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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dating liberals: field notes

I'm generally kind of an introverted type and enjoy the quiet of my rural home, but once in a while I'm persuaded to go out on a blind date just to forestall becoming a complete hermit. Each time I do this I wonder what the hell I was thinking and retreat to my fortess of solitude to lick my wounds. This weekend I poked my head out of my cocoon and headed off to Toronto for a date with Scott (although I'm 100% sure that he'll never read this blog, I've given him a pseudonym). Here are my field notes on the experience.

For those of my straight readers who need a little background, being a conservative is a definite handicap for gay men in the dating scene. We are an extremely small subset of the gay "community" and are spread around the country very thinly, so it's practically impossible to meet other fellow-travellers. As a result, I automatically assume that anyone I date is a liberal, so I generally try to steer the conversation away from politics towards neutral subjects until I get to know someone fairly well. However, the people I date assume that EVERY gay man they meet is a liberal (or an outright socialist) just like they are so those conversational conventions are rarely observed by the men I meet socially. This can be extremely annoying.

Case in point: Scott. He works in the "main-stream media" and lives in Cabbagetown. He's highly educated and well-travelled, and we seemed to share many of the same interests. I arranged to meet him at a restaurant in the east end and took the TTC out there - that's when the nightmare began. My trip took me from Harbourfront to Gerrard and Coxwell - certainly not a long trip. What with waiting for backed-up street cars and seemingly non-existent buses, it took me an hour and a half to reach my destination. I could have walked there faster - on crutches. The Better Way my ass. If Adam Giambrone would stop screwing bimbos on his office sofa and actually, you know, manage the TTC I'd be more sympathetic to his grandiose multi-billion dollar "Transit City" light rail schemes, but if they're going to spread the same shitty service to previously untainted areas of the city, forget it - not one more dime.

I apologized to Scott for the delay and he promptly launched into a tirade about the G20 and "Stephen Harper's billion dollar ego-trip", assuming that security disruptions around my hotel must have been responsible (they weren't - the conference is a week away and I encountered no security intrusions whatsoever) and said "If Harper thinks he's going to buy votes in Toronto with this three-ring circus, he's out of his mind." I explained that slow TTC streetcar service was the reason, and he went off again about lack of federal funding for public transit in Toronto - "Toronto is the ONLY city of its size that gets NO funding from the federal government for transit. Thank you Stephen Harper." I was pretty sure that the feds had ponied up big bucks recently for that express purpose, but I kept quiet.

We ordered drinks and I tried to steer the conversation towards architecture - an area of mutual interest. I asked him what he thought was Toronto's ugliest building (a particular obsession of mine). He thought a few seconds and then responded that former Conservative premier Mike Harris had packed the Ontario Municipal Board with capitalist plutocrat property developers (no doubt all wearing top hats and monocles), and consequently so much hideous architecture had gone up in the city that it was difficult to narrow it down to just one building. Toronto needed to be more like Florence, Italy - lots of public spaces and severe restrictions on ownership of private property. At this point I decided that I had no interest in pursuing this relationship any further, so I responded: "You know, the beauty of Florence is largely the result of being ruled for centuries by thuggish Medici dictators who ran the city like Tony Soprano ran New Jersey - is that what Toronto really needs?" I added that Mike Harris hasn't been premier since 2002 and asked how long people in Toronto were going to blame him for all their problems. And as for Stephen Harper, if he was such an existential threat to the Canadian way of life, why didn't the great Michael Ignatieff grow a pair and bring down the government in a confidence vote on one of the many occasions in the past several years when he had the power to do so?

A shocked silence descended on the table as he realized he was breaking bread with a real live Conservative. "I take it you're a Conservative", he said. I admitted I was. Then he played the Gay Card: "How can you support a party that hates gays? You know, Harper is just a tool of the religious right - he's going to make gay marriage illegal." I asked him how he came to that conclusion since Harper held a free vote several years ago in the House on the subject of re-opening the gay marriage debate and the proposal was resoundingly defeated (with the help of many Conservative MPs) and that Harper himself now considers the matter closed. He: "Well, he stripped the Pride parade of funding this year." Me: "What does that have to do with gay marriage?" He: "It's just the beginning. Wait until he has a majority and rolls out the secret agenda. You know, he's already marginalized the remaining Progressive Conservatives in his caucus - look at Rona Ambrose, who lost her cabinet job for appearing at a Pride photo-op next to a drag queen." Me: "Actually, that was Diane Ablonczy, who was never a Progressive Conservative - in fact, she was a Reform MP under Preston Manning."

On and on it went. Capitalism and the free market are evil - they inevitably result in disasters like the Gulf oil spill and Bhopal. Dupont sold DDT to Indonesia after it was banned in North America just to make money. Capitalist greed gave us the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis which brought on the 2008 recession. Harper was going to make abortion illegal; after all he was refusing to finance abortions in the Third World. I countered that in a truly free market with a functioning independent judicial system, corporations are responsible for their actions and customers punish unethical or dangerous corporations by not buying their products and suing them for damage caused by negligence. I added that the sub-prime mortgage fiasco was largely the result of policies going back to the Clinton administration when the Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to lend to high-risk customers and backed these dubious investments with the authority of the government, thus reducing the risk and "moral hazard" associated with a truly free financial market. Indonesia was a free democracy; if they didn't want Dupont to sell DDT in their country, why didn't they ban it like we did, or did he assume that Indonesians were too stupid to figure this out for themselves? And as for abortion, what made him think that an initiative to improve maternal health automatically meant barging in to sovereign countries and killing their unborn babies? Furthermore, if aborting Third World babies was so important, let France pay for it - they would do it with so much more panache.

