“Nice to meet you, where you been?–Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
I could show you incredible things
Magic, madness, heaven, sin
Saw you there and I thought
‘Oh, my God, look at that face
You look like my next mistake
Love’s a game, wanna play?'”
Hey, my Kinky, Polyam Peeps! After a three month break with the blog, let me tell you, it’s been hard to get that motor going again. However, like most things in my life, I know that once I can get back in a rhythm, the words will start flowing much easier and the creativity will come crashing in waves.
So, I had two ideas about what to write for this piece, so being unsure, I did what every great submissive does: I asked someone else to make the decision for me. For that reason, we’re gonna talk about what to do at your First Polyamory Meet and Greet!
Meet and Greets (sometimes referred to as “munches”) are an opportunity for the polyam community to gather in a public setting and socialize. They can be especially difficult for newbies because, as in any culture, there’s a set of mores and customs that members abide by, plus being around so many new people at once can trigger some social anxiety. It’s for that reason I’m gonna hand out a list of “Do’s” and “Dont’s” for your first rodeo.
Before we move on, as always, lets do the resource dump…
Before I list my resources, I do want to say that research for this piece was really sparse, and therefore a lot of what I’m going to say is based on my own personal experiences, so feel free to take that as you will. However, I was able to pull small snippets of information from this 2022 article from Bonobology, as well as these two blog entries from Ready for Polyamory
So, you (or you and your significant other) have finally garnered the courage to take your first steps into the real-world community of polyamory. You’ve found your local meet and greet and you’re ready to head out the door. What are some things you should keep in mind?
DO make sure you’re at the right venue – Obviously, you want to make sure you went to the right spot where the meetup is being held. It would be weird if you showed up asking about a Meet & Greet in a room full of vanillas. That’s not what I’m talking about, though. You want to research the group to make sure that the people attending match your vibe and your objectives.
As Polyamory has grown in popularity, there’s been a trend to label everything ENM as “Polyam”, even though the ENM community is very diverse and covers things such as Polyamory, Swinging, Open Relationships, Casual Relationships, and even Sex Work. For instance, last Saturday there was a Meet and Greet for the local Swingers group in my area. While they are very explicit about the type of ENM they practice, not every group is, so it may not hurt to reach out to the event organizer and ask “What are your members core beliefs?” It sounds a little strange, and it will save a lot of potential headache down the road.
In addition to the type of ENM the group practices, demographics can play a factor as well. Some Polyam groups will specifically target themselves towards the under-thirty crowd. Others may be full of people in their fifties and sixties. Others may exclusively cater to the queer community of people of color. I remember when Panda and I went to our first ENM Meet and Greet, we made the mistake of not checking out the demographics ahead of time. We were easily the youngest people in the room by 10-15 years and it made us feel a little uncomfortable. Again, reach out to the event organizer to see if the crowd is one in which you feel you might have something in common.
Finally, because Meet and Greets are often held in public settings (bars, restaurants, and coffee shops) and the group may not be relegated to a specific area, if you’re new, it’s important the organizer know you’re coming so they can keep an eye out for you. It can be uncomfortable to walk up to the wait staff and say “Excuse me, I’m here for the Polyamory meetup”, so notifying the event organizer can help make the transition into the group area much smoother.
DON’T come to the event with expectations – When I was an admin of my local Polyamory group, I would see this all the time. Someone (usually a cishet guy. Sorry, but it’s true), would come to the event looking to score. They would see someone they’re interested in, start hitting on them aggressively, and then the admin team would need to either pull them aside, or worse, ban them from the group.
It’s important to remember that Meet and Greets are not speed dating events. These are community gatherings in which we are there to learn more about each other and offer support. Do people find partners and eventually wind up hooking up at some point? Of course! Anytime you get a group of people together, that’s bound to happen. What’s important is that it’s a side effect, and not a goal. Come to the event looking to meet new people and learn more about Polyamory. If something else happens, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
DO try to spread out and mingle – This rule is especially important if you are part of an existing couple that is looking to open their relationship. I mentioned in a TikTok earlier this year that a lot of Polyam veterans don’t like to date newbies because they haven’t yet done the work to unpack things like couples’ privilege and jealousy. A great way to show veterans that you’re working on this is to split from your partner and mingle as separate individuals. This shows others at the event that you don’t feel the need to constantly cling to your partner and are open to engaging in separate relationships.
Also, if you do meet someone you “click” with, try not to monopolize their time. There will be an opportunity to exchange contact info later, and the point of the event is to build community (more on this point later)
DON’T pick a fight – Polyam people can be a bit of a contentious bunch. As an underrepresented group, many of whose members are still in the closet, there can be a lot of pressure to put our best face forward towards “The Vanillas”. For that reason, anyone seen as casting the community in a negative light will be quick to be called out.
The problem arises when there are legitimate disagreements in which two or more people can feel differently about a topic. While I don’t believe there’s “No wrong way to Poly” (believe me, there’s many ways that are problematic and hurtful), I do believe there’s numerous RIGHT ways to poly, and just because someone practices Polyamory differently from me doesn’t make them inherently bad or wrong. If you come across someone espousing harmful beliefs or behaviors, it’s okay to politely disagree, and don’t start a fight. If the behavior is bad enough that it threatens the safety of other community members, bring it to the attention of an admin. Otherwise, just walk away.
DO ask if you can help – I’ve done enough volunteer work in my life to know that everyone enjoys a good time, and it can be hard to find people to do the work. Any helping hand is a huge plus. If the event is in a private location. Ask if you can help with set-up, or stay late to help with tear-down. When we’re in public spaces, Panda makes it a point to wrangle together glasses and dishware so it’s easier for the wait staff to collect. Anything you can do to make someone’s life easier will go a long way to enmeshing you into the community, plus, it’s just a nice thing to do.
DON’T forget to thank the host – Being a group admin is a thankless job. These people are all volunteers, and they give up their free time (and sometimes their own money) because they believe in the community. As you’re leaving the event, don’t be afraid to walk up to an organizer and say “Hey, I had a really great time and thank you for putting this together.” As a former group admin myself, often that one interaction makes it all worth it.
DO ask if you can reach out via social media – Nobody likes getting unsolicited messages or friend requests. If you enjoyed the conversation with someone and would like to continue it after the event, just ask if you can send them a DM or friend request. A lot of poly people, again, because they’re still in the closet, may use secondary profiles that mask their identity, so it’s best to ask rather than reaching out to their more public face.
DON’T turn it into a cock fight – Like coming to an event with expectations, this is a behavior we see committed predominantly by cishet men. In the monogamous world, it’s tempting to hone in on a potential partner and make yourself the center of their attention. There’s two problems wrong with this approach: First, a meet-up isn’t for speed-dating. It’s for building community. Meeting a partner shouldn’t be your objective. Second, unlike monogamy, polyamory isn’t “winner take all”. So what if that attractive person at the end of the bar is chatting up someone else? Give them some space and you’ll have your turn. A big part of Polyamory is getting comfortable with your partners spending time with other people. If you can’t handle that at a Meet & Greet, maybe Polyamory isn’t right for you.
One thing above all that you should remember when attending your first Meet & Greet is that we were all new at something once. You’re gonna make mistakes. Accept it. However, if you keep these handy rules in mind, you’ll find the community is a warm, loving place that is always open to those looking to explore a life a little less ordinary.
Until next time, stay kinky, my friends…
–The Bratty Cat