When I was in the sixth grade, my social studies teacher organized an election-themed play to be performed before the entire elementary school and a smattering of overeager parents. As the odds would have it, I portrayed President Bush, and my closest friend was cast as Senator Kerry. I remember spending days practicing my now-forgotten Texas twang with a pencil between my teeth to practice enunciating loudly and clearly. When the big day finally came, I was prepared.

But when I walked on stage and waved to my adoring fans, my stomach knotted. Perhaps I would forget my lines. “Fool me once, shame on—shame on… Fool me you can’t get fooled again.” Maybe one of my friends would freeze. Even after I was finished with my segment, the knot stayed taut. It was the kind of knot I get when watching The Big Bang Theory. It was the kind of knot that says, “Something awkward is probably about to happen, followed by a reference to sinusoidal curves or nested trigonometric functions.”

For the past 4 presidential and vice-presidential debates, that knot came back. I wasn’t sure how each debate would end, but either Sheldon or Leonard would surely say something incredibly uncomfortable before each commercial break. And boy, did each candidate live up to my expectations, albeit not with trigonometric references. The first episode revealed a feisty Romney simultaneously dispatch Big Bird and slip Obama an Ambien. With one fell swoop, the beloved icon was knocked off his sky-high pedestal and threatened with an early retirement, although he continued to lead in the Electoral College.

The following debate revealed to us, in the illustrious words of Vice President Biden, “a bunch of stuff.” My knot returned quickly as I watched the man consume copious quantities of laughing gas as his grandson looked on peevishly, unsure of how to respond. The two quickly resorted to speaking in Irish, using mysterious words like “malarkey” and “netanyahu.”  I became increasingly concerned about the future of the vice presidency, until I remembered that Biden actually is the Vice President, and, well, we could have had Palin.

The next debate amounted to little more than middle school bickering. The two took questions from randomly selected voters, none of whom seemed to know what was going on. The confusion was palpable. One audience member asked, “Do both of you support women’s rights?” Another mused to the candidates, “How do I order a ballot? And which one of you two is Obama?” Rather than answer the questions, though, the two candidates occupied themselves by mercilessly taunting the other. “My pension is bigger than your pension.” “Well I treat my pension better than you do.”

Obama and Romney stood scarcely a foot apart, glaring at each other and gesticulating wildly with clenched fists and furrowed brows. “Well, mine is prettier.” Candy Crowley practically had to stand between the two and separate them in order to prevent what many believe would have become a no-holds-barred strangling contest. “Boys, please keep your pensions in your pants,” she told them, shortly before she settled into one of Romney’s binders. Romney, in his defense, does have more women in his binders than Obama does, regardless of the size of their respective pensions. Romney is, after all, a Mormon.

The final debate was no different in nature. “My navy would have more ships than your navy,” Romney quipped. Obama was quick on his feet: “Well, that may be true, but my navy has more nuclear submarines than yours would. And mine are bigger, too, with bigger torpedoes.” Romney threw it right back at the President with a pithy, “At least my army wouldn’t have pulled out of Iraq too soon, and my drones would never fire prematurely.” But Obama was always one step ahead, and responded with a well-timed: “I’m rubber and you’re glue.” I cringed.

Now that all the debates are over, I can finally breathe easy. The embarrassment has passed, albeit temporarily, and the knot in my stomach is finally gone. We will, of course, have to choose one of these men to lead the nation for the next presidential term. If only I could figure how to order a ballot, I’ll vote for the guy with the bigger pension. And this time, I’ll try not to leave a hanging chad. Fool me once, shame on…  Whatever, you get the point.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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