Women and the 2020 Election

I chafe when my female Democrat friend’s shudder as November 3rd draws closer. The shiver begins at the base of their spines and travels upward until they squinch their eyes closed, viscerally opposed to my optimism, “I feel good about this, both Biden and the Senate.”

Then they squeeze out a whimpering, “It’s the PTSD, I just can’t… I cannot trust it.”  

 And I get it.  

I didn’t anticipate a country of women weighed down by PTSD in the fall of 2016. As that Halloween approached, I played a game of How does one address a former President who’s now the First Man? Election night would be an early one, as Washington readied itself to transition to the first female Presidency. I was chipper in October 2016 until unwelcome notes of despair began to sing late on Halloween night. 

Earlier that evening I slipped on the men’s trousers I found at Good Will. The waist didn’t taper, and the pants hung on my hips without a tug. The flaws of my middle-aged body disappeared, no worry of the middle section, or buttocks, or designers who didn’t predict that the skinny jean would have the opposite effect.

The white men’s dress shirt felt clean and crisp against my skin, and the tweed vest gave me a hint of waist. The blazer slid on; its silken lining like a feminine secret stashed in a man’s jacket. 

The makeup was imprecise, white base, and smokey grays to evoke silent films, and black liner smudged around the lids to capture Charlie Chaplin’s forlorn innocence. Rather than tweezing eyebrows into submission, Chaplin’s face called for volume; more hair, not less, including a small, square patch of mustache.

I slid into barely worn black oxfords. They were the most comfortable shoes I had ever worn. Is it any wonder Cinderella lost that glass slipper?

I grabbed my bamboo cane and bowler hat and headed to the party.

Under a moonlit sky, in a barn in the Northwest Hills of Connecticut, I shimmied all night to the old-man boy band on a scratchy wooden floor. The oxfords never squeezed my toes, and I gave no thought to my imperfect face or aging body. It occurred to me, as I said goodnight… It’s a man’s world, baby!

Or it would be until Tuesday when The United States would elect its first female President.

I drove the windy backroads home, and sang along to my R&B playlist, turning up the volume when Aretha began, What you want, baby I got it…

When I reached the main drag, my eyes caught the bumper sticker on the souped-up truck in front of me. It read, Trump That Bitch                                         

My Chaplin glow dimmed.

Three days later, by the soft glow of the television, on a night that remains surreal in memory, Florida and North Carolina went for Trump. It wasn’t quite midnight, but I knew the deal was done.

A day begun with confidence drained me incrementally as each swing state was called. I clicked off the TV and sunk into my pillow. Trump won, and the peacefulness I’d mastered over a lifetime of starts and stops began to discharge like the drip of an IV: plop, plop, plop.

I expended enormous energy debating, phone-banking, canvassing, and working the polls since Trump seized the Presidency. This relentless, chaotic presidential term has not been without sanguine moments. The 2018 midterm Congressional elections were a cold compress for the bruises of Trumpian outrageousness.

New energy rose in me as we celebrated the arrival of passionate young women who could stand toe to toe across from the pumped-up smugness of Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and Doug Collins; the Republican version of fraternity row. The far-right frothed at the sight of Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar climbing the steps of the Capital. Somewhere in the vast landscape of America, young woman leaned in, finally connecting to an institution that had eluded them.

Most of them put their activist energy behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. In its earliest iteration, the Democratic presidential race looked positively progressive. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the nomination. With southern African Americans leading the way,  the Democratic party nominated a familiar somebody, the antithesis of the carnival barker who occupied the White House. 

Sometime this fall, Joe Biden’s candidacy quelled my 2016 PTSD. The Democrats chose calm.

My traumatized peers still need a little cajoling.

I looked into the skittish eyes of Peg and offered, “Hush, can you hear what I hear?” I urged her to listen to the distant thunder of the Doc Martin soled feet of my gen-z daughter, Grace, and her friends as they run to cast early ballots in Colorado. After President Trump bullied through the first presidential debate, Grace watched a town hall where old Joe talked about climate change as an existential threat. My daughter noticed and called me to applaud his green energy focused infrastructure plan.

I offered another friend the elixir of whispers from a Republican woman I know who asked me if I watched the Amy Coney Barrett hearings. I did.

Conservative women, who might not like high taxes or stubbornly refuse to worry about climate change, do remember girls who skulked away to hide a pregnancy or put themselves in harm’s way to get illegal abortions. Roe v. Wade and the protections it offers matters to women. Several Republican women in my neighborhood have said a variation of this to me, “Ginsberg’s death was so sad. I’m not happy about this Supreme Court nomination being rushed. It doesn’t seem right.”

