Tickled pink

sister sign.jpg

Truth.

Would you like almonds or pistachios?

When you overhear a question like that, you know you are most likely in the company of women. And that’s exactly where I found myself at 3 AM last Saturday morning – on a bus with 49 other nasty women headed to the Women’s March on Washington.

I love women. We are nesters and that was ever so evident as I watched folks getting on our bus. Everyone carried at least two bags or a tote and a cooler. We brought pillows and blankets and enough food and water to last until Valentine’s Day. There was no room in the overhead bins. And this was a day trip.

Protesting requires protein and a lot of chocolate and we were prepared. I imagined the same scenario if it had been a bus of all men and I giggled out loud. I asked my seat mate and best friend Carla what her husband would have brought for the trip. She laughed and said, “His wallet.”

Irony never ceases to amuse me.

I initially had no intention of being on this bus. I was absolutely gutted by Hillary Clinton’s defeat (See Electoral College flunks out) and marching felt futile. And then the slow drip of disturbing post-election information came out – FBI Director Comey’s overreach, the verification of Russian interference and a general array of suspicious shenanigans.

In short, I got mad as hell and decided I needed to go to the march to rant and rave.

Cue the irony. I did go but I did not march and I did not rant. Instead, I stood in place, literally, with 500,000 of my new best friends at the biggest, most gentle block party protest in our nation’s history.

I’ll return to irony in a bit but let me go back to the bus for now. Carla was on board for the march from day one and only had second thoughts on inauguration day when she saw some scenes of windows being broken in DC. She called me on her lunch hour and in an only half kidding voice said, “I’m scared.”

I told her not to worry because this was a march for women organized by women and that it would be peaceful. Turns out I was more right than I had imagined. I just love it when that happens. DC police reported not one*arrest on Saturday. *not an alternative fact

When Carla spotted me on the bus on Saturday she practically squealed with delight and we hugged like two 13 year-olds away from our parents for a groovy field trip. I love Carla’s enthusiasm for everything – life, love and food. And she brought some good food. Breakfast was butternut squash pancakes with almond butter. The men’s bus would have had Pop-Tarts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

We sat behind my dear friends Lori and Sue. They are globetrotters and are the kind of travel partners you want – easy going, fun and resourceful. And they are really good with directions – the kind of couple who would do really well on The Amazing Race.

The only drag about a bus full of women is that when you make a stop for the rest room well, you’re going to be there a while. And we were – but it was okay because almost everyone else in line was heading to the same place we were. And everyone was surprisingly cheerful and energetic for 5 AM. We were nasty women on a mission.

We went from bus to Metro train as we headed to L’Enfant Plaza and the start of the march. Saturday was the second largest recorded ridership in Metro history – over a million trips, second only to Barrack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. I found myself nostril to nostril with a lovely woman from Canada. She was in her mid-60’s and told me she and her husband had come down from Toronto on Thursday to be a part of the march. I was humbled by how much she knew about US politics. I thanked her for coming and she said, quite solemnly, “What happens in your country affects the whole world.”

O Canada.

metro

Only one way to go.

One of the most moving moments of the day was when we reached our final destination, riding the long escalator up to ground level and turning to see the sea of humanity. It was breathtaking and I forgot all about the fact that I wouldn’t pee again for seven hours. Democracy requires some sacrifice.

Back to irony. We didn’t march because no one really did. There simply was no room. There was one point early on in the day when we tried to get close to a monitor to watch the celebrity speakers that we literally could not move – not even a toe. That’s when Carla popped one of the Xanax she had brought for the trip. It was a good call and she probably could have gotten big bucks for the other two she had in her pocket.

Sidebar: Carla was the best march buddy. She brought two of everything – one for her, one for me. Peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, granola bars and fingerless gloves. We were on the Protest Ark.

march-group

I’ve got all my sisters with me. Me, Hillary, Carla, Lori, Sydney and Sue. (Left to right.)

So we gave up on getting close to the main stage and slinked our way back to an area that was a wee bit more open. We looked like kindergarteners crossing the street in a rope line – we held hands and went single file. Our pixie friend Sydney was with us and she makes Hobbits look tall so we really had to keep a close handle on her. It was actually kind of sweet – most folks were ambulating this way – holding on to each other for dear life.

