October 28, 2004
My friend Dan recently complained about his move from Washington, D.C. to Manhattan. He wasn't annoyed by the tiny apartments or smelly subways. Instead, he said that when he switched his JDate location to New York, all the women he corresponded with were voting for Bush.
"My mom's upset that I'm turning down dates for political reasons," he told me. "She doesn't understand why I won't meet these women for a drink."
Well, I understand. I don't know if John Edwards was right about "Two Americas," but I do know that there are definitely "Two Dating Pools." As Election Day approaches, even a quick brunch at Toast might end not in an awkward, "I'll call you," but in an all-out screaming match that would put "Crossfire" to shame. So forget dating profiles that list a person's height, hair color and favorite cuisine. Forget essays about perfect first dates and lessons learned from past relationships. I just want to know how my potential mate is voting on Nov. 2.
And why not? I once spent a week corresponding with a guy on JDate only to sit through a latte at Starbucks while he quoted Bushisms like "You can run, but you can't hide" and "The world is a safer place now than it was before Sept. 11" with pride instead of irony.
While there are sites devoted to Christians and Jews, African Americans and Asians, nudists and gays, Ivy League grads and swingers, there's no DDate, eDemocracy or LeftyLovers.com. So I had to find another way to screen out Republicans. Eventually, I found a site that asks daters to describe their political views.
Some responses were straightforward: "I'm a bit left-of-center, because the far right annoys me more than the far left does," wrote a 31-year-old lawyer.
"Pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-condom, anti-military. Opposed to monarchy unless I happen to be the king, in which case it's a great system," wrote an investment banker who moonlights as a comedy writer.
Others were more ambiguous:
"I'm a Republican -- in the California sense," an architect hedged. Another writer went with: "Left-medium, with surprising-yet-nuanced views on school vouchers and government funding for faith-based charities." I read it twice before deciding this was his Kerry-esque way of saying he's a Democrat.
Finally, I went out with an entrepreneur who replied: "Slightly right-of-center with Trotskyist upbringing." I liked his sense of parental rebellion. The date went well. That is, until we got into a heated argument about who had won the presidential debates. I decided not to see him again, which prompted my mother to echo my friend Dan's favorite sentiment: Our generation is just too picky.
I told her there's a reason politics makes strange bedfellows, but she cited Mary Matalin and James Carville as a counterpoint. Dan said his mother already mentioned Maria and Arnold.
"See, there are a whole two couples in this country where this can work," Dan laughed.
I'm sure there are more, but I'd be hard-pressed to name any in our age range. Is it because this election has been a particularly polarized race, and divisiveness has trickled down to single people looking for a mate? Or is it that most people naturally gravitate toward those with common worldviews? It happens in dating -- and it happens in life.
Last week, when I asked a doctor friend if she knew the reputation of an orthopedist I'd been referred to, she replied, "I hear he's very good, but he's an Über--Republican." I hesitated before making the appointment, the way my parents' generation might hesitate before making an appointment with a non-Jewish doctor.
It's about comfort zone, and even if you don't pay much attention to politics, a person's views inform who they are. It tells you how they think, what they value, and how they might brainwash your future children. Which is why, after meeting a guy at a party, going out several times and deciding that we might be soul mates, I was shocked to discover -- just before the moment of truth -- that he was a Republican. He even supported Bush! I felt sick. It reminded me of that scene in "The Crying Game" when the Stephen Rea character realizes his lover is ... a man. Since then, I've redefined "safe sex" as sex with someone whose voter registration information you have in advance.
I also consider a guy sketchy if he used to be a Republican but later switched parties. I'd always wonder about him the way you might wonder about a guy who tells you he experimented with men in high school, but insists it was "a phase." How do you know he won't go back?
"You're ruling out 52 percent of the male population," my mother said, like she reads the Time/CNN polls in order to gauge my dating prospects. Never mind that she'd like me to marry a Jew, which means that I'm ruling out an additional 95 percent of the male population in this country. It's like looking for a lost chad.
So I'm spending the remaining days before the election going to friends' political events. Because no matter who wins on Nov. 2, where else could I be sure to find a prescreened group of single Jewish Democrats?
Lori Gottlieb, a commentator for NPR, is author of the memoir "Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self" (Simon and Schuster, 2000). Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com.