Lysistrata of Damariscotta

Is all fair in love and war?
By Sam Patten | Feb 08, 2021

The honest ones put it out there first, but most just ghost into the ether without a word. Now a few months into my playing with an online dating app, I’ve already learned a great deal I didn’t know in the past 49 years.

One of these things, for me one of the least pleasant, is how partisan many women can be. Brilliant and promising rounds of small talk (at which I never excelled) turn to ash when the subject of politics comes up — even when I don’t raise it.

“Also just had to write this before I get onto my call... I’m like a total die-hard farrr (sic) left-leaning liberal — politically, socially, fiscally, emotionally, I voted Bernie Sanders multiple times. I have strong feelings about all this. I wonder if our politics might prevent us from connecting?” one woman in Damariscotta wrote me just before we set up our in-person meeting.

I have to give her credit, she is among the more straightforward about her feelings, but she is by no means alone.

In the fifth century Greek play "Lysistrata," the women of Athens are fed up with their men’s expensive and distracting obsession with war, and they resolve to deny any sexual favors until peace rains down on their fair city.

It worked, but it was also fiction — a comedy no less. Never mind the gulf of difference between actual war and politics. Have we reached a similar point in our American lives today?

Social media has played an outsized role in the current state of tribalism in our country, just as cable news was doing for a decade or two prior. Many feel comfortable among like-thinkers.

This has always struck me as the least intellectually vigorous path one could take, but maybe humans are less complex than I used to give us credit for being. Maybe what matters most is not challenging, renewing, sharpening or reconsidering your beliefs, but simply validating them.

I’m sorry, does this sound judgmental?

But there’s something else at play which gets less billing: skin in the game. When it comes to dating, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to hide my political past, thanks to Google. The same might hold true for a young woman with a scar on her face from a demonstration turned violent — the mark is always there.

Even after that mark has lost its significance for her, me, or for the clucking mass of others, it doesn’t go away. Who are these cluckers?

Those who have never put their lives on the line so others could vote, those who never took a federal charge for their political activity, those who never drove to another state, camped out, and poured out their heart and soul for the election or defeat of good or evil (otherwise known as carpet-bagging).

Yet, in the world of online dating, there’s always a good chance you’ll run across someone who identifies into politics the same way a sports fan identifies into a game they may never have actually played (or certainly played at a professional level).

Of course “how dare you?” is the wrong response to being shunned. Or, at least, it is not an effective one. Whether or not shunning is an effective response to anything is a matter of some debate.

Replying to the woman from Damariscotta, I wrote that I thought we’d get along just fine and that cross-fertilization is precisely what our country needs right now.

For the record, this got me nowhere as I was, by that point, just talking to ghost trails anyway. I might as well have launched into my monologue on how the beauties of cross-breeding, whether in the Balkans or Central Asia and the Middle East prove Hitler wrong everyday.

Arguing doesn’t work. Perhaps we need a government mandate, together with the one about wearing masks. If our federal and state leaders required Republicans to date Democrats and vice versa, we might just have all this discord wrapped up in a heartbeat. But of course I jest, sort of…

Shunning is a choice. So is stepping outside your comfort zone. There are enough attractive women in this great state of ours who fall into the latter camp. For now, I’ll just focus on them, and wait for Washington to solve the bigger problem.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

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