Yes, that was a metaphor – literally and figuratively.

Pinkapalooza, there were posses of pussyhats! Everyone was wearing them – women, for sure, but lots of men and lots of children. Oh my God, there were baby pussyhats!  Sadly, I had several offers from friends to make me one but my head is bigger than Oprah’s – true story – and I would have looked like I was wearing a pink duffel bag on my head.

I know there has been a lot of negative chatter about the pussyhats and the conversational use of the word ‘pussy’. Really? I mean, really? For some reason I keep hearing Billy Joel in my head.

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it

Nope. You don’t get to play the role of the offended because women are now wielding the same words that the president has used. I will take it upon myself to speak for the Nasty Nation and say, “We ain’t got time for that.”

The Pussyhat Project began in Los Angeles shortly after Trump’s victory when two friends decided that women needed a platform to make their voices heard. As Jayna Zweiman, one of the women behind the project explained, “It’s reappropriating the word ‘pussy’ in a positive way. It’s a pussyhat – one word. This is a project about women supporting women.”

aerial-view

An aerial view of the march. That’s a lot of pussyhats.

The impact of the hats was even greater when I saw the amazing aerial views the next day when I watched clips from the march online. We grabbed back and it was spectacular!

To compensate for no pussyhat, I brought along my “pocket” Hillary – the pantsuited action figure my sister gave me for my birthday last August. She was my constant companion for the weeks leading up to the election. I took her everywhere – out to dinner, to the Chicago Marathon, you name it. And I couldn’t bear to pack her away after the election – I even put her out with my collection of Santas for Christmas.

pocket-hillary

I’m still with her.

There was no way in hell I was going to that march without Hillary. I tucked her in my shirt pocket and I can’t tell you how many people noticed her and even asked to take a picture with her. In the mob at our first stop, I didn’t realize that she had fallen out of my pocket. A young African-American woman leaned into me and said sweetly, “You dropped your Hillary.” That was the kind of day it was. People just being kind to each other.

So we never really heard the A list speakers but we did get to take in all of the fantastic signs. They were so freaking clever! I really do hope that someone puts together a coffee table book of some of the signs as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. I would buy one in a hot minute. And I was thrilled to read the other day that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History sent curatorial teams out to collect signs and art post-march in Washington.

I’m not going to lie to you – there were a lot of vagina signs. Wow. Some people are really good artists and/or gynecologists. “I am not Ovary-reacting” and “Viva la Vulva” were a couple of my favorites in this genre. There were numerous tributes to Hillary which I found quite touching. And there were many just flat-out hilarious signs like “Melania, Blink Twice if You Need Help” and “We Shall Overcomb”.

In short, the signs were as unique and diverse as all the beautiful people who were there.

pussy-poster

The message was delivered. Loud and clear.

patriarchy

That about covers it.

viva-la-vulva

That’s what she said.

hillary-poster

Hillary was everywhere.

I think I was most moved by the number of older women I saw at the march. Women in their late 70s and even older. These women thought that they would finally see a woman elected president in their lifetime. Their dream dashed, they came out to be heard and seen. And I’m here to tell you – attending a big march like that is not easy. It’s not like a cocktail party where you can just drop in for an hour or so. There is no drive by democracy. Our group was on a bus for 12 hours, on our feet for about seven and oh yeah, the not peeing thing. It’s not a day to be comfortable and that’s the point.

old-ladies

Mad props to these goddesses.

Anyway, I wanted to gently pet each and every one of these wise owls as they passed by me.

Cell service was obliterated by the massive usage so we were out of the loop with what was happening all around the country and the world. When we made it back to our metro stop for our bus pickup, we were all on our phones looking at the marches in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, New Zealand and are you kidding me Antarctica? I had no idea that this would be a global day of protest and that’s when it hit me – the world is watching. 

fairbanks

Women’s March, Frozen Edition. Fairbanks, Alaska.

Oh, and I never got to rant either. I was too damn happy and exhilarated to be with so many good folks. It was the best I had felt since November 8th and I left DC with a big basket of hope.

hope

Do you hear the people sing?

