My boyfriend and I of almost three years have very little in common. Really, we enjoy very little of the same things. He doesn’t like to read; if I had my way, it is close to all I would do. His favorite foods come from a pig or a cow; I won’t even eat those products anymore. He likes to watch TV on the couch in the living room; I like to watch TV in the bedroom. He watches programs on pickin’ and pawnin’; I watch documentaries on outer space or dinosaurs. He likes to skateboard; I like to swim. He can fix just about any car, appliance, piece of furniture; I can fix any sentence, letter, essay. …And so on.
This is something that is easy to ignore in the beginning of a relationship. More or less, when you first fall in love with someone, you don’t even care nor think of such differences. However, over the past year or so, it has become increasingly obvious that there is little that he and I share in terms of hobbies and occasionally moral issues, and although we have struggled because of this, we’re still together and unintentionally influencing each other in countless ways.
Typically, I don’t pressure him to change most of his lifestyle choices. I’ve never asked him to read a book just to please me. When I made the decision to cut out meat from my diet, I never once told him there couldn’t be meat in the house or that he had to stop eating it. When I prefer to watch TV in the bedroom or want to watch a different program, I simply go to the bedroom. To be honest, I think once a person starts implicating demands- “You can’t hang out with them,” “Don’t drink so much,” “Read a book,” “Don’t eat that,”- is where the real problem arises because it becomes a control and power issue as opposed to any sign that you care. This is not to say that you can’t guide or give an opinion. Talking is an essential part of any relationship, be it family, friendship, boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, teacher/student, coworker, etc. However, once you begin throwing out ultimatums and orders, you stop acting like a partner and start acting like the boss.
There was one difference that I just couldn’t ignore though:
He doesn’t vote; I think voting is extremely important.
Generally, this difference is rarely even noticed. You do not spend all of your days voting. Obviously however, this being an election year, the difference began to surface. I spend my evenings watching speeches and reading policies and listening to debates, and he huffs around mumbling “why even vote? All politicians suck anyway.”
That may very well be true. All politicians may be the most low form of vermin our species has ever produced. Fine. Here’s the thing though, unless you vote, you cannot change what you think is so terrible. You are literally given the opportunity to voice your opinion and if you do not do so… what are you complaining about? You think the two-party system is all a sham? Great. You don’t have to vote democratic or republican; you can vote independent. The fact of the matter is, with every year that you don’t stand in front of a ballot, you’re pretty much telling the government “no biggie, do whatever you want. I trust you.” As cliche as it is, you can make a difference, but by proclaiming “I don’t vote,” as if this makes you somehow better than those that do, you’re not changing anything.
Thus began my gentle breaking down of a 38 year old who has never voted in his life.
It’s funny, because he’s made a lot of mindful changes over the past couple of years just by me showing- not telling. Without preaching, he now drinks a vegan smoothie every morning for breakfast and brings a salad to work instead of meat-filled sandwich. He asks me about every book I read and comments, regardless of the fact that he has no intention of reading one himself. And he’s also influenced me in big ways. For example, he’s one of the main reasons I went back to school, just by suggesting I was too smart to be a waitress. So there is some merit in simply showing rather than demanding and ususally this is my preferred method. Blah, blah, blah, you get the point. You don’t need to be a preacher to make a change in someone else.
However, voting is a time-sensitive issue, and I’ll be honest, there is nothing more aggravating to me than a person who says they don’t vote because the government sucks. It’s one of the most sneaky forms of hypocrisy there is.
I gave myself a two week window. For two weeks, when we woke up and discussed what we would be doing with our day, I’d casually throw in a “you forgot to mention register to vote.” When we’d talk on the phone mid-day after the normal goodbyes, I’d throw in a “don’t forget to register to vote.” For two weeks straight, I just threw it in a couple times throughout the day, and when the two weeks were up, I stopped.
After the two weeks- although I never brought up him voting- he would walk in on me watching a convention or speech or listening to a debate and ask me what was going on. I’d explain to him what so-and-so wanted to do, and sometimes he’d think it was smart and sometimes he’d get angry- very angry. He’d say something like “wait, that doesn’t make any sense,” or “he can’t do that.” I’d look at him and announce “well, with enough votes, that nonsense will be real life and with enough votes, he can do that.” The fact that he was starting to pay attention was enough for me honestly, because I’m pretty sure, this is the first time in his life that he has.
Today, he sent me a picture message. A picture that not only made me clap in victory, but also made it apparent that sometimes a little gentle nudging in a positive direction is worth it.
He sent me a picture of him filling out the voter registration form.
He immediately followed up the picture with a text that read: I’m writing in your name. I still think they all suck.
Fine. Vote for me. Vote for Harrison Ford. Vote for Spiderman. Vote for your vacuum cleaner. Vote for Heidi Montag. (Okay no, don’t vote for Heidi Montag.) The point is… just vote.
Now, I know that he’s not going to become a politics junkie like I am. This is just one more difference that the two of us have within our complex personalities, and that’s not a bad thing.
But come general election day, one more voice will be heard.
p.s. You’re welcome, America.