Ms. Communicate: Dating advice for activists

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This column is inspired by the blog post "F*cking While Feminist" by Jaclyn Friedman published March 2010.

It's also inspired by the last six months I've spent, newly single and out in the dating world.

As any single/unattached/non-monogamous progressive will tell you, especially ones who are over 35 or 40, dating is already a minefield of problems, issues and baggage. We will likely have at least one ex-partner/husband/wife/significant other; one or more child or children/step-children, and lots of bad dating stories. While they make great party conversations, if one is Progressive While Single (PWS) and looking for a partner, it can be scary out there.

And unless you meet someone at an activist gathering, community organizing meeting, Sarah McLachlan concert or in a jail cell in the Eastern Avenue make-shift detention centre (it's really impossible to joke about the human and civil rights violations in Toronto the weekend of June 25 to 27, but I thought I'd give it a try), chances are you might not know their politics, and this will have to be something to talk about, explain, extrapolate on and negotiate.

And I don't think any of that is either charming or sexy.

Already we're off to a lukewarm start and the date hasn't even begun. Great.

Is there a set of standards or questions, to ask yourself, an unspoken "test" that a date needs to pass before getting the green light to go forward? Should relationship deal-breakers be stated right up front, so that we don't waste each other's time? What if it's not a serious dating situation? Are the standards different? Friedman talks about having different expectations for when she dates women/trans men compared to when she dates bio-men, or cis-men.

In some ways I don't think I can lay out (hee hee!) any set of generic rules to be followed, since every person who is PWS is different. Some have the same standards for a brief non-serious encounter (aka Friend with Benefits or No Strings Attached) as they do for longer-term connections. But most of the rest of us, including me, have different standards depending on our expectations for what the connection might be, or become. And we also modify our expectations based on the strengths and connections that are there as we discover them.

It's almost like having "pro" and "con" columns. It's not math, so four "cons" don't always outweigh one "pro" especially if it's a "pro" like identifying as an activist, for example, if that's important to you. Some may be fine to overlook the con -- "Talks with food in mouth" -- for that one.

What you should always do for sure, is to be clear about what is negotiable for you and what isn't. That said, I would also suggest that you be flexible even on your non-negotiable items, because you never know who you might be rejecting too soon. On the flip side, you do need some standards or you wouldn't care about the person's politics gelling, meshing or at least overlapping with yours.

When we talk about the minority of progressive opinions and space out there in the real world, we're also talking about a very small minority of singles. When we narrow this to meeting someone in the age range we're looking for, the gender identity we're interested in, who live in a similar geographical area, with similar enough politics so that unpleasant raising of voices doesn't accompany the first coffee date. Unless that's a form of foreplay for you. But hey, I'm a lefty, no judgments!

Next up: Meeting single progressives

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