who we are

I walked to work today. I usually take the subway, but today I walked. I needed time to think – or, not think – to clear my head, to process the events of the past 24 hours. But instead of thinking (or not thinking) I found myself watching faces. I live in the city so, unlike people living in the majority of the country, the faces I see every day are different than my own face. The faces I see are the faces of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Gay Americans, Transgender Americans.

These are the faces that make America great every single day.

I celebrate them. I cherish them. I count myself lucky to be among them.

So as I walked the mile from the parking garage to my office on this, the morning after our country elected a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, wall-building, tax-dodging, crotch-grabbing demagogue, I studied the faces of my fellow Americans and, for perhaps the first time, every face looked the same. By the stadium, across the bridge, waiting in line at Starbucks, on the steps of the church – everywhere – I saw written across these faces the same thing: shock, sadness, embarrassment.

I had spent the previous evening watching the election results and, with each state that turned red, I turned to my husband and asked, “Who are we?”

Now, confronted by the faces of my fellow Americans, I saw exactly who we were.

In their faces I saw the faces of all the women I knew and how it must have felt to wake up to learn that the glass ceiling had not been shattered, but reinforced.

I saw the faces of my female friends who had exercised the deeply personal right to choose and what it must be like for them to now have that right in doubt.

I saw the faces of my friends and their Hispanic children and I tried to imagine the sense of fear and uncertainty those kids would face in this new America with its walls and borders and hatred of brown people.

I saw the faces of the many incredible gay men and women who fought so hard for equality and who were now faced with losing that equality at the hands of family and friends who had turned their backs on them in the name of change or protest.

I saw the faces of my transgender friends who still have to fight to use a public restroom.

I saw the faces of the brave parents who fight every day for their special needs children and how much harder that fought just became for them.

I saw the face of my African American foster son and what it must be like for him in a world where all lives matter and blue lives matter, but only sometimes do black lives matter.

I saw the faces of my adopted children and I understood that in a world run by Mike Pence they would not be my children.

I saw the face of my husband, a man I have loved for almost twenty years of my life, and I thought how easily everything we had could be taken away.

And then at last I saw my own face and I felt my anger, my disappointment, my sadness.

off the grid

This weekend we are taking the boys camping. I love the word camping, it makes me sound so masculine. I tell people, I’m going camping, and immediately their brain is flooded with images of me draped from head-to-toe in a flannel Michael Kors onesie walking through the woods with a rifle slung over my shoulder hunting and gathering my supper before retiring to my tent for a night of wild romance with my accommodating lady friend.

No one actually thinks that because everyone knows I’m not the kind of guy who does that kind of camping with that kind of lady. The truth is I am staying in a cabin with running water and a toilet, the only flannel I own are bed sheets from Macys, I don’t like guns, my hunting and gathering skills are limited to Saturday morning donut runs to the neighborhood bakery, and my accommodating lady friend has a beard.

When people admonish me and tell me that I’m “missing out”, that I should go “real camping” and sleep in a tent and take my bath in a stream and squat over a hole in the ground I think, Are you fucking crazy? Why would I do that? It’s 2015. Who voluntarily shits in a hole?

I thank God every day that I live in a time of high-speed Internet, cable TV and indoor plumbing. I do not want to kill my supper or figure out which mushrooms will make me hallucinate. After all, isn’t that why we have Giant Eagles and drug dealers?

Not that I’m a total Phyllis Nefler. (By the way if you understood that reference, congratulations, you are a homosexual!) Our cabin is off the grid. This means it is self-sustaining. There is a small garden and chickens to provide vegetables and eggs for us to eat, it is run wholly on solar power, rain water is collected in a cistern, and as there is no septic system the cabin has a composting toilet which is basically one step up from an outhouse and two steps up from a hole in the ground.

Also, there are no Law & Order re-runs mostly due to the (gasp!) lack of cable TV.

In short, and by my standards, we are roughing it.

Not that I’m worried. I’ve been through worse. I used to direct community theater. I once shared a house with a violent lunatic. I accidentally saw someone much older than me naked.

Living off the grid I can handle.

The best part of our weekend away (for me) is that our cabin was advertised as a tiny house. This means it has less than 400 square feet of livable space, the kitchen is in the living room and there are sleeping lofts for the boys.

Of course I know from the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching tiny house TV shows that the real reason our cabin has been classified as a tiny house is because of the composting toilet. Those tiny house freaks love a composting toilet.

I will admit to having an ulterior motive (beyond the eating of s’mores) for this camping trip. I’m using it a test run in the event of the zombie apocalypse or President Donald Trump. In either case I think my family will need a place to escape and start over while the rest of civilization crumbles.

I’m not worried about Todd who could make a ball gown out of chewing gum and bread ties or Elijah who can run really fast or even me because I can be absolutely ruthless, but I do fear for Chris. He’s pretty and easily distracted and I’m fairly certain that he’d be the first person to get picked off by a reanimated corpse, I mean conservative republican.

This trip will be just the thing to toughen him up, to turn him from a Beth into a Daryl, and just as soon as I finish fashioning these flannel sheets into a ready-to-wear onesie I’m going to drop that boy off in the middle of the woods with a bottle of Miralax and a shovel.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.