The bus ride home was very quiet. We were nasty tired. Carla slept for a good bit of the trip, her head resting on my shoulder. I’m old enough to be her mother but she never makes me feel that way. She is a thoroughly modern and independent woman and this was her first real foray into political protest. I know it won’t be her last and it was very special to share the day with her.

I couldn’t sleep and I really didn’t want to. I love the odd but gentle intimacy of being with strangers at a time they are usually home in bed sleeping. There is a vulnerability in the darkness that is almost palpable. I heard breathing and snoring and a few whispered conversations. I felt like the night watchwoman, protective of these women, many of whom I had never met until this march. I wanted them to remain well long after this day was done.

I’ve always taken comfort in the adage “safety in numbers” and if that hypothesis holds true, judging by last Saturday, we’re going to be okay.

You can bet your sweet pussyhat on it.

 

baby-marcher

The future is female.

 

bus-group-photo

My badass bus mates. We’ve still got a lot of fight left in us!

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Shit just got real

black-lives

 

Maybe there’s a God above

But all I’ve learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who out drew ya

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

~ Lyrics from Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen died yesterday and this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year continues.

Funny. I thought losing my job would be the worst thing that happened this year.

Not even close. Losing my country is a hell of lot worse.

I thought Wednesday morning would be my low point but just like all those worthless tracking polls, I seriously miscalculated. Yesterday was worse. Reality is setting in. President-elect Trump.

I have tried to avoid all television (thank you Baby Jesus for Netflix) – even MSNBC, that bastion of liberal news. Nope. I can’t even take Rachel Maddow. It’s too much like looking in the mirror – I can see the pain on her face. I know I should avoid social media, too, but it is comforting to mourn with others. I know there has been a lot of hate chatter on Facebook but I weeded my FB garden of most of that so my feed is mostly filled with folks who feel an awful lot like me these days. In other words, awful.

Get over it. Move on. I hear you but I’m not there yet. Not even close. This wasn’t like my favorite team losing the big game or not getting the house I put an offer on. This was a rejection of almost everything I’ve spent most of my adult life working for – equality – for women, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities – you get it, people.

Yesterday there were several disturbing stories circulating on mainstream and social media about post-election bullying and intimidation that seemed to be empowered by Trump’s election. Students in a middle school in Detroit chanted “Build the wall” to Latino students who were seen crying. Some of these incidents cut close to home. In Durham, a wall was spray painted “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Votes.” The Ku Klux Kan announced a Trump victory parade in Pelham, near the Virginia border. And very near my home in Winston-Salem, a lesbian couple with children came home to find a sign on their door that said, “Lesbian Bitches You Are Sick Get Out Of Our Neighborhood – Trump Train.”

lesbian-sign

A sign of the times.

So this wasn’t from some “libtard” website – this really happened to people I really know.

And just an hour ago my sister told me that one of her oldest friends, a woman who grew up right next door to us in our little hometown of Harrisonburg, Virginia, was riding her bike this morning on a path in Boston when a man wearing a Make America Great Sign and holding a bullhorn pulled right in front of her and screamed in the bullhorn: Have you read Hillary’s emails? She almost fell off her bike. This happened today in Boston. Boston! Not Podunk, USA.

So forgive me if I’m not ready to move on just yet. On Tuesday, our nation empowered this dangerous extremist behavior by electing a man who ran on a platform of misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and racism. No one should be surprised or shocked.  What we saw during the campaign is exactly what we are getting in this new America.

Is this the change some of you were looking for? Not so great if you ask me. And sadly, anyone who is “different than” may pay dearly for any of your buyer’s remorse. (See moral bankruptcy.)

I’m not naïve enough to think that if Hillary had been elected everything would be sunshine and roses in America today. No, it would probably be even more dangerous had she won since Trump had already planted the seeds for a contested election. It’s irrelevant anyway because this toxic genie was let out of the bottle when  Republican voters made him their nominee for the most powerful office in the land.

There have been some really well written pieces about post-election grieving but I came across one of the best on The Huffington Post website yesterday – I am Sitting Shiva for America written by Vanessa Zoltan, a chaplain at Harvard University.  Shiva is the Jewish practice of grief. It is a seven-day mourning period where family members gather in one home to receive visitors. Zoltan is sitting shiva for a lot of beliefs that died in the wee early hours of Wednesday.

