Their election night began fueled by tacos and crackling with girl power.
All braces, turquoise toenails and emoticons, this Northern Virginia girlpack was ready to witness history Tuesday night.
“It will be amazing to finally see a woman president,” said Sydney Robinson, 13.
Instead, the girls got a fast-forward lesson on life as a woman.
At 8 p.m. on Tuesday, they existed in a girls-can-do-anything world.
And why not? They grew up admiring female astronauts, Army Rangers and mothers who do marathons. Their own supermoms are lawyers and executives.
What glass ceiling?
This isn’t the Future Homemakers of America generation. This is Girls Gotta Run, Girls Who Code, Girls Golf.
They raise their hands in class, answer questions, run for student body president.
A woman in the White House? Totes.
“I remember seeing that line of presidents, all those men, when I was little,” said 12-year-old Lauren Dent, who was wearing a Hillary sticker that matches the Rice Krispie H on the dessert table. “It was like a timeline with all their pictures on it, the presidents. And I remember asking my teacher ‘Where are the woman presidents?’ And there weren’t any.”
Lauren’s mom woke her up at 4 a.m. Tuesday so they could go to the polls together to help change that.
And the girl gathering Tuesday night would be that moment they would all remember forever.
At around 8:30 p.m., their Fairfax County living room watch party was on fire.
Four phones and an iPad, furious fingers, hundreds of messages. A collective groan whenever CNN called a state for Donald Trump. Then, heads back down, text text text.
“I just don’t understand how these people can support a man who talks about women in those ways,” said the other Sydney in the room, Sydney Jones, 13, an eighth grader at South County Middle School. She’s well aware of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video of Trump boasting that he can kiss, grope and grab women because he’s a celebrity.
“It’s. Just. Ewww,” she said. “It’s not right. Men do that to women?”
This Sydney definitely wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.
“In our civics class, it got really heated up,” she said, clearly relishing the argument, the battles they had with mock elections. “And I’m good at arguing.”
Heads down, text text text.
“Oh my gosh! Did you see what Alexa wrote?” one said. “Did you see Stella’s picture?”
They realize that sexism still exists.
“I haven’t experienced discrimination personally,” said Mirette Arafa, 13, who is also an eighth grader at South County. But she knows her mom has sometimes struggled in a male-dominated field.
Mirette’s mom works in tech. In computer programming. In man world. And that’s the field Mirette thinks she wants to work in.
“I love math,” she said. “And I think it will be a little different for me. By the time I’m grown up.”
That was at 9 p.m., when they all believed they would wake up to Madam President on Wednesday.
Then, another state was called, and Donald Trump’s face filled the screen.
“We can’t have an orange being in the White House!” said Alexis White, who is 9 and has no memory of anyone other than the Obama family in the White House.
Sydney Robinson was getting nervous by 10 p.m. And she began to tell the story of what she and her mother encountered when they went canvassing for Clinton.
They went to a neighborhood filled with Trump supporters. She and a couple of other campaign workers knocked on their first door.
“They looked at us and said ‘No one in this household is voting for her,’ ” she said. And they slammed the door in their faces.
As they began to walk away, a man popped out of the house, got out a Trump yard sign and placed it in the lawn right in front of them. And he put on a Trump hat, staring them down. They walked around him, and picked up their pace, back to mom’s car.
“And then he got into his car and followed us,” she said. They ran. He followed.
“And then he pulled over, put down his window and told us he wanted us to get married and be happy and live productive lives. And he said the Democrats can’t do that for us,” she said. “It was terrible. I never want to do something like that again.”
Her three friends listening to her story snapped back to their phones. Bing. Bing. Bing. Selfies of stressed tweens were being posted. More texting. Their message group was renamed to “RIP AMERICA.”
“Most people are watching it online,” one of the Sydneys explained. “It’s faster. Everyone is watching and writing about it.”
They began the night so optimistic, so giddy. They were with her. It was supposed to happen. A woman — at last — on that president timeline. Of course. Girls can do anything.
It’s a magic time, the cusp of teenhood. It’s when so many of the girls are taller than boys, when flirting is still weird, dating nonexistent. The boys’ voices crack, and the girls don’t worry about looking too smart in class.
It’s before they feel the cold truth of real inequality. Before they feel the sting of earning 79 cents to every dollar their male colleagues earn, before they see that the 55 percent of college degrees going to women translates to their holding less than 5 percent of the nation’s CEO jobs. Before they realize that their gender makes up only 20 percent of lawmakers in Congress.
It’s before they really understood what happened in that classroom at Washington Irving Middle School in Springfield earlier this year.
“We had a class election. And there was only one boy who ran for something. And, like, five girls ran for the same thing,” Lauren remembered.
“And all of the boys voted for that one boy. None of them voted for any of the girls,” she said. “It didn’t matter if they were more polite or had better ideas. He won because they all just voted for him.”
Shortly before midnight, as Trump was speeding toward victory, the mothers declared bedtime.
In four hours, their girls had learned about centuries of sexism. Of brick walls, glass ceilings, of being the smartest person in the room, the most qualified person for the job and still being rejected.
They had to wake up for school the next day. And when they did, everything in their world had changed.