I watched Thursday night’s debate with my mother-in-law, Natalie, who sat and made whispered comments throughout.
“Obama just looks tired and annoyed. Why is he stuttering so much?”
Or, “Hmm. I’ve never heard Romney explain things that way. That actually makes sense.”
Or, “I could see a lot of the undecided voters going for Romney now.”
I said nothing. She knows my political affiliations, and I know that Natalie calls herself an Independent. She was actually undecided, but now she’s leaning towards Romney. I should tell her that most of what Romney said was either a lie or a complete 180 from his previous platform, but we have enough to argue about. I’d rather stay away from politics.
Anyway, I wasn’t surprised by Obama’s loss. Things had been going too well for him. After Romney’s 47% remark, pundits had declared the race all but over, and that of course was premature.
However complacent, apathetic, or overconfident Obama may have been, he was already at a disadvantage. Incumbents rarely win the first debate. Ford lost to Carter, Carter lost to Reagan, Reagan lost to Mondale, Bush lost to
, and W Bush lost to Kerry. The only
exception in recent history is Clinton
winning over Dole, but Dole had a reputation as a weak debater. Clinton
There are reasons why the incumbent is more likely to lose. One, the president is not used to being directly challenged. He’s the leader of the free world, top dog, and he’s spent the last four years not being argued with. Meanwhile, the challenger has a lot more time to practice for the debate, and he’s coming into it with the opportunity of challenging the president’s record. The president can only attack the incumbent’s claims, and that’s harder to do.
Also, the world has higher expectations for the president. He’s supposed to be invincible, so if he’s annoyed, tired, or just not into it, people will pick up on it more quickly than they would with the other guy. Sometimes we forget that even our presidents are only human.
That said, Thursday morning I still woke up feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. I sat in my campus office, afraid to look at the headlines. I would have to find another way to procrastinate, and I had one in mind. I knew from a recent email that Monty would actually be reachable by phone, and it had been forever since we’d talked, just him and me. So I was looking forward to the call.
Yet when I called him, a female voice answered.
’s phone,” she
said. I didn’t know what was more unsettling, that some lady was answering his
phone, or that she called him “Montgomery.” Monty hates his name, and nobody is
allowed to actually call him Montgomery, except for me, and that’s on the
condition that I’m naked when doing so. Montgomery
“Umm,” I stuttered, “is Monty there?”
“He’s in the shower. Do you want me to tell him you called?”
My throat closed up and my body temperature skyrocketed. I couldn’t answer.
“Is this Lucy?”
“Hi, Lucy. It’s Brook. He should be out any minute. I’ll tell him… oh wait, here he is.”
Then I heard her hand off the phone, and say, “
it’s your wife.” Montgomery
My heart was beating, no pounding, at a distracting rate, but at least the phone hand-off gave me a second or two to find my voice.
“Hey, Lucy,” he said, sounding completely nonchalant and totally like himself.
. Did you enjoy
your shower?” If my tone had an edge it was on purpose, and he picked up on it
and sighed. Montgomery
“The hotel we’re at has public showers. We were standing in line together. I asked her to watch my phone, which I had been holding, because I wanted to make sure not to miss your call.”
Okay. Reasonable explanation, but still, the image of the two of them, semi-naked and waiting for the shower, invaded my mind and refused to leave.
“Why is she calling you
“Because she likes to annoy me.”
In a playful, flirtatious sort of way? Does she like annoying him when they’re semi-naked and close to showering? I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers to my temples. Adrenaline was coursing through me, and I needed to calm down.
“You’re not still suspicious, are you?” Monty asked.
“What do you mean, still?”
“After I got back from D.C, you were mad because I hadn’t told you she was on the trip, and you were suspicious. I thought we were past that.”
“I suppose you’d be fine, and not suspicious at all, if the situation was reversed.”
“I don’t want to argue,” Monty snapped.
“But,” he cut me off, “I need to ask you something. Why did you withdraw $10,000 from our savings account?”
Now my head was spinning. I had been meaning to tell Monty about loaning the money to his brother, Jack. But there was never a good time.
“You checked our accounts?”
“Of course I did. So did you withdraw $10,000, or was that a mistake?”
“No. It was me. Jack needed it for his lawyer fees, and past due bills on the restaurant. I know I should have talked to you first, but you weren’t reachable, and he was desperate. I couldn’t say no.”
Monty’s silence spoke volumes. I could tell he was mad, and I waited to hear the recriminations. I should have talked to him about it first, or the very least, afterwards. I should have let Jack fend for himself, since it’s his fault he’s in this situation in the first place. I shouldn’t have been so free with our money, since we’ll need it for our children’s educations. Monty wouldn’t have been wrong if he had said any of those things, and I had my apologies ready and waiting to be uttered.
But he didn’t hit me with any of the above. Instead he said, “Saying no has been a real problem for you lately, hasn’t it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You let Abby get kicked out of daycare. You let my mom come stay and boss you around. Now you’re telling me that you gave Jack $10,000, which was mostly my money to start with. I’m starting to think you can’t handle anything.”
I felt like Obama during the debate, not knowing or understanding what was happening as Romney handed him his guts on a plate. But unlike Obama, I was not interested in remaining calm, or in taking the high road.
“How DARE you say that to me!” I started to yell, and I didn’t even care if people out in hall could hear. “Who the hell do you think you are? You’ve been gone and unreachable for weeks. You have no idea what it’s like, with Abby blaming me for your absence, and your mother hounding me to tell you to come home, and yet I’m trying to keep everything together while you’re off doing God knows what with who know whom!”
“Oh come on.”
“No!” I said. “I defended you. Your mother is sure you do this because you’re restless, that altruism or a desire to change the world has nothing to do with it, but I said no. He’s better than that. But you know what? I think you should stay in
, and take
showers with Brook or whoever you want, because it will be so easy for you to
criticize me from thousands of miles away and STILL feel like you have the
moral high ground.” Ghana
Then, and this is what angered me most of all, he hung up on me.
It was definitely the worst, ugliest fight we’ve ever had. But there was no clear winner, and no story to spin. I almost wish there was. If I could read the headlines about it on Yahoo News, it might feel like it actually happened. If I knew there was another chance to make my case, coming up on October 16th, maybe I’d feel better.
Maybe I wouldn’t feel torn between hating myself and hating my husband.