HYPER/TEXT Polyamorous Plurality

A rose is a rose by Tammy Rae Carland (2018) via Jessica Silverman Gallery

Polyamorous Plurality asks:

I have a polyamorous Twitter mutual who is very sweet and cool. However, I recently realized that the “partners” she tweets about are her headmates. 

Now, I’m not particularly experienced with plurality, but for the most part I feel like I understand enough to be respectful while talking to a plural person. However, I have no idea how to process that her polycule is full of her own fictive headmates. 

On the one hand, theoretically, they’re separate people who are dating each other, but the fact that they’re all in one body confuses me. Like, imagine a breakup in that scenario! You literally cannot get any distance. 

At the end of the day, it’s not really a problem for me, since we’re just acquaintances. At the same time, I feel stuck on this concept. How do I interact with this set-up? I feel slightly weird about it, but should I? Am I just secretly bigoted? Is it problematic that I find it cringy?

As per usual, I’ve provided some definitions for the casual reader: 

  • Plurality is defined as “individuals who share their physical body with one or more entities.”
  • Headmates refer to the other entities with which the referent shares their body. 
  • Fictives are headmates who take on the personality or internal appearance of a fictional character. 
  • And while I assume any HYPER/TEXT reader would know this by now, polyamory is the practice of dating multiple people at the same time. 

In sum, Polyamorous Plurality, you’re disturbed because your acquaintance only romantically engages with her own fictive introjects. You’re not quite sure how her relationships function, or, I assume, if they’re what you would consider “real.” You get some degree of second-hand embarrassment from watching her speak about them in public, and these complicated feelings brought you to HYPER/TEXT. 

I can’t fault you for wanting guidance (especially when this is the exact flavor of submission I love to receive), but I am disappointed you solved your own dilemma before you even pressed “SUBMIT.” The way I see it, this person isn’t even prevalent enough in your social circles to warrant being called your friend, let alone being dissected in a C-tier advice column. If reading about her love life makes you feel confused, full of pity, or otherwise suboptimal, you can always unfollow or block her — it’ll feel much better than curiously stress-scrolling (stressfully curious-scrolling?). 

However, I’m sure your plural acquaintance — and any future plural friends and acquaintances — would be incredibly hurt that you find their existence “cringey.” For resources regarding plural systems, my friends recommend The Plurality Playbook, “a guide on how to interact with and support plural coworkers that’s pretty universally applicable outside of the workplace.” Hopefully, this should assuage some of the weird feelings you experience around occupying digital space with them. At the end of the day, however, if they still make you uncomfortable, I think most plural people would agree that you should keep a respectful distance.

HYPER/TEXT is a queer advice column for the digital age: a space for subcultural dilemmas that leave offline friends scratching their heads. Should you block your best friend over lesbian discourse? What on Earth is a “kinnie?” Check in biweekly for answers to these questions and more as we explore the lives of the hyper-online!

Got questions? Submit HERE or via hypertextterse@gmail.com.

Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are a chapbook editor at LUPERCALIApress, one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine, and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Instagram @circumgender.

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