Talk Show – Tatami – RaiTre – Italian Public TV
Script of Interview with Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, 2/15/2009, Minutes: 20-30
Hostess Camilla Raznovich; Guests: Serena Anderlini, Author, Theorist; Michela Marzano, Philosopher; Ricky Tognazzi, Actor
Camilla Raznovich: Good evening, Serena Anderlini, theorist and practitioner of polyamory, a topic about which she has written many books. So, I’d like to understand how you figured out that you had a tendency to love more than one partner at the same time.
Serena Anderlini: I figured it out because I loved the people with whom my partners fell in love. If they fell in love with them, I fell in love with them too, and so I wanted to transform the negative energies of hatred, envy, jealousy, into a positive energy in which I was able to share this love. It was a rather long path because one cannot easily transform a negative sentiment into a positive one, one has to go though a whole process of inner transformation, a spiritual process that makes one capable of embracing a type of love that is not possessive. For me this is comparable to a father, or a mother, who have twelve children. Will the twelve children be less loved? No. At times in these big families people love each other a lot, so why can’t this multiplicity also happen also in the area of partners, why? Why is love for our children supposed to be altruistic and love for one’s partners egotistic? Why?
CR: And at this time, how many partners do you have?
SA: I didn’t come here to tell you that. It’s none of your business. (Applause.)
CR: But you have more than one at the same time?
SA: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.
CR: Ok. But actually I’m sure you realize that if you don’t, then there is no reason for you to be on the show. That is, you either are willing to share from your experience or, to put it quite bluntly, I don’t know what to tell you.
SA: Well, yes, you see, in polyamory one gives time to each partner, which is to say that one emphasizes the relationship, and not “recreational sex.” I’m not opposed to recreational sex per se, but in polyamory the relationship is emphasized so that each partner becomes a person with whom there is an amorous relationship, an emotional relationship. And so to every relationship one has to devote a certain time. Then comes the time when one can be together with all of one’s partners, or the time when they are together among themselves, for example, when I’m not around. But there always has to be balance.
CR: The new thing then is the simultaneity of these relationships?
SA: Yes. And also, how can I put, it’s a bit like when one is cooking, if one puts too many pots on the fire at the same time, then something gets burned. So one only manages as many relationships as one can afford to invest in.
CR: I know you are a mother. How do you tell about this lifestyle to your daughter?
SA: Well, through my books, for example. In my biological family, my daughter has been the person who has read my books most carefully. We have talked about them together, I have seen her intelligence, I have seen the way she has approached a world that she does not know very well because we live quite far away from each other. And I dare say that I believe that for her it must be a source of pride to have a mother who experiments with her own life. She has also made her own choices in her own life, and no one has disapproved of them. If she had grown up in a family where there is only one way to do things right, her choices too would have been . .
CR: And beyond your daughter, is there anyone in your family who has criticized you, who has been opposed to your choices?
SA: I dare say that since my family of origin was atheist, we’ve never suffered from a Catholic monopoly over spirituality. So since there wasn’t a prescribed style of spirituality, everyone has found his or her own way toward it. And so we have not been in the way of each other in these matters. Not the slightest bit. I dare say that when for the first time I found out about the bisexual aspect of myself, and I talked about it with my father, who was still alive then, that was the time when we became friends again, friends like when I was a little girl. It was the time when he found his daughter again.
CR: Michela Marzano, we’ve heard that even though sexual promiscuity has happened historically, now one can have also relationships, and so in the case of polyamory, several loves coexist without promiscuity. These loves are experienced with much courage, in the light of day, and simultaneously.
MM: Yes. Well, I must admit that I am, I wouldn’t say perplexed, since, naturally, I listen, I’ve listened with much attention. Let’s say I’m almost in admiration of the energy that manifests, because I know that to manage a relationship with only one person absorbs a whole lot of energy. One has to give a lot of oneself to get to establish a connection. At the same time, it appears to me that the vision here is a bit idealized. It appears as if everything is good, the relationship with the father, with the daughter, with society. Now, it’s extremely difficult to be able to satisfy all of one’s exigencies, all of one’s needs, and love several persons at the same time without having someone suffer. This is what strikes me. What is the effect, what is the impact of this will to go beyond the egotism of possession, what’s the impact on others. Because jealousy can certainly be pathological, but at the same time jealousy is sometimes the sign of attachment, of the fact that I love the other person, and I don’t want this person to be simply the object of attention of a whole bunch of other persons.
CR: Marzano, hold on till we get Anderlini to respond.
MM: Just one more point. Because in relation to the interview with Jacques Attali, there is one thing that I found interesting, and that is the fact of making a parallel between affective and economic relationships. In economic relationships, there actually is an exchange, as when I buy or sell something. In emotional relationships, to be able to build something, one gives something of oneself, something deeper that cannot simply be sold or exchanged. In my view, there is a difference in quality between the simple exchange of merchandises, and in the fact of putting oneself at stake in the relationship with another.
SA: It is the transformation of one’s inner landscape, the transformation of emotions, and this is something that is done via spirituality, via meditation, some do it via prayer, there are many ways to do it. In any event, it is an effect of the inner landscape, and it is something that happens gradually, also in poly communities. For example, if a person is new, it is understood that this person will have a process of transformation. If then at some point the person decides that polyamory is not for him or her, the person can pick another lifestyle.
Ricky Tognazzi: In Italy, people simply say that “two is company, three is war,” guerra,” or “guera” as they pronounce it here in Rome. You know what I mean. In particular, I am the child of the sessantottino generation, the generation that powered the revolution of 1968. Free love, stuff . . . it was a massacre, something scary, we hurt each other a lot. But I’m not talking about liberated sex, because that was actually quite amusing. I’m talking about the implications of faithfulness, not only a faithfulness not practiced, but also expressed as such, a declared non-exclusivity. The great sincerity of couples: “we have to tell each other everything, but on the other hand, if we cannot be together all the time, each should be free to make his or her experiences as long as than . . . “ To make a long story short, something terrifying, we hurt ourselves and each other, so, I mean, how do we get past this point?
SA: It depends on how you do it. For example in the polyamorist communities that I know there are people our age, but also older, people there are admitted at any age, even eighty, and such senior participants actually exist.
RT: So, I’m still on time there . . .
SA: Yeah, you’re still on time (giggles).
RT: I cannot participate with the people of the Castle Party (only under 40), but I can . . .
SA: Yeah, and it’s not so expensive. What happened is that at the time you’re talking about, these experiments where done brutally, people did not know the arts of loving. And what I claim is that, in our culture, love has become a pathology or an instinct. We have forgotten that in many cultures love has been an art, an art that can be learned. As I learn how to paint, so I learn how to love. And I learn how to love also the love of the other. I learn to respect the feelings of these other persons.
MM: I would like to interject because I feel there is another important point. I perfectly understand that we need to get out of the myth according to which the “other” person can stand for the totality. The other is never the totality. In order to affirm myself in life I need a series of different spheres because there is a difference between the love we bring to our children and to our lovers/companions. Love for our children has a tender core, a softness. We project toward our children a whole series of expectations, therefore we operate in a gift mode. In a couple’s relationship, there is something that is rather related to reciprocity: I give and at the same time I expect. And to be able to give there is the precondition of being available to give, that energy has to be present. What really strikes me in what we’ve heard so far is that it is as if we were in a dream of omnipotence. I can love everyone and I can love them at the same time.