My neighborhood is observant. I am surrounded by deep traditions - there are people of Bangladeshi, Mexican, Russian, Orthodox Jew, Guyanese origin - all within feet of my apartment. That’s just who I know about. Our streets are regularly filled with sounds of ancient songs and rituals that show the deep love my neighbors have for their ancestors, their children and our experience on this planet, and our polling place this morning was a breathtaking example. Bright eyes and weary souls converged to exercise their rights as collective citizens of this nation. All people of one place, one Brooklyn neighborhood, gathered together as an indication of the staggering global impact of this election.
I made space for each elder woman to go ahead of me, exchanging glances of appreciation and recognition. My shoulders shook unexpectedly. I thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Shirley Chisholm. I thought of Frances Webb and Constadina Tachco; two great-grandmothers whose trauma I feel in by bones. I thought of my mother, who brought us to every polling place I can remember. I thought of my little sister. I thought of my Baba who I had dinner with last night, relaying stories of her work at the Los Angeles Times during the 70’s journalist strike: equal pay for equal work; and my aunt who I sat across from: a career Diplomat with tours in Karachi and Damascus who still gets asked about her marital status. Ringing, ringing in my ears:
“Not in your lifetime, I’m sorry.”
“Because, honey - girls can’t do that.”
“I know - it’s different for girls.”
“Did you try asking with a smile?”
“You just have such a strong attitude - I’m worried it’ll be harder for you to find love.”
“I suppose I just figured you’d adopt.”
“I know he’s difficult - can you just try to be a little nicer to him?”
I stood in the booth and cried softly, and I knew the neighborhood had me. I knew my ancestors had me, and my love, and the matriarchs I’m blessed to still have, and my sisters and brothers and chosen family, and the families that we’re making. Everyone seemed to smile at one another, and I went outside to take my obligatory “I voted” selfie.
As I crossed the street toward the train, I heard a kissing noise like a dog was being called. I reacted in the direction of the noise to find a pair of eyes looking at me hungrily.
“Ooh. Beautiful,” he said. “Thank you, mami.” He kissed at me.
What. Just happened. Embarrassment. Rage. Feeling like prey. Already vulnerable, happy - now rage! Rage, rage, rage. Yell at him. Do SOMETHING. You just exercised your right as a citizen of this country - you are not an OBJECT OF HIS LUST for christsakes.
I walked away. Kept walking and put it up on Facebook and considered quitting everything to walk out on the Brooklyn Bridge and scream at every single person to walk out today. Just walk out - do nothing but rage, rage, rage to your polling place and vote and carry our babies and hold them up and tell them that we’re not. Going. To take it. Any more.
I cried openly on the train platform. Deflated. Objectified. Whether I like it or not.