I'm all for a little high school bullying. You don't become a successful humor columnist without having gotten bullied. It drives you to take on the powerful and famous with lame jokes about their haircuts from the safety of your computer screen. If it weren't for bullying, I'd be a contract lawyer.
So when a bunch of Mitt Romney's high school friends told the Washington Post that nearly 50 years ago, Mitt gathered a posse to pin down a kid and cut his long hair, I didn't find it that upsetting. That's because the article didn't say Romney gave the kid his own haircut.
If we eliminated from contention all the people who did horrifying things as kids, all our Presidents would be women who were unpopular in high school. Which would mean 70% of our budget would go to commissioning paintings of horses. I know that if I met my 17-year-old self, I would beat him up, and not just because he would be the only person in the history of the planet I could successfully beat up. But the particular awful stuff we each did reveals a lot about our characters today. That's because most of us don't fundamentally change. President Obama's need to get along fits with his use of pot and cocaine when he was young. My preschool friend Joey Banker has become an incredibly successful dentist and a great dad, but there's no way I'd vote for him for President after the number of birthday cupcakes he smashed into his own face. That's a guy who shouldn't have nuclear codes.
A lot of people I went to high school with wouldn't vote for me. Neither would nearly all the women I've ever dated, both of my college roommates and the people I work with at Time. Also, nearly all of America. And they're right. In high school I cheated on tests, which reveals that my ambition often overwhelms my morality. I stole not just CDs but cash from the store I worked at, which demonstrates my anger at authority and my sense of entitlement. I spent more than a year calling my parents Babe, which means I was raised by people who allow their child to call them Babe.
But there were a few weeks when I did something far worse that has bothered me ever since. I would run up to girls I knew and "tweak" them, which involved grabbing one of their breasts and running away as they chased me. During my senior year of high school. When I was 17 years old. I believed this would be a hugely successful flirting maneuver that would catch on at high schools across the U.S. I did it to probably a half-dozen friends of mine--until one of them told me off and I realized how badly it was going over. The fact that I was not expelled, arrested or shot can be explained only by the fact that this took place in New Jersey.
Even though I like to believe a totally different person did this, one whose identity I've long since shed, along with the mullet that went down to my lower back, I know that's not totally true. I know I still objectify women. I know I am still sexually immature. I know I still can't express myself in direct ways. And I know these confessions make it unlikely not only that I will ever be President but also that you will finish reading this column.