Valentine’s Day is a romantic time, a time to ask: Will you go out with me? Will you be mine? But a growing number of hopeful young singles are asking a different kind of question: How do you feel about… climate change?
Sitting in a booth by the bar at Mahoney’s on Main in Buzzards Bay, 26-year-old Matt White pulled out his phone and opened up his dating profile.
“So, there's my beautiful face,” he joked.
The Wareham-based solar energy developer is looking to meet single women with the help of a few dating apps, and this one is called Hinge. It gives users the option to enter their religion, education level, alcohol use, and height, among other personal qualities.
White’s profile begins with a photo of him competing at an athletic event. Then, it’s White in Iceland; at a bonfire; at a Red Sox game.
“Hinge has different prompts that you can answer questions to,” he said. “One of them is, ‘I won't shut up about.’ And my answer was, ‘Climate change. Let's get real, people.’”
White is one of a growing number of hopeful singles who say that attitudes about climate change can be a dating dealbreaker. He said he probably couldn’t date someone if they didn’t see climate change as an existential problem.
“You think of it as a litmus test,” he said. “I think it points to, you know, how maybe self-centered a person might be and how conscious they are of others.”
He’s not alone. In a recent survey of political attitudes by the American Enterprise Institute, 51 percent of people said dating someone with opposite views on climate change would be anywhere from difficult to impossible.
Last month, the popular dating site OkCupid announced it would let users filter out climate change deniers from their potential matches.
And in an unscientific review of Gen-Z and Millennial dating profiles from around the Cape, coast and Islands, dozens of singles expressed comments like these:
“You should not go out with me if you don’t dance or care about the environment.”
“A social cause I care about: environmental justice and climate change-induced migration.”
“Recycling is hot.”
Welcome to the new age of climate change dating.
“I do think it's a thing,” said Meredith Goldstein, advice columnist for the Boston Globe and host of the Love Letters podcast.
“I think when people are talking about climate change, they're talking about, ‘How do you process the facts we hear in the world? How do you think about the future? What entitlement do you feel to this land we live on?’ It means all of these big things,” Goldstein said.
Earlier this fall, Matt White was exchanging messages with a woman he met on a dating app and found his interest in climate change could cool things off pretty quickly.
“She's like, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ I'm like, ‘Oh, I'm watching this climate change documentary on the different presidential candidates and how they view climate change,’” he said. “And then from there she was like, ‘So, should we get the politics discussion out of the way now?’ … And basically, it kind of went down a rabbit hole and we stopped talking after that point.”
“I'll leave it at that and be respectful. But, you know.”
Other couples, though, have been able to keep the conversation going.
Twenty-year old Anna Wadsworth of Falmouth has been dating her boyfriend for about a month, though they’ve known each other since high school.
“We started hanging out more and more, and then it just eventually turned into liking each other,” she said.
Wadsworth first realized they had different perspectives on climate change when she saw him throw away something that could have been recycled. She called him out on it.
“I feel like he definitely agrees climate change is a problem,” she said. “I think he's more on the side of, ‘What can I do if, like, no one else is doing anything about it?’ Which I agree with, but also if everyone has that opinion, what’s going to change?”
Still, because they’ve got history, Wadsworth said, she knows he’s a caring person, and they can disagree.
“There were already things I knew and liked about him” that made her want to be a couple, she said. “So, you know, climate change [didn’t create] … a red light of, ‘No, bad idea.’”
As views on climate change seep into the exhausting, exhilarating, exasperating search for love, the challenge is for daters to find balance. Goldstein says the key is to remain open-minded. No one quality or interest can tell someone everything about a potential partner.
“There are people who are incredible to the world and the earth and perhaps not incredible to each other, [and] vice versa,” she said. “There are ways that people can be civic-minded … and perhaps they are not doing what they need to do with their garbage.”
For Anna Wadsworth, it’s important to focus on the things she and her boyfriend do have in common, like taste in music.
“We both love Jack White, the White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, stuff like that.”
With that in mind, she’ll enjoy Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend and leave saving the planet for another day.