Team Gilda or Team Karen?

This is another special guest post by Beverly Diehl. A writer, practitioner of solo poly, and breast cancer ass-kicker, Beverly is actively involved in Sex-Positive World. She blogs about all these topics and more at

In the wake of Gene Wilder’s death this week, an interesting thing is happening on the Interwebs. 

Most of us were aware of Mr. Wilder’s marriage to brilliant, beautiful comedian Gilda Radner, cut short by her death of ovarian cancer. Less aware of his two previous marriages, to Mary Mercier and Mary Joan Schutz. Or of the love he left upon his death, Karen Webb Boyer, to whom he’d been married for 25 years.

People wrote and talked of how he and Gilda could “be together again” now. Others talked about how hurtful and disrespectful such an expression could be to his widow, Karen. As if we all had to choose teams, Team Gilda, or Team Karen, because in the afterlife, There Can Be Only One (Love).

Why? Why isn’t it entirely possible, that even as Gene found new love with Karen, he continued to love and mourn Gilda? And perhaps even his previous two wives? Why do we assume the heart – or the afterlife equivalent thereof – is only big enough for one romantic love at a time?

We don’t assume this about any other relationship. Beloved pets, grandparents, siblings, parents, children, dear friends… When we imagine Heaven, don’t we imagine all our loved ones will be there? Would it even be Heaven if we had to choose: one child, one pet, one parent, one romantic love? One musician or rock band? And only one?

I know many who still love Elvis, even though he left the building a long time ago. And they went on to love other musical acts.

As someone who practices polyamory, the idea of Only One – even in this life – seems silly. There have been times in my life when I’ve had no current loves. Other times, several simultaneously. Yes, it’s more complicated. Of course, time and financial resources are a finite commodity, whether we are talking about children or romantic interests or cats.

But love? Does anyone truly believe that Gene’s love for Gilda cut off like a spigot when he met Karen? Or did she accommodate and make room for it (as perhaps he did for her past loves), secure in the knowledge he loved her just as much, if differently? They moved into the house he shared with Gilda, she must have come to some peace with that very public relationship.

I’ve found my love doesn’t shut off like a spigot, even when I was trying and failing at monogamy. I could make myself conform to society’s norms – only one penis granted access to my genitals for a set period of time. But my heart loves who it loves, when it chooses to love them, regardless of sexual activity. I’ve continued to have feels for men with whom I am no longer sexually involved, sometimes for decades.

I think, I hope, that this sad event [full disclosure, I had a huge ladyboner for Gene Wilder before I even knew what a ladyboner was] will spur people to contemplating more about the limitless nature of love. Perhaps to understand those of us who identify as polyamorous a little better.

We’re not so different from Gene & Gilda, or Gene & Karen. We simply don’t require our loves to be divorced from us or dead, before acknowledging that a new love has entered our loves. Without taking anything away from the love that already existed. We have learned, are still learning, to share heart space.

Living a polyamorous life can be challenging. There can be jealousy to be worked through (please note, there’s plenty of evidence that monogamy does not magically cure jealousy), conflicting desires, and complicated schedules.

But life is short. Let’s all acknowledge the love we have in our lives.

One thought on “Team Gilda or Team Karen?

  1. People knew and were fans of Gilda Radner who died entirely too young. Most people did not know Karen. So the comments are not really about poly or mono, but about celebrity worship and public grief that is different from private grief.

    One of my relatives, his wife died a few years ago. She was the love of his life. He was devastated. However, he felt he was too young to live the rest of his life alone and he met a new women and he is married and happy. He is very monogamous, but he felt that he made the commitment “Till death do you part”, so he was allowed to have a new love after her death. His first wife knew she was dying and was actually looking for women to introduce him to, because she thought he would do a horrible job of being alone. So even monogamous people are fine with people finding new love after the death of partner. How will people work it out in the afterlife? Most assume there are no romantic relationships in the afterlife, so it is not an issue.


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