He was therefore surprised when the first thing Leah gave him after the move was a book called Certainly, open heterosexual relationships are nothing new.
Even the term “open relationship” seems like a throwback, uncomfortably reminiscent of free-love hippies, greasy swingers and a general loucheness so overt as to seem almost kitsch.
But Leah and Ryan, 32 and 38, respectively, don’t fit these preconceived ideas. She wears pretty skirts; he wears jeans and trendy glasses.
“There’s this huge group of younger people that are involved in these things,” says Ryan – an observation that seemed borne out of a monthly event called “Poly Cocktails,” held at an upstairs bar on the Lower East Side a few weeks later, in which one would have been hard-pressed to realize that this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill mixer (a guy who’d wandered in accidentally must have eventually figured it out; he was later seen by the bar grinning widely as he chatted up two women).
I was very unsure of all that.” Leah, however, forged ahead. Her one concession to upstate New York’s brutal winter is a Syracuse sweatshirt that she can quickly jettison as soon as she enters any party.
“I want to be meaningfully connected and involved with a lot of people, whether or not that means in a sexual way,” she says before taking her leave. And she plans to enter plenty, beginning with a dorm gathering – where she pre-games with a water bottle full of vodka tonic – before moving on to the rugby house, where the sporty all-American type of guy that Kristina favors should be in abundance.
For Kristina, two boyfriends are exactly two too many. When she arrived at Syracuse freshman year, Kristina had certain ideas about what her romantic life would entail.
It’s a Friday night in January 2013, the last weekend of the term that sorority girls at Syracuse University can go out until rush season is over, and so it’s pretty much destined to be a rager, especially for Kristina, a 20-year-old junior who jokingly calls herself the “Asian Snooki” because of her impressive ability to throw down. In a small bedroom in Kristina’s sorority house, her friend Ashley stands in front of a mirror wearing a blue miniskirt and a loose tee, the bagginess of which Kristina eyes skeptically. “As a freshman, you're like, ‘OK, maybe I'll find my college sweetheart and we'll be together forever and we'll graduate and it'll be perfect,’” she tells me later.
Ryan is a young Generation X’er, while she’s an older Millennial.