By Amanda Hodgeson
It’s Sunday afternoon, I have a meeting in 45 minutes and I am supposed to be completing a take home exam. But like I said, Its Sunday and I just want to browse social media and read interesting articles from the Guardian. Sooo, I did just that, well the social media part. A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook called “Falling in love with a man 10 years younger”. I would not have watched it purely from the title, but I watched it because of her caption. I don’t remember word for word what she said but she said something like ‘Just try to love like this’. Which intrigued me because I am always looking for new and fresh ways to think about and express love.
Can I just say…I was not ready for this video…nowhere close to being ready.
In the video is a (visibly) nervous 50 something year old woman, Aryana Rose, speaking about Jean Michel, a wonderful man she fell in love with. She spoke about him with such love and passion it gave me goosebumps. She tells us that his eyes would light up every time he was around kids and one day it dawned on her that he might want one. So she asked him if he wanted kids and he said ‘yes of course!’ and she realised then and there that it was the end of their relationship. See, being 10 years his senior she already had kids of her own, grown kids! and she loved and valued her life and freedom and was not prepared to change that, nor was he prepared to deny him the gift of having his own. So she cried all night and then left him the next day. They, however, spent the next 3 years trying to let go of one another, both at some point making the decision to have kids (her) or not have kids (him) but it never stuck because they realised they could not and should not make those kinds of sacrifices for one another.
One day while drinking on a balcony she spotted a beautiful woman with red hair and struck up a conversation with her and for 4 weeks they cultivated ‘a unique relationship’. One day she invited the beautiful woman to meet her friend Jean Michel and she knew when they looked at each other that her plan had worked. She had asked a friend to call her with a fake emergency so she could sneak away and leave them to get to know one another. When she hugged him goodbye he knew what she had planned and begged her not to go. She told him to be free and achieve his dreams, even without her, and left and did not see or talk to him again for 4 years (even though he tried many times to get a hold of her). Four years later she randomly called him up to say she was coming to one of his exhibitions. Almost in tears she recounts how when she arrived a beautiful little girl with red curly hair and green eyes came running up to her like she had known her, her whole life and asked her in French “Are you the fairy?”
I watched this video two times in a row and subsequently put my head down on my desk and just wept, not knowing exactly what I was crying so much for.
I just knew I felt her pain, her love and also her joy but I didn’t understand how something so heart breaking could be so beautiful. The story itself is incredibly beautiful, but I think the way she tells it, with such openness and vulnerability, is what pushes it over the edge. You can literally feel her energy as she tells us how she very consciously and intentionally handed the man she so loved to someone more capable than her of giving him what she knew he so deeply desired. Its…wow…its just wow.
I think a portion of my life’s work is to think and write about love and relationships. I love love and I am such a romantic at heart. I am not blind, however, to how ‘love’ has damaged me and so many of us. I am almost obsessed with finding new ways to think about, feel and actually carry out a love that breaks, transcends and shatters the kind of love we have been taught to seek and to give. A revolutionary love, very much like the one Aryana Rose speaks about in her video.
Let’s back track a little bit. 25 years into my existence I was introduced to queerness and polyamory. Basically after a monogomous heterosexual existence I fell in love with a woman who identified as polyamorous and my world was blown right open. This was my introduction to Love 2.0. First it changed the kinds of people I was choosing to love and then it changed the dynamics of the vehicle in which I was choosing to express that love. Shit, it gave me choice! How often to do we think we have a choice about who to love and how to love them? I realised that I did, that I always had.
But I am sure I don’t have to tell you that being in a relationship with a woman, where you can be in relationships with other women at the same time (and she knows) in no way constitutes revolutionary love or Love 2.0. While these might be the gate way to Zion, their existence alone does not guarantee that you will somehow miraculously shed all the toxic monogamy that has been beat into you your whole life.
What is toxic monogamy you ask?
