Myq Kaplan on Polyamory – Q & A w/ Jonathan Walker
You may think that you know Myq Kaplan.
You may think you know him as I once did, as a Jersey-born stand up comedian – slight of frame and keen of tongue; unapologetically nerdy, vegan and atheistic; possessing a style of humor as clever as it is swift, featuring insightful and fast-hitting twists of syntax. For the better part of a decade now he has captured the hearts of the American public with appearances on Letterman, Leno, Conan and Louie, by competing on Last Comic Standing and American’s Got Talent, and with the release of his own Comedy Central and Netflix stand-up specials.
But for all of his successes and exposure to the public eye, there is a side of Myq that I never knew prior to this week. You won’t find it on his website, on his Wikipedia page, or in the intimidatingly well written 2012 NYT article which featured him. Believe me, I checked!
Myq is an unabashed practitioner of Polyamory, a style of ethically non-monogamous relationships in which participants are free to enjoy multiple romantic entanglements with full honesty and disclosure.
As a fellow poly-folk, it was my distinct pleasure to recently meet and interview Myq, and he was gracious enough to allow me to pry away at his personal and romantic life with full abandon.
Well, Myq, let’s dive in, shall we?
Yes! First question, nailed it.
In as little or as much detail as you prefer, how long have you identified as polyamorous, and what circumstances led to that realization?
Well in retrospect I would consider myself a serial-monogamist for most of my twenties. I was married for a few years, I lived with another woman for a few years, and I dated a number of people… But I eventually determined that being with just one person for the rest of my life wasn’t something that would come to me easily or naturally. At the same time, I was listening to and reading a lot of Dan Savage, who really put the concept of open relationships onto my mental map. I realized I quite possibly could be with one person for the rest of my life, provided it wasn’t just one person.
For most of the past decade, I would refer to my relationships as “open” and not specifically poly, because at the time I didn’t think I necessarily would want multiple ongoing romantic relationships. My last serious relationship of about two years ended in the past couple months, and while that relationship was open, it wasn’t poly.
Since I’ve been on my own, I’m using the word poly to describe myself more than I ever really have before. There’s a joke that I’m telling (which is also a truth I’m believing), something like “Right now I’m not actively pursuing anyone… though I will passively accept anyone.” And the “anyone” part isn’t totally the truth. I like meeting new people and getting to know them. But for the first time in my life right now, I’m perfectly happy to go home alone in situations where past versions of me would have been more disappointed.
So if I’m interpreting your response correctly, you draw a pretty clear distinction between “Poly” relationships and “Open” relationships. Would you care to expand on that at all?
To me, the largest umbrella category here is “non-monogamous” or “open”. Polyamory is just one subset that falls under there. Since polyamory literally means “many loves,” I think it makes sense to use it to describe relationships that align with that more romantic meaning. I think that for some people poly is a mindset, and for others, it’s a practice. Even though I am currently single, I do now generally apply the label of poly to myself. If I found myself in a situation where I wanted to be monogamous for a while, I could label the relationship “monogamous” while still identifying myself as a poly individual.
As someone who has discussed terminology as extensive as I have thus far, it might be surprising but true for me to say at this point that labels aren’t really that important to me. Honesty and communication are. And I think starting from the term “open” is pretty useful as a jumping off point for conversations to begin.
During an appearance on Letterman a few years back, you landed a punchline that really struck me as profound; In regards to relationships, you said that you were just “looking for the one… who will let [you] be with others”. I really doubt that the audience appreciated the genuine and personal nature of that statement. I would like to give you the opportunity to briefly expand on that concept. Are you still looking for “the one”, in any sense of the idea?
Right now, I’m the most purposefully single that I’ve ever been. In the past, times between relationships have always been just that, between relationships, a period I saw as transitional because I’ve always been of the mind that it’s better to be in a good relationship than not in one. And I don’t necessarily disagree with myself on that, but I’ve never really been mindfully single before. I’ve almost always dived right back into dating and hooking up and having flings and going on dates, and often within a few months I would find myself in a new relationship, always with a wonderful person that I was happy to be with.
A joke (and truth) I wrote about it was something like, “I’m just looking for the one… who will let me be with others.” I know that there’s certainly not JUST “one” person for me out there, though I do think that my brain was marinated in the juice of that societal ideal. So, right now I’m open to anything. I do have my eyes open while I’m moving forward through life. But I’m not LOOKING for anything in particular. Not looking for the one. Not looking for the many. Not looking for the zero – that’s when you want to be single. A new joke, maybe?
What are the biggest pros and cons of the polyamorous lifestyle, as far as you are concerned?
I suppose that the biggest con is that there are a lot of variables, and the more people there are in one’s life the more complicated it might be to maintain a balance of communications or to address everyone’s feelings. There is also the potential for resources of time and emotional energy to be limited or strained.
