The pol exits before the exit poll

It’s a testimony to how disturbing things are in the political arena that three people in the past month have asked me if I would ever run for a public office. What, in their opinions, made me a desirable candidate? Was it my forward-thinking energy policies? My knowledge of the Middle East? My quest for more respect for our children’s teachers?
Nope. It was that I admitted in public — in this very space — that I went to see “Jackass Two.”
As one of these, um, recruiters said, “You can’t possibly have any worse skeletons in your closet.”
To which I said, “Yeah, right.”
But I also thought I might as well come clean. So, here are five reasons why I can never run for a political office:
When I was in junior high in South Florida, someone knew the combination to my locker and in the mornings would squish the sandwich in my lunch bag. Just wad it into a ball of inedible mush. A few days after I got smart and started to carry my lunch with me to classes, the mysterious sandwich smusher started to leave someone else’s mangled sandwiches in my locker. Inevitably, they were made from old tuna. Clearly I was not projecting the sort of strength a leader needs to have when dealing with North Korea, International Paper or even disgruntled neighbors at Town Meeting.
When I was a 10th-grader in South Florida, I was an officer for the high school’s Key Club. This was, ostensibly, a service organization that was a feeder for the local Kiwanis Club. Mostly, however, we just had parties with cheerleaders at the home of whichever member had both a swimming pool and parents who were out of town. In any case, before a pep rally before a big football game — along with two other male officers in the club — I wore a black sequined majorette costume and a fright wig. Somewhere, someone has pictures.
When I was in college in Massachusetts, I had a 2 to 6 a.m. slot as a DJ on the school’s radio station. It seemed to me that no one in the world was listening, and so some mornings — if only to try and find signs of life in the universe — I would have a segment called “Songs that Degrade Women.” It wasn’t simply that I was playing songs that were really sexist: It’s that I was playing songs that were really bad. To wit: Donny Osmond’s “Go Away, Little Girl,” and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s “Woman, Woman” were staples. Sometimes my girlfriend from a women’s college nine miles away would join me, and she would elevate the quality of the music (choosing, for example, the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”), and doubling my listenership by convincing her roommate to tune in. Yup, I married that woman. In all fairness, we viewed this segment as a feminist statement on the sexist state of rock ‘n’ roll music. Nevertheless, there might be tapes.
I also joined a fraternity when I was in college. And then I lobbied hard for the fraternity to accept women, making the house the ultimate oxymoron, a co-ed fraternity. Some people would call this “changing one’s mind about an issue.” In politics, alas, it is “flip-flopping.” There is no faster way to lose an election than to be perceived as a flip-flopper.
As a young advertising executive in Manhattan, I worked on a national brand of toilet paper and thus learned more than anyone needs to know about people’s bathroom habits and hygiene. I was even involved in discussions around a plan to try to convince men to use bathroom tissue at urinals. The plan was never executed, but I was in the room when it was discussed and that was a costly political mistake.
There you have it: Why you won’t see my name on a ballot this Tuesday — or ever.
You will, of course, see other names on the ballot. So be sure to vote. It’s a privilege. It’s a responsibility. And it will keep those pictures of me in sequins under wraps.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on November 5, 2006.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.