I was happily exchanging messages with someone through an online dating app recently. He looked attractive enough in his pictures, and the conversation was interesting, he seemed engaged and eloquent. And he hadn’t propositioned me three messages in. It was time to go to the next level.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I have my own business – what about you?”
“I’m a journalist at the Guardian. Are you a newspaper kinda guy?”
Then, there it was: “More of a Spectator reader than the Guardian.”
Always ask on a first date: are you a Tory?
Online dating is how adults meet these days. It’s what we do. And what’s great about it is you get to meet people outside of your bubble: different backgrounds, different parts of the city, different occupations etc.
What’s not so great about it is you get to meet people outside of your bubble: racists, sexists, those who can’t spell, etc.
So it’s a fishing expedition for those little cultural indicators. Those with pictures of themselves grinning next to chained-up tigers probably don’t feel the same way about animals as I do. The frequent appearance of the same woman in a number of shots likely indicates someone either unfamiliar with the cropping tool or not quite over their ex. And a profile description made up entirely of sport emojis probably isn’t going to want to swap books with me on a lazy Saturday afternoon. To each their own.
Yet politics and those signifiers that indicate your persuasion are becoming increasingly important, with conversations stumbling over these topics. For instance, not long ago I spent a very happy weekend bantering with someone, with increasingly levels of flirtation until we agreed to meet on the Monday. It was only a few hours before the date that I remembered to ask: “So where do you stand on Trump?”
“I think he has some valid points. At least he’s a leader. There hasn’t been any leaders since Thatcher.”
We met, there was more flirting but I couldn’t forget the Trump/Thatcher thing. It wasn’t really a surprise that it didn’t work out.
I’m not alone. A survey by US dating app Coffee meets Bagel found that “70% of singles who identified themselves as Democrats said politics are impacting their dating lives ‘slightly’ to ‘profoundly’, alongside 55% of Independent singles, and 43% of Republican singles.”
It’s not just in the US this happens – in Australia a friend says she took the listing of The Fountainhead as a favourite book as a warning sign when she was online dating.
And I don’t think it’s just my middle-aged group. A younger colleague included her place of employment in her profile and she was actively pursued by those looking to date not just a journalist, but a Guardian Australia journalist. Virtue signalling by online media.
Has it ever been this divided? When I’ve ventured into the dating wilderness at other times, it’s been about bonding over arts v sport or corporate v self-employed, and even then, it really wasn’t make or break.
So how important are shared political values? My family is politically divided and I still love them: one parent votes Liberal but at least one brother votes Labor. My grandfather was an original Welsh coal miner and then Garden Island wharfie but he didn’t disown my cousin when he revealed his subscription to the Australian.
Similarly I have friends across the political divide: one delights in calling me a communist while I’ve politely endured many an evening while a different pal details exactly why Turnbull is doing a great job. And we’ll all happily still share a bottle of wine together.
But when it comes to the most intimate of relationships, must I confine myself to those of the same stripes? Should I limit myself to the small group of artsy, union-card-carrying Greens voters who read the Guardian? Where’s the zing in that? Surely there’s some danger of suffocating in my bubble?
I guess there’s no mistaking which way Lucy Turnbull votes and Gough and Margaret Whitlam probably shared their ballot papers. Still it seemed to work out for former union boss Paul Howes and Qantas PR Olivia Wirth. It worked for Arnold Schwarznegger and Maria Shriver for 25 years; even after splitting, their relationship seems to have remained cordial. And what about Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall?
Back in the back and forth of Bumble conversation, my Spectator-reading friend and I got on to talking about the cricket pay dispute (I don’t know, it’s online dating), so I had to ask what side he would be on?
The reply was mercifully swift: “The players of course.”
So that just makes him an Aussie, right?