September 1, 2022
Comedian and podcaster Ashley Ray joins Jameela to discuss the different ways therapy has helped her, how being weighed in front of her class in sixth grade kickstarted her eating disorder, how her mother’s long distance relationship helped Ashley discover her own desire for polyamory, the responsibilities and romance of a polyamorous relationship, what people get wrong about polyamory, and more.
Check out Ashley Ray’s new podcast – TV, I Say with Ashley Ray – wherever you listen!
You can find transcripts for this episode here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/i-weigh-with-jameela-jamil/
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126 — Ashley Ray
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. I hope you’re well and I hope you enjoy today’s episode because it’s one that’s specifically for you guys. As you’ve been asking me to cover this subject for ages, I have been trying to find people to discuss polyamory with for a while now. I did touch on it with Bob the Drag Queen in their excellent episode where they talk to me about their unique situation, which is becoming, by the way, less and less unique as people normalize polyamory more. But polyamory is something that a lot of people feel afraid to discuss because they’re worried about being judged because there’s just still so much that we don’t know about it and so many people fear it. And so I asked the brilliant Ashley Ray, an excellent comedian, and voice in our generation to come on and explain to me her experience with it, how she found polyamory, the wrong assumptions people make, and the misunderstandings they have about polyamory, all the different ways it can work. She teaches me new terminology. I’ve left this conversation with my mind so much more expanded and being able to understand my friends who are polyamorous even better. And so even if polyamory isn’t for you, it’s something that is growing in people’s needs and desires and lifestyles. And I think it would be cool for us all to learn as much as possible about it so that we don’t accidentally cast judgment or make wrong assumptions around this type of lifestyle, that is really very loving and full of consent and openness. And and it sounds quite safe now that I hear about it from Ashley. So we discuss a multitude of other things. I will let you find that yourself. But because you had specifically asked for this, I wanted to flag that I’ve done it and I honestly think I couldn’t have found a better person to come and talk to me about it. She’s a delight. I hope you follow her and everything she does. This is the excellent. Ashley Ray. Ashley Ray. How are you?
Ashley [00:02:08] I’m good. I mean, we got a new Beyonce album. Life is great, so.
Jameela [00:02:13] It’s a very sexy Beyonce album as well, which is great.
Ashley [00:02:18] Yeah, it’s so different from her, but it’s everything we needed. That’s Beyonce. She just knows what we need. Even if we don’t know.
Jameela [00:02:26] She feeds us. Well, welcome to I Weigh I am. I’m so delighted that you’re here. I feel like we have so many things to discuss that my audience will absolutely love. And your experiences, for better or worse, intersect at all the places that we most discuss. So thank you for coming on and being willing to talk to me.
Ashley [00:02:45] Thanks for having me. I’m so excited. I love everything you do so.
Jameela [00:02:48] Oh, thanks. Likewise. You’re so brilliant and refreshing and funny. And so I. Yeah. I’m going to stop crushing on you now and just actually interview you. First up. How are you?
Ashley [00:03:01] Good. You know, I. It’s been an interesting time. I think I’m on tour, which is as a polyamorous person, is always really interesting because I am leaving partners back where I was. But then I travel and I have, you know, people that I see in other cities. So it’s always kind of a fun time where I get to check in with people. And also, you know, when I’m in little places, I like to go and date and meet people. So it’s been this just kind of interesting time where I’m on the road. I feel like very disconnected from home. But then I’m kind of lucky to have these, you know, like I call them anchors, which I think is fine. I call them like my anchor partners kind of keep me grounded when I’m on the road.
Jameela [00:03:41] So wait, so who? So these people are placed in different cities or people back at home? Where. Where are the anchor lovers?
Ashley [00:03:49] Yeah, kind of in cities that I travel to a lot. So I lived in Chicago for seven years, so obviously I dated a lot of people and then I moved to L.A. But being poly, I was like, Well, there’s no real reason to end these relationships just because I’m moving. I’ll be back in town. So Chicago. I’m in Dallas a lot. So there’s someone here I see regularly. I love I love Boston. So I do I have an anchor in Boston, which I think I’m one of the rare people who I throw down for Boston. I love I love Boston.
Jameela [00:04:19] Oh my god I love I love people from Boston. I love that attitude. I love the way they speak. I’m completely obsessed.
Ashley [00:04:25] The Boston accent is so attractive to me.
Jameela [00:04:27] Yeah, I’m like, I’ll be like very into New Jersey and Boston. They’re like to and and also the Deep South.
Ashley [00:04:36] Yeah. I’ve recently fallen in love with, like, the heavy Brooklyn, New York accent.
Jameela [00:04:41] Oh, for sure. 100%. Yeah. No, no, no. Big turn on. And I don’t know why everyone isn’t. And I just think it’s I think it’s such a sexy, fun, almost like, almost musical way of speaking. I don’t know what kind of music, but I know I.
Ashley [00:04:56] Yeah. And people always, you know, say like, oh, European accents are so beautiful. All these other accents. And I’m like, America, we have our own beautiful, sexy accents.
Jameela [00:05:04] So. So in your life, how would you describe your relationship with your mental health? Before we get into the poly thing, which we will get into, which I’m dying to ask you a million questions about being that this is a mental health podcast. How have you been feeling forever?
Ashley [00:05:21] Yeah, it’s it’s interesting because growing up I was always like a very happy kid. I, my mom had a daycare in our house, so there were always tons of children around. And I loved performing. I loved making people laugh. I loved being the clown. You know, if you look at pictures, I’m always making silly faces and yelling. And when I was 14, my dad passed away in an accident. And that changed everything.
Jameela [00:05:45] Sorry.
Ashley [00:05:45] Thank you. And that, I think, was what made me realize, like, oh, the world is a dark, scary, unsafe place. And, uh, you know, I would say my mom gave me a lot of support when that happened, but it was also being from this like very black religious family. We did not believe in therapy. We didn’t believe in anything like that. My mom was just like, go to church more and take vitamin D. Like the day after my dad’s funeral, she was like, Well, I paid for you to go to drama camp this summer and it starts tomorrow and we don’t get a refund. So, you know, you’re just gonna have to power through and go to camp. So I did. Yeah, my dad died. I went to the funeral the next day. I’m just like at theater camp, like, oh, I guess we’re playing zip zap, zop. Like, I just. I guess you got to. This is how you deal with things and tragedies. You know, you push it down and move on. And that’s kind of how I was throughout most of like high school and college. I would just.
Jameela [00:06:42] Sound very English.
Ashley [00:06:45] Yeah. It was very just, you know, my mom would go, if you have an issue, pray on it. Just pray takes it take some vitamin D. Just she was very big fan of vitamin D, if you’re sad, which I guess can help but.
Jameela [00:06:56] Christianity does really like and Catholicism really does set people up actually, for having to just swallow and endure enormous amounts of grief and pain. Because suffering is something that is considered like noble and Christ like. And so there’s a link there. Yeah, it was. It’s a necessary part of the journey because then you’re closer to Christ.
Ashley [00:07:19] Yeah. And it’s I was Missionary Baptist, which is very intense. It’s a lot of, you know, it.
Jameela [00:07:25] What does that mean.
