Of Sun, Sessions, Sex and Swimming (Or: My OpenCon Catalonia)

(Icon is a picture of the venue.)

It’s already dark when we arrive, and dinner is underway. There’s a wonderful warmth in the dining room as old friends, new friends and strangers chat, laugh and eat together. It engulfs me immediately and I forget that I’m tired. One of the organisers welcomes us, and we collect some of the delicious food and join a nearby table, sitting with some lovely people I know. A friend I haven’t seen in far too long soon bounces over to give me a hug and meet Nomad.

After dinner, it’s time for the introductory talk. Everyone sits in a circle on the patio outside, and takes turns to say a few lines about themselves and why they are here. I give a very abridged version of my introduction to polyamory, and manage to make people laugh. Then we discuss possible workshops and events for the weekend. The session wraps up as it begins to get too cold to stay outside, and Nomad and I unpack the car and settle into our room, then return to the dining room for socialising. The conversation meanders easily through polyamory, travel, astro-physics, languages, and the UK immigration system, among many other things. (For anyone who’s ever wondered what a bunch of poly people actually talk about when they get together, there’s one possible answer for you!) People gradually drift off to bed. Nomad and I call it a night sometime after two in the morning.

I wake up at eight to the sun pouring through the window. I’m so excited to be here and so high on ‘Con Energy’ that I don’t even want to hurl the phone at the wall to shut the alarm up. We begin the day in the best possible way, then I head over to breakfast while my beloved takes a shower. Breakfast is as good as dinner, and there is much tea – everyone knows the Jess needs tea to function properly! Over breakfast, I catch up with a friend, manage to learn a few more people’s names, and squee lots about the joy of being in this beautiful spot with all these great people.

Then it’s time for the first workshop: ‘poly beginners meet poly experienced.’ I’m not sure which I am, or if I’m really either, but I go anyway. I don’t say a huge amount, but I smile proudly when Nomad uses his fifteen years of poly experience to make some really excellent points, share some anecdotes and give some fantastic advice. The biggest thing I get from this workshop is the knowledge that while there are different levels of experience, none of us are experts, we’re all making things up as we go along, and there is never a point at which mistakes stop happening at all. The workshop happens outside, in the beautiful sunshine, under the shade of some trees. Wonderful!

The second session of the day is ‘speed-friending.’ This is rather like speed-dating, but done in small groups instead of one-to-one. Animal noises to signal when it’s time to move, courtesy of one of the session leaders, just add to the whole thing! I share discussions about music, the best places to live, and cheesy chat-up lines. With two workshops down, it’s time to go and change into my bathing suit and head back outside. We laze on sun-loungers and chat to lovely people, and when it gets too hot we move to the pool! I splash Nomad, and quickly realise this was a mistake when he retaliates by throwing me into the water! I come up spluttering and laughing, and then watch smugly as two people join forces to try to throw him in! This is just the sort of relationship we have. *grin.* We splash around and swim, then just hang out in the water with the fantastic L and D, talking about all kinds of things.

Lunch is announced. Nomad and I head to our room to dry off and change, then head to lunch, which is delicious once again. I chat in a small group about feminism. We rant about entitled men, stupid gender roles, and sexism within the community. They don’t look at me like I’m crazy, and I love it!

After lunch it’s time for Nomad’s session ‘Poly and the Outside World.’ A group of us sit around the big outside table and talk about coming out at work, dealing with being poly while raising children, and all kinds of social, legal and medical issues which being poly makes more difficult. I start pondering an idea to create a UK equivelant of the Alternatives to Marriage Project. (I’m still mulling this over, and wondering about the sheer enormity of this task, and possible ways to make it achievable.) After the workshop, Nomad and I spend a little time alone together in our room, and then he decides to take a nap. I head back out to see what’s going on, and find myself sitting with a small group in the sun, discussing the ever-fascinating topic of trying to explain polyamory to our families. People join us until our small group becomes a rather larger one! At six, I go and wake Nomad, but the workshop we were planning to go to is cancelled, so instead we hang out outside and splash in the pool a little more.

At 7, my ‘poly and kink’ workshop begins. It takes a little while to get going, and I am nervous as it seems some attendees are seeking a kind of ‘101,’ and I haven’t prepared anything. But with the help of Nomad and a few others, the basics are explained and we get the discussion ball rolling. We talk lots about consent and communication and negotiations and all that awesome stuff, about the nature of the ‘scene,’ a bit about 24/7 power-exchange dynamics, and a bit about specific activities, and then quite a lot about various safety and safer-sex practices. Nomad finishes the session off with a brilliant brilliant point about how we should remember that what works for us is what works for us – there’s no status to be gained in competing to be more ‘hardcore’ than the next person, and anyone who thinks there is should set off every red flag ever. I am exceptionally happy with everything about this session, and I think I end up individually thanking about half the participants over the course of the evening! (If you were there and I didn’t thank you personally, then please accept my thanks now! Couldn’t have done it without you guys!)The discussion continues even after the workshop has initially broken up, and we end up with a table at dinner where we carry on talking about this stuff. (Because sex makes ideal dinner conversation, dontcha know?!)

Sadly, in the evening Nomad isn’t feeling well, so goes to sleep it off. I bring him tea, wrap a blanket around him, and pop back to check on him from time to time.

I spend much of the evening in mellow, socialising space. I am overdressed but feeling fantastic in my very floaty, flouncy, gothic coat – several people compliment me on it, then tell me I “win at poly” when I tell them it was a gift from my metamour!

