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Mes Chéris Amours

No, polyamory isn't about swinging or cheating. It's about people who love people -- two, three, four, however many it takes.

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It was a beautiful Indian-summer day, the kind made for a picnic in Central Park with your husband, his girlfriend, your two boyfriends, and 150 other like-minded individuals.

It was, in other words, the Second Annual Poly Pride Day. Organizer Justen Michael, a boyish 29-year-old, says the event is meant to "facilitate better understanding of polyamory," which involves "long-term, multiple-partner relationships" and "enduring love rather than just sex."

Do these people live in a land of endless weekends? Phyllis, 51, a historian in a Guatemalan-print shirt, smiles: "Love is infinite; time is not." "It helps if you're a good scheduler," adds Jerry, her 48-year-old beau. The two, together for four years but married to other people, are joined by Joel, who wedges himself into the small patch of blanket. Once, Jerry was scheduled to "marry in" with Joel, but at the last minute Joel's wife balked. "I'm not particularly gay," says Joel, "but I would have been happy to have Jerry as part of the family." Polyamory is not about orgies or even necessarily threesomes. People usually hook up in twos, an arrangement some in the "mono" world might call cheating. "Polyamory is an alternative to affairs," says Ashton Applewhite, a writer. Adds Ken Lipman-Stern, a 54-year-old psychotherapist who's practically sitting in my lap, "Imagine feeling joy in the joy that your intimate person is experiencing with another person."

Next to us is Amy Oldstein, a "life coach" from Westchester. She's "linked up" with John Wise, a lawyer who for 21 years has been married to Nan, a therapist in New Jersey. The Wises -- tan, good-looking suburbanites -- have teenage children and a man around the house they call a "partner of the heart." "I don't know how two-parent families do it," says John. "We have another adult to drive the kids to school, make snacks, do laundry . . . "

Nan says they became poly "by accident. We met a couple and fell in love. We were Ozzie and Harriet before." Once the kids move out, the Wises, Oldstein, and four or five friends plan on building a house to share.

So, any advice for the poly-curious? "I always tell people, 'Don't try this at home,' " says Nan. "You have to be very mature about it."


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