Ashley [00:07:26] It’s so Missionary Baptist is basically intense Protestant Christianity. If in the north, the Baptist churches are a little more liberal, relaxed. In the South, a Baptist church is very intense like they do testimony. You have to get baptized. It’s you go every Sunday for like 7 hours services and a missionary Baptist church is basically a Southern Baptist church that moved to the north. So my family came from Texas to Illinois and started going to Missionary Baptist Church, which it’s just very traditional, you know, years you got to wear tights. Women aren’t allowed to be in the pulpit. It’s all men. We have deacons. Yeah. And my mom was very I was like the church secretary at my church starting in sixth grade because I was the only person who knew how to use a computer. So they were like, Ashley can make programs and stuff, so she’ll be the secretary. And I did that from like six to 12th grade. So my church was always a big part of my life. You know, my mom was always very concerned, you know, what will people from the church think? If I were to go get therapy, it would you know, it’s such a small community that any sort of gossip goes everywhere. So, you know, we had there was I remember one person in the church who, like, had to go to rehab and everyone was like, Oh, relying on rehab instead of the Lord. That’s that’s wild. Oh, no. So I think my mom, my family very much came from this place of you don’t need to get external help. You don’t share your business with people. And it wasn’t until really I was 25 and I was living in Chicago, I was having horrible mental health issues. I had lost really close friends. I was dealing with all of just heinous, just a lot of drama and sort of my circle of friends in Chicago. There was someone that I knew who had been outed as a predator. And I like lost all these people in my life. And then also it was 2016 and Trump was elected, and it was just all of these horrible things piling on top of each other. And that’s when I realized I needed help and I didn’t know how to get it. I was kind of relying back on the things I had learned as a kid, and I was like, Well, you treat it yourself, you know, I just I need to get through this myself. I just I’ll, I’ll read the right book that’ll get me through this. Or really I was just drinking a lot. Chicago is easy to drink. That’s what we do there. And I would go out all every night, drink all the time, and my friends were like, Ashley, you need to see a therapist. You need to talk to someone. You need to get on medication. I think this would help you. And it took a long time. I remember talking to my mom and being like, I think I get to talk to a therapist. And she was she freaked out, was like, what, you’re going to go tell someone our business? And I did it. I met with this therapist and it was in like it was just it was like a burden lifted off of me. It was like, whoa, I’m not alone in feeling this way. These things are normal. This is something you can help me with. You know, she got me on, like, the right medication to help me. Kind of just learn how to dig into my feelings, because I think I’d been so used to pushing everything down. And that was like my first real introduction to real mental health work. Before that, I think I was just I would watch TV shows and be like, wow, that that Gray’s Anatomy monologue was so inspiring. That’s going to get me through the next week. Like, that’s what I would use.
Jameela [00:10:49] Well, it’s that combo of coming from a very religious background and then also coming from an ethnic minority. You know, family is just so tricky and they feel so judged. And I think that’s also kind of like I think that’s a knock on effects of probably the damage, the many damages of white supremacy and that like we feel this like need to be these model minorities, that we’re fine, we’re strong, we’re unbreakable.
Ashley [00:11:15] Exactly.
Jameela [00:11:16] And we’re better than you. And, you know, that’s like therapy as a white person saying like a weak white complaining thing. And we don’t need that because we are we are elite. It’s almost like we’re trying to prove ourselves to them. Does that make sense?
Ashley [00:11:29] Yeah like we’re strong. We. We know to survive. And, you know, I think.
Jameela [00:11:31] It’s so damaging is so damaging to everyone because all humans are breakable. There is no difference between us and and we kind of uphold this idea that that there is actually a difference. And so it’s so harmful to the kids of those of that generation. I completely understand where it comes from. But I’ve just watched all of my friends who are from ethnic backgrounds all suffer from the fact that they don’t feel as though they have a right to an outlet.
Ashley [00:11:58] Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s also the the stereotype that, you know, therapy, they always want to blame the mom. They want to blame the mom. So I think my mom and. Immediately it was like, Oh, they’re going to say, It’s all my fault. They’re going to say, I was a bad mom and I had to be like, No, it’s not really about you. Of course you’re going to be you’re going to come up. But this is about my mental health and how I deal with things. And in 2019, I it was a really tough time in my life. I was assaulted. Horrible things happened. And I felt myself kind of hitting that bottom again. And this time I luckily had a really good job with really good health insurance. So I was able to go to an intensive outpatient program where I basically did group therapy and individual therapy and family therapy from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every single day for about three months.
Jameela [00:12:45] Wow.
Ashley [00:12:46] Yeah. I wish I could get everyone in the world to do it because it changed my life. It changed my way of thinking. And this is when I started doing family therapy where, you know, they had my mom like call in and she would join us for sessions. And I think that’s when she also kind of started to realize this isn’t about blame. This isn’t about. You know, failing as a person or failing as a mother, it is truly just about unpacking trauma and healing from it. And after she did that experience with me, she got a therapist and she started doing it too. And I think that was so beautiful to me because I was just like my whole life, all you ever said was to read Bible verses, and now you get it. And I think it’s been helping her out, too. And so I think for me, that was, you know, when in terms of outpatient therapy was when I was like, mental health isn’t just something you do when you’re, you know, at the bottom. It’s an everyday thing. Learning these skills, learning how to, you know, when you get anxious about things, learning how to like kind of talk through your blockchains of, okay, why did that make me feel anxious? You know, how do I call myself back down? What is what is this really triggering within me? That’s something that now I can do every day and like carry with me. And I’m really thankful that I got to do that.
Jameela [00:13:56] Oh, my God. You’re like Superwoman. So what does someone Google if they’re looking for something like that? Because I’d never even heard of that. I didn’t that because that that to me sounded like rehab.
Ashley [00:14:06] Which is.
Jameela [00:14:07] Which is something that I would never consider having gone to after I’d been assaulted or anything like that. So what would someone who’s listening to this podcast, where would they even go to find something like that?
Ashley [00:14:17] Yeah, it’s I found it. I after this all happened and frankly-
Jameela [00:14:24] And I’m so sorry that happened. Fucking Jesus Christ. The last thing you fucking needed bloody hell.
Ashley [00:14:29] Thank you. And it also was very it was very public on the Internet. I had been dating this person who, you know, was like Twitter famous or whatever and or huge with like Reddit people. And when this all happened that he had assaulted me and other women, there were all of these people who attacked us and were like, No, you just are trying to tear this man down, blah, blah, blah. And you know, despite me not wanting this to be public and just wanting to deal with it personally, it became very public and that the downside was the harassment. But the positive side was that there were people who reached out and said, Hey, I know this therapist who specializes in this. She might be able to help you. I know this person who does this. She could help you. And I reached out to one of those therapists and kind of explained what I had been going through, the difficulties I was having, because it was it was so bad. Like I would go to work and I would have panic attacks and just couldn’t leave the bathroom. I couldn’t do my job. And so they were like, well, you know, I think therapy would be good, but it sounds like you really need something more. And they referred me to an intensive outpatient program. So I’d say, you know, there’s a ton of them. Like, I had no idea this was a thing. And once I started looking, it was like especially in L.A., there are a ton. Some of them are very fancy. And for like, you know, rich celebrities who just are like, I need a moment. But then there were also just really workable programs that, you know, worked with California care and different types of insurance that weren’t so expensive. And they had everything because for me, it wasn’t just I’m depressed. It was also that I was dealing with trauma. It was also that I had a history of like eating disorders that were being triggered because of this experience. So, you know, a therapist was like, yeah, you need more than just one person to help you with this. We need a team for you. And that’s what IOP does they kind of give you a team to work with. And at first I was like, This is this is wild. I can’t imagine being in therapy like a job like from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. You were not allowed to look at your phone. It was all very, very intense. And I think it took me a while to get used to it. Like the first two weeks I would show up late every day. I’d be like, Why can I get on my phone? You’re not supposed to like smoke pot. But I was like, It’s legal here. Why can’t I? So I was like, Why do I have to stop smoking pot? And it took me a long time to really agree to the rules of the program. But once I did, it was just so beneficial. It was again, just.
