Love and politics

Editor’s note: Names, including the author’s, have been changed to protect identities due to the personal nature of this column.

It’s commonly said that on a first date one should never discuss money, religion and politics. The buzz around town has been about the town’s budget and where people stand…so it was hard to avoid. Politics can be heated, compassionate, dirty, deceptive, even scandalous. An election will end either in victory or defeat.

If conversing about politics ought to be avoided on a first date, what should you talk about? Having been on many, here is my advice.

I try not to talk too much about my personal life. If I do, the conversation becomes very one-sided, forcing my date to just sit there in an awkward silence as I plow through my autobiography. I try to give him a chance to speak, to relate to my stories, and when he speaks I try to relate to his. I agree that it’s best to stay away from the obvious—politics, religion, money—and I also try not to tell too many details about my family. Added to this list should be sex, health issues, personal hygiene, and past relationships.

First dates always feel like an interview. Both parties are on their best behavior and that’s to be expected. Vulgarity and profanity have no place in such discussions. (If he doesn’t seem to be on his best behavior, run! That’s probably as good as his behavior ever gets!) But because of this “good behavior,” it’s not really until the second or third date that I feel I really get to know someone.

If my date does brush these sensitive topics and they’re presented in the right way, however, I feel that it’s an opportunity to show him that I have an open and active mind and can be unbiased when talking about such issues.

Political discussions tend to bring out the worst in people because, just like religion, facts are not just facts. People tend to attach emotions to their viewpoints, many of which are based on faith and loyalty rather than objective analysis. Not everyone “believes” in the same thing politically, so this can open a can of worms you wish had stayed closed…

It’s not that a Democrat and Republican can’t be well matched in many other regards (and they might even enjoy debating politics together), but I wouldn’t want to be around them come election time!

Love and sex are very similar, I find: the stakes are high, and the results can be hard to predict. In addition to topics that should be avoided, some actions should be, too.

As an example, let me share a story about a date I went on with someone I met on match.com. He was a second-year medical student so (not surprisingly) the funds were not flowing. As there was some distance between where we both lived, we met halfway at a bar. The first 20 minutes of the date I thought things were going well and we had good intellectual conversation and a lot of laughs. But 25 minutes into the conversation he leaned in and asked if he could kiss me. I was shocked, baffled and speechless. If I had been a cartoon you would have seen a speech bubble over my head that said something like “WTF! We are barely into a first date and he is asking me this?!?”

What came out of my mouth wasn’t much better. I said: “Here?… Now?!?” At this point in our date, the milkman was looking pretty good.

Yes, this man in his 40s asked me for a kiss. Some may think this is respectful and sweet, and I’m sure that was his intention, but in my experience it usually turns out to be only awkward. So men, a word of advice: never ask a woman if you can kiss her. Read the moment, and if it’s right, just go for it! If it’s not, save it for another time.

When we both finished our first drink and the bartender asked if we wanted another, we looked at each other—this is typically the first benchmark. It is the first opportunity for either party to opt out. In this instance, I was ready for the check—adios to this date! But he spoke up first and ordered us another round of drinks, plus an appetizer! Usually it’s customary to ask the other party what they think.  I guess he was confident the date was going well?

While we discussed neither politics nor religion, nor any of the other “sensitive” issues, the conversations we did have did not redeem the date—sometimes by avoiding those topics, conversation is relegated to mundane ones, or maybe it was just this guy.

When we eventually did ask for the check, the check sat on the bar a good ten minutes. I ignored it. I am old-fashioned and always expect a man to pay at least for the first date. I don’t have a problem offering on the second date; if there is one. I know it may sounds odd and maybe even presumptuous, but I’ve found it is actually good for a man’s ego and maybe even his primal nature.  Men like to feel like a provider and protector. In most species, males are typically the ones who have to show off to earn the female’s attention. So I let them earn mine, too!

Back to the bar. My date finally grabbed the check, as he had been eyeing it, and I started to put my coat on. He then said, “My sister told me that girls nowadays always want to split the check because of feminism.”

I have much to say about feminism, socialistic issues and how our world is run today, but at that point I just wanted to get out of there, so I threw my card down and we split the check.

Sometimes it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to find out that a guy is not the “match” I am looking for.  Thankfully there are still plenty of fish in the sea.

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