Sister: There are limited number of slots available for us to see my son graduate from boot camp. Why would she think she can go?
Mom: Well, she's his girlfriend.
Sister: Don't you think Joreth should take priority? She's family!
Mom: Well, yeah, of course!
Sister: Joreth, don't you want to go?
Me: Well, yeah, of course!
Sister: Then you wouldn't be willing to give up your spot for her, would you?
Me: Well, I can see why he would want her there, and his graduation is about him, not me.
Sister: But would you give up your spot?
Me: I dunno, maybe. I want to go, but I might be willing to give his girlfriend my spot because that's important to them. I just don't know.
Sister: Joreth, you're not on my team anymore.
Polyamory teaches me to be compassionate, to stop making things all about me, and to consider how important other people are to the ones I love. I may not be selfless enough, "enlightened" enough to actually give up my privilege, but I'm at least willing to consider it. And who knows, maybe I will.
I have 2 months to learn how to let go of my attachment. But I'm thinking of my nephew, and how this event is *his* day, not mine, and how I would feel if I couldn't have my own partners with me for something important like a graduation ceremony, or how I would feel if the family of one of my partners deemed me not "family" enough to be included on an important ceremony for my partner.
One of the things I worked really hard to do is to only visit my parents when I had the money to issue ultimatums in favor of my chosen family. I accept my parents' financial assistance and hospitality, but if it ever becomes possible to bring a partner or more along with me and my parents try to use their hospitality as leverage to apply conditions - such as not allowing me to share a guest room with a partner - I only want to visit when I have the money to say "well, Partner(s) is coming with me so if that's inconvenient for you, we will get a hotel nearby," or whatever would be necessary to remove those conditions. The validation of my partners and metamours is important enough to me to make that stand. I wanted to go ballroom dancing with my best friend on a night I was staying with my parents. I asked to borrow a car to get there, they said no, so I said I would rent one because I will not allow them to use their better finances to determine *my* choices. As soon as I said I would rent a car, they offered to loan me their extra car. It wasn't about the car, it was about who is entitled to my time.
I helped to raise my nephew. My sister was a teenage, single mother, so she lived at home for most of his life, where I was also still living until I moved to Florida. I was another parent through colic and a botched circumcision and many ear infections and learning to walk and learning to read and learning to swim. Not seeing him graduate if the military gives him enough family passes to include me would hurt. But attending wouldn't mean, to me, that those who didn't attend were somehow less important, not as much "family", as I am.
And I know that, even though he would love to have me there, he would *also* love to have his girlfriend there. As a poly person, I understand that wanting his girlfriend doesn't necessarily mean that he wants me there *less*. I have a different role in his life than his girlfriend, so it's not fair to ask him to rank which one of us is more "important". We have different roles, and different *types* of importance. I don't envy him the choice.
And he really won't be given the choice. He would never ask out loud for me to be passed over in favor of the girlfriend - his mother has trained him too well in her brand of etiquette, which is All Important in my family. My sister, his mother, will retain the power of final say in who goes because that's how my family operates - parents have ownership rights over their children. This is one of the many lessons I have rejected from my family even while I've kept many other lessons that have served me well in poly relationships.
But I do know the pain of externally imposed limitations, and the impossible task of choosing who "deserves" to be present when not everyone can be, and the tug of war that my family creates when they rank family of origin above family of choice. My sister has even said that, if they somehow got more spots available, his best friend should be the one to go before the girlfriend. I think that my nephew is the only legitimate authority on who "should" go, particularly when choosing among his peers. I've written before about my family's penchant for not recognizing the legitimacy of romantic relationships without a legal tie. If the girlfriend was the wife, there would be no question that she would go and she would "outrank" me, the aunt.
Meanwhile, all this is going on while my nephew is currently traveling *on the way* to boot camp. He has only been sworn in for a few hours and there is already a power struggle going on over his graduation two months from now, and two of the most important women in his life are fighting for dominance and validation. Which means that it might fall to me to put my poly money where my poly mouth is and cut through all the shit and remind everyone that none of this is about them - it's all about him and being there *for him*.
I already know that my sister and parents will not agree with me that this is something that is happening to my nephew. They are experiencing strong feelings, so of course it's about *them*, right? They don't understand the difference between something being about the individual it's happening to and feeling *affected* by something that's happening to that individual. Focusing on the thing happening to the individual doesn't mean that no one else is affected, or that being affected by it isn't also important. But, as a poly person, I've had to learn that there will *always* be conflicts between an individual's agency and their experience vs. the feelings and effects on those around them. I've had to learn that it is ultimately disempowering and dismissing, and therefore unethical, to give more priority to the feelings of the "affected" than to the needs and experiences of the person actually going through it. It is up to the person feeling affected to own those feelings and find a way to work through them so that the person who is actually having the experience doesn't also have to shoulder the burden of emotional management of other people.
I'm just not yet sure that I'm emotionally big enough to walk the walk that I talk. I don't want to give up my privilege of attending. I hope I will be able to do the right thing when the time comes. I'm not entirely sure what the "right thing" is because there are so many variables and so many emotions. I hope I will do what's best for my nephew that will respect him as an adult and a person and that I can evaluate the situation well enough to know what that is.
Of course, there might not even be enough spots for me and this whole thing might be moot.