About four years ago, my wife and I radically changed the way we did our couples (i.e. non-family) vacations. While we enjoy traveling with friends and family, we have always enjoyed, once or twice a year, getting away – just the two of us – and experiencing new people and new adventures. We have done this in a number of ways – from hiking or diving adventures to big city long weekends to relaxed all inclusive Caribbean resorts. While we have had some great experiences and seen some amazing places, one thing that has always struck us is that meeting new people and really getting to know them is difficult.
We are fairly, verging on very, social people and, as evidenced by the diverse and close group of friends we have at home, we don’t think we are socially repellant. Yet, when we vacation as a couple, we have found it incredibly hard to make new friends. As an experiment, when we were at a couples-only 5-star resort in Jamaica, we decided to randomly approach 10 people each at the bar – a mix of men and women – and see how many we could engage in a decent discussion that would lead to us get together for dinner or some other social experience, like an off-resort day trip. The common reaction I received when I started conversations was either: a look of bewilderment that clearly indicated they felt I had mistaken them for a friend; very cursory small talk that lasted exactly until their drink was served; or a sense they felt I was hitting on them. Really, I met no one. My wife had a similar experience, apart from one couple who happened to be from the same city as us and which led to a couple of dinners together and a fun evening at the bar with some other couples they were vacationing with.
Then four years ago, we discovered “lifestyle vacations”. These are vacations that swingers go on. Swingers, for those unfamiliar, are couples who have sexual play with other people. They come in many varieties – soft swap, full swap, voyeurs, exhibitionists, and as many other delineations and sub-categories as there are sexual interests. Swingers are of all (adult) ages, all appearances and all backgrounds conceivable. As a generalization, however, they seem to be: middle aged and at least 5-10 years into a relationship; in somewhat to significantly better physical condition than the general population; and, while they have every occupational background conceivable, there seem to be a lot of teachers and doctors – I suspect it is the same nurturing tendency that brought them to their profession that opened them to swinging.
Lifestyle vacations are provided by a small number of resorts or cruises that cater to swingers. We first went to the most celebrated and upscale of these resorts – Desire Cancun – four years ago, on a whim, in search of a more sexy, edgy vacation than we were accustomed to.
The experience blew our mind. Within two hours of arriving, we knew we were at a truly unique place. We noticed, in approximately this order, (i) everyone smiles and acknowledges you as you walk by them; (ii) peoples’ eyes are energetic and completely alive; (iii) if you are standing at the bar, someone will approach you and initiate conversation; (iv) casual touch is much more common than in “normal” society, both between the man and woman in the couple and with others with whom they are speaking. As well, you quickly see that the “normal gender socializing rules” that often drive me crazy – guys talk to guys about guy stuff and girls talk to girls about girl stuff – do not exist here. Everyone talks to everyone about everything – fashion, politics, sexuality, sports, religion (occasionally) – everything.
Obviously, you notice that most people are naked or near naked, but I am focussing on the social element here.
Now, the cynic will say that the only reason these people are so friendly is because they want to get into your pants (or into your lack of pants). This is, categorically, untrue. We have been back to this resort many times since our first visit and I would say that on average, 60% of couples there play/swing with no one; a further 30% play/swing with 1-3 other couples over the course of their trip; and less then 10% are with a large number of other couples. But, almost all of the couples there socialize with almost everyone.
We have met – not played with but had long, interesting conversations over drinks or coffee or just around the pool or hot tub – with at least 15 couples every time we have gone. We have hung out – had dinner or gone on excursions – with at least 5 couples every time we have been there. Over the course of 6 trips there in the past four years, we have met about 8 couples that we stay in touch with and have or will travel to see.
There is a lesson here. When we are young, we meet new people easily. As children and young adults, it is through these new relationships that we learn and grow. It is how we open ourselves to new experiences and personal evolution. It is how we make ourselves more interesting, to ourselves and to the people around us. To allow this self-evolution to end at the point of marriage and family is a form of surrender. It is like saying “I am now all I will ever be as a person. Anything else I achieve will be either career, monetary or realized through my children”.
I had a close friend, at the point of separation from her husband, complain that he had changed; that he was not the same person whom she had married. I felt cold in my response but I told her that it was good he had changed. People need to change. The problem is that they had lost track of one another and had not changed together.
Humans are social creatures – as David Rakoff once said, “creatures of touch”. To the average person, if they have heard of swingers they likely think in terms of sexuality and, depending on your point of view, sexual deviance. This misses what is, to me, the main point. These are the happiest, most interested and interesting, group of people you could ever assemble in one place. They have the strongest, most mature and continually evolving relationships of anyone I know and they are THE FUNNEST people to be around.
As an incidental point, in case my parents read this, my wife and I are not swingers. We do not have sex with others. But we sure love people who do.