It’s the end of the world as we know it. And I DON’T feel fine. None of this is fine. It is so NOT fine that even 4 days after the apparent Electoral College victory of a bloviating, short-fingered conman over a hardworking but hated ladywonk, just the idea of Kate McKinnon’s somber SNL cold open brought out all the feels, even in those who missed it.
It’s been a week since the thing that pundits, politicians, pollsters and, I suspect, the winning candidate thought could never happen happened. Shiva is almost up for our country, and I look forward to seeing the beautiful faces of Facebook friends whose profiles went dark for the traditional 7 days, though I suspect many of us aren’t anywhere near done with our grieving.
We all get through trauma in our own way. And for many of the walking wounded, in addition to downcast profile photos, that’s meant drinking too much, eating too much, eating too much soup, hugging randoms, giving to worthy causes, grief-sex and vowing to stick up for those most vulnerable to the President-Elect’s promised cruelty and brutality.
I participated in many of those activities, but I kept my pic the same as it’s been since August, when the late-summer light rendered a beach selfie surprisingly postable. But a week of sporadic, spontaneous and soul-crushing crying jags has left me with a salty crust around my eyes which, in a certain light, sparkles like an iridescent, even trendy, shadow. I have been unabashedly clingy. I am not cool right now, and I’m not trying to be; my partner has been remarkably OK with this, and I am incredibly grateful.
Election day, I felt physically strong but mentally elsewhere, which makes sense in the way that the run-up to tragedy seems to fit the the horror of the event, even if it was actually quite mundane. After crying through the livestream of “I voted” stickers being affixed to Susan B. Anthony’s headstone, early-morning tennis was light and fun, and I threw myself into it with the same enthusiastic glee I knew during my rather unremarkable introduction to the sport circa 2nd grade. Thanks to Billie Jean King — who famously beat the Trumpian Bobby Riggs at his own game and gave us all a (literally) concrete location for the “Battle of the Sexes” — tennis and feminism are intertwined in me, and I’ve grown accustomed to these conversations with my younger self since in the year we’ve been playing in SF parks.
On my afternoon amble to the Golden Gate Bridge, I had more time to reflect. I thought about all the women who came before me, and about my early tomboy years, a phase that was more about getting to do “boy things” with my dad and copping male privilege than any actual gender confusion. I thought about how annoyed “girly girls” were by my boyish looks and manner and acknowledged, maybe for the first time, that their small-minded horror only made me want to conform less. Back then, most professions back then belonged to men but everyone was beginning to question why. My mom had to ask my dad if she could get her ears pierced, yet he frequently told my sisters and me that we could grow up to do anything we wanted. Walking back toward home, the bridge looked like an International Orange-colored “H” — How did I not notice that before? — and I felt like the crux between the egalitarian promise of the 1970s and its realization.
Of course, the nation would choose an intelligent, diligent nerdy wonklady over a rapey, ill-informed narcissist. No other thought in my mind as I headed home from yoga for my first glimpse at the returns. I was clear and unafraid — and wrong, of course. Fear in all its forms is a great motivator, but I’ve worked hard in the last decade+ to move away from it and toward agency. (I consider this head space one of my greatest life accomplishments.) Fearless is a beautiful place to live, but fear is where the money is. And, apparently, the votes — or just enough votes in the states that matter to tip the balance.
This is what election day 2016 felt like for a woman my age and sensibilities. Optimism and emotion smacked down by shock and despair. And numbness. And horror. And the overwhelming need to be held.
After a nearly sleepless night, we woke up early Wednesday and — what else? — got dressed for tennis. On the court, my brain was in a dark fog, and my body was moving through water, as I hoped that at least for a moment my body could trick me into forgetting that we were all now trapped in a Trumpian nightmare.
My soul and spirit are crushed by the results, the ensuing horror peppered with racist and anti-Semitic attacks, the bombastic autocrat who chews out journos in his Tower like Tony Soprano at Satriale’s. But other than a sudden fear for my freedom and finances owing to the fact that I claim no official affiliation to any man, I’ll probably be fine. That validation, that “finally” I felt during the previous day’s conversation with my tomboy self? It would have been nice, but I never really expected it. Hell, most women my age and older have learned how to keep moving forward without a cheering section. let alone a level playing field.
But my heart and stomach ache for so many others, including:
Khizr and Ghazala Khan: Their son gave his life for a country that elected a hateful bigot who only knows how to rub salt in their wound. How can they be feeling now?
Immigrants: Technically, all of us, but new arrivals, especially. The DREAMers who came in from the cold are especially vulnerable; Obama promised they wouldn’t be punished for coming forward, but I fear that DT’s goons will go after them anyway.
Every gay person, everywhere: My Facebook feed was chock-full of fresh horror from folks who saw in Drumpf’s victory the preening of every bully who ever taunted them. And Pence? Whose solution to the AIDS crisis was to try to force people not to be gay? He will ensure an LGBTQ horror show at home and doubtless cause deaths abroad.