Here we are on the other side of January 20. It all happened. But so did this.
The first moment I felt anything besides bracing fear or numbness was Wednesday afternoon, when Hillary gave her concession speech. The moment she mentioned girls and women, the reaction was immediate and visceral. The bone-deep grief that had been weighing down my limbs like lead finally began to melt, and I wept.
I cried for the uncertain future. The loss of innocence and progress. And I cried for myself, because I am human.
This is a grief I will never fully get over. It will be a lifelong companion, sometimes benevolently silent and sometimes barking at the door of my mind, not wanting in or out but wanting to be felt again. The election was deeply personal, an assault on half of America's values, and we were beaten. Not by better ideas, but by a cult of personality that admires dictators and the trappings of authoritarianism. A self-anointed billionaire messiah ready to singlehandedly "take back America" (from who?).
I am not hopeful. I do not believe the dignity of the office will suddenly transform a narcissist into an empathetic leader. I believe this election is bad for everyone, even his supporters. I believe that "I told you so" will be little comfort in the next four years. But I am still bitter and inclined to be petty because that is the lesson at hand: that people on both sides who wanted to burn it all down won. Spite won. Retaliation won. Fear of others won.
Right now is just the pain of realization. The abstract hurt of looking into an unknowable void. But soon the pain will have names we can say and touch, and we'll have ways to react that don't feel like flailing at an ominous sky. For now, though, this is grief, and there is no timeline.
If you are ready to act, Jezebel put together a comprehensive list of organizations and causes to support. Consider local organizations as well.
I made a little fun of a Starbucks drink on Friday and lo, on Saturday, the green mermaid absolutely smote me. At least that is my best explanation for the following events.
I was going to Flushing with my husband to look at countertops. I had found two kitchen showrooms there: one named Desire Kitchen and Bath, the other named Desire K&B. They both carried a brand of quartz I was interested in, but I mostly just enjoyed the lack of trademark respect. But these are the boring contextual details. Let us proceed to the drama.
We get on the train. It's not full and we easily find seats, a good thing too because I probably would have curled into a ball on the floor if what happened happened while I was standing, and then there would've been a Sick Passenger situation and boy, do I have a crippling need to not be disliked by everyone.
Almost as soon as I sit down, I feel a tightening in my throat. I could still breathe, but it was an unsettling tightness. Then my left cheek starts going numb. And then part of my tongue feels like I just got local anesthetic for dental work. I tell my husband what is happening, partly to inform him because I definitely think I'm dying, partly just to hear my voice--I want to know that I'm not slurring my speech.
I speak and the words sound right. So I pull out my phone to see if my face is drooping or swollen; it's not. I'm taking these rational steps to eliminate the possibility of a stroke, all the while my thought process is I'mdyingI'mdyingI'mdying. I'm worried about the hospitals in Queens; response time here is probably pretty bad. I don't have aspirin. What Shonda did to Derek Shepherd. These thoughts do not slow my heart rate.
We get off the train (my husband thinks I'm crazy at this point) and I call my mom, like any normal person having a potential medical crisis. She suggests a panic attack, which I find preposterous because first of all, I thought I was going to die. Secondly, I wasn't thinking about anything when I sat down on the train: not organic chem, not the expense of redoing a kitchen. My mind was delightfully devoid of anything, ready to scroll through Instagram feeds and read Reddit threads I will never publicly admit to reading. But then I google and it turns out yeah panic attacks feel like dying and can come on unprompted, which, fuck you, sympathetic nervous system.
So I've learned my lesson never to take the name of pumpkin spice in vain, or any other seasonal coffee beverages.
Summer is over. And now each fallen leaf, dead and golden, is a reminder of our own inescapable mortality. Youth, like a bodega peony, is fleeting.
Happy pumpkin spice season!!!
This spring, with timing suspiciously close to my thirtieth birthday, I bought my first real pair of don’t-give-a-shit shoes. They are flatform Tevas. They are everything.
When they arrived from Amazon (foreshadowing), my husband shook his head in disgust. "You're never wearing those." His was not an existence where his wife of nearly six years wore ugly shoes. Ridiculous shoes? Frequently. But not ugly ones.
We were going to Florida for a wedding and had planned a side-pilgrimage to Harry Potterland. I was 29 and coming to Jesus about walking for extended lengths of time in heat and humidity. I was ready to be practical, whatever the personal cost.
In the end the ugly Tevas were a resounding success in Florida. I took laps around Universal without an oozing blister and no one there batted an eye at the contraptions on my feet. But alas, it was Florida.
After that trip I only wore the terrible shoes in Queens while running errands. Queens is a place where you can go to a restaurant with $30 entrees and see men in track jackets. This borough, as a rule, is shameless and definitely doesn’t waste its time forming opinions about foam-soled sandals with velcro straps. There are dumplings to eat and pedestrians to mow down with midsized sedans.
The real test of resolve and gumption was Manhattan. I was starting a class near Bellevue hospital. Many of the hospitals here dot the riverfront edges of Manhattan--places that are nowhere near a subway station. You can take a crosstown bus or you can hoof it (you can also ride Citibike but nope). Living in New York requires knowing the limits of particular shoes: ballet flats that are good for five short blocks, heels that can teeter from a car to a bar stool and back to a car. The walk from the subway to school was just under a mile, a distance, once factoring in return trips, beyond the scope of my attractive, acceptable summer shoes.
On lab days I had to wear closed-toe shoes, lest I drop chemicals/sharps on my feet. But on lecture days, the Tevas were freedom: freedom from blisters and restrictions and stifling socks. I lived for the Teva days. Endeared, I started calling them my clompers. They were sturdy, reliable things, like if goats were not ornery or prone to jumping on nice sheep. I could run at a good clip in my clompers too, which is more than I can say for my Jack Rogers sandals, the preferred summer footwear of WASPs everywhere.
Still, I’ve been the subject of furtive glances and hushed whispers between stylish mother-daughter pairs on the subway. I try to throw off the impression of hippy-dippyness by wearing oversized cateye sunglasses and Everlane tees. But there is no undoing the absolute unstylishness of Tevas. They are hideous, and they are strapped to my feet.
If you’re not ready to wear a signifier for giving up, I understand. It requires getting to a point where efficiency and comfort are your chief concerns, beyond priorities like not looking like you just wandered off the PCT in a delirium. For a lot of women, this seems to coincide with motherhood. For me, it was the prospect of walking 1.5 miles a day in the summer.
We all have our breaking points.