This is the fifth in a series of entries about the little parts of polyamory, from individual perspectives.
Peter wrote before about keys, and the extra keys he’s accumulated since he’s been poly. I had a conversation with a friend today (let’s call her “Jo”) that made me think about his post and what keys symbolize to me.
Jo’s newer girlfriend, “Sue”, had just given her a set of keys. The manner of giving them was very casual. Sue handed Jo the keys to open the door. When Jo went to give them back, Sue said “no, they are yours.” My friend Jo said she felt a little uncomfortable about that but wasn’t able to articulate it in the moment. A few days later when we were talking, she was still uncomfortable. So we started delving into what keys meant to each of us. For her, keys meant their relationship had moved to a certain stage, and Jo wasn’t quite ready for that yet, hence her discomfort.
I tend to give keys to my condo out to a lot of friends. It makes it convenient when I need emergency or last minute help with my 21 year old cat (who is no longer low maintenance in any regard.) Neighbors have my keys. Yet, giving a set of keys to Peter was something I delayed far longer than acting when the desire to offer them first came up. Because giving a set of keys to a lover somehow feels different than giving a set of keys to a neighbor or friend.
Giving keys to a lover is an invitation. It’s an invitation to consider my home their home. It’s physical confirmation that he is welcome in my home. As I’m typing this, the phrase, “keys to my heart” keeps popping up into my head, so it seemed appropriate to write it here. Although the reality is he had the keys to my heart long before I gave him a physical set of keys.
Keys are also a symbol of commitment. And perhaps that symbol is even more important since we are in a non-traditional relationship. There isn’t a culturally prescribed relationship “path” for poly folk when one person is already living with a different person, so perhaps giving keys is a symbol of that growing commitment. (Differing from mainstream prescribed relationship paths is a conversation for a completely different blog post).
One of the first times I met Peter, his then girlfriend had just given him a set of keys. My overwhelming first memories of him include his almost little boy excitement: “I have keys, I have keys!” I knew they were an important symbol to him. One of the things that really attracted me to him was his over-the-top excitement about the keys. That interaction between the two of them told me relationship was important to him. That commitment was important to him. (Of course, I probably didn’t think those words that clearly at the time, but it made me feel he was someone I would like to know).
When I first mentioned giving him a set of keys, I think I said I was a little nervous about it. “Why?” he asked. “Superstition” I answered. He smiled at me. This would not be the first time superstition has come up in conversations. The irrational fear is that if I were to give him a set of keys, that would mean that we would be moving toward the point where he would have to give them back. And somehow having those concrete symbols: “little metal tabs” as he calls them, would make it harder if he were to have to return them someday.
He very lovingly laughed at me, and said “I’m not going anywhere.” I actually already knew that. We have an amazingly solid relationship, even when one of us is in the deepest places of insecurity.
He did question me when I finally gave him a set of keys. “Are you sure? You know I would never come over without your express invitation, or use the keys without your express invitation.” I said I wanted him to have the keys, and once he realized I really meant that, I could see his smile from the inside out.
Peter has talked about doing concrete things for his friends and lovers as manifestations of his love. The key story even has a component of that. While I was trying to get extra copies of keys made, the hardware store I go to simply couldn’t get one of the keys right. I went back three times and they kept trying to copy that particular key. Finally, when Peter was at his hardware store one day, he had a successful copy made.
He really does enjoy having keys to my condo. He loves using them to open the door when we are returning after being out, or locking the door behind us. I like sharing that with him, and enjoying the pleasure he gets out of it. It is still new enough that I can see the pleasure on his face. I hope that pleasure lasts a while.