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Hygge and Kisses: Even the Danes Couldn’t Save My Relationship from Trump

(Photo: Flickr/U.S. National Archives)

During the last few months, there has been a lot of anger shown toward the Trump Administration, coming from both sides of the political spectrum. Whether it has been a deep frustration with his attacks on the mainstream media and the court system, a true hatred of his immigration and healthcare bills or outright shock at his administration’s too-close relationship with Putin, 80 percent of America seems to have a gripe with the president.

I’d like to add another complaint to the list: I blame Donald Trump for ruining my romance this past winter. His election — and the chaos that it has wrought — has caused so much stress and anxiety that, during the first three months of his presidency, it was just too difficult to find love.

My relationship with Debbie started out promising. We met at a dinner party a few days before Trump was inaugurated. Our hostess was worried about the night being successful and fun, so she warned her guests that “no one can talk about politics.” After dinner, Debbie and I found ourselves in another room talking about politics. At the end of the evening, I asked her out, but she said that she couldn’t go on Saturday because she was going to the Woman’s March. I told her that I was going too. BOOM. Our first date was in the streets, chanting together about human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, the environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion and workers’ rights. Believe me, it’s sexier than it sounds.

But therein also lies the problem: By throwing our passion into fighting for America’s soul, there wasn’t much left for each other. Every time we tried to make out in her apartment, the phone would ring, usually someone from Debbie’s “Get Woke Political Action” group, reminding her to call her representative to vote NOW. And in the background, seemingly 24 hours a day, Rachel Maddow was on TV explaining things to us.

It’s easy to blame the politics, but anxiety was the real romance-killer. We lived with the feeling that the country was going to hell and that those adorable childhood friends from that summer at Winnehaka Sleepaway Camp that we now follow on Facebook might have grown up to become bigoted, alt-right neo-Nazis.

[pullquote]And, clearly, Bernie Sanders was wrong — the Danes are not happier because of free healthcare or generous paid leave; it is because they wear wool socks and sit by the fireplace.[/pullquote]

And this was not only affecting the two of us — it was a national emergency. New York Magazine, publishing on the subject of “Postelection Anxiety, ” quoted Leora, a therapist in San Francisco: “The first few days after the election were chaos. Clients who I hadn’t seen in years were calling me for emergency appointments. Those who had moved across the country several years before were scheduling Skype sessions. I called all my therapist friends and said to them, ’I don’t know how to make anyone feel better about this. I can’t make anyone feel better about this.’”

Debbie and I decided that if this relationship was going to work, we needed to find a way to mellow out and keep calm.

Then, while reading The New Yorker, I discovered the concept of hygge, a Scandinavian trend sweeping the country. What is hygge? According to the magazine, “Hygge is a Danish term defined as a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

Who knew? I always thought the Danes to be gloomy and indecisive. But according to research, Scandinavian countries are inhabited by the happiest people in the world. And, clearly, Bernie Sanders was wrong — the Danes are not happier because of free healthcare or generous paid leave; it is because they wear wool socks and sit by the fireplace. It is because of hygge.

I told Debbie that we needed hygge in our life. So we went to work preparing for the ideal night home alone. I bought some lavender candles and packed two pairs of wool pajamas, one for her and one for me. I picked up some delicious pastries while Debbie made foamed the milk for our lattes. Debbie didn’t have a fireplace in her Brooklyn apartment, so we opted for second best: We placed a nice rug in front of the radiator. No news channels were allowed. Tonight, we were only watching The Great British Baking Show while we snuggled together under a comforter.

The British bakers on TV were doing a technical challenge, making Pascal Aussignac, when I felt Debbie relaxing in my arms.

“This is nice. We needed this,” she said.

She turned to me, and we kissed. Things heated up, and soon our matching wool pajamas were off and we were in bed. Then we were interrupted by a ping from her iPhone. Debbie looked at the screen. It was a notification from CNN: “Trump to kill services to the sick and elderly.” As part of his new budget plan, Trump wanted to eliminate the Meals on Wheels program.

Trump had done it again. That was the end of our romance for the night. Within five minutes, we were fully dressed and back watching MSNBC.

Did hygge work for us? No. Did it bring us to a calmer place? Not at all. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be, especially in these times when so much is at stake. There’s even been criticism of hygge in Denmark as being too middle-class and insular, a product of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country. As Charlotte Higgins writes in the Guardian, “A case in point is Pia Kjærsgaard, the founder of the anti-immigration, anti-Brussels Danish People’s Party, which is currently the second-largest party in parliament. Kjærsgaard has subtly projected herself as the protector of Danish hygge against the unknown forces of the globalised world. Hygge is part of the whole set-up of the radical right wing in Denmark.”

In this context, hygge is less about calmness than hiding from the real world. It is about closing oneself off in private, enjoying the creature comforts of home life with others who think and look exactly like you.

And Debbie and I weren’t ready to do that.

Debbie and I broke up last week. We decided to remain friends. We’re even going to a rally together next week. The Trump Administration has energized many Americans to fight for justice, but it hasn’t been kind to romance. And even hygge can’t help.

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