I am not going to detail for you the extent of my disappointment with the election. It has a 2% chance of being interesting. I watched election results roll into the CNN trash compactor at a friend’s house, nested in queer hope, maybe a touch of excitement. We couldn’t believe how horribly things appeared to be going, and when my adrenalin gave out after weeks of sustaining a painful, fluttering panic, I went home. I moved dejectedly through the house, knowing there was no reason Kristina should care for me, when she just as likely needed care. I experimented with a lite catatonia. I thought that was interesting, in a Julianne Moore in “Safe” way. At least my distress had a cinematic quality.
To describe awakening to the fact that I am invested in government on all levels (local, state, national) seems like tedium without reward (unlike, say, nursing my neighbor’s Epiphyllums back to health over the course of a year and watching them bloom their heads off, describing how I realized that legislators in all arms of government affect me and people I care about would reward me with your CLOSED TABS).
I didn’t really cry that night though I felt my tears in my chest. I thought about texting my Republican dad, and I made plans to never speak to him again if he voted for Trump. I decided my dad had always been a devout misogynist, despite all the gifts of strength and resilience he gave me. I thought about him dying, and how daughters so often are charged with mourning complicated assholes both in their lives and deaths. I thought about how I would handle the realization that I was supposed to have: that I had been too harsh, that I had skipped learning to embrace a fraught relationship with my dad in favor of easy and sweeping actions that provided absolute answers. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with booting family permanently out of your life. A lot of them are genuinely terrible people, and I/you didn’t choose them. Fuck ’em.
I wrestled with asking my dad a question I couldn’t decide if I wanted answered. I was waiting for the Flyaway bus at Union Station yesterday and texted him: Did your candidate win? He responded soon after No, but that neither of them qualified as his candidate. That statement alone enraged me, that a highly experienced and passionate woman didn’t “qualify,” but I possessed in that moment the magical evolution that invariably falls on the abused ever-before the abuser: maturity. I didn’t say anything dickish. I just said, “Remember when I was sexually harassed in junior high?”
He didn’t remember. My mom never told him. We lived an hour south of him in a small town called Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. It would be easy for him not to know.
The vice principal at my junior high, Mr. Sackett (Pat Sackett?) sexually harassed me and several other girls in my junior high. He would stop me in the hallway when I was alone, walking to the bathroom or running to my locker during class (must have been bathroom, I don’t think we were allowed to run to our lockers? I’m just trying to imagine how the hell he found me going to the bathroom on so many occasions.). He always said, “You know you’re really beautiful, right?” and I felt terrible, grossed out, trapped. So I thanked him, because that’s what you do when someone compliments you. COOL MEMORY, BRAIN. Cool runnings, Sackett.
When I reported Mr. Sackett, along with the two other girls who were willing to come forward, we were met with disgust and disbelief. Toward us. I had teachers who would no longer speak to me in class. Who called me out for leading a “witch hunt” (exact words used). I was publicly ridiculed by Mr. Bemis, who I think taught Science. I was then called into the police station to be questioned. I sat in a chair, which I remember as a desk chair on wheels. I had been in the building before because my best friend Allyson’s dad worked there (in another city capacity, not a cop) and would let us practice our dance routines in the basement. In the police office, I sat in that chair and was surrounded by towering, large men who were standing. I found out later they were all friends with Mr. Sackett. They tried to call me a liar, tried to find holes in my story, drilled me and tried to make me recant my report. I would not. Ultimately Mr. Sackett was asked to leave our junior high, and he found a job as vice-principal of a Catholic girls’ school about an hour away.
I texted this story to my dad. He was shocked. I think we had the single most bonding conversation of our lives. He told me I was “SMART, FUNNEY, TALENTED” in all caps. He’s a great speller so I don’t know why “funny” was misspelled. He said he was stunned by my story, and that it sounded like there was more at stake than just two candidates who would invariably pass from our lives in 4-8 years. I chose not to go into the fact that most people are not white men like him and this election affects us specifically. (Real big slap to the boobs, all you white ladies who voted for the Repub candidate.)
I could have told countless stories to my dad to try and show him how much this election meant to so many of us. I went for the most personal for obvious reasons: I thought he was most likely to care. I certainly hope he cares about racism, Islamophobia, immigration (I am 3rd generation American and feel very connected to our family’s immigrant narrative. I think so often of my great-grandfather’s work laying railroad ties so he could support TEN KIDS after his wife died of breast cancer.), and sexism. Homophobia. And everything else that ensures safe, thriving, healthful lives for all.
I thanked my dad for the fortitude he gave me. I told him how often I think of his lessons in persistence and pursuing what you know in your gut is right, no matter what people think of you. You take the long road if that’s the right way to get where you’re going.
This conversation was the first blessing after that horrific election.
To be continued.