Boyfriends, With An S
Fort Lauderdale, December 2005
Ken is my ex. He is THE ex. He was my first live-in boyfriend and my longest roommate. Is it only gay men who can stay good enough friends after the break up, so that you can keep living with each other? Ken and I lived with each other about 13 years, until I left Fort Lauderdale to go live with someone else in San Francisco. And I stay with Ken when I return to visit Fort Lauderdale.
There's a Mexican restaurant in Wilton Manors called Acapulco Linda. It just isn't a trip to Fort Lauderdale if I don't eat at Acapulco Linda. Plastic chairs, map of Florida paper placemats, Telemundo on the fuzzy TV, and huge portions of arros con pollo. It's a very comfy place. Even if you've never been there, it feels like you have. During my last visit, Ken decided that "all of us" should get together for a meal there.
I said, "Excellent. Who's 'all of us'?"
"You, me, Sam...." Sam is another of Ken's exes, circa late '90s. "And Jim and Mark. I want you guys to meet my new boyfriends."
Yes, that was boyfriendS. With an "S". Ken is several months into his first three-way relationship. Properly known by polyamorists as a triad. Amusingly known by many gay men as a "thruple". Twice the sex, but six times the emotional baggage, as the joke goes.
Thruples seemed to burst into my consciousness sometime in the late 90's as I began to encounter them more and more often in San Francisco. My earliest memory of the issue comes from the time when a scruffy looking bodybuilder told me earnestly, "You are a very hot guy and we could have sex and all that, but I'm really into dating couples. I'm really looking to be in a triad."
I walked away thinking, "WhatEVER, dude. Who said anything about dating?"
From that moment, my thruple antenna were up. I started running into them all the time. At first, the entire phenomenon seemed very Joy Luck Club-y to me. "Wife Number Two,(sob)...has NO honor!" But it also seemed very familiar. There was something in my past...something that made me feel like I'd encountered the thruple situation before.
Then one day I was sorting through some old paperbacks. Tom Clancy, into the trash. Stephen King, keep. Jackie Collins, um...trash. Gordon Merrick, definitely keep. You all know the drill. And then I came across an old sci-fi novel by Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves. I had read The Gods Themselves a half-dozen times in high school. That's when it dawned on me why the thrupling issue had seemed so oddly familiar.
In the novel, a scientist makes contact with a world in a parallel universe. That world is populated by a species which needs all three genders to mate simultaneously in order to procreate. Each of the three genders has a specific relationship role and are named accordingly. Parental. Rational. Emotional. I decided that the next time I met a thruple, I'd tell them about The Gods Themselves.
And so it came to be that I was standing near the Christmas tree, in the home of a porn video mogul, holding three porn stars in rapt attention as I explained the premise of the novel.
Porn Star 1: Oh. My. God! I am totally the Emotional!
Porn Star 2: You so totally are! And I'm definitely the Rational.
Porn Star 3: (nodding) Yeah, I can see me as the Parental. But that's because of who I am, NOT because I'm the oldest one, you bitches!"
Porn Stars 1 & 2: (in unison) Of course not!
Interestingly, almost every single time I've told this story to a triad, perhaps a dozen occasions in all, all three guys have instantly decided, without discussion or argument, which of the three genders they represented. It just seems to be plainly obvious to each of them, who each of them are. It's been a fascinating experiment. My ex, Ken, for those interested, considers himself to be the Rational. And even though I don't really know Jim and Mark very well yet, I think he's probably right.
The last time I went to San Francisco, I ran into Rick and Allen, two-thirds of a triad that I used to see at the bars. Naturally, I asked about the missing guy. Rick shook his head, "Oh, we had to break up with David. It just wasn't working out. I mean, how could it? Two Emotionals? Honey, even Allen wasn't Rational enough to handle THAT!"
And here all this time you've been thinking the top and bottom thing is hard to figure out.