Jameela [00:16:51] Do you have any like standout tools that you learned?
Ashley [00:16:54] Yeah, I think my favorite was a lot of it was, oh gosh, I can’t remember what it stands for it, but it’s called CBT therapy.
Jameela [00:17:03] For cognitive behavioral therapy.
Ashley [00:17:07] And those classes, I think, were the best for me because my biggest thing is once I start on that track of negative thinking, it was so hard for me to stop, you know, I’d be at work and I’d get a Twitter notification or something that would just be like, Oh no, is this like more people trying to harass me as this more mean stuff? And then the second that goes on, it’s like, you could just.
Jameela [00:17:30] Catastrophize, yeah.
Ashley [00:17:30] Yeah, you just start going and going. And CBT taught me to think through the blockchains of Okay, it was the Twitter notification that made this happen. Do you need to catastrophize this? Is it that bad? Was it okay? It was. Okay. So you don’t need to step to the next thought of other people hate me. Oh, no. What’s going to happen? You know, just slow down, backtrack it, think, think it through. And the blockchain, that’s that was like the biggest skill I had to learn. It also was the one that I resented kind of the most. Because.
Jameela [00:18:02] You have to do the work.
Ashley [00:18:03] Yeah, you have to do the work.
Jameela [00:18:04] Oh, so annoying. I like I couldn’t do CBT. It’d drive me insane when I was doing it.
Ashley [00:18:08] Like when you anytime you broke a rule in the program, they would make you write out your blockchain and your CBT steps. So I, I have always been kind of like a rebellious person, you know, I was always, like why do I have to listen to authority. And so I would show up maybe 20 minutes late and they would be like, No, you have to sit down. You have to write the chain that made you 20 minutes late.
Jameela [00:18:28] Oh my god it’s like therapy school.
Ashley [00:18:30] Yeah, it was have to I would have to sit and be like I thought I had time to get coffee. I did not care about being on time. So even though I knew I probably didn’t, I went and got the coffee and you would just like write it all out. And that eventually just kind of made me feel more accountable towards my own thoughts and actions and controlling them and just also not letting them control me, you know? Yeah.
Jameela [00:19:04] So can I ask when your body image stuff started?
Ashley [00:19:07] Yeah, it was in I feel like pretty typical middle school. You know, when you start to realize your body is changing. And before that, and I was going to pretty small schools. There weren’t a lot of girls in my class, like probably through kindergarten, through fifth grade. There were probably at most always like four or five girls in my class. So we always kind of we’re like a little band who got along. And then in sixth grade, it all changed. There were like all these new girls. It was, you know, like it’s still a small school, but there were just all these new girls. It was all different. I was the only black girl and it was, you know, all these like kind of skinny, blond, white girls. And that’s when I kind of just started. I started to feel other. I was like, Oh, I’m taller than them. My body is different than them. You know, they all can shop at these like little cute Abercrombie stores. And I don’t shop. I can’t wear that. Like that’s not, you know, for me because it was before they all changed and Abercrombie was like, Oh, we have to care about plus size bodies. So, you know, it was like they would have fun doing that. And I was like, Well, I can’t. And I remember the day it started, it was we had this, this experiment in science class where we all had to build an unbreakable bridge out of popsicle sticks, which maybe you people out there had to do that in their school. You’d build it, and then we’d put weight on it and see who built the strongest bridge. And this one girl, she, like, put hers in moxie, glue of Moxie glue, or whatever it is, which I kind of thought was cheating. But her bridge was unbreakable. It was very, very strong. And we were putting like bricks on it, all this stuff. And finally the teacher was like, okay, let’s just have people stand on it. We’ll have the students, like try to break it with their body weight. And before you could do it, he was like, Well, I have to weigh you. So we know scientifically the weight on the thing. And, you know, we’re sixth grade girls. We weren’t really thinking like, oh, I don’t want my weight out there. And this teacher just did not seem to care. I mean, of course, he could have just like written it down quietly, but instead he decided to announce each person’s weight. And the girl who went above ahead of me, like, you know, she goes, she’s very like low weight, whatever. And I was like, Oh, that’s okay, I’m next. And I just started going, you know, we don’t have to weigh me like I’m probably the same as that girl. Like, we’re like the same height and stuff, you know? You don’t have to weigh me you don’t have to weigh me, No, no. And he’s like, No, we have to get on the scale and I get on the scale. And he like, looks at it and looks at the class, and he’s like, Yeah, you’re nowhere near the same weight as her. You’re a lot heavier. And like said my weight out, I was like, Are you kidding me? I was so embarrassed because I had just been like, No, I’m sure like me and Hillary are the same. Like, you know, you don’t have to and he’s like, no, you’re like 40 lbs heavier than her. Like, absolutely not. And also that teacher didn’t like me, so fuck him. But but it was just one of those moments where I, like, realize, like, oh, because I didn’t weigh myself really before that that’s just when it came to me like, Oh, this number, I’m different. It’s higher than everyone else. That’s not right, I guess, you know, they’re telling me that’s not right. And that’s when I started to change how I was eating to like, exercise more than was like normal.
Jameela [00:22:12] To assimilate.
Ashley [00:22:12] Yeah. And, you know, I, I didn’t have like a, like a healthy, good knowledge of what was healthy, you know, I didn’t know. Oh, you should eat from these food groups and eat more vegetables and have a diverse diet with protein. I was just like, if I just eat marshmallows every day that doesn’t have calories, I can eat marshmallows and I can eat pickles. And I would just eat these things that were very, you know, obviously not nutritious and bad for you just but but I didn’t know calories don’t eat calories. So I would just try to do that. And obviously it’s very unhealthy. You know, I would spend two weeks like just eating pickles and pickle sandwiches. And it took a second, I think, for my mom to kind of catch on. She was like, wait a second, this isn’t you’re not eating right. You’re not eating healthy. And, you know, that’s still that’s that would kind of be my trigger is that when I felt uncomfortable with my body, I would start doing this thing where I would just eat the same thing all the time because that was something I could control. I could control than the number of calories what I was making. I didn’t have to think about, you know, meals also. And so when I would experience trauma, I would feel myself kind of revert back to that. You know, I would be depressed and unable to cook, but I would still be like, Oh, I can just eat like a pickle sandwich every day for the next three weeks and I’ll be fine and that’s not good for you. And so that I think.
Jameela [00:23:32] I like pickles but fucking hell, a pickle sandwich. I’m like amaze my my lips dry out like an asshole. Oh, just the feeling of that.
Ashley [00:23:39] I make it I like I would use mustard.
