Usually, when I vote, I dress to scare the other voters standing in line. I want them to look at me and think, “Dear God—she’s got the right to vote?”
But this morning when I thought about casting my vote to elect our next president, I went back to 1982 when I arrived at Wise Carter law firm in Jackson, Mississippi as a new associate. I’d brought with me six pieces of clothing (three bottoms and three tops) that I intended to transform into my wardrobe by mixing and matching. My sister, who’d been living in Jackson while I’d been in North Carolina, wisely advised that Mississippi wasn’t yet ready for a female lawyer wearing pants.
My wardrobe thus cut by a third, I drove to New Orleans (because for 19 years I refused to admit Jackson had clothes worthy of my style), and I bought four new pieces. Two of these were an Armani blouse and an Ann Klein skirt. I did not buy any more clothes for a longggg time.
The blouse remains my go-to top when I want something elegant. The skirt has had the zipper repaired, and if you could see the back, you might notice the hook above the zipper is shot. But it embodies the young female associate who arrived back South naive and determined, unaware of how hard it would be to practice law at that time, ignorant of how much I’d need to ignore or laugh off or argue about or actually act to change. How I would be drawn to help start the Women’s Political Network and spend my free time doing the best I could to give women behind me a leg up. I didn’t know how consistently I would be fighting to prove that whatever you said women couldn’t do—be in private practice, have a full-time practice, make partner, attract clients, be a rainmaker, be a good boss—I’d show you it could be done.
Yeah, I’m so tough. But I cried as the poll worker walked me to the voting booth. When he asked if I was okay, I told him it was the same way I’d felt when I got to vote for President Obama—voting for a woman for president meant so much to me.
In the booth I double-checked everything I did, nervous that somehow I would mess this up.
Then I paused.
I stared in the mirror that reflected the voting room where everyone else was doing democracy too. White folks and Black folk and old people on walkers getting their ass out to vote. Some voting in step with my beliefs. Others voting for the exact opposite reason. America at its best.
Glancing down, I found the “Cast Ballot” button and, thirty-four years after I began this journey, I cast my vote for a young lawyer from Arkansas who rose to the United State Senate and Secretary of State and now stood for the office of President of the United States.
Let freedom ring.