The pros for me are ultimately that I get to be who I am, as much as I know who I am at any given time. I get to connect with all kinds of loving people that I want to connect with, to learn and grow without restriction. Basically the pros of life itself.
Whenever I engage monogamous people in conversation and try to explain polyamory to them, I’m not usually convinced that I ever completely succeed in bridging that gap of comprehension. I’m curious how you typically describe Poly to non-believers, and what your success has been in advocating for the lifestyle?
Well, like you, I don’t believe it’s superior, so I’m certainly not advocating it as mandatory. If my talking about it either on stage or on podcasts or in interviews helps someone learn about it, then super, I’m glad. But I don’t think it’s my job to convince people.
I would say the main way I talk about it to “non-believers” is to answer their questions, and make some analogies. For example, when people ask how you can love two people romantically, I ask how they can love their two parents, or two good friends, or two siblings, or more. Most reasonable monogamy people can understand love not being a resource that gets depleted the more people you feel it for. So, I just share these ideas and hope for the best!
I like your way of advocating for the lifestyle, it seems genuine and heartfelt. There are of course poly activists out there who take a more militant, forceful approach. What are your thoughts on that?
I definitely don’t think we need to do anything by force. I’m pretty anti-force. Even if I thought monogamy should be overturned (which I don’t – it seems to actually work for some people), I think that being forceful isn’t the way to achieve desired results. It could just turn people off to the ideas because they reject the forceful way in which they’re being presented.
I once went to a summer camp where the campers could do anything they want at any time, no schedules specifically, and the founder would say “children don’t like to be taught, but they do like to learn.” So, I think that could apply here. People can’t be forced to learn a new thing, even if it might suit them or be good for them in particular. But if they learn about it on their own, maybe they’ll appreciate it and take to it. Slow and steady, genuine and non-militant wins the race. Or at least enjoys being genuine and non-militant.
I’m sure you’re aware that polyamory still has a long way to go before achieving true mainstream recognition or acceptance. Especially in employment-at-will and socially conservative states like Texas, the majority of people who practice the lifestyle must do so secretly for fear of disrupting their career or suffering damage to their standing in the community. I am curious if discrimination against non-monogamy, professionally or otherwise, is something that you have experienced or are concerned about in your everyday life?
Professionally, it has not, at least to my knowledge. Being a comedian, I don’t have a boss who can fire me. I suppose people could not hire me if they didn’t want to, but I don’t think that my relationship status has been a real reason for that to happen.
In fact, in my everyday life, I would say that living openly open and speaking about who I am and how I live and want to livehelps more than hurts. If there are people who wouldn’t want to be my friend because of what I believe, then great! I might not want to be their friend either. Talking about polyamory on podcasts like Keith and the Girl and incorporating it in my comedy has led to a few of my significant relationships existing because sometimes people hear what I’m saying and they reach out when it resonates. So, I’m maybe a little spoiled on this. I’m sorry for all the people living under less optimal circumstances. Hopefully, things will keep changing for the better. And in the meantime, quit your job and become a comedian!
To close us out, I have one final question: If you were to offer advice to someone else who was considering non-monogamy or struggling with the decision to try it out, what would you say to them?
Listen to Dan Savage! Read the Ethical Slut! Find other resources! Read this interview and others like it!
Be willing to not be in a relationship, because being in the “wrong” one is often worse than being on your own. Determine what’s important to you in a relationship, and don’t accept anything that’s unacceptable to you just because you fear to be alone.
Mainly just be as honest and knowledgeable as you can with where you are and what you want. Then learn to communicate that knowledge as effectively and kindly as possible; with yourself, with your partners, and with potential partners.
Myq, I’d like to say thanks again for your time. It is definitely encouraging to see someone bringing Polyamory into the public eye and in such a genuine and positive way. Keep it up!
You’re welcome and thank you again. I look forward to coming to town!
If you’re interested in hearing more about Myq Kaplan’s take on relationships and non-monogamy, check out the following Keith and the Girl podcast episode featuring Myq and his friends Emery, Erin Judge and Baron Vaughn as they answer questions about open / poly issues. <a href="http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/3875/Jonathans-Society vente de viagra au maroc.aspx” target=”_blank” shape=”rect” data-saferedirecturl=”https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/3875/Jonathans-Society.aspx&source=gmail&ust=1477582868800000&usg=AFQjCNH5BxFvxP57SpA70Gckz1oa9CXIWQ”>http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/3875/Jonathans-Society.aspx
Also, for my fellow Houstonians, be sure to catch Myq’s upcoming stand-up on 11/6/16 at The Secret Group! Event information and tickets can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1216566521727774/