By Abigail Jones
Dating in the 21st century is an absolute minefield. If it wasn’t for Nev and Max from MTV’s Catfish we may still be unawares about just how crazy online dating can be.
Nevertheless, I am an online dater. I spent months debating whether I should try my luck with Tinder or Bumble and after several dried up chats and awkward dates on both apps I always ended up re-downloading them and giving them another shot. That’s when I met Ben.
I almost, almost swiped left. Almost. Just thinking about how different the trajectory of my last month living in the States would have been if I had done that tiny, dismissive and (kind of) hurtful act is shocking. But here I am.
I met Ben on Bumble in the summer of 2016. I had around five weeks left before my VISA expired in the USA and I was due to go home to England to finish my degree. My year abroad had been amazing. A year of incredible memories and incredible people. But a serious lack of a love life.
In the summer of 2016, Bumble was the younger sister of the dating giant Tinder and a place to meet, date or whatever else you wanted to do with men.
The reason why I almost swiped left is because Ben’s picture was of him sat in what looked like the driver’s seat of a tank, holding a huge gun (I have no idea what kind, y’know because UK citizens don’t really use them), wearing sunglasses and a bandana. I think the first thing I thought was: “What a bellend.”
But then intrigue and his bio got the better of me and ‘whoosh’ swipe right and into the inbox. He was a Corporal in the Marine’s which I knew nothing about then, but know enough about now. Ben was kind, fun to hang around with, we had the same sense of humour and the same worldview in some ways.
He was, however, a Republican.
Looking back, I should have trusted my gut instinct. I mean, I was moving back to England shortly and the guy didn’t look like someone I would take to Disneyland (we did, actually, end up going to Disneyland on our last date. He fucking hated it, I fucking loved it). However, I didn’t pay attention to my gut, at all and we ended up dating for a short while.
To paint a picture for you, summer 2016 was a time where politics was everywhere in the USA. The upcoming election between Trump and Hillary meant that it was an interesting time to move to America and experience the kind of political frenzy that was going on.
I saw cars in San Francisco covered in Bernie Sanders stickers, saw a woman scream at a man that “if you fucking hate Hillary so much, just unfriend me on Facebook then!” and Trump’s MAGA hats were only worn by the very brave or the very stupid in Los Angeles.
Politics was unavoidable and it was especially unavoidable when you were deciding who your friends were or who you wanted to date. The question on everyone’s lips was: “Who are you voting for?”, either followed by a nod of approval or a look of disgust.
“You’re definitely a liberal aren’t you?” was one of the questions Ben asked me on our first “date” which was a pizza and movie hangout. Nothing special.
“Obviously. I’m not fucking evil.” I replied.
“No but you are a fucking hippie.” I rolled my eyes. I never saw ‘hippie’ as an insult, but with him being in the military, he wasn’t exactly a fan of them.
Being a fan of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton meant that you a) were a hippie and b) didn’t care about leaked emails. Being a Republican was altogether a lot worse in my opinion, but you also couldn’t tell Ben that.
Talking politics isn’t the only thing I care about in a relationship. There should be a lot of things that factor in your decision to be with someone. For example, whether they support equal rights, whether they make you happy, whether they have common sense.
Sadly, the Clinton/Trump election meant that you couldn’t disassociate politics from who a person was inside. If you supported Trump’s wall, you were racist. If you supported Hillary, you were supporting a supposed murderer. Politics in the USA at that time was very, very telling of a person’s character.
Despite the fact that Ben and I had different political views, despite the fact that he hated Hillary and I hated Trump, it didn’t prevent us from dating and having a great time for a few weeks before I left the USA.
But whenever we spoke about politics it was done so lightly. He would make a sly dig at me and I would make one back and vice versa. We could never sit down and have an intellectual conversation about politics without either of us getting enraged or too passionate or angry at the other.
Ignoring politics and the things you stand for is not a good ground on which to build a lasting relationship. And so, it failed.
So, can a Republican and a Democrat date? Yes, of course people with different political views can date. It just so happens that I couldn’t that time. I’m now happily dating someone who Ben would call ‘a liberal hippie’, although he is less liberal than me. We don’t agree on everything, but we have the same worldviews, the same morals and that’s made all the difference.
Check out Abigail’s personal fashion blog here.