AMBI: People talking, scene for potluck.
TRACK: I attended an end of the year holiday potluck. It was hosted by Open Love NY, a New York-based organization that serves the polyamorous community. It was at a local rented room in Midtown, Manhattan. Hardly anyone knew each other, and yet, within five minutes, people were talking to each other as if they had been friends for years. Many gushed over the array of foods set on the table: cheese and meat platters, cake, pulled pork, salads and pie. It was there that I met Leon Feingold, a very tall, welcoming polyamorist. We chatted and decided to meet for lunch.
TRACK: We met at a restaurant called Yum Yum in Midtown, Manhattan. Leon is a frequent visitor, and indulges in two courses of lunch specials. He is a competitive eater.
ACT: “I was in the US Open of competitive eating, I was featured in the Glutton Bowl, I was the second person the history to eat two three and half pound sandwiches at the Carnegie Deli here in New York. My mother doesn’t know whether or not to be proud of me.”
TRACK: When Leon isn’t competitive eating, he’s a lawyer, real estate broker, baseball pitching instructor and running several organizations. Though, Leon wears many hats, all paths lead him back to polyamorous advocacy. The reason behind this? A curious date that sparked his interest.
ACT: “I first realized I was polyamorous when I first went on a date with somebody from OKCupid. She described herself as smart, interesting and polyamorous. When we went on a date, she told me what that meant. In short, you can have people in your life and different relationships, have a boyfriend, have a husband, whatever – but continue to date. Continue to meet new people and have relationships with them. That was shocking to me. Not because it was against my moral beliefs, but because I didn’t know such a thing existed. I was amazed that polyamory existed. And even worse that no one knew about it. So, from that week on, I pretty much decided I was going to be a volunteer in the poly community.”
INTRO: This is Plural Love and I’m your host Melissa Bacian. (introduce yourself as host)
TRACK: Though, Leon was new to the polyamory community, he had always known this was who he was.
ACT: “Monogamy never felt natural to me. And I thought, maybe when I meet the right person, I’ll be happy and settle down and be monogamous. That’s the idea, that’s what society tells us. At least for me, the idea of monogamy just simply didn’t fit. It made sense that I should be able to meet new people at all times and explore connections with them in ways that made sense. So, even when I had an amazing partner, I never really felt like they were everything that I wanted. But I assumed that either meant that I needed to mature, or that I needed to meet somebody who was everything that I wanted. Unfortunately, I don’t think such a thing exists. It’s more the story we tell our self.”
TRACK: It’s difficult to know exactly how many polyamorists there are in the US. According to Elisabeth Sheff, an academic who researches polyamory and has written numerous books on the subject, she conducted a general study in 2017. Out of 8,700 US single adults, it was found that more than one in five engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point intheir lives.
ACT: “I think the idea of non-monogamy is super, super common. Most people know about polyamory these days, which is way better than a decade ago when I started dating. I had to explain what polyamory was to everybody. Now, I have to explain what polyamory is to maybe a third of the people and I have to correct what people think what polyamory is to the other next third of the people. And I’d say the other third have the right idea about it.”
TRACK: Leon strives to educate the general public on polyamory. Though, the practice of dating multiple people has become more prevalent, it is still a new term for many.
ACT: “I was a guest on The View and Jenny McCarthy says, ‘Oh, I tried it in college and it didn’t work. So, I don’t believe in it.’ First off, you’re gonna tell me you had one threesome in college? You were like penthouse pet of the year. You really had one threesome in college. Okay, that’s one. Secondly, the idea that because you tried something and it didn’t work means that it can’t work for other people is ridiculous. And third, you know what, I have learned that even if something doesn’t work for me, I have no rights to judge other people if they believe it is what works for them. As long as whatever it is that they do, doesn’t hurt other anyone else and doesn’t hurt themselves, go for it. Do all the things, in fact, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the purpose of life. Do everything, try everything you possibly can. Without hurting yourself or anyone else, as long as you do that, I have no place to judge anyone.”
TRACK: Leon is the co-founder of Open Love NY. It’s an organization created by members of the polyamorous community, for the polyamorous community. They host both educational and social events for its members, and foster a public climate in which all forms of consensual adult relationship choices are respected and honored.
ACT: “We provide at least three or four events in and around New York every month. Sometimes it’s a discussion group, sometimes its social events. But sometimes there’s, you know, there’s fun things like board game nights. There’s also a group called spiritual polyamory, which is a group of people that decide that their polyamory, their version of it, or whatever appeals to them, is in touch with their spirituality and whatever that means. While that’s not something that I’m personally interested in, I love the fact that it’s not polyamory, like an on and off switch, there’s so many different variants, like colors of a rainbow that when you look at the entire prism of the polyamorous experience it’s not just, ‘Oh, you’re poly, you must be into all these things.’
TRACK: Leon is a widower whose wife was also poly. He now currently has two partners. One he’s dated for almost four years and the second one for almost two years. he describes the two relationships being vastly different from each other. With that said, jealousy can still arise from time to time.
ACT: “The one I’ve dated for almost four years somebody, she’s polyamorous. She is somebody who has been with me since before Yuanyuan, my late wife. Before she got sick, before we got engaged, we were all seeing each other at the same time and there was a little bit of jealousy in that situation. And I think it’s because nor my current partner or my late wife have ever been in poly situations before. However, both of them took to it extremely well. We are heavily socialized in our relationships. So, even though jealousy is a natural, completely normal emotion, we’re taught to fear it. We’re taught to avoid it. But I think with enough communication and teamwork we were all able to make things work. In fact, we could not have done it when Yuanyuan got sick, without the support of her partners and my partners coming together in a community that worked together to provide support both to her when she was sick and to the rest of us who were taking care of her.”
TRACK: Leon hopes to continue his work as a polyamorous advocate in the community.In May 2014 he helped launch New York’s first openly polyamorous residence as its spokesperson, broker, and attorney. He gave a TED Talk on polyamory at TEDxBushwick on March 21, 2015.
ACT: “It’s my personality. When I believe in something, I want to pursue it. I want to tell others about it. I’m not gonna push polyamory on anyone. My goal is not make people polyamorous, my goal is to educate them about polyamory and help them make the decision for themselves.”
TRACK: Leon has a monthly polyamorous relationship advice column, “Poly Wanna Answer?” He’s also writing a book set to come out next year.
AMBI: Does anyone ever call it Baruch College and then you get really offended and you’re like no asshole, it’s Baruch. Baruch Ata Adonai, which means uh, actually, it means Baruch, how are you? So, Baruch Ata Adonai, nice to meet you all. Actually, wait, Baruch Ata Adonai means blessed are you God, so Baruch means blessed, so, Baruch you are God, like millennials need more ego stroking. I’ll be here all week, try the pad Thai.
TRACK: This has been another episode of Plural Love, I am your host Melissa Bacian, signing off.