Jameela [00:23:41] I’m not judging you I’m not judging you. I just can’t believe the amount of salt.
Ashley [00:23:45] Oh yeah.
Jameela [00:23:46] Oh, my God. Makes my mouth feel weird.
Ashley [00:23:49] By the time I got to. Yeah. By the time I got to college, I had, like, high blood pressure and stuff because I was eating so much sodium.
Jameela [00:23:55] Oh, my God. Isn’t it wild? Right? It’s the amount of people have come in this fucking podcast, including me. Who said that a teacher weighed me and then I developed an eating disorder. Who are these fucking teachers?
Ashley [00:24:06] Why like
Jameela [00:24:07] Why do they have a scale? At the school. Why do you even have a scale at the school going around traumatizing generations of girls.
Ashley [00:24:16] Yeah. Also, we still do not break that girl’s bridge. I just want to say, even after all that, like when we get. I got on the bridge and still couldn’t break it, and I was just like, Wow, okay, now everybody knows that I’m like, fat. I know I hate myself, I hate my body. And it’s just these teachers who just, I don’t think cared or weren’t thinking about it or.
Jameela [00:24:34] Just so ignorant.
Ashley [00:24:36] Care what that means. Yeah.
Jameela [00:24:36] Oh, my God. Yeah. They wrote mine on a leaderboard, and I was the heaviest girl in the class. I was also the tallest girl in the class. But I didn’t know that’s a thing.
Ashley [00:24:43] Same. Yeah, I was tall. Yeah, I had no idea about, like height was different.
Jameela [00:24:46] Distribution or anything. No. I just thought I had to be the same as them. I was like, okay, I’ve got to be got to be 90 something pounds at five foot 11. And
Ashley [00:24:57] Yeah I’m like this tall curvy black girl and I’m like, But how come I’m not like these like stick then, you know, other 11 year old white girls, like how come.
Jameela [00:25:04] I know. It must be wild to now see that like the things, I mean, like white people try to emulate black bodies. And black features must be really something.
Ashley [00:25:13] Yeah. It’s such a, it’s just, you know, I remember shopping at the mall with them when I was a kid and the, like, skinny, tight jeans not fitting over my, you know, big butt or whatever and then making fun of me for it and being like, Oh, your thighs are so big. Your thighs are so big, you know, you can’t wear these things. And now that’s what everybody wants. They want my body and my thighs and I’m just like, Where was this acceptance when I needed it?
Jameela [00:25:45] I also feel as though there’s a there is an area in your life then that you do have like a real sense of autonomy and control. And that is, you know, as we referenced at the top of the show, the fact that you are poly and have been since college. I think it was college, right?
Ashley [00:25:58] Yeah, basically.
Jameela [00:26:00] But kind of like toward the end of college, I, I feel as though that’s a really beautiful practice for you. And would you explain what polyamory is to anyone who maybe hasn’t heard that term before?
Ashley [00:26:11] Yeah, polyamory is basically an umbrella term for people who are ethically non-monogamous. We date multiple people in a lot of different ways. Personally, I am solo polyamorous, so that what that means is I am someone who defines my polyamory on my own terms, my relationships on my own terms. I consider myself always single even though I am in relationships. But for me, I don’t have like a primary. I don’t, you know.
Jameela [00:26:39] And a primary is basically like, let’s say that some friends of mine have the person who is their person and they have like mutual boundaries that they’ve set for each other. Whereas like you, maybe it’s different for every couple, but you can’t sleep with close friends or you can’t sleep with or you can’t or don’t tell me about it, or I want to know everything about it, or I, or you can’t develop a close, intimate relationship or you can’t sleep over at the house over. It’s about that. And so you are a free agent. You don’t, you answer to yourself.
Ashley [00:27:12] Yeah, I am a free agent. Personally, like, if I am dating someone and they, you know, they say, hey I’m in love with you, I like you in this way. I want to meet your family and get closer. I’m open to that. But it’s also like if I meet someone else and they they don’t want those things, that’s fine too. Like, I don’t enter any sort of relationship going, I want you to end up being my primary. It’s kind of like, hey, if we, you know, you a lot of my partners have primaries. So for me it’s like, you know, if you’re you can live your life, I’m going to live mine. If there are times when that intersects, that’s great. But personally, I don’t like to do the the primary thing but.
Jameela [00:27:46] What would happen? What would happen if like four different lovers wanted to meet your family and like be a part of your life? What are you doing there? Because I know that your mom, your mom’s on a journey with this, right?
Ashley [00:27:58] Oh, yeah.
Jameela [00:27:58] I found the way that you oh sorry I just hit my mic. I find the way that you came to maybe even subliminally understand your own admiration of polyamory. So fascinating, which is that your mother was in, like a 15 year long distance relationship. And so you were able to see what non spousal living but still having someone’s love, still having like access to affection when it’s, you know, when you’re actually available and how much she was able to get done when that lover would be away.
Ashley [00:28:29] Exactly.
Jameela [00:28:30] I found that fascinating as a way to understand because it’s.
Ashley [00:28:31] She absolutely hates it.
Jameela [00:28:32] So true.
Ashley [00:28:33] Yeah. She hates it. She’s like, if I had known this was going to turn you into this, I never would’ve done it. But it was that it was like my mom lived in Rockford. My stepdad lived in Chicago, which is about 2 hours drive apart every other weekend. Either he would come to Rockford or we would go to Chicago and then, you know, we’d go back and my mom would live her life. He’d live his. But there was still so much love there that I was like, Oh, you don’t. The person you love doesn’t need to be there all the time. Like you can still have this beautiful relationship and still have your lives in your separate homes. And on top of that, like I said, my mom had a daycare in our house, so there were always children running around, you know, everywhere she worked second, third shift, there were probably always like 15 kids in our home from the time I was like two months old to 18. So I was just always used to people being around. But not just that, like. I was used to sharing my mom’s affection with all these other people in my house. And it wasn’t that they were, you know, my siblings. You know, that’s something that you expect your mom to love all your siblings. But these would just be people from the neighborhood, kids who didn’t maybe have that same motherly affection at home, who would come to my mom’s day care and would start calling her mom like they loved her so much. There are still people to this day who call my mom, their mom just because, you know, she helped raise them. She was that person who was in their lives. And so growing up, I was never really jealous of that. Like, I never felt as though I was lacking in love. You know, my mom did a brilliant, beautiful job. I don’t know how she did it, making me feel loved and welcomed and happy in this environment, because I would just look at these other kids and I felt happy that they got to also have my mom. I was like, Why? You know, if she makes them happy, she makes me happy. That’s good. Like, they don’t have this at home. She gives it to them. That’s wonderful. Like, love isn’t something that needs to be selfish. You don’t need to be jealous.
Jameela [00:30:24] And finite.
Ashley [00:30:24] And finite. Yeah, there’s so much love to give everyone. And my mom is such a loving and caring person. Like, you know, she sees a dog on the side of the road. She’s going to pull over and try to help it. She loves people. And so seeing that, I was always like, Well, why do I have to be afraid of someone just loving me? Why do I have to be? Why do I have to see love as this like thing that can only be mine? So that and then kind of seeing how successful my mom was in this more independent relationship, by the time I got to high school and was really dating, I was like, I already had kind of this nontraditional view of relationships. I also I was a very pretentious high schooler. I used to read a lot of like Simone de Beauvoir and, you know, she also believed in polyamory and.