I know they mean a stacked Supreme Court is a bridge too far. They have daughters and granddaughter whom they love, and their whispers suggest this President doesn’t understand how many of them are lacing up their New Balance sneakers and sprinting to the ballot drop-off box outside their town hall. They’ve finally found their gumption, and while they might stay mum in front of their Republican husbands, the noise of the virtual voting levers being pulled for Biden/Harris calms me.

Any lingering effects of PTSD ungripped me during the Vice-Presidential debate. I wondered if the President could hear the march of women racing away from him. Was Trump resting or too hopped up on steroids as one last group of unsure ladies sprinted to get across the line? Did the three-inch heels and Frye boots make noise across the asphalt, or did Typhoid Donald pump his weakened fist while the sycophantic cigarette in a suit droned on? 

the finish line. 

Vice President Pence practiced creepily polite interruptions, redirections, and obfuscations while soft-shoeing condescension. It might work with Mother Pence, but not with Mamala, who pushed back several times, “I will not be lectured.” I could nearly feel a national communal female smile. Unless the President’s concoction of COVID medications rendered him entirely hallucinatory, I think he might have heard the final drumbeat of Ked’s, Manolo Blahnik’s, and Dave Madden’s beating a path to the Democratic tent. The Stampede didn’t begin that night, but the final stragglers crossed the finish line.

No worries, my friends who still tremble at the mention of a Biden lead in Wisconsin. It will be women who will draw up the final eviction notice for Donald J. Trump. I’d bet my healed nerves on it.

From The Sublime To The …


Joanne and I made a stop at My Wednesday Place en route to an epic Halloween Party several weekends ago.  We wanted to share our transformation with our bartender friend.  The mustache was the only sticking point. The damn thing just wouldn’t stay stuck.  When Alan made us laugh, it popped out of place.  That wouldn’t do, I planned to laugh all night.

“You two should paint mustaches on.  Do you have the eyeliner?”  This suggestion came after he made a valiant attempt to wrestle square patches of Scotch tape on the fake mustaches without success.

Eyeliner?   Eureka!  Joanne and I hastened to the bathroom and voila:  Two Charlie Chaplin’s replete with bamboo canes, bowler hats and unfettered by ill-fitting mustaches.

Earlier that evening, in the privacy of my bedroom, I slipped on the impossibly comfortable trousers I had found at Good Will; men’s trousers, of course.  What a revelation!  The waist did not taper and the pants hung on my hips without a tug.  The flaws of a middle-aged woman’s body disappear in trousers, no worry of middle section, or buttocks, or designers who try to convince you that you’re never too old for the skinny jean. Katherine Hepburn and Diane Keaton knew the secret of men-style trousers!

The white, cotton, men’s dress shirt felt clean and crisp on my skin, and the tweed vest, when buttoned,  gave me a hint of waist and bound my ample chest. No concerns tonight that a breast might peak out of a cup just because I danced. The blazer topped it all and slid on, its’silken lining a feminine secret stashed in a man’s jacket. Who knew?

Next came the shoes. When you select a transgender costume, the shoes are tricky business.  For $10, I found the perfect pair of barely worn size 8 ½  oxford tie black shoes.  Here’s a secret – with the exception of flip-flops they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.  No wonder Cinderella lost that glass slipper. You could dance all night in men’s oxfords.

The makeup was imprecise, white base and smokey grays to evoke silent films and black liner, smudged around the lids to accentuate Chaplin’s forlorn innocence.  Rather than tweeze eyebrows into submission, Chaplin’s face called for us to add volume.  What a concept,  more hair, not less!

My night as Chaplin was pure delight. I danced often and my stride away from the band was downright jaunty! My feet never tired and the oxfords did not squeeze my toes. I gave no thought to my imperfect face or aging body.  It occurred to me, as I said goodnight to a wonderful evening, that, well… It’s a man’s world, baby!

Tuesday, we elected a new President.  Two elections ago, I supported Barack Obama.  I was taken with his countenance, soaring rhetoric and, yes, his hopeful vision for this country.  He has been imperfect, but I still believe he is a good man.  History will ultimately weigh in on his tenure.  I am old enough to know that snap judgments on a Presidency are pure folly.  The dust needs to settle before the history books are written.

I did vote for Hillary Clinton last Tuesday.

The day after the Halloween party, I saw a bumper sticker on a car in my hometown.

It read:  “Trump That Bitch.”

It stole my Chaplin afterglow

That following morning I was dismayed when a news commentator suggested this,  “If Hillary could just find that person in her, who got teary in New Hampshire in 2008….”

He trailed off.

“Well,”  he went on,”Her popularity soared after that.” 

Suddenly, my Ralph Lauren boots felt tighter.

I happen to come from a curious background which foils the political divide in this country. I was adopted at 6-months-old, and my Irish Catholic father was a dyed-in-the-wool Eisenhower Republican.  He loved Ronald Reagan and disdained anything Kennedy. He was a World War II veteran with racist tendencies, saved mostly for Asians.  He was a product of his time, having served in China and never forgot Pearl Harbor.  At his funeral, there were a surprising number of people of color.  My father calibrated over his lifetime.  He was not perfect, but he evolved.

