Of course, the first time around was in 1999, and I was twenty-eight or so, not almost forty-two. Things seem to hit me harder now than they did in my 20s -- I mean, things out in the world, like news reports of children being gunned down in a classroom. In my mid-20s, I would have thought that was sad, of course, but it wouldn't have completely wrecked me for days. Weeks. And some of that is having kids of my own, being able to imagine my own kindergartner in that classroom.
But some of it is just being older, I think. It's as if a vein of empathy opened up once I grew out of adolescence and young adulthood, oh, sometimes after age thirty or so. When I could be less panicked about figuring my own life out and have some room to worry about everybody else. Maybe it's just me -- after all, there are lots of teens and young adults charging off whole-heartedly to save the world. So it could just be me. I care more about others than I used to. I am more vulnerable to the world's sorrows than I used to be.
But you take all that, and you put it up, surprisingly, against a certain hardening of will, almost a necessary callousness. Or callus. And despite the title of my poem, that part's not necessarily gendered -- I was thinking of Benjamin Rosenbaum, actually, who was with me when I got a big old splinter in my foot a few years back and I freaked out a bit, and he was totally calm as he got a needle and heated it up and poked around to expose enough of the shard that he could pull it out. It hurt quite a bit and he made jokes and yes, it was just a splinter but he got me through it with complete ease and I was impressed.
When Kavi gets splinters now, I do the same. It's just part of the job, and the job isn't going to get any easier if you freak out, so you might as well be calm and maybe make a few jokes and just get through as quick and as best as you can.
Now there's people starting to talk about how Hilary Clinton is old, but others point out that she's not as old as Reagan was, and I just keep thinking that she's a woman, and we live longer, and she'll probably outlast Reagan by decades, and it's a little weird that that hasn't been part of the oh my god she's older conversation yet. And I don't really know if, medically speaking, a woman in her 60s is equivalent health-wise to a man in his 50s, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were true.
And then I think about Texas. And Ohio. And Wisconsin. The dismantling of women's reproductive rights, and the building surge of rage I'm seeing from women across the country. I see women in their 50s, their 60s, their 70s, raising their voices and speaking out, completely unafraid. And I think -- my god. There is such untapped power here. There is a power and a fury that is just searching for the right moment, the right outlet, and when it is unleashed, by all that's holy, there is going to be a reckoning. Because these old women -- they will be absolutely certain of the rightness of their cause. And they will not hesitate to pull the bloody splinter out with both hands.
Those on the other side -- they won't even see it coming.