You remember the feeling. You watched all night as the numbers started to build. Your heart skipped a beat when you heard that another state was being called. At some point, as the wins stacked up, and the Republicans on FOX News went into full panic mode, you could feel it becoming true.
America had elected an African-American president. It was exciting to be on the winning side, but it was more than that. It felt like a cleansing of sorts. Like absolution. Sure, our country had a history of racism and slavery and Jim Crow and lynchings, but maybe, in this one act, we had gotten ourselves on the road past our legacy of oppression.
On the television we watched as prominent African American politicians and pundits openly wept -- out of pride, relief, surprise, amazement -- and we felt the tears welling up in solidarity. The whole First Family To Be marched forward on our screens, thousands upon thousands cheering. I doubt we'll ever forget the thrill of that night.
But, by the next morning, something was bothering me, and I couldn't figure out what it was. An itch between my shoulder blades that I couldn't manage to scratch. I'll just put it out there.
How will people feel when the first woman is elected president? Will their hearts race? Will they sense the history happening before their eyes? Will they be holding back tears?
If the tone of this year's election season is any indication, the answer to all those questions is "no." The narrative goes something like this: If Hillary wins, it will be despite her shrill voice and matronly body. Despite her flaunting her superior knowledge of foreign affairs and her decades-long career in public service.
No, popular wisdom goes, if she wins it will be because of her husband, who may have been a scamp, but, oh, that charisma....It will be because she has secretly convinced super delegates to vote for her through her sneaky forty plus years of devotion to the Democratic party. It will be because she lucked out by having an elderly cranky Jewish man and a racist misogynistic narcissist as her opponents.
To be clear, I'm a Democrat. If Sarah Palin were running for president, I'd have a hard time getting all choked up at the prospect of an historic Palin presidency. But that's mostly because I don't think she'd be good for the country, and I don't think she'd do much to advance the causes that so many women care about.
This, though, is different. Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime working for the rights of women. Why so little fervor? Why did I, just today, see a Sanders supporter comment about, "another contrarian woman Hillary supporter desperate to vote for breasts?" Is that what I'm voting for when I vote for a woman? That we wear the same bra?
No. It is not. When I vote for a woman for president, here are the things I hope to gain in addition to electing a candidate who expresses my values and supports my policy positions.
Someone who remembers that women have had the vote in this country for less than 100 years. That until 1978 a woman could be legally fired for being pregnant. That marital rape was not criminalized in all 50 states until 1993.
Someone who knows what it feels like when the men in the room ignore your intelligent, well-informed opinion. How dispiriting it can be to have a professor doubt that you are serious about school when you should be getting married. How vulnerable you are when you walk alone on the streets at night. And during the day.
Someone who looks like us. What I would give to have my daughters, and my sons, have the visual of a woman who is leader of the free world. I can tell them until I turn blue that they can be anything (well, given genetics, maybe not olympic decathletes). But seeing is believing. And until there are facts on the ground, it's just another of those things your mother says. Your face is going to freeze like that. I'm only doing this because I love you.
I, for one, am formulating a plan. For the possibility that election night in November will bring a lump to my throat. That it will be a moment when my children see I wasn't just saying things that moms say. You can be anything. And here, right in front of you on the big screen, are the facts on the ground. I know I can't count on the news commentators to pull on my heartstrings, with talk about righting wrongs, and history, with tears in their eyes. But, for me, I'll be keeping some tissues nearby, maybe even a whole box. Just in case.