel if you don’t communicate clearly. No surprises, remember?” I recognize that we need to do better about making sure we’re on the same page, and that I need to stop holding things back from him, even if it’s not intentional. 

BRATTLEBORO, VT

There aren’t many people in this tiny town, but I find the one gem and he invites me over for drinks my first night there. He’s an elementary school teacher, smart and sweet, and I end up seeing him all three days I’m in Vermont. He loves history, and drives me all around the southeast part of the state, telling me about the area. We only have sex once (during which his cat jumped on us and scratched me so badly I still have a scar nearly three months later), but by the end of three days we’re solidly friends.  When I leave we discuss the possibility of seeing each other again; he has friends in Rhode Island, he says, and it’s not unlikely. This time, as soon as the idea of seeing each other again is on the table, I talk to Kennedy about it. Kennedy is glad that I’ve connected with someone who I could actually have fun with, not just another one-night stand; he knows I’ve been missing that. He tells me if it ever works out, he doesn’t mind. He thanks me for being more communicative. 

NEWPORT, RI

The day I finally land in my new apartment in Rhode Island after my month of travel, Kennedy tells me I need to talk to Gray. I text him – “Is there something I need to know?” Gray calls, and tells me he and Elle have decided to make something work after all: they’re going to try being monogamous for a while. I’m surprised. After everything he’s told me about how important polyamory is for him, and how much it suits him right now, it’s jarring and a little bit worrying to hear him settle for monogamy. I know he wants to be with Elle, and I’m happy that they can be together, but I can’t help but consider at what cost. I’m also saddened; to have him end things so abruptly, and for me to be the last to know makes me feel negligible. During our phone call, Gray doesn’t acknowledge the loss of our relationship besides saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s as if he’s completely cut himself off from me and forgotten what we had because it’s easier that way. But it’s not easier for me, and I tell him I need time to process. 

When we hang up, I call Kennedy in tears. “I’m so sorry you’re hurting,” Kennedy says. “I know you really cared about him. And I know he cared about you.” I cry to him for a long time, and unlike my other complaints to him about men sucking, this doesn’t feel one-sided or shallow. This feels like my best friend talking me through a tough break-up. This feels like someone who loves me, taking on my pain and sharing it with me. It feels good. It feels like a reminder that at the end of the day, no matter what, Kennedy and I are always there for each other.

Gray and I don’t talk for a while, which feels strange after talking almost every day. Elle reaches out to me, and I tell her I don’t want Gray affecting our friendship; he’s swung between us for a long time and we’ve both been hurt by it, but I’m legitimately happy for them and want to move forward to a place we can all be comfortable as friends again. When I finally reach out to Gray again after a few weeks, he doesn’t mention Elle once; he’s afraid talking about her will hurt me. I tell him we have to move past it eventually, and ignoring it is not the solution. It’s been three months since then, and things still aren’t the same – but he did finally tell me he misses being with me. 

Just weeks into my six-month stay in Newport, I meet a guy named John* on Tinder. He’s sweet, dorky, funny, and the sex is incredible, we see each other nearly every day at first. He takes me on hikes and teaches me about the geography of Rhode Island, we make midnight runs to Stop & Shop for ice cream, I teach him how to properly bind someone’s wrists. Not too long after we start dating, it becomes clear that he’s uncomfortable with me being poly, but he’s trying to keep an open mind about it. He asks me to tell him if I sleep with other people, and a little red flag goes up. He asks me to not be on my phone while we’re together, and that raises another one. After two months, he’s asking me for more than I can give and making passive-aggressive comments about my lifestyle. He acts like me being poly is something I’m doing to him. It’s disappointing to see this side of him after we’ve had so much fun together, and I don’t know what to do. I talk it through with Kennedy, and he says, “This doesn’t seem like a good situation for you to be in.” He thinks John is being manipulative and that worries him; he doesn’t want me to get hurt. I don’t want to admit that things are over, but Kennedy is right. I break things off, and it sucks, but I know it’s the right thing to do. 

Around the same time I meet John, I meet another guy named Jack* who IS poly, AND kinky – the whole package. He runs a munch in Providence and invites me to everything, so I can get involved with the scene, and I feel immediately at ease there. I meet some incredible people, and he helps push me outside of my kink comfort zone in a good way. I spend time with his other partner one-on-one, which is something I’ve never done before, and I’m relieved when it doesn’t feel competitive. The three of us hook up a few times. Jack is thoughtful and shy, and it’s clear the he really, deeply cares about the people in his life. It feels like there’s potential for a real relationship. He begins to call me his partner.

I also re-connect with a guy named Nick that I matched with, back when I was in Providence a month ago. He and his primary partner are open, and when he introduces me to her, she’s warm and welcoming. I get to meet his friends, and I think I’ve found a little bubble of the most social people in Newport. I’m crazy attracted to this guy. We don’t see each other often, but one night after we’ve gone out dancing he says, “I really like you.” He wants me to be his summer fling. I want to spend all my time watching sunsets on his roof.

Kennedy comes to visit me in July, after four months of being apart. We drive home from the airport with his hand up my skirt, and we fuck as soon as the door closes beind us. In everything and everyone I’ve done during my trip, I can say one thing for sure: nothing beats this. When we fuck, it’s magic. I’ve had great sex with other people, but I will never have with anyone what I have with Kennedy. 

Nick takes Kennedy and I on a double date, and they immediately click. I stand back watching them talk about a shared love of food and my heart is bursting. Nick says, “He’s super cool. I can definitely see what you see in him,” and Kennedy says the same thing about Nick. I take Kennedy to the munch that Jack runs, and introduce him around. He fits right in, and tells me he thinks my new friends are cool. I kiss Jack in front of him and don’t feel weird about it. 

Long-distance hasn’t been easy on us, but having the openness to live our separate lives has been freeing and ultimately valuable. I’ve had to take charge of myself, and be more social and adventurous, and through everything he’s there to be my rock. We’ve both experienced dealing with jealousy, and while we both still sometimes have a hard time, it’s getting easier. When Kennedy visits, it’s like we were never apart, despite the literal and figurative distance between us these past few months, but he lets me know it’s okay if I take a night out of his visit to go out with either of my new partners if I want. I don’t, but the fact that we’ve reached the point where he can say that, feels incredible. We still don’t know how things will go when I go back to Portland in the fall and we try to transplant everything we’ve learned across 3,000 miles into one city, but I’m not worried. We’ve been through a lot, and we’re still learning, but we’re still standing, and we’re stronger than ever. 

Plus, 7/10 states isn’t too shabby. 

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