Of this I am certain; he believed that I could accomplish anything.  My father saw no glass ceiling for his daughter. He was a Republican and I loved him.  He was a gentleman who respected women. At his funeral, I gave a eulogy.  It ended thus;  I will miss my greatest cheerleader.

Uncle Bobby, as well, eschewed liberalism and clung to Fox News.  He knew I was a Democrat, but approached our differences with respect.  He watched this presidential nomination cycle with great interest in the last year of his life.  He didn’t much like Hillary Clinton, but never spoke of her with disdain.  For a time, he liked Ben Carson, and then “That Kasich fella seems good.”  He said this of Donald Trump, “Oh, him? He’s a clown.” Then, he leaned forward and whispered, “He’s a cuss.”  Uncle Bobby found our President-elect distasteful. 

In my fifties. I have come to know misogyny more intimately, though its forms are as amorphous to me as Chaplin’s makeup and as stealthy as his fluid movements.

Misogyny: Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

It can be hard to recognize. Sometimes it comes at you like a lamb, all soft and needy of nurturing, until you realize the giving is a one-way street.  When the jig is up, it moves on without compunction, like a parasite that has depleted its host.

Sometimes it comes as a labrador; a pal, a punch in the arm which anoints you as “one of the guys”.   Sometimes you get to hear the “locker room” talk, but be careful not to disapprove. With a wink and a smile, you might be reminded not to be too sensitive.   

In this Presidential election, misogyny came out like a tiger.  It was so obvious, it was nearly unbelievable.

It appears a lot of folks just don’t like Hillary Clinton or believe that she is  a “crook.” How  I wish I had not been so complacent before the elections.  I would have helped some folks out with a simple google search, and they could have unearthed in print and on video the President-elect’s quotes about women.  I would have told anyone who might listen to insert the name of their daughter,  wife,  mother, sister, or female friend.

If our African American President had said any of these things about women, I am sure he would never have been elected.  If Hillary Clinton had uttered the same kind of pejoratives against men I am certain she would not have been the Democratic Nominee.

My friends who voted for Mr. Trump are quick to tell me to relax, that this not a big deal. They tell me that it’s politics, a political divide between us, or that this is about the economy or a need for change. They tell me that he won’t be like that as President?  It’s just Donald, you know?  As though he is some irascible character in a prime time sitcom who just doesn’t have a darn edit button.

In 2016, I guess we still believe that boys will be boys.

They go round and round and round about emails and home servers in basements, and when they can’t quite drum up a character issue there, they pull out the big guns: Bill Clinton. It appears the  President-elect doesn’t have to take one iota of responsibility for his history of abhorrent behavior toward women. In stark contrast, Hillary Clinton has to be responsible, ad infinitum, for her husband’s egregious mistakes, for which he was impeached nearly 20 years ago.  She must be exhausted.

President-elect Trump now gets his chance. I love Democracy and everyone’s right to support whomever they choose.   I have not once protested the election of a Republican President, and I won’t protest this one.  

In the meantime, won’t you help me explain to my very strong, independent, opinionated 17-year-old daughter, why misogyny just didn’t seem to matter in this Presidential election? Let her know that respect for her gender isn’t part of the litmus test in Presidential elections.  Boys will be boys, you know.  Just a fact of life here in the United States of America. 

Life felt lighter to me just weeks ago, on a crisp, clear Halloween weekend.  I’ll find it again I am sure.  In the meantime, be patient with me while I try to wrap my head around a great disappointment.

My Immigrant Experience…


It’s not my thing to take on the topical.  I am a storyteller, an observer of my own space and hope that my narrative resonates with others.  A confluence of experiences this month urges me to speak to something topical.  I will give my story-telling best to the effort.

My condominium is spacious.  It is also dated.  For the past two years, it has reflected my harried, not quite right life.  Reimagining my space seemed an important step in reimagining my life.  And so, I began slowly.  Sage green was the interior color of choice about fifteen years ago.  The previous owners of my condo seized the trend and I decorated accordingly when I moved in 3.5 years ago.  Sage green was getting on my nerves nearly as much as the walnut woodwork which surrounded it.  I have a lovely staircase which leads to three beautiful windows, their light obliterated by equally dated vertical blinds in a faux light brown tweed.

Three years ago I tackled the master bedroom myself – and doesn’t it always seem a good idea to do the painting yourself?  Halfway through my forearm ached, and the biblical Joseph’s coat had nothing on my painting jeans. The light brown with a hint of gold never quite thrilled me.

