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Friday, August 18, 2017

Well, this is quite the view.

I’m sitting near a window that overlooks a busy intersection in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Across the street, a large digital billboard looms above a pizza joint. Every 30 seconds or so, a plastic surgeon’s ad unfurls, revealing an essentially headless woman — we can see her red lips — whose ample bosom is barely bucketed by the straps of her red halter dress.

The banner reads, “Who said diamonds were a girl’s best friend?”

Once again, I am reminded that Hillary Clinton is running for president because of the sequence of responses that ricocheted through my head.

Really, somebody still says that? Diamonds are our best friend?

“Girl”? Quick, somebody introduce Dr. Fix-‘Em to the woman whose cleavage is spilling out over Columbus.

Oh, right, bigger breasts — they solve evvvverything.

And then I hear it: Lighten up. Can’t you take a joke?

There it is — the inner scold reminding me that we’ve got a viable female candidate running for president, and her name is Hillary Clinton.

I’ve already lost count of the number of times I’ve heard or read the reprimand. If we can’t laugh at the sexism and misogyny heaped on Hillary — they never call it that, by the way — then we just can’t take a joke.

This is happening with the frequency of a baby’s burp. They are a loud and persistent group of people (most — but alas, not all — of them men) who fancy themselves to be members of the merry band of Hillary haters. They crack themselves up, which is their other identifying trait. They think they’re hilarious. I think my root canal had more punch lines.

Often, they go after Hillary Clinton’s appearance — and sound like the men with favorite barstools who believe they are just two Engelbert Humperdinck concert tickets away from the hottest date ever.

Men such as Mr. Name Redacted — why embarrass the women in his life by naming him? — who wrote in a long, long discussion thread about Hillary Clinton on my public Facebook wall: “She will be the President of Pantsuits. Ever see her wear a dress?”

To which I responded, “Oh, Mr. Name Redacted, I’ve never met you, but I know you.”

And I do. Like all female columnists, I’ve been hearing from men like him for years. They make up identities, often several, and poison the comments sections of news sites, where they agree with the various versions of themselves and fellow members of the lonely troll club. At the heart of their grievance is a disbelief that it’s come to this — this, this woman.

These are the perfect clients for that plastic surgeon’s billboard ad in Columbus. I have nothing against women who want to enlarge their breasts, but that ad is a play on the title of a song performed in 1953 by Marilyn Monroe in the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The only women old enough to remember this flick, even as a late-night rerun, have already discovered that menopause is nature’s way of beefing up the breasts.

That ad appeals to the people who yearn for the “Mad Men” days, when men were men and their women were just a cup size away from making their dreams come true.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, you might say. Well, there is this: Earlier today, I was in a ballroom with more than 1,000 other women gathered to learn about the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism and empower our gender.

We talked about the suicide rate among transgender Americans — it’s 41 percent — and the challenges facing women who immigrate to this country. We talked about the American Indian tradition of cherishing elders, too, and how lifting mothers out of poverty raises a community, as well. And we talked about the implicit-association test, which can help us discover our hidden prejudices.

In one hour, we talked about all of this and so much more. And then I left the convention center and walked two blocks to sit by a window overlooking a man’s billboard ad for bigger breasts.

So yeah, maybe I wasn’t in the mood. I’ve been feeling that way now for about 40 years, starting right around the time I turned 18 and a relative gave me the book Dress for Success. We were supposed to be the female version of men, right down to the bows tied around our necks to protect men from the distraction of our breasts.

Go ahead. Tell me it’s silly to be excited that a woman could become our next president.

I’ll laugh, I promise. I’ve lived long enough to know a good joke when I hear one.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner with fellow candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, October 24, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan