No one likes election season. Maybe it’s the eyesore signs littering the roadways. Maybe it’s the op-eds littering the newspapers. Maybe it’s the commercials, with candidates littering the airways with their faces, their opinions, and their snapshots of their perfect, all-American families. For me, it’s the commercials. And one recent commercial from Gov. Nikki Haley made me want to throw my television out the window.
Let me set the scene for you. It was a Sunday evening, we were watching the Panthers play, and Carolina was winning — yay! My whole family had been watching the game, though at the moment in question my husband was in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner (I cook, he cleans). Someone called a time out, and so the network went to commercials. We sat there, my six-year-old and me, a couple of girls watching a ball game on a Sunday evening.
Now, my daughter is bright. She’s quick. Addition and subtraction came easily to her. She’s also not particularly sheltered. She watches superhero movies, and violence doesn’t generally bother her. But she doesn’t watch a lot of TV with commercials. Instead, she watches Netflix shows. Last week was a Ninjago marathon; this week it was Barbie.
So when Nikki Haley appeared on our television, and the camera zoomed in on her vacant, pretty face, my daughter looked up. Her attention was snagged. “Who’s that, Mommy?” she asked.
“Our governor,” I said, reaching for the remote.
I was too slow. Haley opened her magenta lips. “Every chance I get, I go to schools to talk about the dangers of bullying. It all started from a suicide letter I received from an eighth grade girl…” I cursed inside my head.
My daughter turned to me, her eyes wide. “Mommy, what’s a suicide letter?”
“Well, it’s time for bath now, babe. Let’s go,” I replied
It was never going to work, not with my child, at least. She asked again, “I said, what’s a suicide letter? Please tell me.”
I stared at my daughter, my love, my one and only. “Baby,” I said slowly, gathering my thoughts. “What if I said that’s not something I want to discuss with you right now? What if I said that’s grown-up stuff?”
She wrinkled her little six-year-old nose and sighed, “But then I’ll think about it even more.”
So I told her the basics, that sometimes people are sick on the inside. Sometimes you can’t see that they’re sick on the inside. Sometimes their brains are sick, and they get sad or scared. Sometimes they’re so sad and scared that the only thing they think they can do is to take their own lives. That’s called committing suicide, I told her
“They kill themselves, Mommy?” she replied.
I nodded and said, “Yes, baby. Isn’t that sad?”
“Yes. But what’s a suicide letter?” She asked.
We talked about the letters people sometimes leave behind — the notes, the good-byes, the love, the sadness, and the remnants of a shattered life. Then came the killer question. The one that shattered me.
“But Mommy,” my daughter said. “She said ‘eighth grader.’ Why’d she say eighth grader? Would an eighth grader do that?”
My daughter’s quick, like I said. She understands an eighth grader is only seven years older than she is. Seven years. That’s not a long time. She got that.
This was not the conversation I wanted to have with my six-year-old on a Sunday night. I wanted to be giggling with her. I wanted to be laughing. But nope. I got suicide letters and eighth graders killing themselves. Fabulous.
The Republican Party has hailed the ad in its entirety as “a clever anti-bullying ad.” Me? I wouldn’t know. I didn’t make it past the opening line. I’m sure it was lovely back in 2011 for a bullied little girl to get a phone call from Haley, telling her to hold her head high. That was the point of the ad, of course, touting this one nice thing Gov. Haley did three years ago in an effort to humanize those magenta lips.
Me? I’ll never know. Thanks to the timing of that ad, and thanks to the use of the term “suicide letter,” I missed the point of Haley’s commercial and spent the rest of the night on damage control with my child.
Campaign season may be all about “clever” commercials and kissing babies, but please, Nikki Haley, stay away from my baby. There are some topics I’d rather not discuss with her just yet.