Ann Romney and The Jewelry Lady

Sometimes, when work is slow, I’ll walk the village of the ski resort I waitress at and take a gander at what is happening. Last Saturday, I came across a lady with a jewelry stand and we started discussing the different pieces she had laid out. We ended up talking about a variety of different things and somehow- I’m still really not sure how- we ended up talking about her experience in the military. She told me stories of how she was a “bad girl” and would sneak out and how one of those times she got caught. The punishment from her superiors was that she had to do 3 hours of circuits in her high heels and miniskirt at 2 am with a good drunk buzz on and then get right into the next day of army activities with no sleep. We laughed about this and that, but then she said the most peculiar thing:

“The military is all about breaking you down, definitely. I lost my job a few years back and had to move up North to sell this jewelry. That’s why I’m going to vote for Mitt Romney, because Obama made the economy crash.”

Now, by ‘peculiar’ I mean in context to our conversation and I’m not going to start arguing whether or whether not Obama single-handedly took our economy and made it shit. I didn’t with that nice lady either. She talked a little more about raising her daughter- who sat next to her in all her 8-year-old glory adorned with her mother’s jewelry- with a father who had run out on them and how hard it had been. My heart ached and certainly didn’t have it to tear down this woman so I simply looked at her and asked “And do you think Mitt Romney understands better what it takes to get working class people jobs and help women like yourself?”

She couldn’t give me a direct answer. I listened to every word she said and she beat around the bush with words like businessman and economical plan and Obama’s failure. And although I didn’t once add in my two cents, just listened, I realized that it wasn’t so much Romney or Obama or any political figure; it was about a hopelessness and the fact that- at this point-  any solution that solved that feeling would do.

I ended up buying a necklace for ten bucks, even though I had no intention of doing so at first, just to help the lady out, expressed the pleasure of hearing some of her stories, and headed on back to work.

Cut to last night, where I sat ready with a giant bowl of popcorn for one of my biggest reality TV guilty pleasures: political speeches. Down in my birthplace of Tampa, Florida, the Republican National Convention was being held and the Republicans were gearing up to convince the country that they could solve everyone’s problems. However, it wasn’t until Ann Romney’s speech that I realized that these millionaires were in fact going to connect with some of the working class.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Ann Romney, like a Stepford wife turned on, delivered a by and large fascinatingly well-written speech delivered straight to women like the one I met running the jewelry stand. She talked about how hard it is to be a woman in our society wishing we could work less and spend more time with the kiddies. She talked about how we had to work harder than men in order to get all of their daily chores done. (Cinderelly, Cinderelly!) She talked about wanting to help all of the people of the whole country. She talked about meeting her dear Mitt at a school dance- she actually mentioned it a lot- and how she was the mother of five and how every man in her family worked so hard. She talked about love, and patriotism, and how wonderful Mitt was, and how she loved her family. She talked about a lot of things that women who are struggling to make ends meet understand and want someone else to understand as well.

She went for the jugular with women: their compassion and their families.

Of course, as I was expecting, Ann Romney did what she could to try and dissuade the idea that the Republican party was against women. I pretty much knew as I sat down and prepared for speech after speech that this was going to be her job. And she succeeded in more or less proclaiming that women are more important than men by having to work harder. Problem I have with this? Aside from saying she understood eating “tuna fish” as a newlywed and doing school work on a “door propped on sawhorses” as a desk, she in no way clarified how they would prove that they were in fact for women’s rights. Mrs. Romney just made it clear that she liked women-hurray- and that she too, was a woman, which must mean that Mitt Romney was guilty by association and also liked women.

Another interesting point that Ann Romney tried to explain for her husband is why there is so little talk of Mitt’s humanitarian work and good deeds. Oh, and she nailed this one:

“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point. And we’re no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them.” 

This simple statement is a selling point with any division of the christian religion, any single one. Mainly because the Bible makes it very clear that this is exactly the way that you should go about volunteering… in stealth mode. It would also be a selling point with someone who adheres to no religion but still tries to help as often as possible, but also doesn’t update their Facebook status about it to alert everyone to their kindness. You shouldn’t help just for the recognition, in other words. (Nice work, speech writer.)

More or less, Ann Romney’s speech set out to conquer the hearts of anyone who holds family dear by showing that they had the typical family (hard-working husband, doting wife, and lovingly unruly yet good children) and that they started out in the typical way (met at a school dance, fell in blissful love, battled some problems, had some kids, and managed to work to the top) and that for these reasons we should probably get to know, and sincerely like, Mitt Romney. Her speech wasn’t about politics at all. It was about a traditional nuclear family system, the hard-working underdog that is mother, wife, sister…

Oh, and that same exact hope that the Obama’s talked about in 2008.

Last Saturday, a few hours after having spoke to her, the lady who was selling jewelry was taking down her show table, and she eventually came over to the restaurant I work at. I saw her trudging through the light rain, hood from her jacket up, and one hand holding her daughter’s. I greeted them at the door, opening it and ushering them in.

“I want you to have this.” She shoved a bracelet in my hand, and I took a step back, a little surprised. “It’s made with green jade, which can mean a variety of things, but for you, I think healing and hope. Keep it.”

I insisted that she let me give her money for it, but she insisted I take it as a gift.

As I watched and listened to Ann Romney’s speech, this woman who was raising her daughter alone, who lost her job, who had come and given me a bracelet for no seeable reason except I listened to her, a woman who had once done 150 pushups in high heels and a miniskirt (bless her heart!) kept popping into my head. Her hopelessness and lack of options, and how the Romney family would probably never actually understand her, no matter how much Ann tried to convince us so, flitted in and out of my thoughts as I listened to one Republican after another speak and shoved handfuls of popcorn in my mouth.

This is a hope that all politicians feed on and a hope that all politicians claim they can give.

However, there is no hope better felt than when a stranger gives a piece of her only source of income to another stranger… just because.

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