Pretty soon it will all be over. Come February 1st, Iowans will finally get to caucus, and after endless months of speculation, we’ll choose our candidates. Will it be Sanders or Clinton? Trump, Cruz, or somebody else? Who would have thought we wouldn’t know the answers to these questions, let alone that we’d be asking them in the first place.
The way the media tells it, the race is incredibly tight on both sides and anything could happen. So I tuned in for the Democratic debate last Sunday, to see how it all went down. I thought Clinton was self-possessed and focused, while Sanders yelled so much he became hoarse, always cutting Hillary off and acting like a bully. But on Monday the columnists disagreed with me; they said that Bernie had commanded the stage and forced Clinton to play defense. One piece I read even said that she was yelling too much.
“Are you kidding me?” I yelled this to Monty, Monday evening at dinner. “If Hillary had acted like Bernie last night, the headlines would be that she’s strident and...” I searched for an appropriate term, since Abby and Noah were right there. “…and they’d use other words, like irrational or emotional, that are only ever used when criticizing women.”
Monty tilted one side of his mouth, and I thought I detected the slightest of eye rolls. “I don’t think this is about gender. Sanders just had some really good points.”
“Please! Of course it’s about gender. But nobody wants to admit it, so they come up with stupid reasons to criticize her, like her ties to big business or her emails, but if she was a man nobody would care about that stuff.”
“Dad,” Abby chimed in, “we’re playing Barbies after dinner, right?”
“I don’t know, Sweetheart. I have to pack.”
“But you promised we’d play before you left for your trip, and you’re leaving tomorrow. It HAS to be tonight.”
I like that our daughter isn’t afraid to assert herself. “She’s right,” I said. “You should play with her.”
He smirked. “You could play with her instead.”
“No,” Abby insisted. “I want you.”
I nodded. “We played together all day. She’s sick of me.” It was Martin Luther King Day, and the kids and I had hung out in the living room all afternoon, playing with toys and avoiding the frigid cold that we would have been with confronted with, had we gone out.
“Okay,” Monty relented. “But I get Eye Doctor Barbie.”
“No, I get Eye Doctor Barbie,” replied Abby. “You can have Gymnastic Coach Barbie.”
The next morning Monty left for D.C. and I returned to work after Martin Luther King Day. I listened to the radio on my way in, and the news was dominated with speculation about the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. What if Hillary lost both Iowa AND New Hampshire? Would Sanders gain enough momentum to score the nomination? And who would he be up against? What would a race between Sanders and Cruz be like?
The very question sent shivers down my spine.
My first class started at 10:30, but Steve, the instructor who uses the classroom before me, ran late again, so that my students and I were waiting out the in hall. This had happened many times before, but I’d never said anything. To do so would require me to confront Steve in front of all my students. They’d probably think I was overreacting, that I was strident, maybe even bitchy.
I leaned against the wall, cold from the outside air that assaulted the hallway. My arms ached from holding my books and my laptop; I was frustrated that I couldn’t set up my notes and my Power Point presentation, and I became enraged at losing more class time while Steve got extra time with his students. Why was his class so much more important than mine, so that he got more and I got less?
I decided that enough was enough. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t put up with this. Heck, my own daughter wouldn’t put up with this. If Abby has the strength to say how things are going to be, I could certainly find that strength too.
Finally, Steve let his class out and I rushed to the front of the room, to confront Steve before he could slip out. Steve smiled when he saw me. “Oh, hi Lucy. Did you enjoy the long weekend?”
I resolved not to return his smile or to answer his friendly question. “Steve,” I said, trying to sound calm but serious, “we have a problem. You’re constantly running your class late, and that’s cutting into my class’s time. This needs to stop.”
He twisted his face like I’d just done something offensive. “Nice to see you too.” He started to walk past me.
“Hey!” I was loud enough to startle Steve into turning around, but I also commanded unwanted attention from my students. “My request is simple. Just end your class on time, and we’ll be good.”
Steve’s eye roll was overt. “Sometimes I can’t fit everything into forty-five minutes. I’m not making you any promises.”
My stomach was clenched and I could feel my pulse race. Conflict always did this to me. “Fine. Then I’ll have to complain to the dean.”
He shrugged, and I wanted to throttle his nonchalance. “You do that, Lucy.”
“What a jerk,” Monty said that night, when I relayed the conversation to him on the phone. “Can I beat him up for you?” he joked.
I laughed. “Are you suggesting that I can’t handle this on my own?”
Monty didn’t miss a beat. “Of course not. I’m not nearly that stupid.”
I lay back, resting my head against the pillow on my side of the bed. “I hear there’s a blizzard coming to the East Coast. You might not be able to fly back on Friday.”
“Maybe I’ll be delayed past the 1st. Then I’d miss the caucus.”
“You say that like it would be a good thing.”
“Well, then we wouldn’t be caucusing for separate candidates. We’d get to skip all the conflict.”
I didn’t respond, but Monty could hear my disapproval, nonetheless.
“Or,” he continued, “Maybe the storm won’t be as bad as they’re forecasting.”
Then we talked about the kids and Monty told me about his day. I didn’t say what I really thought -
That lately, all the dire forecasts seemed to be coming true.