Colin Mulligan cares (a little too much) what his father thinks. He cares about cars. He cares about football. But when Out of Nowhere begins, he doesn’t really care about anyone or anything else. He’s detached, uncommitted, uninvested. His life is circumspect because he isn’t engaged with the world around him. One way to put this is to say that Colin doesn’t have any passion. Another way is to say that he doesn’t have any politics.

In contrast, Colin’s love interest Rafael Guerrera’s passion for social justice and commitment to working for political change define his every action. Rafe is an advocate for queer youth, he is dedicated to the education of incarcerated folks, and is working toward decarceration. Politics animate every sphere of Rafe’s life, and it’s primarily where he directs his passion and his time.

For me, as for Rafe, politics are an everyday thing. My politics inform my thoughts and my words, and are the driving force behind my decisions and actions dozens of times a day. But Out of Nowhere is told from Colin’s perspective, so I found myself in the position of approaching social justice work through the eyes of someone very much outside of it. Writing from this perspective, I was struck anew by the many similarities between politics and romantic relationships—both things that Colin has no experience with. When Colin and Rafe meet, their different worldviews and experiences cause a lot of friction. No, Colin doesn’t immediately see the light and become politicized; no, Rafe doesn’t suddenly have all the time in the world. But by the end they’ve come up with something that works for them, both as a couple and as individuals engaged with the world.

So, here are Colin and Rafe’s five Lessons of Love & Politics!*

*Warning: learning these lessons may cause an extreme leveling up in your personal and political relationships! Proceed with care …

1. Be flexible or stagnate. Relationships and political movements need vast capacities for flexibility. As we have life experiences, we change, and so do our goals, our preferences, our commitments, and our desires. The more flexible we can be, the more likely it is that we can accommodate one another’s changes and continue moving forward together.

2. Acknowledge disagreement within solidarity and solidarity within disagreement. It’s tempting to want to come to total agreement with a partner, or within a movement. In reality, though, this isn’t possible—and we are actually stronger if we don’t attempt to erase the differences in our thinking and goals; if we question our assumptions about each other’s beliefs and our own. Allowing these complexities to stand encourages us to engage with each other about them, and learn from them. It’s also important to remember that there are likely to be points of solidarity among us even when we disagree, and focusing on those can help disagreement feel expansive rather than alienating.

3. We need both intention and action. Often we have the best of intentions but we don’t translate them into action in the world. Intentions are important, but they are internal, individual. It’s when we manifest those intentions that we are able to share them with each other. “I meant to pick you up a delicious coffee on my way over,” doesn’t have quite the same effect as handing over a steaming cup on a cold winter day, ya know?

4. We stand stronger together, and that strength comes from us as individuals. We can do amazing things on our own. However, the scope of possibility widens dramatically when we combine our strengths and our assets. We each bring unique things to our romantic and political relationships, and by joining those unique abilities we create more possibilities.

5. Strive for equity not equality. We are different, so we need and want different things, just as we have different things to give. Relationships and movements, therefore, shouldn’t strive for equality, where everyone gets the same things. Rather, they should strive for equity, in which everyone gets the things we most need.

So, what about you, fair readers? What are the most important lessons you have learned from love or politics? Teach me all the things in the comments!


Ms. Roan is offering a giveaway for both her books, In the Middle of Somewhere and Out of Nowhere, as a set. Ebook only. Make a comment below to be entered in this drawing.

Roan Parrish is currently wandering between Philadelphia and New Orleans. When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.


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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.