Losing your voting virginity

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 2, 2004

I'm losing my virginity today. Voting virginity, that is. Am I nervous, you might ask? I left nervousness far behind. I've gone straight past the butterflies-in-the-stomach stage and I'm heading straight towards breaking out into cold sweats and experiencing clammy palms.

I mean, it's my first time after all, and I want to be good at it, or at the very least not be too terrible.

But, it's not like I'm going into this completely unprepared. I've seen plenty of late night movies to get me ready for the big day, to provide me with some motivation for Super Tuesday. I mean, I rented "The Power of One."

Yet, despite all the preparations I've taken, I can't shake off my apprehensions in the face of my impending deflowering in the political process.

In the future, I aspire be a woman completely unflappable. But, a majority of my time is spent fretting over the inconsequential things of life, like wondering what is the appropriate time interval before I call that guy with the complicated shoes (I've been told it's three days, industry standard, by my male friends) or trying to decide which pair of pants makes my ass look the least fat.

However, this time, I'm spinning myself into a neurotic mess for something far more important than my own, trivial concerns. I'm coming undone because, for the first time in my life, I am exercising my say in government.

And I've decided not to do this the gentle route. I'm foregoing the convenience of the absentee ballot. I don't admire the instant gratification of the absentee ballot. Done entirely on your own terms, it seems almost too easy. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather submit to the dominance of the polls. In short, I'm not settling for anything less than the original.

In theory, voting seems simple enough, not a complicated process at all. You go into a secluded room, play with a few knobs and switches, bing bang boom, you're done in under 10 minutes - or five if you skip the fancy stuff - and now you're in search for an olive pizza and a cigarette.

Yet, like many things in life, the act presents problems for not just us virgins, but even seasoned veterans.

Take, for instance, the debacle in Florida during the 2000 election. Most of those people weren't even first-timers. They've been around the block a few times and even they couldn't get things right. Maybe they just weren't keeping up with times and the new modern ways of voting, or maybe they got a little over eager, went too fast and just got everything sloppy. It's times like that when people should perhaps put more time in practicing solo before the big day.

After that, voting just doesn't seem the carefree, reckless, uninhibited act that it used to be. What used to be a highly intimate and personal, in this day and age has become clinical and regimented.

Now you have perfect strangers checking you for hanging chads. Or even more vexing, now you have to integrate fancy new equipment and machinery to make sure you do things right.

At times, I grow nostalgic for the times when we didn't practice "safe voting."

Yet, despite all the trouble that voting can be, I'm still heading to the polls today because I want to know what it feels like.

I want to know how it feels to exercise a right that so many people across the world are dying for.

I want understand the significance of voting, and how it is so integral to the democratic process.

I want to be a part of the movement where more than half the population comes out to vote, because only having half of the country for voter turnout does not a real democracy make. I don't wish to be part of a country so apt to export democracy but so unwilling to practice it ourselves.

But, foremost, for reasons that are entirely selfish, I'm voting because I am putting down, for the record, the way I want America to be.

Then again, I'm young and new to do this game and prone to idealization. Perhaps I'm putting too much into voting and I might just be setting myself up for a major disappointment down the road. But, then again, I don't want to be 30 years old and have to lie to people when they've asked me if I've done it or not.

So, I will head down to the polls and then emerge from the voting booth, done with the process and perhaps wondering: "Is that it?"

Susan Bonicillo is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.