Let’s talk about tea, oversharing, and consent.
Of course, in order to do this I will have to—y’know—overshare. So, continuing past this point, or clicking the “Read More” button, will be considered a form of consent. Understood? Are we all on the same page? Great, let’s begin.
I’m no stranger to oversharing. In fact, my very existence as a tea blogger rested on having no filter whatsoever. My first real, “quality” tea blog article was titled, “The Sex Tea Saga”. It was about how I got started with tea as a hobby, and how better sex played a part in that. As one could guess, it didn’t sit well with a lot of people.
In one such memorable case, a detractor was so offended by the post (and others like it), that I was forced to pen a fictional counterpoint to them: “Fortune and the Goddess”. A soft-core tea porn yarn about a Scottish botanist—Robert Fortune—having a tryst with the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guan Yin. It further cemented that—not only did I lack a filter—but that my responses to contrarians was immature, at best. Inspired, sure, but hardly diplomatic.
This cavalier attitude towards the tea industry and tea community put me in contact with a subset I didn’t know existed. One that, when I got started, wasn’t nearly as prevalent, or as populace as it is now. I, of course, am referring to polyamory in the tea community.
Hear me out.
Polyamory is defined as, “the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships where individuals may have more than one partner, with the knowledge and consent of all partners.” It is considered (by the parties involved) to be a practice of ethical, consensual, and responsible non-monogamy. One shouldn’t confuse it with polygamy, which is the practice of having multiple spouses (something that is illegal in most developed countries). In Layman’s terms, when someone sets their Facebook status or online dating profile to “open relationship”, this is likely what they mean.
Sometimes, polyamorous participant networks are so wide and varied, they often form their own communities . . . or even their own communes. The communal aspect of tea culture, somehow, paired well with these (and other) alternative lifestyle choices. And, for some reason, I sometimes found myself circling these . . . uh . . . circles like some sort of clueless buzzard.
Meaning . . . I’ve hung out with poly women before. Why? No clue. My best guess is this: At the time, the only women who showed any interests in me were either married or in relationships. I had a moral hang-up against being a homewrecker. That and I didn’t relish the idea of being an even bigger douchebag than I already was. Poly women seemed like an “out” from that moral quandary.
Turns out that wasn’t the greatest idea. There was either no connection or chemistry. Or they seemed like they were allergic to me. In one memorable case, I was rather surprised she didn’t break out into actual hives when in my presence. But the biggest problem . . . was me.
Apparently, I had no “palate” for polyamory. When a participant spoke of their other partners while out with me, the notion made me slightly uncomfortable. My moral “out” became an issue of territory. I wasn’t the sharing type. At least, not as far as relationships were concerned.
So, I distanced myself from that lifestyle. I put my small toe in the poly pool, found it way too hot for my seemingly “vanilla” sensibilities, and went back to my old-fashioned paradigm. And that was fairly recently.
In the interim, I left the poly subset of the tea community alone. I even kept my distance from poly friends who weren’t tea people. But I observed them from my distant perch, listened to what they said, read what they wrote. Something was amiss.
First: A friend of mine described in detail about how their community imploded before their eyes. Next: A few people co-opted National Coming Out Day to, effectively, “come out” as poly. The latter one truly bothered me. While there were those that believed polyamory should be considered a part of the LGBTQ+ umbrella . . . I wasn’t one of them. Polyamory was a lifestyle choice, National Coming Out Day was for those who had no choice. I still believe that.
After that came the claims of superiority over other lifestyle choices, particularly against cis-gendered monogamy. Such claims sounded a little . . . um . . .
Yeah . . . that.
Although some of these declarations annoyed me, they didn’t faze me. For I had a fairly egalitarian mindset regarding alternative lifestyles; I didn’t care. I didn’t condone them; I didn’t condemn them. People were people, and they were free to be whoever and however they wanted. As long as they weren’t hurting others and it didn’t concern me. We all drank tea. It didn’t matter how we drank it, or what brewing vessel we used. To each their own gongfu.
But then I read something online. On Christmas Eve, of all days. I won’t go into detail about what was posted. In hindsight, it was mostly harmless. However, I never wanted to see it, it made my skin crawl, and I (very vocally) expressed my umbrage. What happened next, I was not prepared for.
I received the most mild-mannered, free love, poly, tea-hippie beat-down of my life.
For as long as I could, I held my ground. Some insults were hurled my way. No big deal. Some called me old-fashioned . . . or just plain old. I’m forty. That was fair. But then things got uglier. At least, that’s the way I felt at the time. Some claimed I was repressed, and there were also insinuations made about my sexuality. Or lack thereof.
That did it. I removed myself from the conversation. I said as much and left the proverbial sandbox. Then a realization hit me. I was “that old guy”. The one that told all “them darned kids” to stop having orgies on his lawn. The one that complained about something inappropriate and received retaliations that were equally or more inappropriate. I was the person who complained about “The Sex Tea Saga”. Where before I thought my tolerance was limitless . . . I saw my threshold. I didn’t even know I had a threshold.
I revisited the very thing that had offended me. In my absence, a conversation started about the issue of consent. While it was clear that I was on the losing side of the debate, everyone in the conversation agreed on one thing. I hadn’t consented to seeing the “offending” material.
With that, I rejoined the dialogue. I apologized for my public outbursts. It went against everything I held true as a tea drinker. Heck, only a year prior, I wrote that such dissensions in the tea community should be dealt with privately. I had done the exact opposite of that.
Plus, how could I stand on a soapbox of candor when I had no leg to stand on towards oversharing? In twenty or thirty of my own articles, I offered up more info than was needed. Sure, most of the issues were dealt with in a . . . relatively appropriate manner. People could choose if they wanted to read said material or not, but I hadn’t offered warning ahead of time. I hadn’t given them a moral “out”.
Another friend showed me a related update, one that concerned bodily fluids. It made my eye twitch, but at that point, the fire for debate had simmered. I wasn’t here to fight. I didn’t become a tea drinker to get incensed . . . but rather to smell the incense-like steam of a well-brewed tea.
Tea was about community, and it was a conduit for all people from all walks of life to understand each other. But there were some aspects that didn’t need to be shared (or overshared) as the gaiwan was being passed. Sure, the information could be offered, but if it wasn’t accepted in return, then the issue—like an over-steeped Long Jing—should be passed along.
We are all tea drinkers because we want to understand—the Universe, the world, the people in it, and ourselves. But we all seek to understand in our own way, in our own time, and on our own terms. And, of course, with permission.
To each their own gongfu . . . but make sure we’re all on the same page.
Offer “Tea” as a safe word, if need be.