If my southern black grandmother was alive, she’d disapprove of the following:
- My stubborn arrogance
- My four tattoos
- My refusal to grow and straighten “all that good pretty hair”
- My writing and releasing a book that discussed my sex life
- My sex life existing in the first place
- My blog where I “tell everybody all my damn business”
- My Instagram feed (especially the bikini and sports bra / yoga pics)
- My indifference toward the Browns and Cavs
- My ban on slips and shapewear in my wardrobe
- My predilection for tall, boyishly handsome, emotionally unavailable men
- My preference for dining out over cooking
- My continued disdain for household chores — especially dishwashing (not even her switches from the trees in our backyard could whip that out of me)
I like to think I make her proud on Election Day.
I never heeded her warnings about people seeing through my dresses or found value in four hours over a hot stove, but she is my model for citizenship. Her grandchildren were the first generation of our family born with a government-protected right to vote. Since I was the grandchild who lived under her roof (and the brightest — don’t tell my cousins), she prioritized my political education; starting with the Cleveland Mayoral Race of 1989. Six-year-old me didn’t absorb much beyond the mutual hatred between the candidates and their devotees. In the end, it didn’t matter how many “Forbes for Mayor” stickers I collected after my grandmother and I left the polling location — “our guy” lost.
Then came the 1992 Presidential election. This time, I was a sophisticated eight-year-old third grader. Who needed the weekly Scholastic News when Grandma made me watch grown up news? “Four more years” and “No new taxes” were a “No.” Universal health care and a First Lady who was too smart to waste her time in a kitchen or a garden? Hell yes. Al Gore nailing Dan “Couldn’t Spell Potato” Quayle on supporting a woman’s right to choose? More hell yes (I didn’t know what we were choosing at the time, but as a little girl with big dreams, I appreciated the sentiment).
My grandmother and I never voted together. In December 2000, she suffered a massive stroke. She lived until 2010, but only pieces of her strong mind remained. (Even with a scrambled brain, she was furious about the Supreme Court “giving the Presidency to that damn Bush”). When I cast my vote for the first Black President in 2008, I bawled in the voting booth. I wished she could’ve voted. I wished she could revert to her pre-stroke self to discuss the magnitude of the moment with me.
Twenty-four years after being impressed by the lady too smart for baking and gardening, I voted for her. My grandmother would’ve done the same. While I doubt we’d have the same sensibilities (she’d have all the respectability politics and no interest in my feminism), I think she’d be happy she helped raise an informed, engaged, opinionated black woman. She’d be happy I live in a world with a female Presidential candidate from a major party.
She might not have enthusiastically been #WithHer. But she’d be damned proud her grandbaby is.