When you attend your first poly meet-up, it might seem a bit overwhelming. Chances are there will be more people there than you expected and they’ll all know each other pretty well. In fact, there’s a good chance most of them have been attending the meet-up for at least a few years.
That can be rather intimidating for a newcomer.
As a newcomer, you’re bound to get lots of attention. The poly community has only recently started to gain popularity and recognition, so it’s always a very exciting moment to a group when someone new shows up. At your first meet-up, be prepared to be asked a lot of questions. A. LOT. Not personal ones, mind you, but enough to make your head spin. If you are an introvert, it’s best to tell the other members upfront. You’ll probably find that there are other members of the group who are introverts as well. Being open will also help the extroverts of the group realize early on that they may be coming on a bit strong, and allow them to adjust how they approach the conversation accordingly. Trust me, you won’t offend anyone by letting them know what you need to be comfortable. Polyamory is all about communication, and not just ones about romantic relationships!
But, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, I’m sure the number one fear you’ll have before going to the meet-up is, will they like me? I know that was certainly mine. In fact, I was so afraid of being “average” or “boring” that I didn’t actually attend my first gathering until two months after joining the group! And I’m as extroverted as they come!
When I did finally managed to muster up the courage to go, I forced my monogamous boyfriend at the time (Lenin) to go with me. When we got to the coffee shop, I actually sat in my car and waited for an extra ten minutes until I saw someone I recognized from the meet-up page. I couldn’t stand the idea of being one of the first people there or, even worse, of approaching a group of people I thought were polys, but who were really just there trying to enjoy their (possibly) monogamous coffee. But, eventually, I did get out of the car, and for the next three hours I had a lovely time chatting with the other members (I believe there were about a dozen people there, which I now know was an unusually small number for a Friday night gathering).
I think one of the main things that struck me about the group was how “regular” everyone seemed. I know that probably sounds ridiculous. I mean, polys aren’t aliens or anything. They are, in fact, just regular people who happen to have a different point of view about love and relationships. I knew this, of course, but still couldn’t help myself from feeling, well, bored. For days I had been preparing to go to this meet-up. I read poly blogs, flipped through Kimchi Cuddles comics, brushed up on my poly vocab, and even listened to a podcast or two, just to be sure I was ready for any question they threw at me. In short, if they asked me to prove my polyhood, I was prepared!
But that didn’t happen.
Instead I was asked about my hobbies. What did I study in school? What were my favorite movies? Was I a geek? Was I a nerd? What were my favorite sports teams? Was I allergic to anything? How long had I lived in Raleigh? Basically, it was like being on a first date.
My mind was completely blown.
After each question I half expected the conversation to switch to, well, polyamory. But it never did. I thought for sure someone would at least ask about my partners or, at the very least, why I thought I was polyamorous. I guess I thought there would be some sort of vetting process, but all they wanted was to get to know me. Can you imagine? It was pure chaos! At least, in my head.
What I later came to realize was that poly meet-ups can be divided into two categories. There are those that deal with the actual subject of polyamory itself (like book discussion groups, poly 101 info sessions, and topic talks), and those that serve as just a chance for poly people to get together and socialize without the pressure of having to explain why they’re holding hands with more than one person. I just happened to attend the latter.
So, here’s my advice. If you’d like to know more about polyamory in general, attend a meet-up where that’s the primary focus (the description of the event should be a dead give away as to whether or not this is the case). These meetings are a great starting point, and the information you receive will be invaluable as you begin to better understand yourself.
On the other hand, if you feel like you’ve done enough research on your own or if, like me, you have been a practicing poly for some time, then a casual meet-up may be the best place for you. Even though it may seem like any other gathering, there is something really awesome about saying the words husband and boyfriend in the same sentence without someone so much as batting an eye. Trust me. It’s amazing.
In fact, it may be just about the best damn thing in the world.
Yes, putting yourself out there means that there’s always some sort of risk involved. And, yes, all the fears you have about meeting new people are legitimate and, I’m sure very real and important to you. But you should still try. So, start off small. Join a local poly group online and see if any of the in person meetings appeal to you. Send an email to the organizer and let them know you’re interested in attending. Drag your non poly friends along for the ride. But, most importantly, allow yourself the chance to be excited about who you are.
You deserve it.