In the U.S.A., all styles of poly people have lost & lost & lost that war since before I was born. We almost define "polyamorous" as "precisely those people who need to be very careful discussing their love lives in 'polite company' particularly due to ways in which those lives involve more than two persons."
As weird as it sounds, this definition is the best simple & accurate description I know of what it means to be "polyamorous" in America. God knows we don't have much else in common!
Sometimes we forget something obvious about loverly desire: In the devilish details, everybody has a different profile. Some gals hate chocolates & adore roses. Some guys crave a strong kindred spirit; some are out shopping for a traditional submissive wife.
Perhaps because we're each so passionate in our own very particular ways, there's almost universal distaste for most other individuals' romantic realities. The more specific I get in describing my dream date, the less likely you are to echo deep empathy.
Would describing your most recent intimate evening in its grittiest emotional detail win our smiling approval? I rather doubt it! Salon's "Veronica Hayes" was very brave. She told her story while fully expecting how you would react. And I love her for that.
There's very good reason that movie screen romances -- sexual or courtly, young or old -- are presented in boringly distant terms. When traditional fairy tale romance (you know, that lifelong hot & heavy continual growth under a sunset between a man & a woman) is put under a microscope (as it sometimes is in my circles), I find that there's not much more shared agreement on how it can/should work than there is on how a whole sorority at an Eastern college should make out all night while maintaining their flawless GPAs.
Polyamory was totally politicized in the U.S. by the time the Utah Mormons were driven toward secrecy. "Making it (generally) acceptable" is a laudable goal for us lovers of personal freedom, but that's far from a live option today. Which makes it almost silly to criticize a Salon story for not helping get us there!
Accepting arguendo that Ms. Hayes is a self-debasing slut who makes us all look bad to most people, I still think the Salon article did more good than harm for poly peoples' cultural freedoms. Because the story didn't grant the premises of politicization. It didn't consider her influence on her little sister, it didn't interview her next-door neighbors, and it didn't call the Attorney General's office. It told one girl's story by her own personal lights.
The biggest PR problem for polyamory is that poly just obviously comes in so many flavors. Coalition building is really hard for us. No one else on livejournal said anything good about my friend's voice in her Salon story -- while at least six self-identifying poly people did take a moment to say something critical of her.
Your desires are your own. I encourage you to honor them. As the incomparable Jasmine Azure once said, "Find that which brings you joy and chase it down to the ends of the earth."
But when you decide to talk about other styles of what people want, especially in areas they themselves have trouble talking about, please recognize that you're basically guessing. Please try to be accepting of other individuals' possible desires. Please work to restrain your own fearless leaps of logic -- at least enough to pause & admit, like my friend jaffo sometimes does, that you don't have any personal experience with what you're saying.
Nobody knows what just doesn't work in foreign kinds of relationships. You may know what hasn't worked for you, and you may appreciate some of what hasn't worked for your family or friends.
Your own best evidence of what other people want will come from what they, in their most intimate & vulnerable moments, deeply express that they want. Absent any of that kind of connection, you're basically guessing. If you nonetheless feel compelled to guess what they want, you might consider watching what they pursue.
If you want to judge whether they're happy, you might consider watching their physiology. Does he seem confident? Is he relaxed? Does he flash a well-timed smile?
When it comes to romantic love, in many ways the means are the ends. Today's romantic bliss is the single best predictor of tomorrow's continued joy. If someone seems happy & doesn't have any bodies stashed in the basement, then why in the world are you grinding your teeth?
If you did really sense that someone is unhappy, perhaps you would find more constructive (& less grating) ways to help them.
"My joy will penetrate your jaded soul!" - a very smart girl