Political Hotbed: Lovers and Other Strangers. By Lisa Ellex

Political Hotbed: Lovers and Other Strangers. By Lisa Ellex

. 7 min read

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.

Political Hotbed: The Way We Were by Lisa Ellex

As we gear up for another presidential campaign, one PrimeCrush writer visits the ghosts of election years past, with hope for a peaceful future.

And just like that, another election season is upon us. Time sure flies when you’ve been emotionally navigating a global pandemic, a gruesome insurrection, two presidential impeachments, devastating wildfires, and the death of Logan Roy.  Reviewing the list of 2024 presidential hopefuls, it’s officially time to prepare ourselves for a barrage of TV, radio, internet, and social media campaign ads that will seemingly come more often than Stormy Daniels. 

If you’re like me, you’re still in the throes of a PTSD that is attributed to rabid family members who spent all of 2020 berating our political choices and telling us what bad people we are. Fortunately, we are highly adaptable humans whose resilience has, somehow, enabled us to survive the wrath of our kin. Our resentment, however, lingers on.

This time around, I will make my best effort to be more level-headed. I will arrive at family functions armed with alcohol and my best coping skills, and I will vow to ignore the political baiting long enough to make it through coffee and dessert. I have fully accepted the fact that I did not choose my bloodline, and I have made peace with the reality that I have been removed from the Christmas card lists of Florida relatives.

Family will always disappoint.  I have come to expect it.  But one particular disappointment that is especially hurtful is the disappointment that some of my close,  lifelong friends do not share my political views. This was totally unexpected. I mean, it truly knocked me on my ass. If it is true that we forge friendships with like-minded people, how is it that we are so different when it comes to politics?  After all, it was not by blood that we became sisters, but by choice.  

Just what do you do when you discover that your “ride or die” of the last thirty years is riding shotgun with someone else? It seems the situation would have been far less complicated had they joined a real cult, as all I’d have to do is arrange for a covert rescue mission via airlift in the dead of night. Instead – assuming this time around will be anything like the 2020 campaign – I will turn a blind eye to some of my friends' mean-spirited social media posts and hope for an open mind and a loving heart in order to salvage what is left of those frayed friendships. 

No one can argue that socializing with besties doesn’t pack the same punch when one is walking on eggshells because certain subjects are suddenly off the table.  How is it that these are the same women with whom, over the decades, I consulted on the most intimate subject matter such as losing my virginity, optimum tampon insertion methods, how much spermicide goes into a diaphragm, pregnancy, childbirth, afterbirth, miscarriage, marriage, divorce, menopause, colonoscopy, etc., and yet “mail-in” (ballot) has suddenly become a dirty word?

When I was in the worst days of divorce, a very wise mediator who was counseling me and my ex-husband-to-be said, “Now is the time to think about the things that brought you together. You’ll need to call upon those things to get through this.”  Full of rage and embittered by betrayal, I ignored his words, certain he was paying lip service to some chapter he read decades ago in a Sociology 101 class. In hindsight, the mediator was right.  So, in the spirit of “better late than never,” I’ll apply his advice to those friendships left hanging by a thread as a result of the last election, and think back – in some cases, way back – on those things that brought us together. Was it that day in kindergarten when we both reached for the same burnt sienna crayon that no one but us wanted? Or was it the way I purposely made you laugh out loud when we were to be silent during our First Holy Communion practice? Perhaps it was because you and I were the only ones who loved the color your hair turned out that summer of the 8th grade when you intentionally poured a bottle of peroxide over your head. Or could it have been because I wouldn’t rat you out when our high school principal asked me for the names of all the girls who were smoking outside her window? Maybe it was that awful night I became defeated by my divorce and you took care of my baby even though you had your own babies to care for. And who could ever forget how, at my father’s funeral, you cursed out my step-mother because she was always such a bitch?

Sisterhood is powerful. So as the games begin let’s recall the words of famous sister, Anne Bronte: “The ties that bind us to life are tougher than you imagine, or than any one can who has not felt how roughly they may be pulled without breaking.”

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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