I didn’t have hope for 2021. I told myself I’d play it by ear, a day at a time. The way I do everything else. I know, I know. Stoicism is boring and you’re sick of hearing me not have expectations for anything, but it is how I managed to survive 2020 in one piece, so I’m sticking with it.
Even with my ambivalence for 2021, I was unprepared to witness an armed insurrection at the United States Capitol.
My emotions ranged from shock to fear to a strange combination of relief and raving frustration watching the events unfold. How else does one react to watching an “army” of goobers throw a revolution-themed rave a block away from what we’re told is the greatest military force on the planet? It could have been worse. It should have been worse?
Instead, it was equal parts dangerous, idiotic, and utterly embarrassing. I do not love America. “Loving” a nation is a strange concept for me, but I live here thus am invested in America’s welfare while not caring much for the myths it tells about itself.
Even with my lack of fucks for America’s image on the world stage, I found myself humiliated.
It isn’t surprising.
One of my quarantine hobbies since March has been the rabid consumption of American history podcasts. You know. To know where you are you must know where you’ve been or some such. While the federal Capitol hasn’t been breached since the War of 1812, state capitols were certainly breached post-Civil War to overturn duly-elected Black and Black-sympathizing officials. If the summer of 2020 felt like a re-do of 1968, early 2021 looks very 1870ish.
Who knows what we’ll see before (or after) the new government is installed on January 20th?
Why am I writing this? Well. Because the humbling (slow destruction?) of an empire is an event worth noting.
Two days after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, I called my gynecologist’s office.
I’ve known for the last ten years that I do not want to have children. Defended my stance loudly to people who insisted the “right” man could change my mind or “anything could happen.” Nodded firmly when potential suitors ask “Really? NEVER?” You could say I’ve avoided serious commitment during my fertile years to make sure love didn’t weaken my resolve. But I never discussed sterilization with my doctors.
Sure. After terminating a pregnancy at 25, I told friends “If I could have all this shit tied, cut, and burned up, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” Still, checkup after checkup, I remained silent. I heard too many horror stories of doctors petting female patients on the head and cooing “What if you change your mind?” and “But you’re so young.” My sex life was sporadic at best and almost always included condoms. There was always Plan B. If worse came to worse, as I dead-panned to my last boyfriend when he joked about getting me pregnant: “I would not be pregnant for very long.”
Then the Supreme Court turned conservative. And I had to consider a world where I don’t have the power or resources to make decisions about my body. “How long have you been thinking about tubal ligation?” my doctor asked yesterday.
“Honestly? For the last ten years. I just didn’t say anything because I thought I was too young. But I turned 35 and thought ‘It’s time.’”
She nodded. “Okay.”
That was it. She didn’t ask about my sexual habits or if I was dating or in a relationship or if I intended to marry one day. She said “Okay,” and talked me through the process.
“You know,” I said, once we talked appointment dates, “I came in here prepared to defend myself. I feel like I’m always explaining that parenthood is too big a task to be ambivalent about.”
She smiled. “I trust women to make decisions about their bodies. If you’ve thought about it this long, you know what you want. And you’re absolutely right.”
If my southern black grandmother was alive, she’d disapprove of the following:
My stubborn arrogance
My four tattoos
My refusal to grow and straighten “all that good pretty hair”
My writing and releasing a book that discussed my sex life
My sex life existing in the first place
My blog where I “tell everybody all my damn business”
My Instagram feed (especially the bikini and sports bra / yoga pics)
My indifference toward the Browns and Cavs
My ban on slips and shape wear in my wardrobe
My predilection for tall, boyishly handsome, emotionally unavailable men
My preference for dining out over cooking
My continued disdain for household chores — especially dish washing (not even her switches from the trees in our backyard could whip that out of me)
I like to think I make her proud on Election Day.
I never heeded her warnings about people seeing through my dresses or found value in four hours over a hot stove, but she is my model for citizenship. Her grandchildren were the first generation of our family born with a government-protected right to vote. Since I was the grandchild who lived under her roof (and the brightest — don’t tell my cousins), she prioritized my political education; starting with the Cleveland Mayoral Race of 1989. Six-year-old me didn’t absorb much beyond the mutual hatred between the candidates and their devotees. In the end, it didn’t matter how many “Forbes for Mayor” stickers I collected after my grandmother and I left the polling location — “our guy” lost.
Then came the 1992 Presidential election. This time, I was a sophisticated eight-year-old third grader. Who needed the weekly Scholastic News when Grandma made me watch grown up news? “Four more years” and “No new taxes” were a “No.” Universal health care and a First Lady who was too smart to waste her time in a kitchen or a garden? Hell yes. Al Gore nailing Dan “Couldn’t Spell Potato” Quayle on supporting a woman’s right to choose? More hell yes (I didn’t know what we were choosing at the time, but as a little girl with big dreams, I appreciated the sentiment).
My grandmother and I never voted together. In December 2000, she suffered a massive stroke. She lived until 2010, but only pieces of her strong mind remained. (Even with a scrambled brain, she was furious about the Supreme Court “giving the Presidency to that damn Bush”). When I cast my vote for the first Black President in 2008, I bawled in the voting booth. I wished she could’ve voted. I wished she could revert to her pre-stroke self to discuss the magnitude of the moment with me.
Twenty-four years after being impressed by the lady too smart for baking and gardening, I voted for her. My grandmother would’ve done the same. While I doubt we’d have the same sensibilities (she’d have all the respectability politics and no interest in my feminism), I think she’d be happy she helped raise an informed, engaged, opinionated black woman. She’d be happy I live in a world with a female Presidential candidate from a major party.
She might not have enthusiastically been #WithHer. But she’d be damned proud her grandbaby is.