Forcefield

by jkatejohnston

9 November 2016

Dear Max,

This morning Enzo’s first words in the dark were, “Did Hillary win?”

I went into his bedroom and got under the covers. “No. She didn’t win. But it’s going to be all right.”

“Trump won? That is amazing.” We snuggled together.

“Yes, it is amazing.”

We lay there quietly for a while. Then he said, “Well, I said I was going to say it, and I’ll say it. Fuck.”

(On Monday Enzo asked Teresa, “If Trump wins, can I say the F-word?” And she said, “If Trump wins, we’ll all say the F-word.”)

“Fuck,” I said.

“I don’t understand how we can be the greatest military power in the world if over half the people in our country are so stupid.”

“They’re not stupid. They’re just wrong about this.”

Teresa came in, sleepy from bed, singing, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.” Then she said, “Don’t worry, B. We’ve had terrible presidents before. We’ve all just gotten used to having Obama, and we forgot what it’s like.”

“But how can there be so many bad people in America?”

“They’re not bad people,” she said, “Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean they’re bad.”

“But what about the wall?”

“He’s not going to build a wall. That was just a lot of talk to get people’s attention.”

Enzo’s playing Mine Craft now. Teresa took Colin for a walk. Pete and I are in the living room in the dark with a fire in the fireplace.

I hope, oh I hope, that Trump can just be a normal terrible President. But we haven’t been given much reason to hope that.

*

I’m at work but I’m on strike. (I’ll start working when the male attorneys get here, and I haven’t seen one yet.)

I called Beth, Danyelle, and Karen—my friends with daughters. Beth said that Lena is scared. Beth sent her off to school today for a field trip to the Hall of Justice—the most ironic field trip in history—and Lena was scared. Lena is what Donald Trump would call an anchor baby—born in the USA to an undocumented parent. Lena wouldn’t be a citizen if Trump had his way. And her straight arrow, tax-paying dad will probably get hunted down and deported.

Danyelle said that a few weeks ago, because of the crotch-grabber revelations, she talked to her daughter about sexual assault: she wanted to tell Marjane that if someone touches her without permission, she should tell them to go to hell. But she realized she couldn’t say that. Instead she told her that if someone touches her without permission, she should do whatever she has to do to make sure she’s safe. She had to tell her the truth—that standing up for herself might be dangerous. And the same for her son. Danyelle has had to tell him: If the cops mess with you because you’re black, you do what they say. Put your hands in the air and lie down on the ground. Don’t say, This is who I am. Just lie down. And it’s so demeaning. Teresa and I will never have to say those things to Enzo.

I felt a sort of glow of fellowship, talking to my pals, my dears. I felt miserable but all alive. We comforted each other.

(later, lunchtime)

This morning Teresa called a few times to check on me. She could tell I was in an unusual state of mind because I sent an email to Enzo’s entire class, calling out the dads for letting the women do all the work. So she called to see how I was, and I paced around my office telling her my plan never to be likable again. Fuck likable as the key criterion for female success. Isn’t that why Hillary lost? Because a man can be unlikable and succeed, it’s even an advantage. But a woman must find a way to be liked.)

Earlier, when I was riding my bike to work, plotting my future as a pissed-off feminist, I thought about Teresa. She never truckles. She doesn’t smile and accommodate and make sure everyone’s comfortable. I want to be like that. I’m going to surround myself with a forcefield of unused rage. I’m done pleasing.

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