Jameela [00:31:11] Separate togetherness.
Ashley [00:31:11] Yeah, separate togetherness and all that. So I would like read that. And then I was like seeing my life and I was always kind of like, I don’t think that I want a traditional marriage. At that time I still believed in marriage at that point. I actually met a boy my junior year of high school. We started dating, we dated into college and when I was a sophomore he proposed to me. So we were engaged. But we always had this understanding that our marriage would be nontraditional and open like we both.
Jameela [00:31:41] Simone de Beauvoir was with Jean-Paul Sartre. Right. And they had they had two apartments next door to each other in the same building, which became like my model of a fantasy life when I was like 19 years old. And I first read about that and like their love letters to each other and how much they loved each other and how much that led to the longevity of their relationships. Because they weren’t up in each other’s fucking face all the fucking time.
Ashley [00:32:06] Exactly. Oh, my God. Yeah. me and my.
Jameela [00:32:07] I’ve just reached my pinnacle, which obviously a huge amount of privilege, but we were able to get a home together. My boyfriend, I’ve been together for seven and a half years and we have an extra bedroom that’s technically a guestroom, but really it’s my bedroom and I’ve got all my shit in here and I keep all my clothes separately from his. And it’s my little world and my bedding and I’ve styled out like a fucking teenager, and it’s just my space that is mine alone. And I swear to God, our relationship is now at the top of the highest I could ever hope to reach because of that feeling of like, I’ve got somewhere that’s just mine, fuck off everyone.
Ashley [00:32:45] Yeah that’s just mine and.
Jameela [00:32:47] You need a little nest.
Ashley [00:32:47] Exactly. And I will say growing up in a daycare with all these kids all the time. I value my alone time so much. I had very little chance this opportunity to just be alone in a space. So now I value that. Like when someone respects my need to just have a private area and private space, I’m like, Thank you, you get me. That’s that’s what I need.
Jameela [00:33:06] And also bedroom like is a weird thing to have like other someone else’s a bedroom is such a personal space. I’ve never really thought about this or spoken about this before, but like it’s such a personal space and it’s like your safe space away from work, away from everything, away from your whole life and it’s drama. And so having someone else’s stuff kind of bleed into that space it’s quite it’s quite emotionally invasive. It’s lovely in a way. It’s all of our stuff. You know and we have that.
Ashley [00:33:34] My friends who move in together, I love it for them. That’s beautiful to combine your things and lives. That’s just not my version of love.
Jameela [00:33:42] But yeah, you just need a room that is yours. It’s just a room that is yours.
Ashley [00:33:46] To me it’s like I have my room. You have your that to me is love. And like the guy was engaged, we would write each other letters because like, I went to college in Massachusetts, he lived in Illinois, eventually went to college in Vermont. We were always long distance, like the whole relationship. But to me that was just that was normal. I was like, Yeah, we can still love each other just as much and live in completely different states, different countries. At one point I lived in Germany and we were still dating and you know, I, we would write letters and stuff. We always kind of knew this isn’t going to be a traditional relationship. But it wasn’t until my senior year of college that we found this book Opening Up by Trystin Taormina, which specifically talked about polyamory and the different ways it can happen. I had her come to my college to do a talk. She, like, spoke about it, signed our book, was like, good luck you two, you know, blah, blah, blah. And this book just opened my mind because I think I had seen polyamory as like something that had to exist one way. And the way she breaks it down is like you can be married and completely monogamous, but say you decide you want to be swingers, who hook up with people together once every four months. That’s a form of polyamory. Like anything where you are negotiating with your partner and opening up to other people is a different form of polyamory. It doesn’t have to look like one thing. It’s very much specific to the two people in the relationship. And that’s when I started to kind of realize like, Oh, you know, we’re not just, you know, weirdos or whatever. We’re we’re poly. This is we’re ethically non-monogamous. Oh ok. Now we can put words to this and figure it out and put rules on this and explore it more. And sadly, exploring it more is what made me realize I didn’t want to be married at all. So we ended up breaking up, you know, separating. He went his way. Now he’s married now, actually. So yeah. But for me, that’s when I realized, like, oh, solo polyamory is what I want to do. Like, this is, you know, my, my feeling towards it was I want to be able to create relationships on their own terms with the partners I’m dating. I don’t want to have to enter these relationships with the same or with the expectation. I think of people that people have where they’re like, okay, we’re going to get in this relationship. Then we’re going to be, you know, just will be exclusive. And then you’ll meet my family and then we go up this, like, relationship escalator and we follow these steps. And then someday we get a bank account together and we do this, and so I enter my relationships and it’s like that could happen. I don’t know, maybe someday we decide we want out and we want to have joint bank account whatever. We want to enter those responsibilities.
Jameela [00:36:15] I don’t ever want that. Literally never doing that.
Ashley [00:36:20] Never want to do that. But it’s just coming into my relationships without that expectation or responsibility allows them to exist in their own form. And that to me is really beautiful. And, you know, it allows me to have this, I think, wonderful sort of support system of people that I love. I think a lot of people misunderstand polyamory and think it’s all about, you know, running from responsibilities. And it’s about.
Jameela [00:36:45] Oh no I think it’s, you’re juggling a lot. I disagree.
Ashley [00:36:48] Yeah, no. People are like.
Jameela [00:36:48] I can’t keep up with this many this many people I wouldn’t be able to I wouldn’t be able to handle that, remember what I’d said to whom you know, what stories I had already told.
Ashley [00:36:57] It’s a lot of Google calendars and spreadsheets. It is so many just spreadsheets.
Jameela [00:37:01] So much bathing.
Ashley [00:37:02] Yeah, Google calendar things of like, okay, this person’s free this day and then I’ll be in town this day and when can I see you next? And I think people think that we are promiscuous or we don’t like, you know.
Jameela [00:37:14] Also do people attribute it to the fact that because you are you are bisexual, correct?
Ashley [00:37:18] Yeah.
Jameela [00:37:19] Right. And so do people also incorrectly attribute the fact that you need to be polyamorous because you can’t get all that you need from one person because you’re attracted to multiple like more than one gender, which is not true because I’m bisexual, but I’m a super monogamous person.
Ashley [00:37:34] Yeah.
Jameela [00:37:36] I’m lazy and it’s how my brain works. I couldn’t I personally couldn’t do polyamory, but I think polyamory is really beautiful and great. But it’s nothing to do with your bisexuality.
Ashley [00:37:45] Yeah, I do think there are those stereotypes of, you know, bisexual people are oversexualized, blah, blah, blah. That’s why you need to do this, greedy. And it’s that to me isn’t even part of it. I, you know, it’s.
Jameela [00:38:00] I have friends who are polyamorous who are straight like.
