Political Hotbed: Lovers and Other Strangers. By Lisa Ellex

Political Hotbed: Lovers and Other Strangers. By Lisa Ellex

. 4 min read

In the first in a series on how the election season impacts our relationships with everyone from family to lovers, one writer shares a story of how her younger self learns that politics can make estranged bedfellows.

Brace yourself.  It’s campaign season. And if you’re wondering just how you’ll get through the next 16 months of political propaganda, mortifying mudslinging, and rousing rallies set to a soundtrack of cheesy pop music, you're not alone. Dreading the onslaught of campaign ads about to emerge from every existing electronic outlet, I feel a deep yearning for the good old days of the pre-internet era, when political messages were delivered solely through television or radio commercials, transportation ads, and periodicals.

In reflecting on elections past, I’m taken back – way back – to the 1980 presidential election “co-starring” Ronald Reagan, incumbent Jimmy Carter, and independent candidate John Bayard Anderson (who?). Though I was a young and hopeful registered “independent” who, with wide eyes, believed in our political system and the promise for a better tomorrow, I sincerely felt one should vote for the person and not the party. So with the ink on my voter’s registration card still wet, I proudly presented it to the volunteer at my polling site and stepped inside the voting booth to perform my civic duty.   “I am about to make a difference,” I thought. “I am about to change the world.” Suddenly, my feelings of excitement very quickly turned to feelings of pressure.  I was fully aware that what I was about to do was indeed a privilege, but somehow I got smacked with the realization that it was an enormous responsibility. This was serious business. My palms began to sweat. And who are all these other people running in other offices? I don’t recall hearing anything about these guys!  I was confused. I felt light-headed. If this is what being a grown-up feels like, it certainly is not for me.  I took a deep breath and, with a shaking hand, pulled the lever next to the name “Jimmy Carter. "

Walking home, I felt as if I had aged ten years– physically and emotionally.  What if I pulled the wrong lever? What if, somehow, mine was the deciding vote and I became single-handedly responsible for ruining Jimmy Carter’s life?  What if the country crumbled? I felt dirty. Forever changed, I was already longing for the youth and naivete I left outside that damn voting booth just thirty minutes earlier.

My feelings of doom were assuaged when I arrived home to a delivery of long-stemmed roses; the second delivery in two weeks. Some months earlier, a very sexy older gentleman began his own relentless campaign for my attention. With mixed feelings, some part of me was flattered, some part of me said, “ick.” Though he was exciting, outgoing, dynamic, successful, and greatly admired in social circles, he was older than me by a decade. Considering I had only been alive for two decades, that seems like a huge gap. Besides, in dog years he’d be long dead. On the other hand, we shared similar views and interests and could passionately converse for hours. Tonight was to be our first date. The plan?  Dinner at one of New York’s most popular restaurants followed by dessert at his place to “watch the returns” (wink, wink).

At 7 pm, as promised, the gentleman arrived at my door.  We taxied to a lovely restaurant and enjoyed a truly fabulous meal. It was over this meal that I learned that this gentleman was in Reagan’s corner. I was crushed. He offered at least a dozen reasons why Reagan was the better choice. I was having none of it. I offered at least a dozen reasons why Carter was the better choice. He was having none of it, still, he was as amused by this difference of opinion as I was upset by it.

As we strolled from the restaurant to his apartment, it was time for me to make a hard and fast choice: do I say “thank you and good night,“ or do I succumb to his worldly charms and take the enemy to bed despite the fact that doing so would be against my young and newly formed political principles. Decisions, decisions.

Putting my panties back on the next morning, I felt a deep regret as we heard the news.  It was official: Ronald Reagan would be the 40th President of the United States. Though my date rejoiced, ever the gentleman, he did not gloat. I kissed Mr. Wonderful goodbye — for good — and embarked on my first-ever “walk of shame,” still obsessing over whether or not I pulled the wrong lever.

In the words of Ronald Reagan, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” And that, my friends, is precisely where I should have left Mr. Wonderful.

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on Instagram.

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