Liberal Lonelyhearts—Get Proactive!

Republicans know where to find one another, according to Stephen B. Venable, president of CELSIUS, an exclusive new dating service for educated, well-off Minnesota liberals. We were chatting in his office the other day when Venable ventured that conservatives are meeting each other “at work,” “in bars” or “in the parking lot at Vikings games.” But liberals, he said, unless they’re doing “social organizing,” could use a little more help getting together.

Thus was born CELSIUS, an acronym for the Collective for Educated Liberal Singles Interested in Unearthing a Soul Mate, whose slogan, spotted on Venable’s business card, reads, “Improving lives by making extraordinary relationships possible.” The clunkiness is derived, perhaps, from corporate-speak and legalese. Besides Venable, an escapee from corporate law, the founders include another attorney and an M.B.A., so all three are fluent in this particular vernacular. They’re also all single. Venable’s partners are hanging onto their day jobs while he handles the full-time task of uniting lefties in life and love.

Venable’s disdain for Republicans is both ardent and personal. After relating a formative encounter he had with a right-winger—a former boss who tried to enlist his legal aid in sacking an ambitious female colleague—Venable offered the opinion that Republicans tend to be similar in one notable way: They are, he said, “cognitively and emotionally disabled.”

I found myself in Venable’s office after an earnest visit to the CELSIUS website. There, I read that “kind, empathetic, open-minded people tend to prefer other kind, empathetic, open-minded people”—a statement that, despite its accidental hilarity, seemed reasonable in practice. Next, I discovered that I met all seven of the club’s prerequisites. I was well educated, financially secure, politically and ideologically liberal, kind and respectful to others, single, at least thirty years old, and a nonsmoker.

My curiosity mounted as I read about the application process, which is not unlike applying for a job—a resume and cover letter must be submitted before CELSIUS will consider you for a face-to-face entrance interview. Who were these politically correct matchmakers? Practical jokers? Reality TV show producers? Kenwood liberals having trouble getting laid? I was so puzzled, I did something rather devious. I sent Venable my resume, as required, along with a letter about my sordid history of dating Republicans. I did not mention that I did not qualify in one important respect: I did not have the $975 to fork over for the membership fee.

A week later, I was plodding down the thirteenth-floor hallway of a downtown Minneapolis building, passing architecture firms, accounting agencies, and law offices, on the way to my interview at CELSIUS. The company’s one-room digs were sparsely decorated and made ample use of basic office-cubicle gray, but there was a pleasing skyline view. Venable, a fit, attractive man who looked to be in his late thirties, greeted me. He wore shirtsleeves, a necktie, and slacks—very professional.

Only five minutes into our sit-down, we’d already comfortably griped about racism, sexism, and classism. Much nodding went on. Eventually, Venable and I moved onto the topic of our love lives. Both of us fancied ourselves to be reasonably good catches, and agreed that we felt “baffled” to find ourselves single after thirty. Venable loosened his necktie and unbuttoned his collar. He confided to me that back in his Berkeley Law School days, he had to beat the ladies off with a stick. But with those days behind him, he’s now focused on finding the two qualities he most desires in a mate: intelligence and kindness. He assumes both things are inherent in liberal women.

Venable said he’d be composing a full page of notes about me, outlining which types of liberals he sees me meshing with—I came to believe that this meant either a loudmouth activist or a rather timid social service type. Then he’d put me in a speed dating type of situation with suitably matched, dues-paying members, which would be staged at a CELSIUS-appropriate venue—someplace like Lucia’s in Uptown. (But wouldn’t I see all my friends there?) During the one-year membership, he promised, I would be invited to no fewer than six of these happenings. To his credit, Venable vowed not to put me in the same room with much, much older men (I’m only two months past CELSIUS’s minimum age requirement)—a fear I’d harbored ever since I’d heard a friend jokingly speculate on the average age of the club’s male membership. Also, if I’m not mistaken, some flirting went on. Venable called me “sweet”—another trait he finds common in liberal women. Then he complimented my “cute” hair, but not without tagging on the standard liberal regret. “I’m sorry,” he said, “is that inappropriate?”—Christy DeSmith