The more the merrier

When people who are interested in polamory get together for a dinner, of course it's potluck—why choose just one dish?

Around 20 people came to last week's "Poly Potluck Party" at Missoula's Birds & Bees sexual health collaborative, which was preceded by a workshop with founder Lindsey Doe. The 28-year-old University of Montana graduate (and current adjunct professor) hopes to recreate a slice of the community she found in San Francisco, where she earned her doctorate in human sexuality.

"There were a lot of 'poly' people around me," Doe says. "Here, people were Craigslisting."

"Poly" is short for "polyamory," which translates literally to "multiple love," and is something of a catch-all term for any open, non-monogamous relationship, though Doe prefers not to interchange it with group sex or swinging.

"Those are systems of their own," she says.

While Doe begins the workshop clutching a copy of Vicki Vantoch's The Threesome Handbook to her chest as if it were a favorite Bronte novel, she favors therapeutic speak as much as dirty talk. The goal of the workshop, she says, is to take attendees from "a fear-based place to an educated place and then an experiential place," with no less than a dozen "huge fear categories" to address—including jealousy, being outperformed or the wrong person finding out. The latter is of particular concern; several attendees are from smaller towns within an hour's drive.

One 40-something couple says they're attending out of curiosity. They've had threesomes, but that's it. Another duo, Pam and Dan, are more experienced: two hippies in their mid-40s and mid-50s, respectively, who are "poly seeking poly fi"—fidelis or fidelity, meaning they want to be in a traditional domestic and romantic partnership with a third person.

"I don't have a [gender] preference, but he does," Pam says.

During the potluck, a 30-something couple with two kids talk about their asparagus crop and raising goats, which officially makes the gathering like any other Missoula dinner party.

But, unlike any other Missoula dinner party, the workshop includes Doe "directing" simulated group action. Doe encourages those who aren't comfortable with even faux clothed contact to be voyeurs, or perhaps consider miming golden showers—so long as it remains completely make-believe.

"I just had the carpets cleaned," she cracks.

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