Polyamorous “Experts”: Or, Why I don’t call myself that
As you may have noticed in my last post, my take on the Polyamorous Expert is that they don’t exist. I’m an educator, I’ve been doing this a while, I’ve made enough mistakes that I’ve recovered from elastically enough to keep showing up, and I have a way with words - so they started letting me teach. I use my personal proclivity to write things down in places I don’t show people (and that I think even my sneaky boyfriend hasn’t snooped enough to find recent editions of) to process things as they happen, to weed out What Might Be Important, and to occasionally kiss my own ass about How Well I’m Doing At This. (This pride, I note, almost always cometh before a fall - be it a meltdown of my own or an unforeseen circumstance that makes the whole world uncertain enough to destroy the security of “Look! I’m great at this!”) This means I have a lot of Theories, a fair number of Strong Opinions, and a lot of fodder for classes. It also means I’m pretty good at delivering them, mostly without entirely blocking my face with Italian Gesticulation. It does not, however, make me an actual Expert, on polyamory, or on relationships.
I write this in the midst of Covid-19 upending everyone’s routines, and I’m Very Bad At This Right Now. I’m mostly digging in old journals and, occasionally, other people’s questions, arguments, and ideas to find better than half written content and spiff it up, or to adapt an argument I don’t agree with as an exercise - because that exercise is a good kind of break from my routine. I don’t really mean that I’m bad at the writing right now - though that’s a side effect - but I mean that I’m bad at my relationships right now (at least in my own perception) and that’s a big world shaker for someone an introduction called “An Expert on Alternative Relationship Models.” That’s the end of my moaning, but it’s all necessary exposition (I think) as to why I chose now to explain to you why I don’t use that word when I get to write my own introductions.
Actual Experts (in my inexpert, but important, because this is my blog, which means you’re in my virtual living room, and I have some upper hand, here), are people who have studied, who peers would grant are at a high level of knowledge, who are measurably Better Than Most Of Us At This Subject, and More Learned Than The Masses, in a noted way. Some people think this is a horrible, elitist opinion. They may be right, I may be crazy (for academia and years of apprenticeship), but it is probably a series of lunatics who embarked on decades of academic and practical combined study you’re looking for, for psychological counseling, medical advice, legal advice (I went to law school, but IANALTINLA, always), scientific advances, and to fix your HVAC system. Most of us hold this opinion, to one degree or another, and I apprenticed with no one but my own mistakes, and I read (a lot), but no one has given me the certificate that says it’s the right things (yet) to be An Expert, so I’m not one.
What I am, as certainly as I am my mother’s daughter in the number of subclauses I use, and my father’s in my vocabulary, is bright and opinionated and reasonably good at learning lessons from mistakes. I am here, on this blog, in the book I am desperately failing to put together because of socially distanced executive dysfunction, and in the podcast I am trying to learn to edit before I let you listen to, to teach you the ways of stepping around the mistakes I’ve made; and how to get up when you fall over and into them, because some of us NEED to learn the hard way. I think this is a pretty important thing, even if only one person listens to any one particular point; because getting through to a bunch of people, one point at a time, still matters. It’s nicer when it seems like a lot of you related, or read, or sent me a nice message, or after a class when people want to talk with me more, even if it’s to tell me that I’m dead wrong because they are the exception that proves the rule as the person waiting behind them rolls their eyes - but one person is enough.
I have 13 years of mistakes to plumb for material, and a lot of therapy and reading to plug the gaps in my own coping mechanisms. This, and an English major, a Sexual Diversity Studies Minor, and a J.D. that in no way cured my love of semicolons and subclauses, make me pretty good at relating those. So, I get in ‘dumb’ (but really important to building community understanding and meaning of terms) fights about semantics at meetups, and I teach classes that I hope help someone (and that I am available to teach digitally, if your participants don’t mind potato video quality with high quality sound, while we’re all still keeping space, find a list here) whenever I get the chance, and I write things here. But I am not an expert, because relationships are never two the same, and I wouldn’t presume to know anyone’s mind but my own, and barely that, some days.Other people have as many years of "apprenticeship" to real life, and are all over being good communicators, but use their skills for other things. (It can be argued that still others fucked up fewer times, or made less effort to learn from those mistakes and therefore have the apprenticeship level of a five year apprentice, not a thirteen year journeyman, and that those people need my skills just as someone who just began.) I am a Journeyman, an Enthusiast, a Nerd, an Extremely High End Hobbyist, and quite proud to be good enough at that to get paid for the privilege of being that in public. But I am not a Master, or an Expert.
Fight me if you disagree. I’ll see you on the internet version of “outside.”