And that changed the order in which I learned lessons about relationships. If you remember the post about The People You’ll Meet, the Manic Poly Dream Girl, much like the cinematic trope of the manic pixie dream girl, is a young woman on whom our protagonist hangs all her hopes and dreams. She embodies the wild runaway spirit of new philosophies and becomes more idea than person, and upon exerting her personhood generally is expelled from the story. Think Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but we’re talking an experiment in a new relationship style with polyamory. My friends who looked or “felt” more Manic Poly Dream Girl got the “experimenters” much younger than I did - they got the toe-dippers and “cowboys” at a much higher percentage when we were in our early 20s.
I, on the other hand, as the less-exciting seeming - dare I say boring?- friend, the along-on-every-adventure but not usually the initiator and hair close to natural colors, without a distinct fashion sense (even more so in my early 20s than now - and honestly, now my friends in the kink and ren faire scenes will swear up and down that this is a lie but folks who see me every day will go “yeah she kind of doesn’t know what she’s wearing on any given day” because I’ve got niche confidence but not for Tuesday afternoon), took until my late 20s to get the experimenters started up. I’m the “Now I’m an Authority, Apparently, And That Makes Them Feel Safe To Experiment Here” experiment. I’ve done this long enough that people forget I might have feelings about relationships anymore, or think I can sublimate them into existing relationships, which is just as obviously ignoring my personhood as is viewing my friends who knew (know - some of them still have this problem a decade and a bit on) how to dress and liked to dye their hair as embodiments of the concept of Adventurous Polyamory.
This isn’t to say that all new people treat their early partners badly, or that it’s impossible to date women when you start out without ignoring that they’re people - but it is saying that a lot of us learn to watch out for folks who do that without noticing. Not all of us learn that at the same phase in our polyamorous journies, or at least, we don’t all get firsthand experience at the same time. I saw my friends have this experience six or seven years before I had anyone treat me as just an experiment with polyamory overall.
I had other bad experiences - people wanting to set different rules for themselves than for me, or there being an imbalance of power in a particular relationship that the partner didn’t want to acknowledge, for example - but never “I’ve never done this, you should be my guide into this but also be deeply charming the whole time, and as soon as you aren’t or it isn’t fun for me, I’m dropping you and the whole relationship, regardless of how invested you and I may have become.” It’s a jarring experience. It feels like you were used - because you were.
So, I’m glad I was never a Manic Poly Dream Girl, because it’s a lot easier to see it coming when someone wants to use me for my experience as A Polyamorous Authority now, in my 30s, than to suss out the difference between someone liking me and someone putting me on a pedestal as what is good about polyamory would have been in my early 20s. I make jokes about all the stereotypes of polyamorous people you’ll meet, but we all learn the same lessons or don’t stay in the community long, and I think the order I learned them in served me pretty well.