Now that we’re all on the same page its clear that toxic monogamy can exists even in queer polyamorous relationships. I am almost convinced even that queer poly relationships often have the things to dramatically increase toxic monogamy in a person. Having to continuously be in touch with your emotions, needs and wants is tiring. Having to continuously be in touch with the emotions, needs and wants of all your partners is exhausting. Having to continuously be in touch with yours and your partners emotions, needs and wants in relation to one another…aowa!
And so it becomes easy, even second nature, to slip into patterns where you are lying and making skewed decisions because its simply easier and less exhausting than doing all the work of honesty and talking that is required of polyamorous living.
But let’s strip it down to the basics for a second. What actually goes into loving another human being? Love being that thing that goes beyond the fact that they look really nice in that dress, that they have a really nice accent, that they are hair goals and that actually you might really want to see them naked lying next to you naked. That is the biggest question that I had after I listened to Aryana’s story. Other than carrying some very intense affections for a number of people in my life, could I safely and accurately say I had loved them? Still love them?
Without her having to confess her love for Jean Michel you can gauge it in the way that Aryana speaks about him, with her words but also with her eyes, her hands and her chest. They all singularly, and put together as her body, speak volumes about the things she feels for him. But of course the real litmus test, I feel, is how she was able to look beyond all the delicious things she felt for him (clearly still feels for him) to almost force him to live out his dreams, dreams he had before he met her, independent of her, even if it meant doing it without her. Because she realised that his happiness linked to his autonomy, his decision about fatherhood was important enough to not just be pushed to the side because of her presence in his life. I know I said she was able to look past her love for him to do all this, but I wonder if it was not rather because of it, than inspite of it.
I have often made the mistake of deciding for people that I am what’s best for them. That I am their best chance for love, for happiness, for all the things that they desire from a partner. Very often I have made these assumptions even before actively engaging these people on what they envision their ideal love to look like. Of course the intention is always good. And the intention is to provide said person with love, adoration and all the affection that lives in my bones (of which there is A LOT), but how much of my decision to love another is actually about the other person? How much of loving actually has to do with the person being loved and how much of it is about ourselves? We all have a secret desire to be someones everything: their favourite kiss, their favourite fuck, their favourite person, the one they can’t go to bed without talking to, the one they want and need to tell everything, the one who they affectionately refer to as the love of their life. Mara masithi si beka kahle guise, none of these things are about them.
They’re all about us and our own desire to be made to feel special above others, among a host of other god-like complexes we need to be realised through relationships.
Like we have already established, polyamory and queerness are not in and of themselves revolutionary. What gives them revolutionary potential are the ways in which we practice them. Loving women, black women in particular, is for me a deeply political act of self-love, which I have written about elsewhere so I won’t get into it here. Polyamory is the space where I try to live out a non-toxic love. So that means intentionally doing the opposite of all the things listed in ‘What I mean when I say toxic-monogamy culture‘, but it also means being able to create new ways of loving and recently, since I have watched Aryana’s video, its the space where I try to exercise a love that does not centre my need to made into something god-like by someone else.
I want to love someone…immediately I want to put ‘enough to’, but lets try and stay away from hierarchies and levels of love. I want loving someone to mean:
- I want what’s best for them … which means I have to listen and believe them when they tell me.
- I am able to see when what’s best for them isn’t me…even when they try and convince me I am.
- I want them to love and to be loved, even when none of that includes me. Even and when it includes me and a couple of others.
- I am able to choose myself and they are too.
My lovely friend said she does not think we are all capable of the kind of love displayed by Aryana. I am inclined to disagree with her. I said to her “I think we are all capable, deep down somewhere we have it. But capable doesn’t necessarily mean able. Because able requires resources we may not always have”. So I guess my prayer is for each one of us to be able to at least begin to do the healing work that navigating the world in the bodies that we do requires. And hopefully from there we can all move towards giving and eventually receiving the kind of love we know we both need and deserve.
Watch the video…it might start the process 🙂
Check out Amanda’s Blog AutonoMe. Its so dope. so dope.