Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Home Truths

This partial post is from last Wednesday:

This is a very tough day for me to write, but I feel I must.

The elections at home have taken place, and the result, while not wholly unexpected, is still shocking. After the Brexit meltdown, and what is happening in Europe with the rise of alt-right populist nationalism, as well as in India with Modi and and the Philippines with Duterte, the recent Colombian no vote, the writing was very clearly on the wall.

Jason came to wake me at 6 am on Wednesday morning.

"It's bad," he said. "It's really, really bad." 

"Really? You're kidding," I said dumbly.

"No," he said. "Come snuggle Eleanor."

I crawled into bed with our warm drowsy two-year-old and started reading my tiny blue screen. I felt sick.

The morning wore on. I took both the kids to school and walked back to our apartment, holding back tears, still runny-nosed from my recent bout with the sinuses and bronchitis.

At home, I cried for at least three hours. I thought of we women's lot. I picked up the house, folded and put away laundry, did the dishes. I straightened up the bathroom and the beds. I folded the towels and stacked them. I tend to get very OCD when upset, as though imposing order on the concrete world around me might help calm my stormy feelings and rampant anxiety. Sometimes, it does. Actually, it does help, almost always.

I considered the topic of unpaid labor and women. We do have significant help here, but she can't do it all for us. The margin falls to me to do, in any spare minute I have. This is also why it is good that I have rented office space in Piazza della Repubblica, to get out of that space of home chores when I need to buckle down and put in solid hours of focused work.

I thought of Clinton and how hard she worked, and how smart she is. I thought a lot about the fine print that a smart woman often fails to read when she marries a smart man, and throws her lot in with him, and then children come. I cried considering how my own professional career has shaken out, unevenly in some years, and how I have struggled with it for varying reasons.

I cried as I missed my working mama friends, who also have Very Smart Partners, and who helped me feel very supported when we were lucky enough to be in proximity.

I thought of all the frustrations I'd had in my career maybe weren't my fault after all. This made me even sadder as I saw clearly how much I had blamed myself for my perceived failures. Perhaps they were not failures at all, and certainly not personal failures. Rather they were possibly the result of my gender, and working, and later, certainly, being a parent - more specifically a mother, which in our culture is a far less desirable type of working parent. 

I thought some more of Clinton and how smart she is, and how hard she worked to be Good and Possibly Perfect. Bill is smart, but I think she is smarter. And how there is nothing she could have done to make this election turn out differently.

I read some more on Facebook, and made a few teary posts to this effect. That in the clear light of day, on November 9, I realized that women are not equal in the eyes of so many, and that this made me very, very sad.

Minutes later up popped a comment from a cousin who hails from the firmly conservative side of the family. Accusations and excessive punctuation. I was being Trumptrolled! I was shocked. This cousin had done this a handful of times since I had reluctantly friended her earlier this year, at the urging or another, cooler California cousin, haha. I won't even detail for you here the observable elements of the confused, angry hypocrisy. A life like hers would give me a lot of anger to displace too. She was angry and judgmental even when we were children, and although she is younger than I am by at least four or five years, she never missed an opportunity to look squarely at me and pronounce her judging, hateful words to me when no adults were in sight. My brothers were not on the receiving end of this, because she had clearly learned, at a very young age, to reserve and direct all moral judgement only toward other women. This is what they learn.

I couldn't breathe for a few minutes. Actually, like half an hour. I finally got so angry that I took down my Facebook profile after a brief farewell post. Certainly the aftermath of this election would not be helped by my newsfeed assault.

Facebook asked me for a reason why? I typed in, "So sick of this." I felt relief as I unyoked myself from that online den of polemic that has spiraled further and further out of control. It felt like a next healthy step since I had uninstalled the Facebook app from both my cell phones last week.

I stayed off Facebook for a week, and I am avoiding it now. It is too tender and too upsetting.

I wanted to post this partial piece though by way of background and in solidarity with my friends in the US who are struggling with this new reality too.

Is it too political? The political has become even more personal for women in America. Even if they don't realize it. Or if they do. Or if, like my cousin, they lash out at other women.

I am still trying to process all of this. I know you are too, if you are reading this. Where are you with it?

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