I was recently forced to admit that I have political views, despite my complete disinterest in world affairs up until this point in my life. I’ve always been more interested in the future of Harry Potter and what happened to the Baudelaire orphans than I have been in politics. I came about this new information in a less than subtle way. Most would have come to this conclusion in their own time based on life experience, but I suppose being yelled at that you are a ‘LEFT WING IDIOT WITH NO BRAIN’ is just as effective.
I wasn’t expecting to be faced with such a huge personal revelation that day. The day had started normally enough, I’d gotten dressed, danced to some Taylor Swift, gone to work, sung loudly in my car, attended a farewell and then harmlessly made my way to ‘guy-I’d-been-dating’s’ house. I’d been hanging with this guy for about a month, a couple of times a week. I’d joined Tinder, at the behest of a male friend very eager to see me join the dating (and sleeping around) circle of Sydney. I’d started speaking to Oliver almost immediately after I’d joined because our only mutual friend happened to be my best friend. She only knew him through university and from what she’d seen of him he’d seemed okay – and he was tall. Being just short of six foot myself, this was all I really needed to hear before replying to his super creative opening message “It’s hot and I can’t sleep, what’s up?” – while not especially thrilling, it was certainly more promising than some of the others (“You know what I really like in a girl? My penis”, for example).
I got the feeling pretty early on that we weren’t going to agree on some pretty big topics. Oliver didn’t really agree that women should have equal rights with men and he dreamed of one day being with a woman who would cook dinner for him every night. I decided to give him the benefit of doubt. A lot of people misunderstand feminism (although I identity more of an egalitarian I’m going to discuss feminism this way for the sake of the argument) their opinion clouded by the man-hating, angry image much of the media paints of our growing breed – I’ll explain it all to him later, if we decide to date, I told myself. And as far as the dinner thing goes, maybe he was just exaggerating, right? I suppose it’s not such a horrible thing to want someone who takes care of you, I wanted that too, on some level. So we continued hanging out. A couple of late night chats out the front of his house, a frozen yogurt date, dinners and a 2am visit to Krispy Kreme where he told me about the spontaneous and sexually riveting threesome he’d had while he’d lived in France and I told him about my escapades on a teachers desk with a fellow student in high school. We laughed and teased and things seemed to be going pretty well.
I didn’t have sex with him until after our 6th or 7th date, which doesn’t sound like long but it felt like forever. But I had never dated someone I didn’t already know quite well. Everyone I’ve dated previously I’d met through friends or work. If I didn’t know them very well there was always a group of people at hand to whom I could direct any questions or queries, who were always willing to dish any goss they had on the prospective suitor. Well, not this time, I was on my own and to be completely honest I wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea of having sex with someone I’d only known a few weeks. When you don’t know anything about someone you have no idea if the person you are talking to is the real them, or the version of themselves they want you to know. However, despite knowing this, some simple truths meant that after a month or so I ignored my inner voice and slept with him anyway. He was a good kisser, he picked up quick that I liked my neck being kissed, and I hadn’t had sex in a couple of months. The sex was good too, it wasn’t until about a week later that the real drama started.
I’d been at a farewell party for an old friend from high school and was meant to be moving onto another party afterwards. But he’d been messaging me all night and was at home and I was kind of in the mood, so I went back to his place instead, firmly insisting to myself that it wasn’t a booty call if I made the first move. He’d been working on an essay and wanted me to help him brainstorm. He had to discuss global issues and how global media handled them. He studies international studies and I study journalism, so he thought together we could build up some talking points. Problem was he had chosen FEMEN and MRA to talk about, an obviously touchy subject between the two of us. It didn’t take me long to realise that he didn’t just dislike feminists – he disagreed with them vehemently and believed that men and women each have their place in society and that’s the way things should be. And so opened the giant can of politically-right worms. Over the next few hours I was forced to listen to, and be disgusted by, all of the following statements.
“They aren’t born that way. The reason the number of homosexuals, transsexuals and bisexuals are growing is because we are promoting that culture. We are influencing feminine men and in turn encouraging people to grow into these sexualities, and we shouldn’t be. We were born to pro-create and expand the human race!”
“The woman I marry won’t work. My wife will breastfeed, so she can’t work. It’s her duty to put her family first”
“Why would a man ever need to rape his wife? Why wouldn’t she want to have sex with him?”
“Why should a man pay child support for a child the woman decided not to get rid of?”
