When I was twelve, we went to Disney World. There is exactly one photo of me posing with a character in costume, and is not Belle, and it is not Ariel, and it is neither Mickey nor Minnie, not Pan nor Hook nor any animal, creature, or sprite. It is Mary Freaking Poppins, and I was extremely polite and also 1000% the only kid at the park who was at all excited to meet her. All this despite being old enough to know that “Mary Poppins” was probably a nice lady named Donna paying her way through her student loans.
I watched Mary Poppins so much that the VCR wore it down and my parents had to replace it.
I watched Mary Poppins so often that I wandered around my bedroom reciting Jane’s lines in a makeshift British accent, clutching my porcelain doll while wearing my frilliest dresses. I watched Mary Poppins so often that I stayed home from school “sick” on the day that we actually did have a guy come to clean out our chimney. (He did not let me help, which makes sense; we all remember how that ended).
I watched Mary Poppins so many times that it boggles the mind how much later in life I realized that I didn’t understand a key scene in the film at all.
This is Winifred Banks.
And I knew all of her lines by heart.
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sign in grateful chorus
“Well done, Sister Suffragette!”
Except that I had no idea what a suffragette was. Or what shackles were, for that matter. I was like six. I just knew that Mrs. Banks was singing a song with the maid and the cook, and it was a song about how they were women and they couldn’t tell the men that they were singing together about their secret plan. If I can rewind to my kid-brain, I think I understood that “Sister Suffragette” lyric roughly as “Well done, Sister Friendly-Pal!”
And because I didn’t really understand it, that was the scene that got the ol’ fast-forward. Almost all of the time. Who cares about the mom. She’s kind of a ding-dong and no one in the movie takes her seriously, so let’s skip ahead to the kid stuff like floating tea parties and flying nannies and semi-possessed toys.
It was many years before I thought about Winifred Banks again.
Last week on my drive home from work through a more rural area of Pennsylvania, I saw what I thought was a roadside haunted house attraction, left over from Halloween.
As I drove closer, I realized that it wasn’t that at all.
It was a makeshift jail cell, maybe six by six, with tall black bars made out of wood. A dummy, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was suspended from a noose from the center of the cell. The dummy was wearing a blonde wig.
A sign, spraypainted on plywood, read LOCK THE BITCH UP.
This morning, I cast my vote for the first female president of the United States.
And it turns out, I’m not the only one who burst into big fat snotty tears as soon as I exited the booth.
Just this one day, I need to take a minute to point out that a woman has never come this close to a position of power. Just this once. Just for today, I don’t want to hear it about her flaws and her failures and her past and her imperfections and her laugh and her face and her policy and her mistakes and her goddamned emails. I don’t want to hear it.
I don’t want to hear it because I have spent months feeling as though I have been silenced into this tiny quiet knot of rage and sadness. I don’t want to hear it because every time her legitimacy has been brought into question, it is all that I can do to not let loose a guttural scream to cry Please just imagine for a moment, just for one fucking moment, that a blonde-haired, blue-eyed former Secretary of State and popular New York State Senator was in this race running on a long record of healthcare, advocacy for children and families, and education. And he, this popular senator, was up against a thrice-divorced, overly tanned, overweight, former reality-TV-billionaire woman with a known history of discrimination, racism, bigotry. A woman who threw millions of dollars into a political race despite not having paid federal income tax in years; despite declaring multiple bankruptcies and destroying the jobs of middle-class workers; despite insulting veterans, disabled people, immigrants, and other women; despite knowing that she would soon be charged with defrauding the public after her university turned out to be a scam.
Please just allow me to feel broken at the thought of how unfathomable this race would be if Hillary Clinton was a man and Donald Trump was a woman.
I’m on my couch, watching CNN right now. It’s close now. Too close to call.
I’m not writing this to persuade you to vote for Hillary. It’s too late. The polls are closed. It’s over. It’s done. We’ll find out soon.
I am writing to tell you that thousands of people lined up to place flowers and “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave today.
I am writing to tell you that my friends wore their grandmothers’ jewelry, gloves, hats, and shawls into the polls today. I am writing to tell you that millions of people brought their children with them today, so they could tell their own children that they helped their parents push the button for the first female president.
I am writing to tell you that I cried, off and on for hours today, and I was not alone, because it matters that there has never been a female president in our nation’s history. It matters because I see the connection, the years of history between this:
In a few hours, we’ll know where we stand.
I’m watching the television screen turn blue and red as the minutes tick by. I can barely breathe.
My stomach is in knots. My heart has been pounding. I cannot believe this.
I stand with her.
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