Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night I can see paradise by the dashboard light – Meat Loaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light
Those of you who read this blog have probably noticed that I try to keep it apolitical. Those of you who know me personally probably know that I’m a Democrat. If it were any ordinary presidential election year, I would be somewhat fired up. I enjoy politics during election years the way a casual fan with a busy nonpolitical life enjoys watching the World Cup every few years. But lately the assault on women’s fundamental health rights, through the passage of mandatory transvaginal ultrasound exams for women before terminating a pregnancy; the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and attempts to stop insurance from covering women’s birth control; plus the Rush Limbaugh “slut” and “whore” brouhaha and plenty of other awful examples in addition to the women’s issues, make this election year open season on too many things I believe in.
I recently hosted an event to raise money in support of Democratic members of Congress, and in introducing the event, which featured the talented duo of comedian Suzanne Whang and her partner, singer Eric Schwartz, and our friend, the wonderful comedian Wendy Hammers, I wish that I would have included the following story about how I became a Democrat:
In 1985, smack dab in the middle of the Reagan administration, I was a sophomore in high school. I’d had a mad crush on a guy since middle school, and I WAS FINALLY GOING OUT WITH HIM. He was a year older than me and had a drivers license. I believed that he had finally picked up on the intense Jedi-mind-trick vibes I’d been sending him for two years and was taking me out because I was the cutest thing he’d ever seen. I didn’t understand that we were probably now dating because he knew that I’d been lusting after him and thought I would be a sure thing.
On one of our first dates, we ended up in his station wagon out in the middle of nowhere after a movie. I was thrilled. We were making out – a dream come true! We were playing the cat-and-mouse game of a guy trying to (literally) get into a younger girl’s pants. I was flattered, but I probably wasn’t going to put out (at least that night). Yet we kept on kissing. And then politics came up. He said something smart yet hipsterishly subversive about President Reagan. I told him that I was a Republican. <SCREECH>
“Wait a minute,” he said. “Why are you a Republican?”
“Well…” I had to stall for time.
I had no idea why. All that flashed through my head was my mother proudly telling me that her first vote cast was for Richard Nixon, my grandfather shouting at the television to Jimmy Carter that we can’t give in the the A-rabs, and (to a variety of Democrats over the years) that they were no Jack Kennedy.*
Finally I said, “It’s just the right way to be. I just think they’re right.”
He laughed. “Okay, let me get this straight. Your mom is a single parent. You guys don’t have much money. And you’re a minority in a little town in Wisconsin. And you’re a girl. So, why are you a Republican?”
He was a smart guy, used to debating issues in smart-kid classes. I was a smart kid, but not used to hearing anyone except for a handful of teachers talk about any genuine issues.
I don’t remember how our political exchange ended, but the little come-to-Jesus talk killed the romantic vibe that night. And our entire “relationship” only lasted two weeks, if that. But I give the guy credit for being my “first time” (although not in the way he would have liked) — the first person who encouraged me to think for myself about politics and ally myself with those who represented my true interests and beliefs.
* “You’re no Jack Kennedy!” was a quote from the 1988 Vice Presidential debates, said by Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle. My grandfather definitely said this in later years, for example when shouting at the television to Michael Dukakis, but he also made similar remarks before then.