Kid Insists on Being Called “Your Majesty”
As democracy holds its breath, a tiny monarchy grows in Brooklyn
As I write this, I have a window on my laptop open where I can keep track of how the servers at my other newspaper job are holding up in the face of unprecedented traffic. It’s making it very hard to write this newsletter—a task that almost certainly is healthier than watching the expensive computers respond to the most consequential election of our lifetime. At various moments this evening, I’ve struggled to separate my stress at watching the computers from the stress of watching the election, but at least I’m ready this time around. The last time I had to do this, I was eating dinner out with a very pregnant Laurea, generally confident in the outcome of what seemed to be a predictable election. History will reflect that I, like many others, was wrong about that, and now I’m having a Pavlovian response to that error in judgement. It’s no fun at all.
Again, it’s probably better for me to write the newsletter.
The most significant personal difference between this first Tuesday in November and the one in 2016 is the fact that I now have a fully-sentient child instead of a mysterious unrealized almost-child. Last time, we had to reckon with the difference in a country run by an inspiring, highly-qualified woman and a country run by the person who was decidedly not a woman. The sense of fear we had at having a child at all, subsequently dragged through a pool of concentrated adrenaline, felt like being tossed off a cliff. That reckoning remains stark for people of all genders this time around (even as neither current presidential candidate is female), but at least we know the kid we have, and how to raise her in the world we’ve got.
I’ve complained a lot lately here about being mistreated by Kina, and I’ve explained how we’ve been exploring anger and rage—separating the (quite understandable) feeling from the (sometimes problematic) response to those feelings. And yet, I’m taking great care not to suggest to her that rage is wrong, more that it is often unproductive. If we play our cards right, Kina will know exactly when to put herself into somebody else’s shoes and when to throw a punch. Sometimes, you have to throw a punch.
Four days after the election in 2016, we had a baby shower. It was the most solemn baby shower in history—and considerably more solemn than the celebration we had held in California a few weeks earlier. I don’t remember much from the baby shower following the election, other than that I unexpectedly burst into tears while thanking our family and friends for attending. In that memory, I can see the look on everybody’s face in the room—sad, sympathetic, uncomfortable. We had everybody write letters to Kina that night; depending on how things go over the next week, I may go back to read them.
I don’t know why, but Kina has started to insist we call her “Your Majesty” whenever we address her. It could be Elsa-related, but we think it’s actually a reaction to the Studio Ghibli film The Cat Returns, about a disaffected teen who is rewarded for saving the life of a princely cat by being forced herself to become a cat and marry him. In the end, a porcelain figurine in the shape of a feline aristocrat comes to life and saves her from a life at court, and she is returned to her human form with a newfound confidence in life. The whole rescue storyline is a little infantilizing for our heroine, if you ask me, but Kina’s into it. The “your majesty” bit, we think, is a reference to the character of the louche cat dictator-king, whose dialog is amusing but who cannot in any capacity be seen as a good role model.
Nonetheless, Kina has taken to strolling regally about our apartment, demanding that we bow before her and scuttle about in her wake. “Your majesty,” she will admonish us, if we refer to her by her human name as we offer her snacks. We, her obsequious servants, correct ourselves in hushed tones. We serve at her pleasure. It’s a kind of role-play that serves as a useful distraction from the election at hand; it feels good to submit myself to the authority of a tyrant I kind of like. As it turns out, I respect only one dictator in this world, and that’s my kid.
Everybody else we can kick out.