I treated myself to professional painters this time and they came by van, led by their boss,  a local friend of the Italian Catholic variety.  The workers themselves were Spanish speaking Guatemalan’s, Ecuadorians, and Mexican’s. They did the real work of painting my large family room, grand stairway, upstairs hallway, and bedroom.  Immigrants, each one. perhaps I should whisper, “I’m not quite sure if they were all legal.”

For four days, I was surrounded by drop clothes, ladders, and cans of paint.  My friendly Labrador loved the company and picked up the new shades of gray walls and white woodwork on his tail, ears, and whiskers while accepting endless affection from each painter. My typical background soundtrack is Broadway, but suddenly the sounds in my house had a salsa beat and lyrics foreign to my non-Spanish-speaking ears. For four days, my home was filled with light, laughter, and chaos.  The six immigrant workers were focused, meticulous, and happy. Their interactions with each other were easy and loving, like a band of brothers.   Furniture was hidden by plastic and moved to the center of the rooms and I had nowhere to sit, but it didn’t matter to me.  These worker bees were worth every penny, not just for their good work, but the happy spirit they brought with them.

In an effort to really make some changes, I had offered up a heavy dark wood desk for free on a tag sale site.  It was scooped up quickly and when the new owner arrived to haul it away, the two of us tried to move it. Our effort was pathetic. With lightning speed, two of the workers put down their brushes and bullied the oversized thing right into the back of her car.  She tried to slip them a tip, which they declined with humble smiles.

There is a certain presidential candidate who, had he known the scene in my condo, might have tried to erect a wall around it.

That leads me to my other place of immigrant interaction.  Like most of us, I seem to find myself at the same gas station several times a week.  Often, just for a quick diet coke, or emergency can of dog food.  There are two workers there who know I am a regular.  The first, a twenty-something Indian girl named Suman, studies at the register when the place is quiet.  Over time she has taken to calling me “beautiful lady”, and that has led to sharing bits and pieces of our lives.  She discovered that I am a College Counselor, and often peppers me with questions about her goal of becoming a nurse.  Suman is hungry to improve her lot and achieve beyond her current station.  I found out recently that she has taken a second job at a local deli.  Her work ethic astounds me. Suman’s hours are long, her dreams for herself imbued with enviable hope.

Jahir is my other gas station friend.  When I walk in, I am always greeted with a sunny, “Hello, Ellen.  How are you today?”  If I have been away, he might say, “I’ve missed you, where have you been?”   He is articulate, his English lyrical.  He often arrives at the gas station around 5 am, though I might not roll in until mid-morning.  I have never known him to lack energy or civility.  His heritage was not immediately clear to me.  It did not matter and I did not ask. On one occasion I overheard him being teased by a local young man.  An American young man, who was not kind, though he thought he was clever. He found his fun in Islamic and Muslim references.  Jahir took it in his stride, offering a vague nod and half smile.  When the young man left, I asked him, “Jahir, is that hard for you?”  He smiled broadly, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother me. It’s Americans, no harm.”  I have since discovered that Jahir is Tibetan, a Buddhist.  Hmmm…, may I please have an ounce of his peace and restraint?

Last week, I saw him reading something at the counter and asked about it.  It was a Christian Pamphlet, which mused about the need for Americans to get back to Church.  While explaining the content, Jahir paused, and said, “I don’t know about that, but I do wonder why everyone in this country seems so angry?”  There was no aggression in his question, not an ounce of judgment or implied criticism.  Only thoughtfulness.  I replied, “I wonder the same thing, too.”

I am sure that Suman and Jahir are legal.  I know that someday they will find work better suited to their ethic and intellect.

I want them to meet my other immigrant friend.

Today, Andrei, the Russian I so often refer to in this space, will officially become an American Citizen.  It has been 25 years since he arrived here from the then Soviet Union.  Beyond his dynamic persona, Andrei is one of the smartest men I know.  He speaks four languages and was a linguist and teacher in Russia, after serving in the Army.  Twenty-Five years ago, when he decided to stay, he began the arduous climb so many immigrants must. I have never, not once, heard him complain about work.  I hear Americans complain about work all the time.  If I was punching someone’s clock, it’s likely I would be complaining, too.

I will not be present for Andrei’s ceremony.  He would like to do it as he came to it, alone.  Someone has given him an American flag for his lapel, which he will pin on his freshly cleaned blazer.  Directly after his induction as a citizen, he will register to vote.  I can see him now, in my mind’s eye; shoulders straight, serious of purpose, proud that he has made this great country his own through grit and determination. I am so very proud of my Russian friend.

I am out of my depth in answers to regulating immigration so that it works for the benefit of this nation. I don’t pretend that my opinion really matters at all. All I know is that the immigrants with whom I am familiar are an inspiration and inform my life in a very positive way. I also know, that unless we carry Native American Blood, we are all of immigrant stock.  Perhaps a good thing to remember when the rhetoric gets hot.