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The new adventures of old Christine O'Donnell

As someone who was forced at one point in my life to watch "Dating in the 90's" -- which I assume was the prequel to "Sex in the 90's," an MTV production that featured GOP candidate Christine O'Donnell -- I would find it strangely exhilarating if O'Donnell won the GOP Senate nomination in today's Delaware primary. The only thing more awkward than listening to those people on the documentaries who were supposed to help you when your fancy lightly turned to thoughts of, er, you know, would be if one of them were to be elected to public office. This is just paving the way for other things we were forced to enjoy in the '90s to emerge from obscurity and start determining our lives, things such as outfits made entirely of blue jeans and Britney Spears and that stuff that makes your hair look frightening.

Somehow I always assumed that appearing on a '90s-era documentary about anything -- let alone how or whether to conduct any kind of sex life -- was a significant barrier to public office. Bill Nye the Science Guy has never, to my knowledge, been elected to anything. But maybe Christine O'Donnell the Chastity Gal will be! With her Tea Party support, she's going to encourage self-government and discourage the regular kind of government.

O'Donnell founded the Savior's Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), the basis of a recent movie by Angelina Jolie -- no, I'm sorry, a group focused on advocating moral positions.Much has been made of what appear to be her statements in "Cultural Dissident" about being born again as a virgin (you can regain your purity, but any sort of transmittable diseases you've picked up along the way are not God's problem!) her MTV remarks on masturbation ("You're just gonna create somebody who is, I was gonna say, toying with his sexuality. Pardon the pun.") and urging people to live chaste lives. The "Cultural Dissident" essay that she reportedly wrote insisted that we try to take back the word chastity. I don't understand. Where did it go? Did it spend a weekend somewhere questionable? Well, actually, read the piece that TPM linked to; the only copy I could find was on this website that, after I read it, suggested ways for me to find sexy local singles, a juxtaposition that reflects poorly on the advertiser's faith that the essay will grip its readers' minds.

O'Donnell's apparent success so far seems like a victory for the chastity lobby, which sounds like the place you have to wait when your roommate has left a sock on the door. But even this temporary triumph raises some questions for women -- especially those "Hillary Democrats" O'Donnell insists she can attract. I think one of the errors of modern feminism is to assume that female liberation means doing the whole Sex and the City thing and sleeping around like a man. That's not right -- when was the last time you saw a pregnant man waddling around, whacking his head on the glass ceiling? -- but neither is this. Somehow you also never see male candidates talking about their purity and making a big deal about not having sexual relations. Except Bill Clinton, of course.

But what surprises me even more than the apparent success of a chastity ticket is the '90s side of things. Parts of the '90s were dominated by people trying really, really hard to be cool. Not just the "cool" kids. Even groups like Christine O'Donnell's came up with catchy names and went on MTV and tried to appeal to youth in "relatable" ways. People wore strange outfits and did choreography to pop songs and voted for Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush after thinking long and hard about it. It was, simply put, an age of earnestness. You never heard people saying, "Well, I listen to Flava Flav, but only ironically." All the irony and the "hipsters" and so forth who make up today's youth are largely an entire generation recoiling in horror from ever being as serious about anything as everyone was about everything back then. Actually try? If you tried, you might wind up in a blue jean jacket and jean pants, listening to Boyz II Men and abstaining from things. So to see an earnest '90s crusader actually getting somewhere these days is a novel experience. Unless that "tidal wave coming here in Delaware" is supposed to be ironic.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 14, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  Christine O'Donnell  
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