Monday, January 14, 2013

I Don't Really Hate Polyamory

Saturday night, I performed as my hip-hop side project, Madame Psychosis at a well-attended, well-recieved show at Johnny D's in Somerville. The other acts were What Time Is It Mr. Fox, Sarah RabDAU and Self-Employed Assassins, and Johnny Blazes and the Pretty Boys

Yesterday I received a thoughtful email from someone who was at the show who was offended by a lyric of mine. The song in question is "Better Than You," which is the third song I ever wrote for Madame Psychosis, all the way back in 2009. The lyric in question is:

And polyamory looks like a scam to me. 
An adolescent chauvinistic fantasy. 
You do what you want with your man but I ain't sharing mine 
just cause polygamy's cousin's read some Gloria Steinem. 
The short answer is, I don't hate polyamory. I've been poly myself, and mono myself, and an awkwardly bisexual bachelor monk for much of my life. Madame Psychosis is a character I play sometimes who is supposed to be an over-the-top hypocritical hipster. I dress in femme drag. I wear a wig, a sequined Union Jack dress, Christian Louboutin shoes, fur, and speak in a fake English accent. 
The longer answer is more complicated. I wrote that lyric four years ago in reaction to a very specific thing I saw happening among some of my friends. Basically, I saw a lot of people being pressured into a poly lifestyle for whom it wasn't healthy. Within a certain community, it seemed like it was becoming a proselytizing-type of thing. A thing a person wasn't allowed to question. When I see something a bunch of people seem to accept without question, be it in religion, politics, or love, I want to offer a devil's advocate position. 
I also wrote that lyric before I really knew what I was doing with Madame Psychosis. At first, I was envisioning her as pure hyperbole, a hypocritical gadfly of hipster culture. Over the past three years, I've refined the character and made her (I think) more subtle, nuanced, and interesting. However, that means that the earlier songs I wrote don't always land the way I'd like. I wasn't sure about performing "Better Than You" for that audience, but I thought I'd try to make the rest of the show so ridiculous (selling kisses for whiskey and calling it "acts of small prostitution," offering to go down on a married friend of mine from stage, etc.) that it would make the lyric be taken with a grain of salt, and give the audience something to think about. I'm not sure if it worked (and the fact that it requires a lengthy blog post in order for me to sleep tonight suggests it didn't), but artists make decisions and go with them, and sometimes they don't hit the way we'd like.
When I originally wrote the song, I was only performing it to friends who already understood its context. Now that I'm performing it in rooms full of 200 strangers, who don't necessarily know me, or my politics or history or even my other projects, it means something different. It's a constant process of learning, growing, and readjusting. I'm also a very sensitive person. I get hurt easily, and while I like to challenge people and stir things up, I never want to make anyone feel hurt or ashamed of who they are. If you happened to be at that show and felt I crossed a line, I am really sorry.


[dave] said...

i dunno ... saying something "looks like a scam to me" means you've already qualified your thought with one "seemed" and even made it clearly a subjective opinion with "to me."

i get that poly folks are in some ways a discriminated class, so it makes sense to double think stuff. but you might be ok here.

maybe just think of it as an opening sally of conversation. an have mme psychosis write a song about that time she had a poly relationship with grania the pirate and margaret atwood and it just didn't work out.

...actually, you could always jack up the specificity to avoid concerns about across the board condemnation. like "your[/his/her] idea of polyamory looks like a scam to me"

Jade Sylvan said...

That's actually a good idea, Dave. "Your polyamory" could possibly fix the problem.

Pampi said...

apologetically explaining the behavior of performative alter egos may be a necessary evil – you did great - both on stage and online here! Xoxo