Dating and politics don’t mix. You don’t need celebrity political couples like Carville and Matalin or Mary Katharine Ham and the late Jake Brewer to teach you this timeless truth. Just go on a date with someone with a strong enough political persuasion of any kind and you’ll soon realize they aren’t in it for the romance.
I realized this shortly into a blind date with a guy who made no bones about being a vitriolic liberal. As I sat there listening to him berate George W. Bush (because the world didn’t exist before W. in this guy’s mind) I debated how far into this conversation I was going to allow myself to go, lest I offend his very sweet, well-meaning parents who so righteously desired to get him out of their house. (Now I knew why.) Finally, I cracked and with one sarcastic tongue-lashing we agreed we weren’t going to get past the bread basket. (This was fine by him since he had no money anyway.)
When I began dating the man I’d eventually marry, he was beyond excited to bring me to his old summer camp for what was to be a visit to the old family stomping grounds. You see, my then-boyfriend was a fourth generation camper at the Labor Zionist sleepaway camp his great-grandfather and namesake helped to establish. Labor Zionist as in socialist. (“Democratic Socialism” as Bernie, an affiliate of the camp’s sister-movement, would clarify.) At this point you might wonder what I was thinking. So was I. Zionism is all good, right? But, what exactly did Labor have to do with it?
To my boyfriend, not much. In fact, having been the business administrator of his camp, the political ideology had very little to do with his love for his summer alma mater. “The counselors would talk about how we shouldn’t buy from WalMart,” he once joked. “I’d get to WalMart, see they had the lowest prices and say, yeah, ok, you look at the budget and tell me where we should shop.” His love is a combination of filial loyalty and childhood nostalgia. Those were priorities I could agree with.
Which is probably why I could so easily relate to Lisa De Pasquale’s memoir of the D.C. dating scene in Finding Mr. Righteous. Hers is a spiritual journey through the course of many relationships over a decade. Raised a nominal Christian, De Pasquale did what many of my Christian friends, and certainly I as a Jew, would consider the unthinkable: She dated outside her faith. A lot. Yet the greatest disappointments she experienced were through relationships with men who shared either the same religious or political persuasions. It isn’t often you read about pastors soliciting phone sex from colleagues in the middle of the night, or conservative politicos cheating on their wives with multiple women. Behaviors like that are totally outside the moral boundaries laid by both Christianity and conservatism. Neither religion nor politics make the man after all.
De Pasquale ends her memoir not by landing “the right guy” but by landing the right idea about herself. It’s something every woman should do before entering the dating scene. She wanted to be the woman who would attract the Mr. Righteous and keep him around. Why did I stay with my Labor Zionist? Because, above all else he is good, thoughtful, responsible, kind and faithful. Not because of his politics or his faith, but because that’s the kind of guy he is at heart. And he can afford to stay the course beyond breadsticks. That’s always a plus.