I would have walked out had I not been so incredibly shocked. I kept expecting him to stop mid sentence at the look on my face and say “Just kidding! I was filming all this as a social experiment for my blog!” (he was that kind of guy), but alas, he was being completely serious. When we were talking about gay marriage I used an analogy to try and explain my point. I told him that in around 1960 two white people like us had probably sat up late at night having this exact conversation about whether people of colour should be allowed to vote. This was met with a look of disgust I can only imagine mirrored the one that had been locked on my face for the past hour. He went on to lecture me about how left-wing supporters always use shame as a tactic to change others’ minds – dude, if you feel ashamed of yourself that is not my fault, if you were one hundred percent committed to your argument you wouldn’t feel ashamed. Nothing anyone said to me about why people of all sexualities shouldn’t be allowed to marry could make me feel ashamed of my beliefs.
I’d never considered myself a political person. Before I started studying journalism I had never really watched the news (I wanted to be a lifestyle writer and as I mentioned I had little interest in international tensions). My dad and I had frequently joked about our entire family’s lack of interest in the happenings of the world and the fact that not once in my 23 years in our home, had we chosen to watch the news over The Simpsons. But arguing with Oliver about a woman’s right to walk down the street without being catcalled, or their right to equal pay, forced me to realize, maybe I was more political than I’d thought. I’d always simply thought of myself as a good person. I support equal rights for everyone, people of all sexual and gender identities, people of colour, children, adults and the elderly, to name a few major groups. I’d never thought that this made me ‘left-wing’. The last place I expected to discover this new information about myself was on a date with a boy. But I had, in our own personal rendition of the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, no less. Which of us was the Capulet’s and which was the Montague’s isn’t clear, but the end result is the same, thumbs were being bitten at one another stubbornly. A few times I had actually had to take a step back and ask myself if I was really having this conversation. I excused (or at least understood) closed-minded or ignorant people of older ages because, ultimately, they were the product of the world they grew up in. However, these days, where people of all sexualities are free to be themselves, everyone can vote, either parent can choose to stay at home with the children instead of work and schools are using open language to include people or all binary/non-binary genders, there is no excuse for ignorance.
So there I stood, not only trying to come to terms with my own revelations, but also trying to comprehend how I had ended up in a the bedroom of a 26 year old male who seemed to have been pulled straight out of an old black and white television show. I’d been faced with plenty of closed minded key board warriors on the internet, but had never actually met anyone in my age group who openly expressed that they didn’t agree with gay marriage. If you’ve ever seen Pleasantville you should have some idea of how I was feeling. Except I didn’t have the cool old fashioned dresses or hair do’s. I was wearing the same outfit I’d worn the day before, my hair was frizzy from the heat and I hadn’t slept in 15 hours, I had expected to turn the lights off and get down to it, I had not been ready for a battle of morals and wits.
When you start dating someone new you generally worry about things like whether their family will like you or if they’re a good kisser, I can’t say that in my 7 years or so of dating, I’d ever worried about whether they supported equal rights. Some people, I’ve found, have a relationship check list. A few deal breakers, some indulgences and maybe a fetish or too secretly slipped in there. Eye colour, senses of humour, shoe size, career, bank accounts, whips and a 6 month lease. Mine has always included the following: they must be taller than me, a non-smoker, smart, motivated and care about their appearance. If they’re willing to have an open mind in the bedroom that won’t hurt their chances either. After this recent encounter I’m going to have to consider expanding my list. Trying to find a way to casually drop ‘So what do you think of Vladmir Putin?’ into a conversation may prove difficult, but necessary. I created my checklist while I was still wearing a school uniform every day, listening to Jesse McCartney and had posters of Adam Brody on my wall, but apparently this is one of those things grown ups need to think about when dating that I still haven’t adjusted to.
Probably the weirdest part of this encounter is how it ended. Rather than storm out in indignation, I stayed. I stayed throughout the argument out of shock, a desire to make my point and because some strange part of me was actually interested in this rare and passionate creature. I wanted to know how he’d come to these conclusions, how he’d ended up on the total opposite side of the spectrum to me even though we’d been brought up in the same time and society. By the end of our argument it was about 4am, I was half an hour from home and was filled with a burning desire to have the last say. So in true Lorelai Gilmore fashion, I crawled into bed next to him, rolled over and stewed in my own stubbornness. I laid there and contemplated how one was supposed to date someone with whom they shared completely opposite views. I feel that those views are a representation of more fundamental aspects of someone’s character. But surely people had made it work before? We hadn’t spoken for about ten minutes when I asked him how much longer he thought the two of us would be hanging out.
“Probably not much longer” was all I got.
But it seems he was just as intrigued and drawn in by my passion for what I believed in as I was by his, because he invited me to dinner a few days later, and I went. I don’t know if people like us could ever have a real, long-term relationship, although I know now that I won’t be having one with him, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for another deep sea dive into his mind. I got sucked in by my own inability to walk away from a debate. But regardless of how all that turns out, at least I know one good thing came from this experience, my newfound interest in politics is bound to help me understand all the jokes I’ve been missing on The Simpsons all these years.