September 5, 2004

Pickup Lines and Party Lines

By: Shawn Macomber

–Chic downtown bar, Washington, D.C.

Giant fish tanks separated the booths, which had all been taken over by various activist groups. It was the first in-person meeting of “Singles Against Bush,” organized by Act for Love, a liberal Internet dating service whose slogan is “Taking Action and Getting Action.” Quite a scene, really.

Several merchants were on hand with products designed specifically for this demographic. Pairs of thong underwear that read “Bush Free Zone” were on sale, along with boys’ boxers that urged, “Rise Up Against Bush.” While I inspected a thong, the heavily made-up girl working the table told me, “Ask nice and some girl might model them for you.” I couldn’t tell if that was a suggestion or a threat.

Other activists circled, some pushing petitions. One read, “Protect Emergency Contraception. Do we even need to tell you why this is important?” Although I was passing as a liberal for the evening, there are some things you can’t fake and, to me, talk of abortion pills at a singles event will always be a downer. Also, weren’t young pro-choice women supposed to live with reckless abandon–and then, later on, take out their irresponsibility on the unborn?

After I ran the activist gauntlet, I noticed that the name tag I had been given came with a blank space for my political affiliation. I was also supposed to check off whether I was “Single,” “Taken,” or “Persuadable.” I skipped the latter. Better to keep ’em guessing. But my “political affiliation” seemed like something I could have fun with. I glanced around the room. Everyone seemed to have their own anti-Bush group: Rock Against Bush, Women Against Bush, Babes Against Bush, Runners Against Bush. So I took out a sharpie and scribbled in “Sailors Against Bush.”

“What’s the idea behind Sailors Against Bush?” a reporter asked, holding a small digital recorder in my face as a CNN cameraman focused tightly in on my tag.

“Well, like a lot of people here, sailors have felt lost, you could say lost at sea, during the George W. Bush years,” I said. A guy with chest hair peeking out of a half-unbuttoned silver shirt, and wearing cologne so strong I felt momentarily faint, patted me on the back, and said, “Right on.” I gave him a thumbs-up and turned back to the reporter.

“Is there anything in particular with regards to boats or trade that you have particular complaints about?” the reporter asked. “No, it’s really just a general com-plaint,” I answered. “Uh huh,” he said. The gig was almost up. “So why’d you come out tonight?” he asked. “This is a very important event,” I said. “Important how?” he asked, perking up a bit. “I’m not sure,” I said. “But I know it must be important because CNN is here.” The cameraman grimaced, then shut off his light.

Act for Love, the organizer, had handed out a questionnaire to facilitate actual human contact in the absence of the dating service’s usual, online aids, such as buddy lists and chat rooms. I pulled mine out and wandered over to a group of young women, arriving just in time to catch the tail-end of a conversation about how one girl didn’t want to hit 24 without having an orgasm. One of her boothmates, a drunk girl with a lazy eye, turned to me and said, “Who cares about the masturbation scandal? If Bush wins again, they’ll just install Jeb next time–we won’t even have elections anymore by then–then it’ll be his grandson and then it will be… time for me to die.”

In addition to not being a liberal, I am also not single, but I was intrigued by this young lady’s attitude, which I found to be a potent mixture of nihilism and paranoia. But before I could make even the most innocent conversational move–something like, “Please, tell me more about the masturbation scandal”–I was interrupted. Another young woman wanted my attention. Girls aren’t usually this friendly to me, by the way. I should have become a left-wing sailor long ago.

The bespectacled nymph tugging on my shirtsleeve wore two large buttons on her shirt. One had a picture of George W. and the slogan, “Some Things Were Never Meant to be Recycled.” The other button noted that “Wal-Mart Always Discriminates.”

“Yeah, against higher prices,” I should have said. Instead, I asked if she needed any help with her questionnaire.

“Sure,” she said. “Do you think Tucker Carlson is a hottie?”

Taken aback, I realized I hadn’t looked at the questions. I glanced down, and sure enough, there was the very one she had just asked. “Yeah,” I said stupidly, trying to be friendly. “Yeah, I guess I do.” Big pause. It was obvious I wasn’t going to get out of this, so I took out my sheet and asked her, “Do you plan to run for office?”

“Nope. Ask me another.”

There wasn’t anything innocuous left, which is how I found myself asking a complete stranger, “Do you think panties were made for politics?”

“Yeah, of course,” she said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Enough was enough. I sought refuge at a table in the corner, where I could watch all the haphazard flirting from a distance. As I took my breather, a woman from Act For Love climbed onto a table to announce the first ever SHAGG (“Spectacularly Helpful Grassroots Grant”) Award. The honor went to Women Against Bush.

A Kenyan man named Karega stopped by my table to chat. He spoke in a thick accent, and spent a good deal of time lamenting the difficulty of finding a “nice American girl.”

“So many of these women want to get fishy with me,” he said, employing what I can only guess is a bit of Kenyan slang. “Americans are crazy. They are so sexy all the time, how can I talk to them? I guess I am lonely. I don’t fit in.”

