Poly Means Many: The sweet shop of terrible ideas

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them.  Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

This month’s topic is Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO as basically everyone says. I struggled to think what to write about for a while, as it was a thing I wasn’t sure if I’d actually experienced or not. I’ve always been kind of “yay, my partners are happy and I didn’t even need to do anything to make that happen”. So I suppose I wondered if I should sit this one out, as apparently I don’t experience this big thing which poly people are supposed to experience.

Then I remembered that fuck it, Poly Means Many. And I do get this feeling–it manifests differently, perhaps, but it is definitely a fear of missing out.

When I first started doing poly, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Not one of the well-behaved ones, but one of the ones who eats everything and ends up on a sugar high and then eats more sweeties and then is sick everywhere. In short, I didn’t want to miss a thing. I wanted to be everywhere, do everything (and everyone). I’d tear around like a tornado of sexual energy, not go home for days at a time because I was too busy with… actually probably making some terrible decisions.

See, during that time, I don’t think I ever said no to anything. I ended up doing a lot of stuff which was actually pretty terrible for me. I had sex I didn’t want, I ended up in relationships I wasn’t particularly sure about, and to say I burnt the candle at both ends is a bit of an understatement. I let a lot of people down, because it turns out it’s physically impossible to be in about eight places at once.

The reason I did all of this was because I was afraid that if I didn’t seize every opportunity as it appeared, it would be gone. I feared that there might be some sort of expiry date on human contact and so I had best enjoy it while it was fresh. I was scared of missing out by not doing everything immediately.

I was lucky, I suppose, that my FOMO didn’t lead to any life-alteringly drastically bad consequences. I pursued a lot of thoroughly awful ideas at that time.

I finally got over it. I realised that I didn’t have to do everything all at once. That this lovely sweet shop I found would stay open, and if I didn’t cram everything into my ravenous face-hole all at once, I’d enjoy it far more. I would miss out on precisely nothing by putting my own needs and self-care first.

Sometimes the feeling rears its head again, and I’m not going to pretend that I magically started making excellent decisions after all of this. Hell, I still make highly questionable choices from time to time. The difference is I’m aware now of precisely why I’m doing it, and I’m much, much better at not making a hot mess of my silly, silly life. I feel more secure in myself, and in my relationships with others, which helps me negotiate and meet my own needs.

I know I’m not going to miss out. I feel it most of the time. And now, at least, I’m starting to learn what to do with the feelings when they skew the other way.

The Sun’s mental health splash: it’s not about the numbers

No doubt a lot of you will have seen the front page of the Sun today, announcing that people with mental health problems are big stabby monsters who will murder you. If you haven’t, this is literally their front page.

I have the “privilege” of peeping behind the Scum’s paywall, so I checked out the article. It will surprise literally nobody that the data are totally wack, and to make up for the lack of content, the Scum added a lot of pictures of pretty girls who were killed by the scary mentals. Oh, and in a particular double V-sign, they then add a small box pointing out that people with mental health problems are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

If you’re interested in the actual facts surrounding dangerousness and mental health problems, you can download a fact sheet here. In short, even the Sun can’t manage to substantiate their front page claim.

But here’s the thing: it’s pretty easy to attack the figures, because they are a nonsense. But in doing that, we lose sight of what is really going on here. We stop asking the questions that need to be asked. Why on earth would the Scum decide to whip up a panic about people with mental health problems?

We live in a society where there is a vast stigma surrounding mental health. Small gains are occasionally made: nice national treasure celebrities can now talk about their depression and so forth, and a fuss might be kicked up about naughty supermarkets selling nasty costumes. It really isn’t enough, though, and as we dig our way towards being treated with basic human dignity, we hit wall after wall after wall.

Our mental health marks us as other, and we become acceptable targets in a society built around kicking the marginalised at every opportunity. It is no surprise that it is the oppressed who are scapegoated for everything that happens, and not the privileged. It is no surprise that the Scum decided to pick the weak rather than splash THOUSANDS KILLED BY MEN. It is no surprise that this will go far less challenged than the fact that they print pictures of norks on the third page.

