Mitt Romney, America's awkward stepdad

  • Article by: ALEXANDRA PETRI , Washington Post
  • Updated: June 6, 2011 - 11:03 AM

Mitt Romney

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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There is nothing more embarrassing than an adult trying to act hip.

"What are the kids listening to these days?" Uncle Mort asks, sidling up at the cookout. "What's phat and groovy?"

The only people who use words like "phat" and "groovy" are these sad self-identified Cool Uncles and the cops who pose as teens online to catch predators.

"How 'bout that Justin Beaver?" they ask. "How 'bout Marky Mark?"

I mention this because on Thursday, Mitt Romney announced that he is running for president of the United States.

I have been watching his efforts to seem "hip" and "relaxed" for some time, and I have to say, Mitt, cease and desist.

Dad can be uncool. We are stuck with him. But you are America's Awkward Stepdad, trying to win our approval, but hopelessly unsure of how to do it. I see you gelling your hair and slipping into those jeans you surreptitiously purchased at Urban Outfitters.

We can see how Mitt would make this mistake. After all, the American voting pool has the approximate maturity of a five-year-old with severe ADD. "Talking hair! Sex! Weiners!" we scream, running dizzily around in circles.

"Whose undershorts are those? Get Paul Ryan out of here, he's boring us with numbers!"

People have long made the mistake of saying that we have a cult of youth. What we actually have is a cult of immaturity. Few people are young, and the few anointed Disney stars fall consistently and spectacularly as meteors every year during sweeps season. Instead, we have people like Snooki.

You are only young once, but there appears to be no limit to how long you can behave like a five-year-old.

But as Jean Kerr once wrote, "The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old." And this is already happening to Mitt.

He comes out swinging for Scotty McCreery on "American Idol." He sends pizza to the Obama headquarters - as a joke? A nice gesture? It's hard to say. And have you noticed that he's stopped wearing ties?

Every fiber of his 64-year-old body seems to be straining to convey relaxation and effortless cool. I worry he'll rupture something. Next thing we know, he'll be working "Twilight" references into his conversation.

Oh, I'm sorry, he already has: "I like silly stuff, too, I like the 'Twilight' series, I thought that was fun," he told the "Today" show.

It's torn straight from the pages of those books on How to Relate to Your Teen. "Read what your teen reads," they urge. "Try to engage her in conversation about it."

No, please!

We tolerate the uncool. Sometimes we secretly look up to them, overcome by the sense that they must know something we don't or they wouldn't be reading those tomes about health policy. But it is the ones who are uncool and nonetheless try to "relate" that inspire our hate.

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