Political Animals
The Woman Problem

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Future Starts Slow

Alex: "Not the story. The story is her replacement. High-level White House source. 500 words by lunch..."
Susan: "Can I stall you on this? How about legal scholars' reactions or..."
Alex: "It's exclusive. Next up is the Post or the Times and we lose it."

She gets him down to three hours; Assistant Russ points out that this would kill Susan's big story -- "No shit, Russ" -- and tries to comfort her.

Russ: "You know, breaking a Supreme Court nod... that's not such a bad story."
Susan agrees: "No. But it's not the story."

MARGARET WANDERS

Into the kitchen while Elaine's rolling calls, trying to clear Douglas's schedule for the fishing trip and Elaine hangs up to harangue her. First bad idea of the day.

Elaine: "You know, I should be used to it by now, but frankly I was a little shocked by how negative you were last night."
Margaret: "What you were shocked about was that someone in this family dared to tell you the truth. Dougie doesn't have a job without you, T.J. wants to stay on your good side in case he needs a loan -- or bail -- and poor Anne..."

We don't talk about that. Only Margaret notices, because only Margaret knows about that; about what it takes to become a picture in a magazine, when you weren't born there. Paper-thin.

It becomes a war between women. Elaine compares them on motherhood and comes out victorious. Every negative thing she thinks of herself -- or ever has -- comes rushing back and they're all in Margaret's voice. All the way back, to the real murky ugly stuff; the stuff that sounds like a cliché because we've all heard it in our own heads. It's not that we want our parents to die exactly. We just want to move into the house where we keep them. For them to feel safe enough to rest.

Elaine: "You made me wear a padded bra starting in sixth grade..."
Margaret: "...Those trashy Perdue twins were maturing early! I didn't want you to feel inferior..."
Elaine: "I didn't feel inferior until you told me I was."

More of this, half of it stuff Margaret never said or words she said that Elaine heard differently or words Elaine heard that Margaret remembers differently. Ugly, ugly. Matters of class, matters of attention-seeking; your mother was a Copa Girl and you married a Dukes Of Hazzard extra, and over all of this you had to become so hard and so bright and so inviolate, draw deep on so much conviction and cut off so much need that you look in the mirror and even you have to understand why they call you a bitch.

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Political Animals

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