Women Know Mitt and Barack (We've Dated Them Both)

Seeing Mitt Romney and Barack Obama side by side in the recent debates, it hit me who they are.  They're the two prototypical guys nearly every one of us women has encountered in our romantic lives: the Boy Scout and the Bad Boy; Mr. Clean-Cut, and Mr. Mystery.  Maybe they're guys we dated in high school or fantasized about.  Or later in life, they're the two boyfriends who tugged at our hearts, rivals for our affection but opposites in every conceivable way.  Ultimately the one we chose predicted our grown-up woman futures -- then as now. 

Mitt-Guy: he was that wholesome, clean-living, great-looking guy whom your parents loved, but who seemed too good to be true.  Your parents' enthusiasm for him was a turn-off.  Still, there was something sweet about the guy and his solid normalcy.  Well-liked wherever he went, he radiated an optimism and an honesty that would have seemed naïve in someone less bright.  He was always on time, and when he picked you up for a date, he'd shake your Dad's hand and call him "Mr."  He was the guy you could count on to ask the color of your dress so he could coordinate the corsage he gave you for prom.  He'd happily spend hours explaining your math homework, and then you'd both raid the freezer for ice cream.  

Barack-Guy: despite his swagger and sparky grin, there was an edge to this guy that made him seem elusive, something of a mystery, which is romantic catnip to us women.  He was always late and, as a devoted debunker of social tradition, found the very idea of prom highly mockable.  He couldn't help you with your homework because he was usually behind on his.  He seemed emotionally withdrawn; as former girlfriend Genevieve Cook described Barack to David Maraniss, author of the biography Barack Obama: The Story, it "felt like he had a veil hanging between himself and the outside world."  That veil posed a tantalizing challenge: how could you tear the veil by figuring him out, taming him, and making him your own? 

Mitt-Guy: he came from a large, loving family and idolized his father, a self-made business success and excellent provider.  It was strange to you that someone so obviously perfect and destined for great things would want to date little old you.  Though he was smart and could be mischievously funny, his manner was reserved, maybe even a little shy.  He might be a lot more fun if he drank, but his religion forbade alcohol and smoking -- smoking anything, legal or not.  At least he liked ice cream.

Barack-Guy: you began to realize much of that veiled mystery persona could be attributed to weed.  He hung out a lot with his stoner posse, "spent the last two years of high school in a daze ... attended class sparingly ... drank beer heavily, and tried drugs enthusiastically," as he said in his Dreams from My Father.  Like so many teens, Barack-Guy took the doper route to "finding himself."  Add a dysfunctional family with a father who'd abandoned him to live on another continent, and an eccentric mom who popped unpredictably in and out of his life, and the attraction became irresistible.  Charming but confused, smart yet a rebel who rejected society's inequities and pretensions, Barack-Guy triggered the female's sympathetic cuddling instinct. 

Since your parents would never allow you to date a guy with his stoner rep, you never discovered how he would address your dad.  Instead of a real date, you'd go into your bathroom, close the door, turn on the shower, and crawl out the window to meet Barack-Guy at the pizza place.  You'd pay your little sister for her silence, and to turn off the shower.

Barack-Guy turned out to be a short-term infatuation, but he left you with some great material for your diary and a few sappy poems.  And the inevitable heartbreak.  Still, you were glad if a bit surprised when you heard he had done very well in life.  You know now he was just an adolescent phase, a warm-up for the real thing.  You chose the other guy: the honest straight arrow you could depend on, the guy with the shining future and the clear vision.  And how happy you are that you chose wisely.

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