Politics

Baemian Light: A date with the new leader of United Future

In the 36 Questions Project, Meg Williams takes a politician on a date and asks them the 36 Questions, a series of conversation starters designed to make two people fall in love. In this episode, Williams meets brand new United Future leader, 33-year-old Damian Light, for Japanese food.

Previously on the 36 Questions Project: The Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan, Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox, Act Party leader David Seymour, and the 36 Questions in full

Damian Light doesn’t take himself too seriously. He seems a little bit nervous, understandable given his very quick rise to the leader of United Future (and what I’m about to put him through).

“Well, I’ve always wanted to go into space,” Damian, he tells me. “But obviously I haven’t done that because that’s kind of crazy.”

In the few debates he’s appeared in so far, it’s been difficult to get a sense of Damian. He thinks on his feet, easily able to respond well to policy questions, never faltering or coming up empty. Damian is very much the new kid on the block — I’ve dated a few politicians now, and Damian is not your average politician.

In person, I discovered, he shows genuine interest in what you have to say. He smiles and laughs a lot. It’s very endearing. Basically Damian Light’s personality is as lovely as his face, and I had a great time on our date.

“Oh, so you’re a bit of a space nerd?” I asked. We’d got to Question 15 which asks, “Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?”

“Yeah,” he said. I told Damian that I have recently started rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation. “That was the first science fiction I watched,” Damian said. “I kind of grew up with it in the early 90s. Every Friday night at 7:30, or whatever time it was, I used to go home and watch it. I remember sometimes when my mum and dad were like, ‘No, we’re going down the beach to get fish and chips,’ and I would just go ballistic, like have a massive tantrum, because I was missing the second episode of a cliffhanger, and this was before VCRs and internet so I couldn’t record it, and it was just devastating.”

I knew then that this date had potential.

We had arranged to meet at 7pm at a Japanese place in Epsom. A few hours before, I got a message. Hey Meg, can I give you a quick call? 

Here we go, I thought to myself. I was preparing to be cancelled on. In fact he was apologetically asking if we’d be able to push the interview back to 7:30pm — only half an hour later than originally planned. Such a polite date! I exhaled and told him this was fine, mostly relieved at the extra time I’d have to get ready.

Meg Williams’ not at all OTT day-of-date Snapchat

Damian is a regular at Sakebar Nippon, he tells me when we arrive at the Epsom restaurant. I can tell from the first moment he smiles and shakes my hand that this is someone who likes people.

The 36 Questions are designed to quickly establish familiarity, and every answer Damian gave only made me like him more. He told me he still had his teddy bear from when he was a child, and that it’s named “Teddy.” He told me about his imaginary friend from when he was little. “I very imaginatively called him ‘Friend’. Because he was my imaginary friend! My parents would ask, ‘what’s his name?’ ‘Friend! What else would he be called? He’s my friend! You weirdos.’”

Question 29 asks the subjects to share with each other an embarrassing moment. “I was away for work,” he answers. “And I was supposed to be meeting this guy for breakfast. And I got up in the morning – and I’m not a morning person – I got up, got ready, went down to the restaurant, sat at the table and said, ‘Hi, how’re you doing?’ And he was like, ‘Hi.’ I’m like, ‘How’re you going?’ And he’s just like, ‘Hi.’ And I was just like, ‘This is a bit weird, he’s acting really weird about this.’ And I look over, and he’s sitting over there – it was the wrong guy! He looked kind of similar, but he didn’t look that similar. The guy I was supposed to be meeting, and one of my other work mates, were sitting there and they were looking at me and I was like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ The guy was completely fine with it.”

Next I ask him to complete the sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share …” Damian struggled with this one.

“I was going to say ‘the rest of my life with,’ but I’ve kind of already got that,” he said. Damian has been with his partner, Josh, for almost a year now, and lights up when he gets the chance to talk about him. “I’m quite lucky with my partner. He was a little bit interested in politics but not hugely, and there’s other stuff that I’m interested in and vice versa, but we’re quite good at being able to support each other, being enthusiastic for the other person even though it’s not necessarily our thing, which his kind of a new experience for me.”

“Where’d you guys meet?” I asked.

“Online,” said Damian, without a hint of shame because a) this is the 21st century, b) we’re Millennials, and c) online dating is normal now. Also without a hint of shame, I told Damian I met my partner of three years on Tinder. “It’s how you do it now, right?” said Damian. “I’m not ashamed of it, it’s how you do it. People go, ‘But how do you get to know someone?’ But actually in some ways it’s much better because… you can be quite honest, and then it kind of builds from there… And if it goes horribly wrong, you haven’t really embarrassed yourself in front of a whole lot of people or anything… If you do it properly, I find it’s — I don’t know if ‘easier’ is the word, but yeah.”

We had been together for just over an hour and a half at this point, our plates and empty sake cups cleared away, and so I let Damian know that if he needed to rush off or if the questions were becoming too personal he could just let me know. But Damian is an extremely good sport, so we kept going.

“If you were going to become a close friend with your partner,” I said, continuing with the 36 Questions (‘partner’ in this context means the person you’re completing the exercise with), “please share what would be important for him or her to know.”

“That I have a terrible sense of humour is probably something you’d have to put up with,” said Damian, laughing. “Like I think puns are really funny… My friends all have a terrible sense of humour so it’s kind of okay.”

“It’s a subjective thing, right?” I said.

“Yeah well it is, right?” said Damian. “But it’s pretty bad.”

“Objectively bad?”

“Yeah.”

The end of the night came around and, having gone through all of the questions (skipping the part where we have to look into each other’s eyes for four minutes), we decided to call it a night. While we waited for our separate Ubers, Damian told me that he’d be keen to catch up again after the election.

“Yeah,” I said. “That’d be cool.”

We hugged goodbye and I got into my Uber. As I was driven away, a notification from Twitter appeared on my phone: @damianlight followed you back!

I smiled. Something something the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Previously on the 36 Questions Project: The Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan, Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox, Act Party leader David Seymour, and the 36 Questions in full

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