Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
As a lifelong Democrat, I never thought I would be in this place. I never thought I would have to confront this dreaded unforeseen fear - the terror that is for me, dating a Republican. I don’t even know very many Republicans. But it turns out, I’m not alone. Outside of Washington D.C., the entire country is pretty segregated when it comes to political parties. According to dating website, seven out of ten people are in a relationship with someone of the same political persuasion. I grew up knowing very few Republicans and the rare ones I did know got made fun behind their backs, be it children or adults. I know there were some Republicans at my college because there was a “College Republicans” group on campus but this was the Bushy era and the conservatives who were smart enough to get into my university were too smart to be vocal defenders of the Dick Cheney puppet show that was the aughts. I’ve been living in Los Angeles ever since in the type of place where at the moment President Obama was pronounced the winner of his race, we threw open our windows and whooped and shrieked out into the streets till an impromptu parade erupted and bars served free drinks. I cried. I’ve worked for the Democratic Party, interned for a Democratic Congressman and Senator. And even though I went to a more conservative law school, there were enough liberals on campus that if you included the faculty, we could flock together so that I rarely interacted with those others who met with our derision.
So when I tell you I never thought I would date a Republican, it’s not because I really contemplated it and made a specific decision. It’s because as long as I didn’t drive to Orange County, my chances of actually running into one felt slim to none. We live in a birds-of-a-feather type of country. So how did I get to here? How did I come to date a man who told me he “liked a lot of Mitt Romney’s ideas” and that he thought John Kerry wasn’t really a war hero and that cap and trade is a terrible system. At first I didn’t think it would be a big issue. I fell in love with someone who has many similar interests and a big generous heart and when he told me he was an Independent I thought that was just something moderate Democrats said when being pretentious about how non-conformist they are. I didn’t realize I was dating someone who would spend every single Tuesday night glued to Wolf Blitzer’s analysis of another Republican primary. And to be frank, at this point, it’s making me freak out. I get mad at him just thinking about our past political discussions. I can’t date a Republican! What was I thinking? What if I have little Republican babies?
Naturally, he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. He keeps saying we can always find common ground. But I find myself angry with him for things that I expect to take for granted. He admitted to me that the word “liberal” for him had a bad connotation and that the word “conservative” did not. It’s hard to blame him when this is a common phenomena in our country now so that only 20% of the population identifies as liberal while 40% is willing to identify as conservative. I tell him this is a direct result of the vitriol that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have injected into our discourse and he shouldn’t buy into their demonizing of the left. But for my boyfriend, “liberal” means big government inefficiency. I’m normally a calm person, but when he said this, I was close to flipping out. How could he buy into all that? He’s a smart person, he reads reputable news sources. And yet, I continually find myself mad at him for buying into conservative propaganda.
Everyone always points to Mary Matalin and James Carville as shining examples of a couple with different political beliefs and a stable marriage. But honestly, have you seen them bicker on tv? I love watching them but I don’t want to fight like that in my home. I want my home to be a place of tranquility and calm and little social justice fighters playing pin your favorite president on the blue donkey.
Another burgeoning concern is that I’m starting to feel like I always have to watch what I say. Yes, I know there are many intelligent Republicans out there and if the party was made up of just David Frums and Christopher Buckleys or even Mitt Romneys, they’d be a reasonable moderate party that I have an intellectual disagreement with and there wouldn’t be anything to make fun of. But for now, there are a lot of crazy extremist kooks running the Republican party and when you get into Santorum territory and Palin country, I want the freedom to openly mock and deride in a forum where I don’t have to worry about offending someone. Is that so wrong? I’m sick of back-peddling every time I accidentally call them teabaggers.
Months ago, we got to talking about Ron Paul, or rather, my boyfriend got to telling me all about him. Although, we don’t disagree that much on social issues, we disagree quite a bit about how influential social issues should be when it comes to casting a ballot, so we started to really get into it. At one point, I said that certain individual rights and liberties should be the most important issue and I was disappointed in my boyfriend because he was willing to forgo those liberties in order to “make a buck.” He was offended. Admittedly, I went too far and I believe he is compassionate for those less fortunate and I know he doesn’t think he’s sacrificing civil rights for money. But I was making an impassioned argument and this is how liberals talk when we’re amongst friends. To stay in my relationship, I must resolve myself somewhat to being more careful in my language now when talking about fiscal conservatives but in so doing, is that the best decision for a healthy relationship? No one wants to have to walk on eggshells around their partner.
Last week, I went over to my boyfriend’s to watch the HBO docudrama Game Change about Palin’s Vice Presidential bid over some wine and take-out. When it was over, I felt bad for John McCain, but outraged at all the doltish hicks who were venerating this ignorant backwards woman who reveled in her lack of knowledge. My boyfriend on the other hand, said he felt bad for her.
