An Urban Picnic
I haven't yet come up with a nickname for she-on-whom-I-have-had-a-crush-for-nearly-two-years. I'll have to come up with one, soon, though, because I can't go on referring to her as she-on-whom-I-have-had-a-crush-for-nearly-two-years.
Now, as a bit of background, she is one of the few people who knows my marriage to Vix is non-monogamous. This was a bit of an accident - I think? - because she asked me about it, once.
Two years ago, she was a graduate student at my institution, and she took an independent study course with me. Toward the end of the semester, after we had finished talking about the academic subject at hand, she somewhat tentatively opened a new line of conversation.
She said she was starting a new relationship and that she was struggling with the question of exclusivity. What did I think? Should romantic relationships be exclusive?
I already had a crush on her, by that point, which was . . . extremely awkward. I have a very strong sense of my professional obligations, and was determined not to let my rather intense feelings for her get in the way of treating her just as I would any other student.
I had to steady myself a bit, hoping I didn't betray anything, and told her about the then very recent decision Vix and I had made to open our marriage, and the ethical underpinnings and boundaries of that decision.
We didn't discuss it again.
For a long time.
Today, the two of us met for a brown-bag lunch. We sat outside, despite the gray skies and impending rain. We talked about all sorts of things, but the conversation came around several times to the weekend just past. At first, I only told her about the academic conference. Later, with only a little trepidation, I came back around to telling her about the other conference I attended. I also told her a little about Vix's travels with Doc, and alluded to some of my recent struggles, and the resolution of the struggles.
She seemed genuinely curious about what it's like to have an open relationship, how we handle particular situations - such as the fact that Vix, Doc, and I will be attending the same event next weekend - and how complicated the feelings must be.
She seemed to approve of the idea of relationships as intentional, not merely habitual.
Then we talked about other things.
I think that was enough, for this particular lunch. It was quite a big step for me to confide in her as much as I did, and to acknowledge to her the fact that she is one of the few people in my working life in whom I can confide.
(Oh, to be clear, she is no longer a graduate student. She now has a research job at the same institution.)
We'll probably meet for lunch again in a couple of weeks; it seems to me she enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.
After lunch, I took one further little risk. I sent her an email, thanking her for meeting me and more directly expressing how glad I am to be able to confide in her.
Then - and here's the risky bit - I wrote that there are other things about myself I might have wanted to reveal, but that I didn't want to presume on our friendship.
(I can hear some of you laughing about this, now. This was a risk? To me, yes, it was. I am an intensely private person, and revealing so much of myself to another person - especially a person in whom I have been so intensely interested for so long - feels like a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls.)
I don't know whether it was wise or foolish to write what I wrote. I want to proceed very slowly and mindfully where she is concerned, in part because of the potential awkwardness involved in telling her about my long-standing crush, given the context of our first meeting.
If I do ever tell her about it, I want to be sure I can frame it in such a way that she knows I have no particular expectations, that I would not want to impose or presume anything, and that if it came to a choice between friendship and nothing, I'd choose friendship.