A piece of dental floss dangles from my bathroom counter, a congealed glob of Colgate Total toothpaste to its left, a Crest lump to its right. I think about this floss precariously there—a little flavored stretch of nylon quietly littering the warped Central Campus sink. It’s not on the counter, no. But not falling off just yet either.
I see a lot of wisdom in this floss, in this maybe mundane string of a thing. It warmly reminds me of my father who every night sits in bed reclined, legs folded, and flosses his teeth. Pick pock, pick pock.
The suspended floss reminds me that there is some adventure and beauty in the middle road, in the space fixed between two points. It hangs there, noncommittal. Some people in my shoes might chuckle and think “how funny that it hangs just so!” Others may be annoyed that it has not yet made its way into the trash bin. But I am engrossed. For even if the wind or a hand came to snatch it, this floss has known both sides. It has seen the water-splashed sink and the speckled linoleum floor. It has a view of the toothpaste globs as they dry up—the left and the right. It wavers. On the counter. On the fence.
Today is my 21st birthday. And admittedly, I have never made fence-sitting a habit. Even as a little girl, I would march into Gap Kids, grab a sunhat and floral dress and tell Momma that it was the only outfit that would do. And at Duke, as I enter my 20s, I remain decisive. I make up my mind as one might a bed—quickly and without afterthought.
This autumn, though, I have found myself where the floss is now, the unsettling no man’s land of middle ground. I am too apolitical to be independent. I am too torn to be sure.
I have wavered, watching the world whirl by as mud was slung and passions were poured. How-could-you’s and empty promises, heartfelt pleas and ignorant slurs all careening toward me as Nov. 6 drew near.
I gathered quickly that my hesitation posed a threat to some decided voters. Some reassured themselves aloud that it was out of apathy and improper research that I had not picked a side. Some thought that I wanted to rustle elephant and donkey feathers—that I was hesitating to frustrate my partisan friends. I was told that a vote for Mitt Romney meant I didn’t respect my womanhood or my friends who are gay. That a vote for Barack Obama meant killing the American dream, an America evermore entrenched in government.
I will say that I did vote, with an absentee Florida ballot no less. I will say that I care deeply about this country and where we are headed. I do love my friends who are gay and care about their rights. Maine and Maryland, I salute you. I worry about the economy and bipartisan gridlock. I have only the utmost reverence for my womanhood. Most of all, I stand by my uncertainty.
Through this uncomfortable straddling of sides, I have become fascinated with the passions that divide us. I was fascinated and uneasy, caught between the congealing lumps. The Colgate and Crest—the left and the right.
Aside from a few migraines and plenty of sighs, politics this year has given me an opportunity to reevaluate how we decide. What causes so many to be drawn to either glob of toothpaste, leaving me in between?
No definitive answers yet. I am appropriately undecided.
I have found a few things, though. I have found that I rather like the middle road. I think I’ll linger here a while longer. I find it to be a forum for the most candid and impassioned pitches of opinion. I now pledge allegiance to choosing sides only after good hesitation. I rather like to dangle. Here I am still on the bathroom countertop, as the world whirls around me and the toothpaste congeals. Tick tock. Pick pock.
Gracie Willert is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Friday.
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