You can read this series from the beginning here.
"You’re late," Emma said.
"Am not," I said. "I’ve been upstairs, talking with Aunt Joan." Aunt Joan, who as I think I have explained before isn’t really my aunt, was best friends with my mother when they were both at grad school at Yale with the former Secretary. Aunt Joan was a lobbyist and an undersecretary and she was on the shortlist to be Ambassador to French Polynesia until they asked for someone who spoke French. She is in charge of institutional outreach, which means "raising dark campaign money from the big DC law firms and shady foreign governments," and spends her spare time riding herd on the interns. Since she knows me, that means that I get to be the one who communicates her edicts to the other interns.
"We need to talk," Emma said. "About New Jersey."
"Nothing to talk about," I said. "Solid blue, even if Christie gets the nomination."
"About Easter weekend. In New Jersey. You and me."
"Um," I said. "Well. Sure. You mean, like, a romantic getaway? Cape May? LBI?"
"Montclair," she said. "My parent’s house. Easter dinner."
"We need to get started with the intern meeting," I said, brandishing the sheet of paper Aunt Joan had given me. "This is important."
"You bail on me about Easter," Emma said, "and you’re going to find out what’s important and what isn’t."
"Okay, everyone," I said. "We have new instructions from upstairs. There’s been some additions to the banned word list that everyone needs to know about."
"Is this like how we can’t say ‘inevitable’?" Monique asked. "Because I never did understand what that was about."
"They said the former Secretary was inevitable in 2008," Emma explained. "It didn’t work. So it’s bad luck."
"Right, exactly. Inevitable is a word that we always push back on, like bossy. Or the other B-word."
One of our new interns–I think she was an Oberlin grad–raised her hand. "I disagree with this approach," she said. "I understand that any linguistic construct is subject to preemption by the underlying patriarchal and racist assumptions implicit in our society. But nothing says that we can’t put a revolutionary imprint on so-called banned words and recast them in a more effective and politically responsible manner."
"Aunt Joan says," I explained. "Okay, let’s do these in alphabetical order. And, yes, I know alphabetical order is a white-male-European construct, but it’s convenient."
"Alphabetical order is actually a Phoenician innovation, adapted by Hellenized Egyptian scholars, and later stolen and co-opted by the Romans," the Oberlin grad said.
"I did not know that. Moving on. Ambitious. This is a word we cannot let political opponents of the former Secretary use."
"I don’t get it," Emma said. "What’s wrong with being ambitious? I’m ambitious. So are all of you. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here."
"The patriarchy has twisted the meaning of the word," Monique said. "A man, well, a man can be ambitious. Maybe not Justin, you know, but other men."
"Microaggression," I said.
"A woman, though, a woman should not be ambitious. She should stay at home and make the cookies and stand by her man. For a woman, it is an insult to say she is ambitious."
I wanted to tell Monique that her phony French accent was sounding more and more like Eva Gabor’s every day, but that would be a microaggression right back her way and I didn’t want to respond in kind. "That’s the basic idea," I said. "That’s why most of these are on the list, because they mean different things when they apply to a woman candidate, especially one with a female gender expression. Like the next word is calculating. Only a male candidate can be calculating."
"Not if it’s a Republican," another intern said. "They can’t add."
"Not bad," I said. "Try it as a Ted Cruz meme. So, okay, the next word is entitled. Pretty much the same thing as inevitable. The former Secretary is going to win the nomination because she’s smart and talented and speaks to the basic concerns of the American middle class, not because she’s entitled because of who her husband is."
"So can we say Jeb Bush is entitled?" Emma asked.
"Of course," I said. "Because Jeb is entitled."
"He’s entitled for the same reasons the former Secretary is entitled," Emma said. "If Jeb’s entitlement is fair game, so is Hillary’s."
"Who said anything had to be fair?" I pointed out. "It’s about messaging and framing. Come on. This is elementary stuff, folks. Next, we have out of touch."
"We’re going to be telling people that Hillary Clinton is not out of touch," Emma said. "Is there any way we can get her to show us that she is in touch? You know, like she could show she has an opinion about things?"
"She did try explaining how broke she and Bill were after they left the White House," I said. "And it didn’t go so well, so I think this is tied into that. Most politicians are out of touch, anyway."
"It’s like saying that she’s not secretive. Everyone knows that she’s secretive; we look ridiculous if we try to say that she isn’t."
"That’s on the list too," I said. "We can’t let anyone say that the former Secretary is secretive."
"What are we supposed to do with that?" Emma asked.
"According to Aunt Joan," I explained, "we are supposed to say that, in private, the former Secretary speaks with transparent honesty about Republicans and their failure to govern after the midterms. We can even say that she is caustically disparaging of them."
"What can we say about you that’s caustically disparaging?" Monique asked.
"Okay," I said. "That’s enough for one day. Go out there and make a difference."
"This is all so ridiculous," Emma said.
"All we’re doing is pushing back against the right-wing hate machine," I said. "If their attacks were honest, and weren’t based on sexism and personal animosity, we wouldn’t have to deal with all this."
"No," she said. "It’s ridiculous that you won’t even talk to me about coming to New Jersey with me for Easter. You told me that your mother won’t let you celebrate it at home."
"It’s true," I said. "One time, when Mother was really into Wicca, we tried celebrating Beltane, but I tripped over the bonfire and burned down the shed where we stored the riding lawnmowers, so we stopped."
"So come with me," she said. "You can have all the caramel creme eggs you can eat. My mom will make crescent rolls."
"I don’t know," I said. "I mean, you’re asking me to expand my carbon footprint for this month. And I don’t get along well with organized religion or New Jersey."
"My mom makes these little blackberry tarts, with this incredibly flaky crust. She serves them with heavy cream and this amazing blackberry liqueur. It’s incredible. You have to try it."
"Organic blackberries?"
"I can check. Look, that’s not the point. The point is that I love blackberry liqueur, but it makes me kind of, you know, amorous. Uninhibited, even."
"If we take Amtrak," I said, "we’re not doing that much harm to Gaia. And I have an unlimited pass, still."
"So I can tell my mom that my boyfriend is coming to Easter dinner."
I said yes. It was inevitable, even if that was a word I wasn’t allowed to use.