An Open Letter to My Parents
Dear Mom and Dad,
Last night I cried into my pillow like the child I was once to the both of you, but this time it was not over a skinned knee or a cruel classmate or a book.
I cried because sixteen years ago you gave me a gift that I will forever be grateful for.
I want to softly remind you both that I was eight years old when I skipped into our house, tightly squeezing the blue string of the election tie I had colored in myself during art class, and quickly boasted about the man I wanted to vote for in my school's election.
And who you both should vote for as well.
It's hard to forget the way you looked at each other, wondering if this moment of my short little life was the moment to explain the difficulty of the world to me.
But, my God, you both opened my eyes with one question.
One question that has guided the way I live my life.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"We want to know why you've decided to vote for this person," you said. I was so unsure of myself in this moment, and I was terrified I had disappointed you both.
"Are you angry at me?" I asked, my heart pounding.
"Of course not," you said. "You're allowed to vote for anyone you want."
"Well," I said, "who are you voting for?"
"We have the right to keep that to ourselves," you said. I was angry that you wouldn't tell me. "It is important to know why you are voting for someone, and it is even more important to respect who someone else is voting for."
The only explanation I could muster up to you was that my classmates had snickered at me when I mentioned the other candidate. They had said, that other guy is going to lose. I didn't want to be on the losing side.
I was eight years old, but I still remember the shame I felt for mentioning the other candidate.
But that will never compare to the shame I felt the next day on the school bus when I realized I carried around a particular political tie because I felt pressured to do so.
But what if I ever like the other candidate?
This moment of reflection, the first of my eight years, allowed me to now see the path you wanted for me. You wanted me to make my own decisions and make them proudly, even if they were not the decisions you would choose for me.
You have allowed me to believe that there is inequality in this world.
You have allowed me to see that I have a better chance of success in this country just because of my skin color and how unfair that is.
You have allowed me to see that I am a woman and will have to fight for my right to post this online today.
You have allowed me to question my faith, my friends, my own family so that I can become who I am supposed to be.
You have both allowed me to believe that love is love is love is love is love is love.
And I am so sorry to you both, because I have not always respected the decisions of others.
I was three hours away from Orlando on June 12, 2016 when forty-nine people were murdered for being alive. For being a brightness in the world. I was nine years old when I realized women were holding down their skirts as they jumped from a burning tower they were never getting out of. I was twenty-four when I fully realized how little progress our country has made.
I was twenty-four when I realized that women have been allowing one another to throw out words like trash and slut and feminist when we should be yelling at every. single. woman. that she is intelligent and magic and tough and soft. We should be telling them to be proud of themselves. Be kind to their bodies and their minds. Be accepting of their right not to get married. Be proud of their successful marriage. See the strength in raising a child as a single mother instead of shame.
But no one can hold us back better than ourselves.
And I want to be so, so angry at people. I want to point my fingers and fix this, and I want to explain why, why, why I believe the way I do and why other people should too.
But, at eight years old, you taught me that I must respect the outcome of the situation that would unravel on November 8, 2016.
He will be your president, I imagined you telling me this morning, and, whether you like it or not, he demands your respect. He will need help. He will need guidance. He does not need hate nor does your neighbor.
Mom and dad, this country is also full of so, so many good things.
I was twenty-four when I read Antoine Leiris's "You Will Not Have My Hate". I was twenty-three when a woman announced she would run for president and when the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. I have lived through two terms of a wonderful president.
I am everything I am because of what you taught that eight-year-old girl. I am a woman who loves words and stories and people who love other people. I am a believer in equality. I am a believer in goodness and faith and magic. I am a woman who makes her own decisions about her body. I am a woman who has made her own decision to love and fight for people who do not have the same rights that I do. Who are afraid they will wake up one day and once again not be able to marry the person they love. Who fear for their safety in their own country. I am a woman who will allow any and every woman to use the same restroom as me; I am a woman who understands that you might not feel that same way.
I am in love with the strength of my friends today.
I am in love with a boy who looks at me like I am both precious and fierce.
I ask why.
I am made up of every moment that has brought me to these words.
We are made up of so much more than just ourselves.