The music begins, and there is dancing outside. I swish and swirl around in my long, long skirt, somebody grabs me and swings me around, we throw a ball around while dancing, at some point somebody lights candles by the poolside. I go inside for ten minutes, and when I return, I find… skinny dipping! My first reaction is ‘God, no, too cold!’ ….then I realise I will only live once, and shouldn’t pass up this experience. So I strip off and tentatively dip my toes in the pool. Someone tells me I’m beautiful, and I’m lucky it’s dark so they don’t see me blushing. I’m offered a hand, and then pulled straight into the cold, cold water! I shriek at the icyness of it, then laugh and catch my breath as I slowly become used to it. I splash about, hug people in the water, and throw the ball around to keep warm. I feel amazingly safe, and it’s an absolutely beautiful experience. Back inside, warming up and dried off by now, I am given a glass of delicious local orange-flavoured liquor, and we settle down in a circle to listen to my friend G read some of his poetry. It is by turns funny and moving and both, and I feel like I could happily listen for hours. After the poetry, there is singing. We are treated to a performance of a piece by a small group, and then we all sing Beatles songs. Somewhere after Let It Be, I realise I am absolutely exhausted, so bid everyone goodnight and head to our room. I find Nomad awake and feeling much better, so… sleep isn’t forthcoming for a while after all! A fact I am perfectly fine with! We drift off sometime around 4.

We wake early in the morning, and almost make ourselves late for breakfast again. (By oversleeping, of course. *Innocent face.*) We make it, though, and I bounce around far too energetically for 9am, fuelled by a combination of ‘yay!’ and caffeine. I decide I don’t fancy attending a very talky workshop, so Nomad and I go and laze around in the sun for a while, and then he jumps in the pool, and I join L’s bracelet-making group. I make a pretty friendship bracelet in the bi pride colours. I go and proudly show it off to Nomad, and join in the conversation he’s having with another attendee about…. you’ll never guess…. polyamory! *grin.*

Soon it’s time to get set up for our ‘Relationship Labels’ workshop. Now Nomad and I have been talking about this workshop ever since before we got together, so we are rather happy to finally get to do it, some two and a half years later! There is brilliant discussion about the primary/secondary labels, the nature of making up our own terms, the advantages and pitfalls of all kinds of terms – partner, lover, friend, sweetie, girlfriend/boyfriend, etc, and the ways in which labels themselves can be both useful and limiting. Nomad and I have a ‘sickeningly cute’ moment, which makes everyone laugh. The discussion seems as though it could go on forever, and everyone makes some brilliant points, which makes me really happy!

After wrapping up a successful workshop, we change into our bathing suits and head for the pool once more! We hang out and spend lots of time chatting with the awesome J, and someone brings us a delicious shandy-type drink. Then J teaches us how to hula-hoop! I am more than a little surprised to discover I seem to be a natural at it. I decide it’s probably because all the dancing has got me used to moving my body in unusual ways!

Nomad and I go to dry off and get ready for lunch and, um, get a bit distracted! During lunch, there is a discussion in ‘Introverts and Extroverts.’ It doesn’t go into that much depth, but is an interesting topic which I’d like to see a full workshop on at some point. Then comes the official closing, which is lovely and sad and touching and happy-making all at once. I feel an immense rush of happy to be part of such a fantastic community, to have been at such a wonderful event, and to have the most amazing partner ever there to share it all with me! There are goodbye hugs, and people start to drift away.

Nomad and I go off to pack and book our hotel for the night, and then head back outside. After a quick check of everyone’s comfort levels, a few of us go skinny-dipping one more time. It is slightly less cold during the day! Somebody brings us tea, and I am highly amused at drinking tea while naked in a swimming pool! The weekend’s theme of awesome chats continues – somebody asks Nomad about his work, and as he talks, people gradually stop talking and listen. I go inside, and when I come back, my beloved has a rapt audience of most of the remaining con attendees, all listening to him talk about particle physics. I think ‘awww, that’s my Love, yay!’ I am a very proud girlfriend in this moment!

At last, it is time to finish packing up and leave. We hug everyone who is left, load our stuff into the car, and wave goodbye to Can Fonsu. We talk about the ‘Con all the way to Palamos, where we’re spending the night.

I loved every moment of this experience – I learned so much, saw some great friends and made some lovely new ones, feel so lucky to have this community in my life, and even closer and more connected to my beloved partner.

Thank you.

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7 thoughts on “Of Sun, Sessions, Sex and Swimming (Or: My OpenCon Catalonia)

  1. Nomad says:

    Excellent write-up, Sweetheart! Reading it has brought back some very happy memories!

    *blows you a kiss*

    • missamaranth says:

      Thank you, Love! I’m glad you liked it. And even more importantly, I’m so glad you were there to share this experience with me.

      *blows a kiss back* I love you xxx

  2. David says:

    Beautifully written, Jess. It was greatto have you both here. Thanks a lot. I will share it

  3. Dragonmamma says:

    What a fascinating time you both had. I wish I could have been there, even though I’m sort of straight and sort of mono. It would have been really interesting to listen to all the workshops in between swimming in that lovely pool – though whether or not I would have been brave enoug to go skinny dipping in cold water is another matter!!! So glad you both had such a wonderful time throughout your whole holiday. I’d be envious if I hadnt had a fantastic week with my Sis in plain old Basingstoke inthe sunshine!

  4. Is this happening again in 2012? Sounds great…

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