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November 28, 2016 Poetry


Elizabeth Ellen

Election photo

My daughter was voting at her university, an hour away

It was her first time voting in a presidential election

She texted me early in the morning, “Wear white for the suffragettes!”

She had classes all day, her job as a lab assistant in the evening

I was a freelance writer

I got to vote at noon

My polling station was her elementary school

It was a five minute walk from our house

The back of the line was in the hall outside her third grade classroom

The woman in front of me in line was on her cell phone

She said, “Did she ever lie under oath?”

I strained to hear more of the conversation

I was curious myself, now that she’d brought it up, even though I didn’t give a shit one way or the other

The woman said, “I don’t know. ABC didn’t cover it. I don’t even think Fox covered it.”

It was an interesting distinction, lying under oath versus just plain lying

Twice my daughter had run for class president, in 3rd and 4th grades

I had admired her tenacity, her unwillingness to run for a lesser office after the initial defeat

In fifth grade she’d been the target of bullying by a male classmate, which led to bullying by a handful of male classmates

On three different occasions I sat in the principal’s office, pleading for the school to do something

I said, “Every day at recess my eleven year old daughter is being called a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore,’ the boys tell her repeatedly to ‘suck my dick’, tell her she’s fat.”

The principal, who was a woman, refused to move the boy into another classroom or to punish the boy

She said she had spoken with the boy’s parents

The bullying didn’t stop

I didn’t make my daughter go to school the last two weeks of 5th grade

She missed out on the graduation ceremony and the walk to Dairy Queen

I’d seen enough of her crying; we went to Dairy Queen a different day, the two of us

On Election Day I followed the line as it snaked through the entranceway to the school, past the principal’s office, down the opposite side hall near my daughter’s fifth grade classroom

Every wall of the school was taken up with pictures of and quotes attributed to men of significance in American history

I could not find one female face on the walls of my daughter’s elementary school

I remembered similar male faces and biographies on the walls of the school when my daughter had been a student eight years earlier, a similar lack of female representation

Earlier in the summer I’d been afraid to put a Hillary bumper sticker on my car

The whole town was for Bernie

I’d already had my car keyed for having a pamphlet from my daughter’s university visible in the back window

I got my ballot and walked to stand behind a curtain to fill it in

I filled in the circle beside Hillary’s name and then I looked down at the rest of the ballot

I’d never gotten around to checking out the website that explains the rest of the ballot

I looked for female-sounding names and filled in the circles next to them

I knew this wasn’t the ‘ethical’ way to fill out a ballot but I didn’t give a fuck

I voted for female Democrats when I could find them and when I couldn’t I voted for female Republicans

Party line meant less to me than gender

I didn’t give a fuck

I was tired of not seeing women’s faces on the walls of elementary school buildings

I felt pretty good about my choices on my walk home

I wondered who the woman in front of me in line voted for

I didn’t think it was Hillary

When I got home, I texted my daughter

“I’m turning into such a feminist,” I said

I told her about my observations of her elementary school building, how there weren’t any fucking women

“It’s all I notice now,” I said

“I know, “ my daughter texted back. “I can’t wait to vote!”

I went upstairs to write; I forgot about the election

It was 7 when I came back downstairs

“I’ve been in line an hour and 40 lol,” my daughter texted. “I’m extremely determined rn,” she said

“and so bored,” she said. “just been meeting a ton of ppl in line lol”

“everyone’s nice and they passed around a lot of pizza which helped,” she said

“being in your old school made me so angry at the school and at myself for not doing more when you were in fifth grade,” I wrote in a text.

I added a hashtag feminist to the text before I sent it.

“Yeah lol I’m like suddenly super feminist,” my daughter said

“I promised myself I wouldn’t post politically on social media but then I got bored in line so I did lol,” she said

“haha. what did you post,” I said

“I posted on FB ‘It’s a beautiful evening to shatter the fuck out of the glass ceiling #imwithher’,” she said

“so I’m a super feminist now,” she said

“me too,” I said

I smiled. I told her I was going upstairs to do yoga.

I added a hashtag superfeminist to the text before I sent it.

I took my daughter’s lizard up with me

I did downward dog and runner’s lunge and child’s pose

I looked over at the lizard; she was lying with her arms back, palms up, under the table

I went back downstairs to check my phone; forty minutes had gone by

There was a photo of my daughter, smiling, an “I voted” sticker on her university fleece

“It was amazing!” she said

I immediately started to bawl

I was sitting on the edge of my bathtub

I’d never been this emotional in an election

I’d never fully realized the extent of sexism in America until a woman was running for president

My whole life I’d been in denial

I stared at the face of my daughter; so happy and excited

If Hillary didn’t win it would be an insult to my daughter and my friends’ daughters and to all our daughters

She would know how hated we are

I didn’t want my daughter to know, I wanted her life to be different

She texted me that her professor liked her status about the glass ceiling

She said he had asked her earlier in the day to be his lab assistant next semester

My daughter was already more successful than I’ve ever been and I was so proud of her and I wanted the world for her

Or at least for a reasonable woman to be elected over an unreasonable man

I wanted my daughter to feel her vote counted

That our gender was truly able to accomplish what we worked hard for

She already worked so hard at her university

I tried to focus on the positive

I texted, “we need to remind ourselves Hillary has already broken a glass ceiling running for president”

I said, “we need to focus on the positive”

“I’m just excited that my first time voting in a presidential election was for a woman,” my daughter said

“yeah,” I said

“that’s so exciting,” I said

image: Claire Vaye Watkins/'selfie'