Ashley [00:38:02] Like there’s so many straight poly people to me, like, I’m bi poly and that just means I date everyone. But I still treat all of those relationships with, like, the same respect. You know, people are always like, Oh, you’re just afraid of commitment. And it’s like, no do you know how much commitment it takes to be with someone who lives in another state and to see them for like years and to maintain a relationship and to, you know, say, hey, if I’m like, we’re going to always make this work. It takes a lot of commitment. And I also think there is this thing where, like, as a black woman, we’re afraid of the stereotype that will be seen as Jezebel’s. You know, that is the the like over hypersexualized black women who, you know, just like has to have sex all the time. And that, I think, was kind of my mom’s fear with it that she was like, Well, I don’t want people to see you that way. I don’t want people to see you as this you know town slut or whatever. And I think people are often shocked when I’m like, I’m polyamorous and I usually don’t even have sex with my partners until we’ve known each other for like a month or something. Like I, there’s nothing in polyamory that says, you know, we have to have sex all the time immediately. You can, you know, that’s not a part of it. You can. It’s all still about making that connection, finding people who click with you and and and polyamory. I’m even more selective because I don’t want to have sex with someone. And then a week later, they’re telling me, oh, actually I believe in marriage. And I always thought like, you know, I’d get married and have a house with someone and we share a bank account because then I’m just going to be like, Oh, you got the wrong idea about me. Sorry.
Jameela [00:39:39] And I think there’s so much freedom with polyamory, but also like my, one of my best friends is polyamorous. And, and there’s a lot of there’s almost like more checking in. I feel like that he does with lovers than someone in a monogamous relationship.
Ashley [00:39:56] Oh yeah.
Jameela [00:39:56] Has to do because there’s quite there’s a lot of and I don’t mean this in a way to put anyone off, but there’s a lot of like very because I think a lot of people see it as inhumane. But I think there’s actually an access of humane homework that you need to do in order to make sure that like you’re still on the same page because people sometimes agree to polyamory because they want to try it. Maybe they’re not cut out for it or they agree to it because and I’ve seen this so many times where they say they’re into it because they want to be able to date you. And then they believe that the connection between the two of you will be so strong that you’ll change your mind.
Ashley [00:40:31] Oh, it’s happened to me so many times.
Jameela [00:40:33] You’ll leave your heathen lifestyle.
Ashley [00:40:35] Yeah, you know, like. Oh, that you think you’re poly. But you just haven’t met someone like me yet. And it’s like, okay. And, and I’m so exactly. It is so much checking in. Like, I talk to my friends who are single, monogamous and trying to date and you know, they always like we’ll see some guy for like six, seven months and they’re like, I don’t know, we’ve never had the what are we conversation. I don’t know what we’re doing. Like, I don’t know what I am to them. And I’m just like shocked. I’m like in polyamory, first day I’m going to be like, here’s how my my relationships operate. Here’s how it goes. Are you cool with that? How do you feel? What are you looking for? In like two months in, we’re going to be having a conversation that’s like, okay, like, are you looking for a primary? What about bla bla bla, do you believe in this? You have to have those conversations. You know, I’ve never I can’t remember the last time I was in a relationship, and I didn’t know where I stood with the person or I was like, I don’t really know, are we dating or not? You know, because you you just have to address all that. Polyamory is about so much communication. And if you’re not doing that communication, usually you’re not being particularly ethical about it. You know.
Jameela [00:41:42] It’s the emotional version of Find Your Friends. Like you can see where someone is at all times you have to know constantly where each other are.
Ashley [00:41:48] Yeah, exactly.
Jameela [00:41:48] So that people don’t get hurt, because it is it does feel new, even though it isn’t new and it definitely feels risky and it is risky because we all have our own traumas and our own needs and our own shit. And I think, you know, a big part of your ability to be so successfully polyamorous is that from a young age you registered that you don’t really have a super competitive and jealous gene. Yeah, you know what I mean? Which a lot of people do like you were made to feel extremely secure and not everyone was made to feel extremely secure.
Ashley [00:42:17] I totally get that. Like I am a big I. I don’t really. Jealousy has never been a big thing for me. I’m a big person who loves compersion and compersion.
Jameela [00:42:29] What’s compersion?
Ashley [00:42:29] Yes, it is sort of a it is a word, but it’s one that kind of has grown in popularity with polyamory becoming more popular. But conpersion is the joy you feel seeing someone you love, receive love or, you know, something that they’ve worked hard for. It’s basically having joy for other people.
Jameela [00:42:46] I have that.
Ashley [00:42:47] Yeah, you know, it’s like and even in my career, like, I, you know, a lot of people when you’re a comic and all this stuff, it’s a lot of jealousy, you know, like, why did this person get that instead of me?
Jameela [00:42:55] Yeah, yeah yeah.
Ashley [00:42:56] But for me, I’m always just like, Oh my God, I’ve seen how hard that person has worked. It makes me so happy to see them get their shot. And that’s conpersion and in relationships.
Jameela [00:43:07] That’s exactly how I feel. This industry’s so weird. It feels so, it feels so upsetting and alienating. I feel like so many people are oddly competitive with me and I really like don’t have my eye on any prize, just happy to be here. I’m not looking at anyone else’s lane. I don’t even consider myself having a lane. My lane is more like in Target, you know, just with the trolley. I don’t. I literally can’t compute jealousy. Jealousy isn’t even a reason for my monogamy. It’s more like I’ve just got everything I need. And also, I’ve said this before on the podcast, but I live not just with James but with like three boys, all of whom I’ve known since I was 19. So I also feel like my cup overrunneth I’m not sucking all of them, but because they’re like my brothers. But but I are. I’m not looking for everything I need just in James. And nor is he in me because our best friends live with us and have lived with us for almost our entire relationship.
Ashley [00:44:04] I mean, there are even monogomous.
Jameela [00:44:05] So that’s different form of non-monogamy.
Ashley [00:44:08] Yeah. And there are monogamous couples that, like, wouldn’t be able to have a partner in that dynamic. Like, I have, I’ve, you know, dated some monogamous people who thought they could, you know, hang and the eventual jealousy over me having guy friends. And it’s like, that’s not even someone I’m dating, but you just don’t even like that I have other friends. You don’t even like that I have my own life. You know, that type of jealousy can happen in monogamy, too. And in polyamory, it’s more common to talk about it. You have to address it. You have to be like, Okay, what is your discomfort with me spending a night out on the town with my friends? What really is making you upset about that? And I think in traditional relationships, monogamy, there’s just kind of this idea that you should make your partner happy no matter what. They don’t want you to hang out with your friends, you know, hang out with your friends, you know? And that to me, that’s a problem. That’s like you shouldn’t have to sacrifice those things just to make one person happy.
Jameela [00:45:01] Yeah, I agree. I agree. So much of it appeals to what I think is just so sensible for so many people. I feel as though I have so many friends who didn’t. Who have lost love that they didn’t need to love. Just because they had a different. An extra thing that they wanted served that the other person was not interested in. And I think the idea of like needing someone to be interested in all the things that you’re interested in, needing to have everything be a mutual desire it’s really unhealthy. I think it’s so odd, this pressure we put on ourselves to find the spouse who is like this. I’ve watched so many relationships, especially during the pandemic, break up that way when we really didn’t have support systems to offload on to. So our partner had to be everything for us.
Ashley [00:45:46] And that’s just too much.
Jameela [00:45:48] Too fucking much.
