When I moved to DC in 1999 for my first job in the conservative movement I didn’t think much about finding a boyfriend or husband. I was 21 and just out of college. I was ready to work. But at a conference for conservative college students, I recall one speaker told the audience that the most important decision they’ll ever make is who they decide to marry.
The last 15 years in the conservative movement now seem like the lightning round of a game show. Travel across the country with Ann Coulter. Ding! Direct CPAC for five successful years. Ding! Meet my heroes, Rush Limbaugh and Greg Gutfeld. Ding! Find a significant other. Pass. Get a book deal. Ding!
In my upcoming book, Finding Mr. Righteous (available in hardcover and digital on February 25), I write about my dating experience in D.C. and the challenges many conservative women face, as well as my religious journey. While many of the stories will resonate with all women, there are some unique aspects of dating within the conservative movement.
All single men and women have been told they should try online dating. I have, with good and bad results. On more than one occasion online dating underscored one of the major pitfalls of dating in D.C. – people lead with their work foot.
From 2006 to 2011 I was the Director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Even though more women are attending conservative events, it’s no secret that a majority of attendees are men. One friend who spoke at CPAC every year once remarked that CPAC was a great place to meet conservative men. To which I replied, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”
Given that CPAC afforded me opportunities to help promote right-leaning organizations and people, I was regularly approached by people who wanted to speak. During a short flirtation with the dating site OKCupid, one man I was matched with emailed that he recognized my photo and without any additional pleasantries asked, “How can I speak on a panel at CPAC?”
In D.C. there seems to be no line between business and dating. I wasn’t on OkCupid trolling for CPAC speakers. Yet, he thought it was perfectly acceptable to approach me about it. If I’m being honest, there may have been a time I offered a cute author a book signing at CPAC, but it was frustrating to be approached about CPAC when I clearly had another purpose for being online.
Online dating for conservatives is tricky, particularly for those in the movement, because it is a fairly small pool. Several times on Christian Mingle and eHarmony I was matched with guys who already knew me through CPAC . I recount several of these encounters in my book. (Did I mention I have a book coming out?)
In-person singles mixers aren’t much different. For the first time last year I participated in an event called “FriendSwap,” an invite-only gathering of single Washingtonians. It’s telling that the point of the event is to find a significant other, but yet it’s still called “FriendSwap.” A mixer with mixed messages is so D.C. it hurts. It was started several years ago by Harvard Law graduates who moved to D.C. In 2004, The Washington Post wrote, “When 500 FriendSwap members get together one Wednesday night in March at Maxim Restaurant near the White House, the cumulative effect is less that of a singles scene and more of a convention at the Omni Shoreham.”
I suspect this is a dig at CPAC, which was held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel for many years. I recall being set-up with five people at the 2013 FriendSwap, most of whom I met at the event. Predictably, one of my matches was the guy from OKCupid who asked how he could become a CPAC speaker. The others talked about work and people we both knew. In short, the event was indistinguishable (for me, anyway) from a networking event. Since I believe in second chances, I signed up to participate again this year. I expect at least one person will ask me how to get a book agent.
Another D.C. phenomenon that stunts dating relationships is the happy hour invitation. On any given evening a conservative organization or media outlet will have a happy hour at a local bar. Rather than actually ask a girl out on a date, in D.C. a guy will forward an e-mail about a happy hour to a girl. It’s not an actual date invitation, so there’s no fear of rejection by the guy. Girls don’t know what to do with this sort of passive invitation. So, we obsess about the logistics.
Does it mean he wants to go together?
Since it’s just drinks, should I plan for dinner afterward?
I have to go straight from work, so should I wear that wrap dress that accentuates my waist to work?
Or should I change at work?
But what if I see someone at the happy hour that I saw during the day and they notice I changed into something different?
The happy hour e-mail is simply a transfer of anxiety. Leave it to the men of Washington D.C. to shirk their duties. I’m not the first to notice this trend. Back in 1999, Ann Coulter wrote in George magazine, “Boys in Washington don’t know how to ask for a date. What they do is try to trick you into asking them for a date. They say, ‘I know you’re really busy, so call me when you’d like to go out to dinner’ or ‘Call me when you’re back in Washington’ or, my favorite, ‘Are we ever going to get together?’ What are you supposed to say to such completely insane things? I’ve never figured that out, which is why these conversations tend to end in hostile silences.”
One of the things that Coulter attributes this to is D.C.’s TV consumption versus that of New York. She writes, “I’ve got a million more television-induced perception shifts, but the relevant one here is that females are invariably the sexual aggressors on TV. The typical romantic overture on the small screen is boy meets girl, girl drops dress.”
In any city there are certainly challenges with connecting with like-minded people in 2014. Everyone is balancing work and a personal life with the pressure of finding a significant other. Heck, the year itself begs for an extra dose of romance – 2/14. As a conservative woman in D.C., I’ve had some funny missteps, dead ends and a few connections that really helped me learn more about myself and the kind of man I’d like to marry. Ideally, he’d be a mix of Ron Swanson and Bruce Campbell. If you know him or are him, come to my book signing at CPAC and I’ll give you my number.