He then launched into a critique of our "so-called democracy" and complained that our first-past-the-post riding system meant that Canada's "progressive majority" was always thwarted by gun-toting bible-thumping rural redneck ridings. What we needed was "direct democracy". I pointed out that in Ontario, that would mean that the entire province would be run by a cabal of Toronto residents, just like the old Family Compact. "Fine with me" he retorted, "It's about time that Toronto declared independence and became a separate province anyway." "Fine with me", I replied, "Out in the country we're sick & tired of effete urban intellectuals telling us what's good for us."

At this point Scott was visibly angry. It was clear that he wasn't used to being challenged. He started larding the conversation with phrases like "well, I'm in the media business, and I worked on a story on [insert left-wing shibboleth here]" as if to imply that he had secret knowledge on the subject and I didn't know what I was talking about. Fortunately, at that point the bill came.

Then, I'm embarrassed to admit, my id made a quick mental calculation: was Scott good-looking enough to continue the evening over drinks? My ego intervened & I realized that I really couldn't stand another minute with this guy. I made excuses that I had to get back to my hotel & that I had an early morning ahead, and then miracle of miracles I was saved by the TTC. A streetcar stopped directly in front of the restaurant as we were leaving, so I bid him adieu and hopped on the Red Rocket and rode away to freedom. Adam Giambrone - I take back everything I said about you earlier.

So I'm home again drinking wine in the back yard. My blood pressure has returned to safe levels. I'm vowing never to do that again - until next time, anyway.


Cool Blue said...

LOL, If it makes you feel any better, if I ever switch teams you'd be on the top of my list to call.

Anonymous said...

So predictable. The same arguments all the time. Very boring.

My brother teaches environmental studies so you can imagine the kind of conversations we have.

Anonymous said...

Ha, great story! I realllyyyyyyy can't stand Toronto.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I truly enjoyed reading this.

ladee_J said...

Loved reading this...thank you for adding to my evening enjoyment...and I hope you have better luck next time you poke your head out...LOL

Hoarfrost said...

I wish I had the presence of mind and was glib enough to handle the situation as well as you did. Living in the suburban Toronto area I meet several such S.O.B's. At least enough of my area are Conservative and vote that way. We need a few more votes to finally elect a rep.

I am proud of you for your tenacity. Thanks

Joanne BLY said...

Great post Eric! So well written.

I love how you finally decided to give him a reality check on all his Liberal talking points. Well done!

jckirlan said...

Ok that was a fun read. You need to tell more life stories, politics or not.
Man, I wish I was right there with you at that table. Metaphorically, of course. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anne in sw ON said...

Eric, you're one cool dude! I'm so glad you sent 'Scott' back to pore over his copy of the Toronto Star. Do you suppose he learned anything about 'first date etiquette'?

hunter said...

Oh, the heartbreaks of the single! Don't give up, I spent 10 years being single and then married a liberal, now turned Conservative.

I can so relate to that date. Losers are losers no matter whether they are gay or straight. You have shown that you have class.

Gerry said...

Thanks for this. I appreciate the honest vulnerability of the writing. It may be obvious, and perhaps I should have known, but I had never actually thought about the difficulties a conservative gay person would face. Thanks for sharing that and while I may not be able to help I can be much more empathetic in future.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha - as a hetero-female, I have had similar experiences!!! Thanks for all the funny details.

Eric said...


No, sadly, I don't think he learned anything about first-date etiquette. I don't think it crossed his mind that he did anything wrong.

There's a lot of truth to the old adage about not discussing religion or politics in social situations - people should listen to their mothers.

Joanne BLY said...

There's a lot of truth to the old adage about not discussing religion or politics in social situations

That's for sure. There are certain family gatherings where I find it's like adding kerosene to a bonfire.

Sometimes I wonder how some of my relatives can be so blind. Oh well. Best to talk about the weather I guess.

Anonymous said...

When mayor Has Been (we need the army to clear our snow)suggested TO should declare independence and become a separate province, he backed down when the rest of Ontario agreed and started cheering.


Alex said...

Here's to you getting through to an open minded lefty some time. That guy isn't what I think of as a lefty but a leftard. I'm sure you noticed that those things he said are word for word Liberal talking points. Its also interesting that he is in the media. What other shortcut to influence does scum like him get into?

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain Diogenes. I'm single myself, and work in the Urban Planning field. Anytime I ever date anyone I meet, I always find out that they are rabid left-wing Liberals/Dippers/Socialists and even a few old fashioned communists now and then.

I'm always open to discourse and never mind a good debate, but far too many on the left feel like you are personally attacking them if you don't agree with their beliefs.

You are right though. It's shallow, but looks can definitely prolong a date in that situation.