By Michelle Riddell
It’s election day. You’re pumped. You vote for the first woman to grace the top of the ticket. You actually read the instructions on your ballot because you don’t want to mess up and—God forbid—be the one who loses her the election. You slap your “I Voted” sticker on your jacket—the right side, just this once, because you don’t want to cover up the North Face logo—and go about your day. And, what a great day it is.
Tonight when you tuck your daughter into bed, you will have a teary, heartfelt moment brimming with the cumulative pride of sisterhood. You will say, “See, my darling, women CAN do anything.” She will look up to you, literally and figuratively, smiling sleepily at your resolute example of feminism. After Hillary is elected, your daughter will have two heroes.
But tragedy is an unwelcome guest at the hotel of dreams, and the glass ceiling turns out to be a thick, cloudy Plexiglas partition, like the kind they use in county jails or at an airport.
Stage 1, Denial
All day you watch the polls: Vox, Facebook Live, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, you even turn on Fox News for a minute, and they bring tidings of doom. He’s ahead? But that’s just the early voters. He’s still ahead? Look, only 3% of the votes are tallied. He’s not going to win. The polls haven’t closed yet; those West Coasters will bring it home. Hmm, the blue bulb must have blown on this TV…it’s mathematical at this point, relax.
Stage 2, Anger
WTFFFFFFFF? Michigan, you are dead to me. Wisconsin, you are too—now I’m never going to go see those Dells of yours, like I used to talk about every once in a while. Ohio, I hate you. You deserve all those stupid tourists who only visit so they can go to Cedar Pointe. Pennsylvania, I hope people misspell your name forever. Where is the F#*KING HALLOWEEN CANDY???!!!!
Stage 3, Bargaining
You kneel in front of the TV: OK, I haven’t always been the best citizen, friend, and neighbor, but I can improve. From now on, I will chime in on those group texts; I’ll type “AMEN” for the less fortunate; I’ll send a gift even when I can’t attend the baby shower; I’ll pack better lunches, with stuff that’s actually cut-up; I’ll bathe more often; I’ll share the good snacks with my husband, I swear. Just don’t let HIM win. I’ll do anything. Oh God, pleeeease. I’ll even delete my Facebook account, I mean it, HOLD ME.
Stage 4, Depression
You’re too exhausted to go to bed. You’re too sad to sleep. You make a nest out of the candy wrappers on the floor next to you and roll yourself off the couch onto it, awash in the confectionary smell of defeat. The wads of crumpled orange from dozens of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups remind you of HIM, so you push those away in favor of the brave, brightly colored Skittles wrappers that so closely escaped being cast as unwitting pawns in the meme wars. Your husband hollers from the other room to try and wail more quietly. You stuff an old Easter Peep into your mouth to muffle the sound and drift into a shallow, dreamless stupor.
Stage 5, Acceptance
Morning finds you puffy-eyed and bloated, with a thick coating of plaque on your teeth and an even messier house than usual. It takes a moment to recall why you’re there on the floor in the living room in a heap of garbage. Garbage. It all comes back to you: the exit polls, the penitent pundits, the audacious yard signs, the loss. The horror of what just happened clots in your mind. Your family appears. Your husband brings the trashcan over for the wrappers and pulls you into his arms. Your daughter is already dressed for school and, as she joins the embrace, you notice tears in her eyes. You are not alone. This is an excruciating loss for many—not more than half of the Electoral College, apparently—but many.
As you start moving around, still stiff and sore from being in the fetal position all night, you can see the sun peeking into the corner of the room, illuminating the dust on the window sill. You feel like Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass, where she stands up and recites Wordsworth:
“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;”
If Natalie Wood can survive losing Warren Beauty, chopping off all her hair, and being committed to a mental institution, you can survive today. Then you remember that Natalie Wood actually fell off her own boat and drowned, but that wasn’t until years later.
Warrior on, sister. Those Facebook posts aren’t going to sad-react to themselves.
About the Author
Born and raised in Detroit, Michelle Riddell now lives with her family in rural mid-Michigan where she happily braves her husband’s penchant for DIY projects and her daughter’s passion for wildlife-as-indoor-pets. Her publishing credits include Mamalode, The Manifest-Station, The Good Mother Project, and Club Mid. In addition to being a reviewing editor at Mothers Always Write, Michelle is a substitute teacher at her daughter’s elementary school where she tries very hard not to embarrass her. Find her on Twitter @MLRiddell.