Another award came up. They were announcing the winner of the Act For Love “Potion Number Nine.” After hearing what the potion was, Karega jumped to his feet. “Sure it is hard to meet people,” he said excitedly. “But it will be easier if I win the edible massage oil. Americans are crazy!” He ran off laughing like a jackal.

Act for Love is not crazy. Not really. Internet dating has become downright mainstream. Act for Love simply adds politics to the matching matrix, an idea Grant Kuntzman defends in Newsweek: “If you hook up with someone on, for example, it could take four dates before you find out that he drives an SUV, believes in the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, or thinks that federal anti-pollution regulations are destroying corporate competitiveness.”

And Act for Love is not alone. In recent months several political dating sites for lonelyhearts on the left and the right have cropped up to save people in our 50/50 nation from having to actually communicate with any-one who has a different point of view. To continue my study of people who only love people who vote as they do, I signed up for two conservative and two liberal Internet dating services.

One of the first profiles I came across contained this list of “turn-ons” and turn-offs” from a 25-year-old, self-professed “literature-loving leftist” on the Love In War site: “Moves her: Post-structuralist Critiques of 19th century novels. Could do without: Complete denial of the plight of Palestine; Western ideological proliferation.” And another “thing that really does it for me: Someone who has at least a marginal understanding of oppression theory and does not feel the need to debate me on fundamentals.”

One “Anarchafeminist” lists sexism, misogyny, clas-sism, racism, colonialism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, fatphobia, lookism, ableism, ageism, and anti-Semitism as things she just doesn’t like. Other turn-offs include “men who fake being all antisexist so they can go to bed with wimmin. Men who fake being all anarchist just so they can get drunk and run around being like, ‘Shit, man, I’m radical as fuck!'”

One leftish personal had a slogan that perfectly expressed the promise of the welfare state, affirmative action, and the self-esteem movement: “I’ll make you feel adequate, even if you’re not.”

Others were too caught up in radical posturing to have room for the niceties. To wit, this charming passage: “Most of all, I am not looking for you to complete me, my biological clock is NOT ticking. No need to get hitched or give birth right now. But I would love to share what I already have, especially if you enhance me. Oh, I have a sweet ass and a nice rack too.”

Before conservatives guffaw themselves into an epileptic seizure, they should take a gander at some of the conservative dating websites.

One woman, who outright “refuses to date any more liberals,” writes that she is looking for a man who is a “Sean Hannity buff” and loves Fox News. Another woman warned that any man who contacted her better be sensitive, “as in perceptive, not wimpy.” Jean, like most of the people on this website, is looking for “great conversation.” So long as it doesn’t stray too far from the party line. “I’m not a believer in opposites’ attracting,” she writes, “so I’m looking for someone who’s very much like me–theologically, politically, and with similar personal characteristics.”

Some profiles seem to be from another century. “I’m a female and I belong in the kitchen!” one woman cries out. “Personally I would love it if I could find a guy who was willing to work and let me stay home and take care of our children. I think it’s still the woman’s job to take care of her family first and her career second.”

Other profiles make your heart sink. “I think I would make a great wife for two reasons,” a middle-aged woman writes on the Single Republican website. “Number one, I strongly believe in God’s picture of marriage, where husband and wife are a picture of Christ’s love and the Church’s devotion. Number two, I think that after 49 years without an intimate relation-ship with a man, I will be soooooooooo grateful!”

On the same site, a man brags that he once “won extra credit in school by correctly predicting the electoral vote margin of Nixon’s second election.”

Not satisfied? Still feeling randy? Well, then maybe you can find love among the libertarians, who, in the midst of all this, distinguish themselves by taking even Internet dating way too seriously. “Authoritarians of all kinds are not welcome here,” a “classical liberal” dating site warns. “Anyone who is inclined to initiate force on another individual directly or by way of government will not likely find a compatible mate here.”

While Love In War founder Bryan Carlin is willing to take a little ribbing for his online left-wing love business, he insists that his site and others like it are providing a real service.

“Like it or not, there are those who view ideology as a factor in compatibility, and they are underserved by larger sites,” Carlin says. “We thought making politics fun, playful, and/or sexy would be an interesting way to bring people together. It’s more than just a tiny little market of people doing this sort of dating and we just wanted to make a niche where people can find other people with a certain political sensibility.”

Here, the two ideologies grudgingly find common ground.

“Reducing the dating pool is a good thing,” Brian Barcaro of Conservative Match says. “Before the Internet was popular, people primarily dated within their local communities. Churches, schools, the community organizations were the focal point of people’s lives and there was a shared value system. That’s where marriages came from. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with getting back to that place, just using the Internet to get there.”

Barcaro admits things can go wrong in the world of Internet dating. Take Rush Limbaugh, who is gearing up to divorce his third wife, whom he met on CompuServe.

“As much as I respect and love Rush, the fact that he’s gone through three marriages tells me something is out of whack with his belief and value system,” Barcaro said. That’s quite an admission from a guy who runs a conservative dating site. Maybe Limbaugh should update his profile, and try, try again.

Shawn Macomber is a staff writer at the American Spectator. He also runs

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