How can you feel bad for her? I was shocked. Why is it always the Republican party that nominates idiots? Joe the Plumber, Christine O’Donnell. Democrats would never allow someone who didn’t understand what the “fed” was to run for city councilman let alone the Vice-Presidency.
How much do you really know about what the Fed does? He shot back.
I almost lost it. In that moment, he was impugning my knowledge and at the same time defending Sarah Palin. I was livid. How can I build my life with someone who defends Sarah Palin and thinks “liberal” is a dirty word? We went back and forth for a while with me spouting off economic knowledge and him keeping my rhetoric in check. But I went to bed angry that night.
I know we’re not supposed to try to change our significant others, but I can’t help but hope that I might be able to make a tried and true blue Democrat out of him. It’s worked somewhat so far, as I’ve been able to convince him that John Kerry really was a war hero and that Mitt Romney has backtracked on climate change. And maybe I am better off calling them teapartyers and aside from adjusting interest rates I don’t really know that much about the Fed. Congress recently passed the first Bi-partisan piece of legislation in years so if they can do it, surely two people who love each other and share many of the same values can find common ground as well. Now, if I could only get him to start watching Bill Maher with me…
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March 15, 2012 | 10:08 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Relationship experts always want to tell you that snooping is one hundred percent without fail invariably wrong. It’s a violation of your partner’s privacy, it breaks trust and if you want a healthy relationship you should never do it. And they’re always so self-righteous about it. Like, if you were really in a good relationship, you wouldn’t even want to snoop.
But that’s just not true. Every woman I know has done it. At some point during your dating career, you will either glance at his texts, read his emails, look in his sock drawer, check his browser history or read his Facebook messages. The proliferation of snooping in relationships doesn’t make it okay, but it doesn’t make you a terrible person, either. And the reason you want to snoop isn’t always because your relationship is unhealthy. We’ve become an informal society where we don’t keep that much private anymore, especially with our partners. This isn’t the “Mad Men” era where men keep their social lives separate from women and women never asked men to share their feelings. We get used to telling our boyfriend everything and we’re proud of them when they finally open up to us and let us see them cry. We exchange keys and passwords and salary information. When he’s driving, he asks you to send a text from his phone and read him his email, and you easily get in the habit of assuming that there is nothing private between the two of you. So when he’s in the shower and you glance at his vibrating phone and can’t help but read a text message—or ten—it doesn’t feel like an invasion of privacy because he was practically asking you to do the same thing yesterday. Couple that with the fact that you assume there is nothing you don’t know anyway, snooping suddenly doesn’t feel like a moral crime, but more like a common relationship side effect of sharing your life with someone. So how bad is it really?
According to a study published in the summer of 2011, forty-one percent of women of all ages admit to having snooped in the past. The number increases drastically as the age drops, making it more and more prevalent in the below forty age group. And the number has jumped almost ten percent since just one year ago. Women snoop much more often than men and men feel much more violated than women when their partner admits snooping. So if you’re a woman under forty years old, some estimates say that sixty to eighty percent of your friends are snoopers at least once in their dating careers and this prevalence is gradually leading to a normalizing of the behavior. If all of your friends do it, is it still wrong?
One of the myths regarding snooping is that most people assume snooping is intricately linked with cheating. While some women do snoop because they have a reasonable belief of infidelity and are looking for evidence, many women are merely guilty of benign curiosity. We want to know if he remembered our anniversary or if he’s really thinking of buying a ring or if he described us as a girlfriend to his mother yet. But whatever the motivation, the biggest problem with snooping isn’t that women are finding smoking gun evidence of bad behavior, the problem is they’re finding small half-truths, white lies, or omissions. Information that’s not inappropriate enough to admit snooping over, but that they can’t stop obsessing over and which can make them resentful in their relationships.
In the last few years, I’ve had one girlfriend find out her boyfriend was telling an ex her breasts looked great on Facebook. Another friend found out from his email that her boyfriend had hooked up with a mutual friend years earlier. Another friend read her boyfriend’s texts from a guy friend who was complaining about never getting to hang out with him alone. In none of these cases did my friends find evidence of cheating. But in all of these cases, my friends found out information that upset them a little and which became an issue in the relationship. Most of the girls eventually confessed and most of the guys felt completely betrayed because their girlfriends snooped.
How much of this information is really worth snooping for? One of the reasons snooping is problematic in relationships is men feel much more violated by it than women. It’s so prevalent among women that women forget how invasive it can actually be. One man told me he felt like he was dating “Big Brother” after his girlfriend confessed to snooping. She found some flirty texts from another girl and although she easily forgave him for the texts, he couldn’t forgive her for the invasion of privacy.