You can read her blog here but here’s a bit of it:

shiva

We’re going to need more than seven days, folks.

I will take action. And man oh man, will I. But for a week I am going to wear my, “Nasty Woman” shirt because while sitting shiva you are not supposed to change your clothes. And for this week I am going to refuse— patently refuse hope. Hope (for me. I am only speaking for myself) this early will be a denial of all that has been lost. Hope this early will be because it’s easier than being mad and reckoning with all that is lost (hope for environmental policy reform, peace for millions of my fellow-countrymen who now fear being deported, what I believed the American experiment stood for, friendships that I can no longer take seriously because of their vote, and on and on).

I wish I could sit with her.

I did sort of sit shiva yesterday with a dear friend from Israel. She’s been an American citizen for about 10 years and voted for Obama twice and was a Hillary supporter. She’s my age but she’s always had a very maternal aura with me – loving and nurturing.  She’s a mother and a grandmother and she’s my Jewish sister/mother. She knew I was hurting and she took both of my hands in hers and looked me straight in the eyes and said, in her marvelous accent, “Everything will be okay.” And when we said goodbye, she said she was going to kiss me like her mother used to kiss her – a series of very rapid pecks on the check. She smothered me with those kisses and told me she loved me.

And it was the safest I have felt since early Wednesday morning.

On my drive back home from seeing her – about 40 minutes in the car – my phone “pinged’’ several times – notifications of messages coming in. (Chill, I did not text and drive.) I often listen to MSNBC in the car on my XM radio but since that’s radioactive now, I turned to old faithful – NPR. Don’t you know they were doing a story on the election. I’m glad I didn’t shut it off immediately because it was an interesting piece about a couple in Massachusetts. The wife is an attorney who voted for Hillary and the husband is a fireman who voted for Trump. They, like most of America, are trying to find some peace in all of this carnage. They didn’t have any pearls of wisdom to share and honestly, at one point, it sounded like the wife wanted to sock the husband. Anyway, it made me feel less lonely for a few minutes.

When I got home I looked at my phone. I had a FB inbox message from one of my dearest friends in the world – a gay man who I have loved for 20 years. We have the most wonderful “odd couple” relationship and we’ve always said that if we weren’t both gay, we would have made a great couple. We both are yellow dog Democrats who love sports and sarcasm. Yep, we’re a match made in Provincetown. Anyway, he has been beyond inconsolable this week and thought getting together for dinner would be good medicine for us all. Only he said it in his uniquely charming way that seems to almost always make me laugh and tear up at the same time. He wrote, “I love you so much and this shit show is reminding me to take stock of the things in my life that are important and you are high on that list.”

jeff-and-addy

My gay husband, Jeff.

Now you see why I adore him. And he’s right – it’s time to be with people who nurture and restore us.

 

The next FB inbox message was from a friend who is a young mother of two pretty fantastic daughters. She always takes her girls to vote with her and they were all super excited about the historical prospect of voting for the first woman president this year. When she told her girls on Wednesday morning that Hillary lost, they both cried. Her youngest daughter then immediately asked her about marriage equality. I told you these girls are fantastic.

“Will the marriages for everyone stop, Mommy?” Gulp. Then this little supershero said, “If they do, I will make beautiful art and I will give people marriages.” Sign me up.

My friend shared all of this with me to reassure me that as she said “love seeds are planted everywhere and our family plans on increasing the active ways we love others.” Gee, I wonder why those girls are so fantastic. (Their dad is pretty great, too.) She closed her message with some words that actually penetrated the veil of despair that I have been wearing since early Wednesday morning. She wrote, “You are loved. We will stand by you.”

Maybe all the hallelujahs aren’t broken. I’m clinging to them today.

 

chowning-girls

These two make me feel less scared for my country’s future. And they may officiate my next wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margin call

napkin

Getting my steps in today.

“If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes.” The Paris Review, November 9, 2016 

It has been almost 12 hours since America elected it’s 45th president and I can still barely move. It is almost 3 in the afternoon and I haven’t yet brushed my teeth. I haven’t been outside but beyond my window, I hear dogs barking, the banging of trash cans, moving cars – just the normal sounds of life.

But today is anything but normal. I am 60 years old and I have a gut full of despair and fear unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I hate my state and I no longer recognize the country I live in. Breaking News: Love doesn’t Trump hate in the Electoral College.