Ashley [00:45:49] And that’s yeah. And that’s why I’m always like monogamous people can learn from polyamorous people, you know, you don’t have to start dating a million people, but there are skills you can learn when it comes to compersion and letting your partner have a life and grow and still being able to support each other. And, you know, I think just there is so much and I mean, a lot of the issues with with monogamy in our country don’t have anything to do with, you know, people. And it it has so much to do with, like, the fact that we are stuck in this patriarchal society that prioritizes, like choosing lots of men over women. And also, you know, this we hammer into young women at such a young age, you know, you have to get married. If you don’t have a man, you’re nothing. If you don’t have a man, you’re nothing. And so many, so many people put their worth in that, in their relationships and the men that they date. And so I think a lot of it is having to break that down too.
Jameela [00:46:34] You know, there’s also this like there is a feeling of like even if people say on Tik Tok that, you know, that they are sex positive, there is still the stigma of being a slut that is put always on women. It still exists. However many of us in the most like liberal liberated states try to reclaim it. It’s still the overwhelming consensus. And.
Ashley [00:46:57] Yeah it’s.
Jameela [00:46:57] It’s really hard to break through that.
Ashley [00:46:59] Because even like, as, like, you know, I am a strong, proud, bi poly woman. I know myself, I, you know, write about my experiences and I will still have these people who will hit me up for interviews or requests. And when I look at what they’re really asking me for, it’s just, Oh, we want to just put like a weirdo polyamorous person on display. We just want people to be like, Isn’t this so weird? Look at these polyamorous freaks, and there’s no kind of sense of respect to it. There’s no real.
Jameela [00:47:31] Well, that’s because it comes from a place of fear, right? Like I was, I’ve seen people react to one of my close friends who’s polyamorous and very open about polyamory, he loves talking about it. And people who are in relationships especially treat him with such caution as if they’re going to as if like it’s going to spread, as if the polyamory as if the polyamory is contagious and as if like their partner might like the sound of what he’s saying. So they they almost look for like the the the the the rare like miserable parts of it, just like there are so many miserable parts of monogamy as well. Yeah. But they’ll be like, well, he’s lonely or something bad happened and he didn’t have his, like number one primary partner to lean on or this, that and the other.
Ashley [00:48:15] Yeah that’s a big one. People always like, Aren’t you lonely? Aren’t you, and I’m like?
Jameela [00:48:17] Or sexually dissatisfied, maybe hasn’t found that person they’ve got that connection with yet. And the way that they light up and love the things that aren’t working because they’re so terrified that what he’s saying might convert their partner or convert them. You know, it’s just so fear based. You only ever try to destroy something you’re afraid of. I say that all the time. And it feels like people treating you like you’re a circus freak. It’s just because they’re absolutely terrified of your lifestyle because they don’t think they’d be able to hack it.
Ashley [00:48:46] Yeah, and they can’t believe that it’s not only good for me, but I like it and enjoy it and it makes my life better. They can’t. They don’t want to believe it. You know.
Jameela [00:48:55] You’ve been doing this a while now. What is it like ten years?
Ashley [00:48:57] Yeah, like over a decade now. You know, people even my mom actually just two days ago, she was like, so do you think you’re going to be polyamorous forever? And I’m like, Well, I don’t see any reason to stop now. Like, it just keeps getting better and better. As I get older, I just keep meeting more people who are on kind of the same page as me or who understand. And a lot of times people are like, Well, don’t you miss having romance in your life? Like, do you miss real love?
Jameela [00:49:24] You must have an abundance of romance.
Ashley [00:49:25] Yeah. You know, I think people I don’t know, there was some tweet or something where people were like polyamorous people are just people who don’t believe in romance. And that is so far from the truth. I, I love, love. I love falling in love. I love buying flowers for people. I love that I am multiple people I get to be romantic with and multiple people who do romantic things for me. And, you know, if I have a cold, they, I have multiple partners who will be like, you want me to like DoorDash something at your house? I’m not in town, but I can send you something like what do you need? And you know, I think.
Jameela [00:49:58] It’s also just like that’s also just a misnomer because I’m not at all romantic for James. He writes all these beautiful love songs and I have a romantic bone in my body, but we’re in a monogamous relationship and I love him so much. And I would you know, I’d give him all of my my best organs. But I’m I’m not romantic. So it just it just goes to show that there are no there are this all these arbitrary nonsense rules that come from Hollywood and come from fuckin Meatloaf and Luther Vandross songs like we. We I think it’s so important to have these conversations and I think the next generation, Gen Z, are way more clued up.
Ashley [00:50:36] Yeah.
Jameela [00:50:37] To this sort of stuff.
Ashley [00:50:38] Oh yeah. I, I look at the younger generation, I have a lot of hope and you know, I do look at a lot of the like polyamory tiktoks that are like people in their twenties and stuff who are already like me and my poly q are living together with five people. But I’m like, wow, okay. Like I was not that, you know, excelled when I was their age. And so I hope that we see this. Opening up more things for people. And I just think like it should just open you up to the opportunity of it to try it. You know, if polyamory isn’t your thing, okay, you know, but like I think so many people just write it off immediately because they only think of the negatives. They’re like, no, poly people are sad and lonely and they just are desperate and they, you know, or it’s the other side of the coin that I get a lot is, Oh, you must be insecure, you must be polyamorous, because you’re like an insecure woman who doesn’t believe you think that you you deserve love. You know, you’re insecure, you’re just not sure of yourself. So that’s why you, like, go along with these men and what they want.
Jameela [00:51:39] Or you need validation from multiple different people at all times.
Ashley [00:51:42] And first of all, I’m like, well, I’m, I’m, I’m bisexual. Like, a lot of my partners are trans nonbinary women. So I can tell you, I can promise you, I do not care what men have to say to me. You know, I don’t care about male approval. And I think a lot of times it’s the insecurity thing. People are like, well, you just must not love yourself enough to accept love from someone. And it’s like, No, I love myself enough to know what I like and what I love and who I am and who I want to be like. Because I love myself. I know how to find the relationships I want instead of trying to force myself to fit into society’s idea of what love should be and what a relationship should be. Because I did try that. You know, I tried when I you know, I was engaged. I looked at that and was like, okay, yeah, I can make this work and be married and still kind of have things my way and that it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t, I wasn’t comfortable in it. So. That’s probably the one that makes me upset when people are just like, Oh, you must be really insecure, do you not? And it’s like, No, it takes so much security to maintain these relationships and to be openly polyamorous and to have, you know, my partner’s partners, trust me like that, I think is a big part people don’t think about is that when you are poly, you have to be so secure in what you want. You have to be so empathetic also to not just the people you’re dating, but to the people they date, to their to to their metamores. And a meta is basically one of your partners, partners that you don’t date, but it’s kind of like in your circles. So like I date people who are in open marriages. My partner is my partner and their wife or husband would be my meta more so.
Jameela [00:53:21] And do you have to meet them? Do you know a lot about each other or is that different? Is that case by case?
