As published in the August 2016 edition of Farrago, University of Melbourne’s student magazine
Without warning, he pulled away from our kiss and looked into my eyes. “Who do you vote for?”
I froze. Maybe, I reasoned, revealing our political preferences could be lustful – a rousing cue to our clear linking of spirit. But honesty might also have the power to end everything between us with a single utterance. I would never look at him the same if his hero was Cory Bernardi.
Sensing my hesitation, he smiled mischievously. “Obviously, I always put the Sex Party first.” I grinned.
“Obviously.” I made to lean in, but he lingered, blue eyes dancing. “I don’t know, um,” I said. I did know. I’d known since I was 12. “Probably the Greens or Labor. I’m a leftie,” I remember trying to say it in a playful sing-song voice, but it came out like a self-conscious half-whisper. Smooth. We resumed kissing, softly. Then, again, he stopped us. Deadpan, he said in a low voice, “Just so you know, I vote Greens.”
There had been only one other time that I was similarly direct to a potential dude about issues of politics. The risk was small. He called everyone ‘bae’ and took shirtless gym selfies; our brunch date was already looking uncertain. As such, the Girl Squad had encouraged me to wear my feelings on my sleeve. Be bold.
Text message: “Any opinions on Tony Abbott?”
“Yeah bae. I like that he’s into fitness and stuff.”
Credit to myself, I still did go for brunch. It didn’t go very well. (Figures).
Recently at work, I had an in-depth discussion with my co-worker about ideal ways of figuring out political loyalties without being too confrontational. We happened to be lifting up a stack of newspapers onto the stand, as per Saturday morning routine. My fingertips were stained black from the ink.
“This is exactly what should be on your Tinder profile,” my co-worker said seriously. He lifted up a Murdoch newspaper and tapped his finger over the words ‘illegal immigrant’. “If you read The Australian, please don’t swipe right.” We laughed for ten minutes.
Perhaps naïvely, I even tried it a few times.
“Sorry,” said one Tinder match when I asked him which newspaper he reads for my Important Investigative Dating Purposes. “I just, like, read the news online, like on Facebook and stuff.” Like a normal person, he seemed to mean.
Is my ex-Arts student, politics-major brain confusing an innocent 22-year-old’s search for connection? Or is connection all about finding people with the same core beliefs as you?
I posed these questions to my friends over dry chardonnay and pasta with rich, creamy sauce. After two glasses of wine, we decided that in the future we would use the rowing boat emoji in our text messages to describe our dating ventures. “We’re just girls on boats, rowing out in the rough waters of the dating sea, trying to find an island of paradise.” I was quickly informed that my analogy sucked; I agreed.
“It sounds like you have boxes on your boat,” one friend told me, eyebrows crinkled. What type of boxes? “My girlfriend smokes, and I would normally put smokers into a box,” she shrugged. “But her smoking could never stop my love for her.”
Maybe she was right. Boxes would weigh me down, prevent smooth sailing. I resolved to throw them all overboard. When I got home, I watched Q&A on iView and drank peppermint tea.
No stereotyping or generalisations, I promised myself before a Real Tinder Date. I listened to Taylor Swift on an empty tram, wondering if I was, if I could be, a New Romantic. At the cafe, my date told me he didn’t really care about politics because it was all a load of crap anyway. I reserved all judgment and nodded. When I mentioned my being vegetarian, he nearly spat out his latte. “Holy shit! That’s weird as. Are you trying to make me not like you?”
Election weekend. I strolled down to my local park, humming. I opened The Age app on my phone, checking for political results. The jury was out, votes still being counted. Beyond the trees, soft orange hues were poking through the clouds. It was Pride and Prejudice-esque; the sunset scene where they almost, almost, kiss at the end of the film. I was here with my dog.
Maybe dating is like voting, I texted The Girls, watching my dog wriggle around in the grass. You’re out in the dating ocean in your little crappy boat. You’re seasick. You peer through your binoculars, searching for dry land. On your little map, you’ve got your preferences down, below the line – Greens 1, Pauline Hanson’s party 60 – and all you can do is row, and hope for the best.