Saturday, April 29, 2017

Did Bernie Ruin the Men of the Left?



            It like so many of my stories lately, it started out in the most rom-commy of ways. I took myself to lunch at a fancy sushi restaurant to celebrate a few different things, and after the twelve- dollar ramen and the four pieces of yellowtail I could afford, I said yes to a really elaborate dessert. Conditioned by years of Food Network to peer back into the kitchen, I watched the dreamy pastry chef execute the multistep process it took to construct the chocolate fever dream what was eventually set on fire before me. I liked how careful he seemed with his hands, so precise that I thought he just might know some knots.

            He stuck in my head so I sent him a card. (Outer envelope, restaurant address. Inner envelope: “To the chef who made my (name of dessert) at lunchtime on 4/3.”) On the back of a homemade card featuring a photo of last year’s azaleas, I gave him my number and suggested that he look me up if he was single or in an open relationship.

            It was a silly thing to do and it made me feel romantic and optimistic and happy, but I assumed I’d just give myself credit for trying and never hear from him—but he texted! And when I sent him my picture he sent back three heart-eye emojis.

            He was a great texter for a few days, all “good morning” and “beautiful” and “sleep well” so I was really excited for our first date. We met downtown and walked around the city at twilight, heading for a bench in our most cinematic park, where the tress were almost in full bloom and the fanciest people were walking their dogs.

            Because I am me and he is a guy that I picked, politics came up almost immediately. Though I’d hope to avoid the primaries conversation to at least give us a CHANCE to like each other, he went ahead and said the spell-breakingest, pants-wall-buildingest thing he could’ve said:

“I’m still upset about my man. I know he could’ve won in November.”

            In my heart was a Star-Wars-prequels cheesy NOOOOOOOOOOOO, and what I said aloud wasn’t much better. I think it would be spelled something like:

“GaaaaaaAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHhhhh, NO!” I practically folded myself in half with anguish and disappointment. I punched him hard on the arm, not a fantastic move a half-hour into a first date, I know. It was a delicious, powerful, bread-baking arm, hard to forget.

            Trump is the very worst, of course, but Bernie has wrecked my love life way more, simply because his slightly subtler “nice guy” misogyny is something I much more likely to encounter in my daily liberal bubble of a life. While my being queer, poly, and fat probably helps ward off any wandering Trumpsters, The Bern is a persistent and pernicious irritation.

            We talked about lots of other things, and in some ways it was a really nice date, culminating with eating cheesecake in a really diner-ish diner, but he kept coming back to Hillary like a chime. What about the banks, he asked, as if Dodd-Frank had arisen from thin air, as if “his man” hadn’t taken money from the gun lobby. The gun lobby!

“That’s understandable, I guess,” said my getting-less-cute-by-the-minute date, pushing my voice up to a level of strident that only Gloria Steinem could hear.

These conversations feel like microagressions, like attempts to put me in my place. Is there anything more condescending than the “I don’t like Hillary, but here are some other women I would vote for” line? Imagine replacing “women” with any other category and it sounds even more tone deaf and creepy.

It’s been a year and I STILL don’t want to hear about how Elizabeth Warren is the kind of woman you could approve of, dude.

To me, Bernie-fervor and the she’s-a-liar disinformation campaign that sparked it was an outgrowth of trolling culture, which itself feels like an expression of rape culture. There might be an anxious-girl leap in there, but that doesn’t actually make it not true. Men who are susceptible to misogynist mob mentality on that scale may never feel safe for me to be around.

It didn’t work out with the pastry chef for a variety of reasons, but I’m happy to come away with hope, with the realization that I have the option to wait, glass-slipper style, for the Hillary-voter of my dreams. That doesn’t mean that I will, but it’s a relief to know that I can.


I know that it wasn’t really a case of Bernie ruining the men of the left. Last year’s primary only served to bring to light the misogyny that permeates all of American society, and it’s a bummer to know that Democrats (OR WHATEVER) aren’t exempt, but we aren’t. Whenever I’m having these annoying conversations with Bernie Bros, sometimes I’m comforted to stop and think “This is the work.” Activism doesn’t only live in pussy hats and marches, it’s in the little day-to-day pushbacks that can slowly move the conversation where we want to it be. I’d rather have snuggles, but for now, I’ll settle for evolution, even in the tiniest of ways.

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