joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Atlanta Poly Weekend is coming up in just a couple of weeks and I'm REALLY excited about it this year! This is APW's third year and, if the trend continues, it should be even better than last year, which was better than the first year.

For APW's first year, I gave several presentations, including why poly people should cooperate with the media and how to get into it, and a panel discussion on the intersection between polyamory and skepticism with Kelley Clark. I also debuted my Miss Poly Manners costume for the first time and held a live Miss Poly Manners Q&A.

Last year I was invited back as one of APW's keynote speakers, where I featured a talk on the intersection between poly and skepticism, and also debuted my own interpretation of the Five Love Languages for polyamorous relationships. I reprised my role as Miss Poly Manners (with an improved Victorian gown) and stretched my range of etiquette lessons to include convention etiquette, not poly-specific etiquette.

This year, Miss Poly Manners comes back once again to kick off the convention with some Con Etiquette, and to participate in APW's newest fun track! The folks in Atlanta had so much great content this year that they had to open up a fourth track of programming, not including the kids-specific track! In addition to three panels simultaneously all weekend long, covering such topics as communication tools, creating intimacy, poly case law, the results of a 15-year long study on kids of poly families, kissing classes, dealing with stress, jealousy, STIs, and special poly celebrity panels, APW will also feature a fun and games track.

Just as polyamory is not ALL about the sex, conventions are not all about the serious lectures. To lighten the mood and have some fun, this year's APW will feature some of our favorite campy game shows with a special poly twist. There will be events like Poly Family Feud and APW's Got Talent and Poly-eopardy and ... Miss Poly Manners will be the center square on our own live version of Polywood Squares! You won't want to miss it!

The highlight of every weekend is the evening entertainment and this year will have another dance with DJ Cat Ninetails. Right before the dance, by special request, I will be teaching dance lessons with Sterling! According to the expressed interests of everyone who says they want to learn how to dance but never get around to taking lessons, we've chosen a dance that will look flashy enough to show off, but can be danced to almost any popular music you might hear at a nightclub, a wedding, an office party, a convention, a party, or almost anywhere out in public. You will learn a handful of steps that can have you dancing that night, with plenty of room for growth to continue learning how to dance on your own, plus a list of resources for practice videos online and where to shop for dance shoes and clothes.

I'll be on the poly & skepticism panel again with Kelley Clark & Shaun Philly, and Sterling will be giving his ever-popular workshop on using personality types to improve poly relationships & communication. His workshop fills up to capacity every time he gives it and everyone who takes it wants to attend it again. And, as a special double-feature, I'll be giving my Five Love Languages workshop again!

For those who aren't aware, The Five Love Languages is a self-help theory developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. The basic premise is that everyone expresses their feelings of love and wants to have love expressed to them in certain ways. Those ways can be grouped into what he calls "languages", because they are ways that we all communicate our feelings of love. But the problem is that we don't express or feel loved in the same ways as everyone else. So we can love another person, and do things that we think expresses our love for them, but that person may not hear that they are loved because they speak a different love language than we do.

When people have partners who do not express love in the way they most feel loved, i.e. in their own love language, then it doesn't matter how much the other person loves them, they won't feel loved. And when people don't feel loved, they end up with what Dr. Chapman says is an empty love tank. When people's love tank is empty, they can act out in hurtful, damaging, even unpredictable ways. We have to learn how to communicate our love for each other in ways that the other person most needs to hear, because this acting out is all about how one feels regardless of how the other one thinks he or she is behaving.

Think about a child who is neglected by their parents. You will often see so-called "troubled kids" that have absent or neglectful parental figures. The movie, The Breakfast Club, is pretty much the quintessential story of kids with empty love tanks and the kinds of trouble they get into when they are crying out for love and attention. Adults aren't any different, although they may act out in different ways. Then again, sometimes they don't. People under stress and feeling neglected, unloved, and alone, often do all kinds of strange things in a reaction to that stress, and they often lack the vocabulary to express what it is they're lacking or how to give it to them. And, sometimes, their vocabulary is just fine, but the person listening doesn't have the vocabulary to understand. Or worse, when both are lacking the words to explain and the definitions to understand.

Many times, one person in a relationship will insist that they are doing everything possible to show how much they love their partner, and their partner complains that they still aren't getting what they need, still feel hurt, and still act out. If you've ever tried every way you can think of to show someone that you love them and they still accuse you of not loving them anymore, this is probably what happened - your partner had a different love language and the two of you were talking past each other, not realizing that you were actually speaking different languages. Learning to speak the other person's love language will often take care of many other problems in the relationship, sometimes things you didn't even know were related.

The Five Love Languages is one tool, among many, to give people a set of vocabularly to help explain how they need to feel loved and what they're doing when they are expressing their love. I've taken out the religious justifications and the monogamous intentions and the heteronormative assumptions and adapted the theory to apply to all genders and all relationships. You'll find out what your primary love language is and how to identify your partners' love languages, and concrete suggestions for expressing love in different languages. You'll also get a handout with summaries of each of the different languages & suggestions to take home for future reference.

So I'm really excited to get to do this workshop again, and to dance, and to see all of my old friends from previous years and to meet new friends this year. I'm terrible about out-of-context meetings, so if you see me there, please tell me how we know each other (if you follow me on a particular social networking site, if we've met before somewhere else, etc.) so I can connect the different contexts. Hope to see you there!

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