If the climate of fear remains, we will remain alienated. This stigma can kill. It keeps us lonely, stops us from healing, and it blames us for our own isolation.

And this allows those with the power to continue doing what they’re doing, to maintain their chokehold relatively unchallenged. They are able to perpetrate these assaults, and we continue struggling uphill to fight against tropes that should have died a long time ago. It keeps us down, it keeps them up.

Does it terrify those with the power that the oppressed are gaining a voice? I think it does, and this is why they keep turning up the volume on their attacks. They are scared of us, and want everyone else to be, too. It’s working, perhaps, and that scares me.

The Scum have a rich history of lying about those without power. We know this, but we choose to attack the easy bit rather than the harder bit: that society is built this way, and needs so much to change before most of us can exist comfortably within it.

Use the Sun as kindling, but there’s a hell of a lot we have to burn.

Things I read this week that I found interesting

Happy Sunday, you lot. Here’s some things I read this week that I found interesting, and perhaps you will too.

Activist Burnout I: An Anatomy (Alice B. Reckless)- Stunningly good piece on how activism intersects with mental health and it’s horrible and fucking hell go and read it, because I reckon a lot of us are feeling this way.

On Gloria Steinem’s Apology (Toni D’Orsay)- Very important analysis of Gloria Steinem’s apology for transphobia, putting it into context.

Migrants tragic death toll in Lampedusa, Italy: only 6 out of 100+ women survived (Flavia Dzodan)- Flavia reminds us why immigration is–and must be–a feminist issue.

Why capitalism hates consensual sex work (sometimes, it’s just a cigar)- Some interesting ideas in this short piece.

Why is the media debate about Syria dominated by men? (Rach Shabi)- Names a problem within the media pretty effectively.

Speaking for those who already have a voice: why the Twitter Elite cannot speak for minorities. (Finger-steepling and Sharks)- How do we solve a problem like the Twitter Media Clique?

The eclipse and re-emergence of the antipsychiatry movement (sometimes explode)- A brief history of the anti-psychiatry movement and how it shaped modern psychiatry.

No More “Allies” (Mia McKenzie)- On the identity of “ally” and how that’s really not good enough.

And finally, have 50 intellectual jokes, and let me tell another one. Two helium atoms walk into a bar. As one goes to pay, she says “ah, fuck, I think I lost an electron”. The other asks, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I’m positive.” So then the second helium atom goes up to pay, and the barmaid says “For you, madam, no charge”.

Fuck the Daily Mail?

HEY GUESS WHAT EVERYONE, THE DAILY MAIL ARE BEING MEAN ABOUT A DEAD WHITE GUY.

WE SHOULD, LIKE, SET THEM ON FIRE OR SOMETHING.

Forget about the woman they hounded to death. Or the relentless racism, the vicious homophobia, the rampant misogyny, the perpetual incitement to violence against anyone marginalised.

Now they’re being mean about a dead white guy, that’s just a step too far.

Yes. You may say you were pissed about all of those things, too, and that this is the last straw. I get that. I really, really get that.

But here’s the thing. Most of the evils of the Mail are not actually this particular newspaper. The Mail, for the most part, is a dark mirror which reflects disgusting attitudes which pervade society. It phrases them a little more bluntly than many are comfortable with, perhaps, but it is just an amplification of prejudices which already exist. The Mail didn’t invent xenophobia, it merely turned up the volume.

It is only really for white dudes that the Daily Mail is creating any kind of novel hate. For most of us, it’s just repeating the same hate we hear every day, in a louder voice.

It’s not the Mail that’s the problem. It’s fucking kyriarchy. And unfortunately, that’s too hard for a lot of people to attack. And so we have a moan about the Mail–god knows I’m as guilty of this as anyone else–rather than the social conditions which produce the bile that they spout.

It is the death of these conditions, the death of bigotry, the death of kicking down that needs to happen, not the death of a particular newspaper. The world around us is far uglier than a Daily Mail editorial if you allow yourself to see it.