menage a trois

Let me be the first to admit that I’m naïve when it comes to being pursued. Yes, every week I write about love and relationships. Yes, I can help you figure out if someone’s into you or not. Yes, I am hella intuitive. But when it comes to my own love life, if you do not explicitly tell me that you’re into me romantically, then I’m just going to assume that you’re friendly like I am.

Maybe I make such assumptions to protect myself from rejection. Or perhaps it’s due to my belief in being direct and not wanting to dissect a bunch of hints that could mean anything. Whatever the case may be, every once in awhile, I find myself in some very awkward situations because of it.

My level of friendliness can sometimes allow people to get a bit too comfortable with me. Within five minutes of meeting them, I know their entire life story—from how many children they have to last week’s cameo on Cheaters. Another thing that happens is that people tend to mistake my kindness for romantic interest, and I often find myself in situations like the ones I’m about to describe.

Despite being used to people divulging a lot more information than your usual first encounter would entail, I was shocked to find out that I’d been recruited to star in the local rendition of Trois at a party a short while ago. If you’re not familiar with the film, here’s a hint: three bodies, all in agreement about getting freaky at the same time.



The first time I was presented with the option to see if two really was better than one was at a house party. The atmosphere was chill, the people were cool and the hosts were some of the nicest people I’d ever met. After a few hours of socializing, dancing and drinking, things sort of… changed. It went from a good time to, well, a really good time for a few people there.

I’m talking about lights being dimmed, slow sexy mood music and people undressing themselves from the waist down while giving lap dances. At this point, I was a good three drinks in and it was quite obvious that I was buzzed. I guess my tipsiness was the couple’s cue:

(husband approaches me first)

Him: “You know… you’re very attractive Shantell, yeah… you’re real fu*ing sexy.”

Me: “Thanks…” (side eye)

Him: (calls wife over) “Baby, I was just telling Shantell how sexy she is.”

Her: (big smile) “Oh is that right?…(sly grin) Well I’ve had my eye on her since she came through the door. And you know what?” (steps up to me and grabs my collar) “If I want you, I’m going to get you.”

Me: (nervous giggle) “What in the hell?! Look… I don’t know what’s popping off here, but I’m cool on it. Aiight?” (politely excuses self)

The couple wasn’t overly aggressive and respected my decision not to participate. In fact, once boundaries were established, they turned out to be super cool people. But I was still thrown off. This was the last encounter I was expecting to have given the very suburban, wholesome atmosphere of family pictures on the mantle and Disney DVDs on the TV stand. But like the saying goes, “It’s always the ones that you least expect.” If this type of proposition only happened once, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But these types of proposals happen so often, it makes me wonder if I’m in some sort of “proposition season.”

A couple of weeks after the incident, I found out that a very married associate of mine was in a similar relationship. We were randomly chatting on Facebook when he told me about his extracurricular activities. From the looks of his profile, you’d never know he allows his wife to have a “girlfriend,” whom they share on occasion. I’m not saying that those details should be public knowledge; I’m just noting my shock.

So when he invited me into his bed, floor, car, couch and/or hotel suite for some group sex, I kindly declined and we went on with regular conversation. Don’t get me wrong: knowing that people out there desire you can be slightly flattering to anyone’s ego. But involving myself in beds of two just isn’t my thing.

The reason(s) why I get propositioned for these types of encounters so often are a mystery. I don’t dress overtly sexual, nor do I give a green light to be approached that way. Maybe it’s because I’m friendly and social. Perhaps I just happened to be the one to be “tried” that evening. What I can say though is the two examples above (there are more) caused me to reflect on how much marriage is evolving in the public sphere.

There used to be a time when couples only shared their bodies, fantasies and beds with each other, despite maybe wanting to play more “freely.” Now, it’s as if people are open to creating their own type of marriage and are comfortable enough to let you in on it.

No, threesomes aren’t new. Neither is homosexuality, polygamy, or any other non-traditional romance. But what we’re seeing today is a greater level of outward expression and acceptance for relationships that do not typically fit the cookie-cutter mold. Marriage is constantly being redefined to accommodate a growing population of those who don’t fall into the one man-one woman, vanilla sex category. As these subgroups continue to strive for equality and freedom, we can only expect for the definition to change.

What I can say is that both couples appear to be extremely satisfied. They seem to be comfortable with defining their own relationship, and have a pretty solid understanding of each others’ wants, needs and desires. I’m not sure how long that will last, but I am here for it. I am here for not allowing society to dictate a union that will only affect the two of you. I am here for those being open and honest about what will and will not work for them. Regardless of your preference, I think we can all borrow a page from the Create and Define Your Own Marriage manual.

Whenever you seek to define your relationship, honesty is key. You must be willing to set boundaries, and communicate what does and does not work for you. Be willing to say no. Never agree to do something that makes you uncomfortable. These may seem like very common sense practices, but you’d be surprised how often one partner may agree to something just to make their significant other happy. That’s how you end up on Jerry Springer. If your mate cannot respect your decision to not engage in certain activities, then perhaps you want to reevaluate calling them your mate.

After I politely rejected the couple at the house party, they simply moved on to someone else more interested in their request. They headed to the bedroom with a willing participant and I didn’t see them for the rest of my stay, which wasn’t long.

As for my Facebook friend, he’s been married to his wife for eight years now. They credit most of their success to their blatant honesty with each other in terms of their desires to sleep with other people. He also said they had rules. “Girlfriends” were to be swapped out every three months so emotions don’t get too crazy. They also decide as a unit on who they invite into their bed. To me, it’s nice in theory. But it’s been eight years, so they’re on to something.

The flip side is that by inviting someone else into your bed, you’re opening up your relationship to the possibility of more emotions, lust-driven connections and overall confusion. Not to mention the possibility of contracting sexual transmitted diseases if you don’t act responsibly. But who knows? While I prefer fully committed, monogamous relationships, I can’t help but ask: Is three really a crowd?

I wonder if society’s forced idea of monogamy is doing more harm than good to relationships. Perhaps if people were more honest with each other, there would be less cheating and divorces. Granted, telling someone that you’re not sexually satisfied is no easy task. But life is too short to be unhappy and having bad sex. Relationships are about being direct with each other, even if what’s said breeds uncomfortable feelings.

Shantell E. Jamison is a Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic. She’s also JET magazine’s digital content editor. She’s been featured on WBEZ 91.5FM, The Monique Caradine Show, Vocalo 91.1FM, KDKA Newsradio 1020AM, WBGX 1570AM, WYCA 102.3FM, Chicago Now, The Grio, The Black Youth Project, The Gate Newspaper and “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister.” Her debut book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self” is available now at Amazon.com.



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