I, of course, am guilty of snooping myself in the past, but in my current relationship I haven’t done it all. Not because I have the perfect relationship and don’t have the desire to, but because I expect I would only find a few minor infractions which aren’t worth the trouble they could cause. Men don’t just need their privacy because women should trust them. Men need their privacy so that they can screw up a little. It’s been said that if we continue to hold up every politician’s life to a microscope, no one is going to want to run anymore. Similarly, if every move our boyfriend needs to pass our scrutiny, no boyfriend will pass our test. We shouldn’t snoop so that we don’t make a big deal when he sends an email to an old girlfriend congratulating her on her new baby or when he watches porn that he’s too embarrassed to tell you about. Because women aren’t perfect, either. When a bartender gives you a free drink, do you give it back and say sorry I’m in a relationship so I can’t accept this? Because although I smile and thank him, I know that it’s also meaningless. But how comfortable would I feel if I knew my boyfriend was watching me do this?
Obviously, there is a limit to what should be tolerated and if the guy is arranging dates with women from Craigslist, there’s bigger issues than snooping. Some statistics say that eighty percent of all women who have a hunch that their husbands are cheating are right. The government uses a simple test to invade people’s privacy: They can only get a warrant to search your house if they have probable cause for believing that there’s evidence of a crime. So if you have probable cause to believe he’s cheating (i.e.—long blonde hairs on the bed when you’re a brunette, you find out he didn’t have a “business dinner” on Saturday night), then snoop to your heart’s content. But if you’re just curious or you just think he has nothing to hide, ask yourself if you would pass a snooping test with a hundred percent score. And if you wouldn’t pass perfectly, why would you expect him to? When did we start expecting men to be perfect? Because that’s what most of us find out after snooping: a slight that was only sort of wrong. So instead of trying to sneakily find information that we can confront them with, shouldn’t we just make peace with the fact that they aren’t perfect and stop trying to prove it?
In a society where we are constantly emphasizing communication and sharing and openness, we never pause to say, maybe some secrets are ok. We like to believe that in a good relationship, we have no secrets. After all, you’re his emergency contact, you know his social security number by heart, you renew his car registration for him and you organize holidays with his mother. You even know whom he lost his virginity to, where he stole liquor from in high school and what his deepest fear is. What could he possibly have to hide? And that’s the thing—probably nothing that matters. So let him hide a few infractions.
I have been completely faithful in my relationship and yet, I don’t know that I have acted with perfection as a girlfriend at all times. Especially in the beginning, maybe I was a little too flirty with the guy at the cafe who gives me free muffins—not because I don’t have a healthy relationship, but because I wanted the free muffins. But the thing is, we all fall short of being the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife. Even when we love our partners and respect our relationship we all do things that are a bit disrespectful. So while I’m tempted to read through my boyfriend’s texts when he leaves it on the table next to the bed, I firmly believe that if I found anything, it would be a tiny little infraction. And I’ve finally decided that knowing about something so slight isn’t worth the invasion of privacy he might feel. I’ve accepted that my boyfriend might not always act perfectly all the time but, I’m completely happy accepting that he might score an A and not an A+.
March 13, 2012 | 5:12 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
When your boyfriend meets your friends for the first time, it can be almost as nerve-wracking as meeting the parents. Although my boyfriend of a year knows and has built relationships with all my friends in LA, I have a lot of friends in other places. This past weekend we went to New York together where a ton of my college girlfriends live. It was his first time meeting them and the same was true for me and a few of his friends so the pressure was on. .
Unlike your local friends, your long-distance friends get many less chances to build relationships with your boyfriend. If he makes a bad first impression on a local friend, he has plenty of weekends up coming for him to win them over. But this past weekend, he had one or two chances at the most to get along with some of the people who are most important to me. He probably won’t see them again till the next wedding and that doesn’t look like it’s happening for a while, so naturally I was stressed about things going well.
Based on our trip this weekend, here are some suggestions the next time you’re bringing your significant other along to meet your long-distance friends.
1. Don’t Have the First Big Fight of Your Relationship the Day Before Because You Don’t Get Exactly What You Want.
2. Don’t Get More Drunk Than He Has Ever Seen You in Your Entire Relationship.
3. Don’t Get Sick From Drinking For the First Time in Three Years and Have to Cancel Brunch With His Friends.
4. Don’t Spill Red Wine All Over Yourself at Your Friends Apartment So That You Have to Borrow Her Clothes and Then Spill Water Again Later on Her Floor.
5. Ask Your Friends Ahead of Time Not to Tell the Most Embarrassing Story From College About You On New Year’s Eve 2004.
6. Don’t Make Him Listen to a Trivia Game Your Friends Wrote in the Summer of 2003 That Has Questions About Who Lost Their Virginity To Whom.
7. Don’t Cry the Day You Identify A Potential First Grey Hair and Beg Him to Pull It Out.
8. Don’t See the Masterful Cindy Sherman Exhibit on Female Aging at Moma the Day After You Identify A Potential First Grey Hair.
9. Don’t Correct Him When He Says Blogger Instead of Writer to His Friends.
10. Don’t Spend A Long Time Singing Different Sorority Songs to Each Other.
But if all of that happens, and your friends still tell you they really like him, perhaps you’ll calm down about it all the next time he’s meeting the friends.