Spare me your cheerful memes and posts about moving on and the sun coming out tomorrow. It is tomorrow in an America I no longer feel safe in. I am a liberal gay woman and if I were a stock account, there would be a margin call on me today.

I went to bed around 1:30 or so last night before the race was called. I took an Advil PM that didn’t seem to dent my emotional vertigo. I got up when my wife’s alarm went off and went out to sit on the couch in my living room. I did not turn the TV on. I was almost catatonic.

My best friend called me shortly after my wife left for work. I wasn’t going to answer. I didn’t think I could make words but her picture came up on my iPhone and I could not ignore her sweet face. I think I said hello but it didn’t really matter. We both just cried softly. That was pretty much our entire conversation.

carla-phone

Gotta pick up.

She did manage to make me smile for the first time in many hours when she said, “On the third ring, I thought you weren’t going to answer.” She knows me well.

Then I watched Hillary’s concession speech. When she came out on the stage and her staff and friends in the room stood and applauded loudly, I did, too. Right there in my living room in my pajamas. And I cried. Hard. I cried for Hillary because she’s too strong to cry for herself – at least in public. And I cried for myself and all the dreams I had wrapped up in this moment. I cried for Pearl, my 90-year-old friend who was certain that she had lived long enough to see the first woman become president of the United States. And I cried for all my friends who are mothers with young children who have to try to explain how this happened to their sons and most especially, their daughters.

lennie-and-pearl-hillary-pic

Lennie (left) and her wife Pearl have seen – and made – a lot of history in their 50 plus years together.

I surely don’t have a clue. I can’t even make any sense of it myself.

My friend Susan is a columnist for my local paper and the mother of two daughters. She wrote a brilliant piece in today’s paper, What do you tell your daughter today.

Susan’s 15-year-old daughter felt worried that some of her rights would be taken away by the new president whose track record with women is well, disgusting.. She said she would tell her daughter that “women still have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same status” and that she may be called “shrill,” or “bitchy” for wielding power in the same way men do. And she said, and this is the best part, “I will tell her to do it anyway, boldly and unapologetically.” My friend Susan is one beautifully Nasty Woman.

Facebook has been like a wailing wall today and it’s good to mourn in public with others. Words like “gutted” and “unmoored” and “devastated”  appeared in a lot of posts. There have been those on the other side, too, but it has been so empowering to use the “unfriend” feature today. It’s rather silly anyway to think that I could actually be “friends” with someone who voted for such a rude misogynist – a rude misogynist who BRAGS about being a rude misogynist.

I suppose we will never bridge the great divides in our country if we don’t actually ever sit down and talk to folks on the other side but I’m simply not in the mood for diplomacy today. I deleted a handful of friends from high school –most of whom never left the small town we grew up in. Maybe they never met a Muslim or a black person or a person with a disability –or a gay person except for me. Maybe they simply don’t care. I just know I have to tend to me right now before I set out to fight another day and reading their negative commentary is not helpful.

I have heard from lots of friends through FB, text and email. And my dear sister who is 3,000 miles away has tried through sheer force of will to take some of my pain away. She is hurting, too, but her empathy for me has been palpable. Her love for me is bigly.

Perspective is everything and a dear friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer gave me a good dose of it. She texted me a Bible verse someone had sent her today. I’m Episcopalian and not so up on the Bible but this passage from 1 Peter 5:8-9 was right on time:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

I certainly felt that collective suffering today and I was grateful to grieve with my family of believers – people who know what Hillary told us today  – “to never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

hillary-tv

I will always be with her.

But I still want to rant and weep and scream to the heavens. I want it to be okay and I know that it won’t be for a very long time. And I know I have to just be uncomfortable with that.

My wife just texted me that she was picking up comfort food for dinner – for us, that means Mongolian tofu. Yes, we’re elite liberals. And we’ll have some wine on a school night and we will watch a relaxing Netflix series about a serial killer being chased by Gillian Anderson.

Suddenly, I feel better already.

As my friend Chris said so succinctly this afternoon, “I know I will move forward, just not the fuck today.”

alice-and-ann

I won’t stop believing that young Alice and her mom Ann will see that glass ceiling break.