For my girls

My friend Patrick got me thinking the other day.

Pat, an immensely talented graphic artist and an even better human being, is also a part-time DJ and radio show host. In support of this avocation, he often solicits Facebook feedback from friends about artists, genres, songs, etc.

Last week, after millions of women raised their voices and moved their feet from D.C. to Antarctica, Pat asked his loyal audience to suggest songs about female empowerment.

Female empowerment. Well, those are some words right now, aren’t they.

I still want to wake up. I still look for ways to channel all this … everything … into action. I still can’t see or hear that person in his current position. I can't read about the latest freedom he's threatened or the next group of people he's dehumanized.

What I can do, as I pop a Diet Coke at midnight and take a break from the transcribing I’m using to keep me awake until Venus and Serena play, is this: I can tell you about some women who’ve empowered me this past week.

Firstly, Venus and Serena. I’ve interviewed both and found both to be gracious, if graciously removed, in circumstances never designed for the likes of them. I’ve written at length about their talent, their resolve, their refusal to give in to societal expectation or political pressure (google Venus and Wimbledon prize money) or that bitch, Time, who comes for us all in the end.

The fact the Venus, 36, is playing Serena, 35, in this (very early) morning’s Australian Open final is nothing short of fucking amazing. Venus hasn’t been to a Grand Slam final in eight years. Can you still do things you did eight years ago as well, if not better - while fighting an incurable autoimmune disease that tries to rob you of your strength every day? I ask as someone who can’t climb stairs without pausing on days her balky right knee doesn’t cooperate.

Serena - who almost died herself several years back from a pulmonary embolism - will become the most decorated player in the modern era if she wins her 23rd Slam, 14 years after she last faced her big sister in one. These sisters, these black girls from Compton, have dominated this country club sport for two decades, and the fact that we get one more (last?) show from them is humbling and as beautiful as Venus’s victorious double turn after her semifinal win against an 11-years-younger opponent.

On a more personal level, my mother came to visit last weekend. She poked around, unpacking and rearranging things as she does, imposing her well-intentioned will and, as ever, providing unconditional – and sometimes maddening – support. There were careful conversations and sidestepped subjects, and there was beef stew in the crockpot when I got home from marching in the rain.  

On Monday, my friend and I went to a basketball game. My friend who understands levels of me I don’t bother trying to explain to the general public: my rabid love for my sports teams, my fierce support for women that is undiminished by my frustration at our unparalleled ability to backbite and belittle; my undying belief that a beer and a ballgame can make just about anything better. We laughed and cheered and yelled my school’s somewhat inappropriate nickname at the top of our lungs.

It was the best Monday I’d had in a while.

In my work week, I talked to and wrote about brilliant women, professors whose research is actively saving lives – from investigating food security to preventing mosquito-borne illnesses. I posted about this and dozens of other subjects on various forms of social media, trading comments and wisecracks with women from Virginia to Seattle - women I've known since I was 15, women I've never met in person, women who are a lot like me and women who could scarcely be more different.

Tonight, I had settled into a night of work and self-pitying solitude when the phone rang. One of my favorite people of all time was on the other end, asking if she could interest me in martinis.

Hold on. Let me think.

This particular person has an almost preternatural knack for knowing when I need that phone call. I am glad the distance between such communication is now six minutes instead of three states.

Now, I listen to one of my responses to Pat’s question. Lucinda rocks me in her gently brutal bluesy embrace.

If we live in world without tears

How would bruises find a face to lie upon

How would scars find skin

To etch themselves into

How would broken find the bone

It’s hard not to feel broken in a world that creeps a little farther off the rails every day. But when I’m most in danger of a bloody, cacophonous crash of screeching metal, I know which women can hold me steady on the tracks.

Empowering, indeed.