Ashley [00:53:25] It’s different yeah it’s kind of case by case. Personally, I just because the way I do it as a solo poly person, I don’t need to do that. Like, I’m always just like, hey, you date your people. Like, I don’t need to know you’re meta, you’re part. I don’t need metamores, you know? But I also know people who like will go to couples therapy with the person they’re dating and go with like are partners metamores and they all go together and I’m like, that just seems so complicated. But you know, there are people who will open it up in that way and say, No, I want us all to like know each other well and to be emotionally connected and open. And, you know, I’ve also had times when I’m dating people and their partners want to know me. They’re like, I want to meet her, let’s talk, you know? And we become friends. But even then, it’s like. You had, that’s someone you have to consider. You know, I’ve dated people who were in open relationships or marriages, and they’ll come to me and be like, Oh, we’ve been seeing each other for so long. And I want to say, I love you. I want to you know I love you. I want to get you gifts. And I have to be the one who’s like. And how would your wife feel about you saying that to me? How would your wife feel about you saying that you love me? Is that in your rules. Are you allowed to do that? What’s going on? And I have to be the one who is considerate of, like, what their other partner might feel and go, Hey, check in on that, because that’s just as important. I’m not trying to have you say you love me and I’m hurting someone else. So there’s just so much empathy involved and like it takes such a secure sense of self to not just be like, You love me, you love me. Yes, you love me. I love the love. Yay! Let’s go. Who cares what anyone else says? You love me. You know, you have to be kind of more responsible about it. And, like, what? What does this really mean? Let’s talk about it.
Jameela [00:55:07] That’s fucking fascinating. And so do you get to experience being in love?
Ashley [00:55:12] Oh, yeah, I love being in love. I fall in love all the time.
Jameela [00:55:16] That’s great.
Ashley [00:55:17] Yeah. Oh, yeah. You know, I. I fall in love all the time. I do have partners who are also, like, solo poly. You know, I have partners who I have been seeing for years. I have a part of my oldest partner. We’ve been dating for about seven years now. And I like I’ve seen his, his other relationship progress. Like when I first started dating him, him and his wife were just engaged. I’ve seen them get married, have kids, and that’s beautiful to me, you know, like I am tangentially a part of it. And I can, like, cheered on and I’m like, I love what you two have built. You know, I’m still living my life. They love and support me and my career and it works out that way. And I think that’s beautiful where I’m like, We love each other in this very, like, different way, but it is love, you know, like I if something happened to him or his family, I’d be devastated. And, you know, I think they they feel the same way about me. And it’s just, you know, people are kind of like, well, is that love like if, you know, if they and it’s like, no it is love. Love exists in all these different kind of ways, I think we get really tied up in romantic love when there’s I mean, what is that old thing that people always say? Like, the Greeks had 20 words for love because there’s so many different types of ways to love. And so I really embrace that. You know, there are partners I have where. Like yes, I deeply, deeply love them. Like romantic love. Is it like unconditional love? No. Because if they broke my rules or if they hurt someone, you know my person. If he did something that was, like, horrific to his wife or what, I would be like, that’s horrible. Like, I can’t continue this. So, you know, the love still exists. I think it is a little more realistic than sometimes monogamous love. That’s very unconditional. You just have to put up with it. If they hurt you, if you just put up with it. Love is love. And that’s also kind of how I grew up in a religious church. Like in this Missionary Baptist church. People didn’t get divorced. People didn’t really you know, if you were a woman and your husband cheated on you, there was no real recourse for you. It would just be a pastor being like, suck it up. Like, that’s that’s just how it goes. If you love him, you’ll look the other way. And to me, it seems so often when people are like, Oh, you have to. You don’t. You know, do you fall in love? It’s like, I don’t have that kind of love sure. I don’t have this kind of love where I feel it is my duty. And no matter what, even if I’m being hurt, I have to stay with it. I have love that is more on my terms.
Jameela [00:57:48] Well, it’s also so underestimated the intoxication of choice. I think that’s probably why James and I don’t want to get married is because I like the idea of choosing him every day and him choosing me every day. And I can choose to sleep in our mutual bedroom, or I can go off to my little bat cave that I’ve made for myself, that I pretend is a guest room, but then never let any guests come over and stay. So it’s my room. But I. I think that the fact that you have this freedom to know that, like, unless you are being treated in a way that really works for you, and unless someone really satisfies you, you just really don’t have to be there. And they aren’t your one and only you don’t have to suck anything up. You get to really like this is as I said, as we kind of transitioned into this part of the conversation like you are living a maximum level of autonomy and considering everything you’ve been through, I’m so happy for you. And I think that that’s such a beautiful and profound way to be able to exercise a lot of autonomy, which is something that, as you said, black women in America or in this world or ethnic minorities or bisexual people or just women, full stop, don’t feel as if they’re given a societal freedom to. And so I think it’s it’s so joyously rebellious of you to not just do it, but to talk about it and and. Allow people to see all the sides of it and how you go about it and make it feel realistic. And the way you talk about it is just so peaceful. I think that’s great.
Ashley [00:59:21] Yeah. And I you know, I think a lot of people think it’s a lot of drama. It’s so messy how I do want to do that. And I think if you start at sort of a basis of just. Ethical non-monogamy is creating relationships on your terms. You can be married and be ethically non-monogamous. You can sort it out and all these kind of different ways. People realize, Oh, it’s not that messy. Like, the messy part is being honest about what you want. That’s the hard part, I think, is people being honest with themselves about what they want. And that’s monogamous, really as polyamorous, anything. I think that’s you know, people don’t want to kind of question themselves and go, does this really make me happy? Is this what I want in a relationship? Instead, it’s just easier to kind of go. Society says, that’ll make me happy. Sure, I’m happy with it. Yeah, it’s good.
Jameela [01:00:08] Yeah. Well, that’s why these conversations are so important. And thank you so much for talking to me about everything you have in this episode. I have to let you go because you’re very successful and busy. But before you do, will you kindly tell me, Ashley Ray, what do you weigh?
Ashley [01:00:23] I weigh the collective amount of the love in my life is what I will say. I weigh the collective weight of the love and support I feel in my multiple partners, in my friends, in this sort of poly-cule I’ve created for myself, that that to me is my weight. Just the lovers and anchors I have all over this, this beautiful world who make me feel like me and make me feel happy being me.
Jameela [01:00:55] Well, I mean, this is the definition of it takes a village. And I agree.
Ashley [01:01:00] Yeah. I mean, you know, like I when I used to say to my friends as like to me, monogamy is like when I’m horny, I want to make it one person’s problem. And polyamory is like when I’m horny I want to make it a village’s problem. I want to make it my community’s problem.
Jameela [01:01:18] Well, that feels like a perfect way to end this. I hope everyone has felt very inspired and illuminated by this conversation, maybe about your own lifestyle or a lifestyle of a friend who maybe you secretly judged because you didn’t understand. Maybe there’s some stuff to unpack.
Ashley [01:01:34] And I want to say I really recommend Trystin Taormino’s book Opening Up if you are interested in exploring more of this.
Jameela [01:01:42] 100%. All right. Go get that book. Go follow Ashley Ray everywhere. Everywhere.
Ashley [01:01:45] @theashleyray
Jameela [01:01:47] Exactly. Lots of love. Thank you so much.
Ashley [01:01:49] Thank you.
Jameela [01:01:52] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela, Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month the Stitcher Premium by going Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543. Or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. I weigh the ground under my feet. I weigh the child I was who not only survived a toxic mess, but who came out better than that and determined to keep learning. I weigh the kind healthy, lovely people who don’t even know what they’ve done to become my role models, but who have been a tremendous help in my re parenting and reprogramming. I weigh my best friend Dave, who put words on my feelings at a time when I didn’t know I was even allowed to have them. And I weigh you and your guests for the wealth of support and wisdom you bring to me and to all of us who listen. Oh, that’s lovely.
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