Politics Are Not Small Talk (And It Matters)

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People who have lines like “let’s skip politics and small talk and get to the personal stuff” on their Tinder and OkCupid profiles are presenting a false choice. For most Americans, politics are personal even if they don’t think about it in those terms. The 2016 election brought this into sharper relief than ever before. The election of Trump and a Republican congress felt like a personal attack on me, my female friends, LGBTQ Americans, POC, and anyone else not a very wealthy, white, straight, cisgendered man. Your voting record matters on a first date because what you choose to prioritize as a citizen matters. It is a mark of extreme privilege to be able to ignore the political beliefs of your date in favor of their favorite soup or their funniest childhood anecdote.

Conventional Miss Manners would tell you to leave the flammable subjects for a second or third date and stick to easy, “get to know you” subjects when on a first date. Well I say screw that nonsense. This has always been my philosophy for dating but the events of 2016 finally brought a good chunk of the country up to my level.

On or before a first date, I always find out their politics. I don’t have to go in the nitty gritty details of economics and foreign policy, particularly considering most citizens don’t have a very nuanced awareness of such things (myself included). But I find out who they voted for in the past few elections and I find out roughly which side of the aisle they line up on. Sure, the two-party system is inadequate and many, if not most, democrats are not nearly so liberal as they may think. But I can get a rough estimate of where they stand on social justice and economic inequality and it is a necessary litmus test for a second date.

During the 2016 race, I had friends joke about “hate-fucking” people with opposing political beliefs. But I never understood how you could do that. Opposing my political support of reproductive freedom means opposing my worth as a human woman in control of her body. Opposing political movements like Black Lives Matter means standing against the value of black Americans. Throwing that out the window for sex or an otherwise “good” date makes no sense to me.