A Letter to My Wife the Day After The Election,
Our bedroom is right over our kitchen, which means that when you get up early with our son, I can always hear the two of you playing while you make him breakfast. I can hear you singing as you put the dirty plates in the dishwasher and as he takes them back out again. And last night at 2:00, I could hear you eating cereal and crying.
This is one of those things I'm not supposed to try to make better. This loss is brutal and startling for us both, but I can't begin to contextualize how sad it must be for you. You insisted on being the one to mail our ballots because of what it meant to you. You asked me if I thought men really knew what the cultural stakes were for women in this election. You started the evening excited, with a one-year-old in your lap who couldn't understand yet, but who we thought might thrill in the telling years later of how we stayed up late with him and watched history unfold.
And it did unfold, but not the direction we were expecting.
I'm so sorry. I can only watch you hurt, because trying to qualify it, to look on the bright side, or equate it to anything in my life rings as tone-deaf. I know that. I can only hug you when you want it and leave you alone when need that. I just want you to know that, whether upstairs or next to you or miles and miles away, I'm with you, I love you, and I hate knowing your heart is breaking.
With the morning came new rhetoric: Affluent liberals are over-dramatic spoiled children who finally get to know what it feels like to lose. The bubble we've all created around ourselves has burst, and now we are faced with the bleak, dying sections of unhappy rural America who'd rather burn the system to the ground than suffer through another four years of being ignored.
But that rhetoric, like a lot of things in your life I'm now realizing, ignores a lingering and ruthlessly unfair problem: We would rather have an unqualified man who grabs, rapes, violates, bullies, and dehumanizes women as our leader than a uniquely qualified woman. What that says about a woman's worth, about your worth, makes me so sad and frustrated that I want to angry-dance in a barn somewhere. And while I know it can't mean much coming from me because I am biased, pretend that I am completely objective and looking at your life for the first time. You deserve so much better than this. You actively try to make the world a better place every single day, wrestling big, tangled issues like climate justice, city planning, and environmental policy. You speak up each day for people who can't. Your default setting is to help, and you've carved a career out of doing it. But most importantly, you've done it all while negotiating a minefield of people who treat you as though a young, beautiful woman can't be good at her job, who made you want to dye and cut your hair so that you'd be taken more seriously, who force you to ask yourself with each item of clothing you buy whether it will send a thousand unintended messages at work. I've never heard you complain about any of it -- this all comes to me peripherally in your stories as small moments tangential to the real plot of your day. This is just the way things are.
Saying I'm proud of you is like saying I'm proud of volcanoes for making the earth I get to stand on. There isn't a word for how I feel about you today, that's why I'm trying to say it in 800 instead, and it still feels short. No, Hillary Clinton is not our president, and America voted for Trump in spite of (and in some cases because of) his treatment of women, but I'm writing this in some desperate attempt to make sure that you know it doesn't define your worth. That it doesn't define the worth of any woman or little girl who watched the states domino into the evening. I'm pretty sure you don't believe it does, because you are smarter and more resilient than that, but I also heard you crying in the kitchen last night. I'm sad that this is the new narrative of the 2016 election we will tell our son, but I'm so happy that he still gets to grow up watching you, learning from you, and realizing that when talking about his mom, "pride" just doesn't cut it. I love you, and not just because I'm in love with you.
Further Reading: Dear White Friends: Stop Saying Everything Is Going To Be Ok and Don't Panic.
Required Listening: What The F**k Just Happened You Guys!?.
Being a household name doesn't exactly make someone a role model.
Forget 'morale-boosters,' we'd rather have the money.
Trends among women trigger a level of contempt that's way beyond what is deserved.