I don’t want to share this, I shouldn’t have to share this part of my life, but I cannot stay silent any longer. I, like most women, am disgusted by not only Trump himself, but more so by the attempts of his supporters to dismiss his lewd, sexual comments as “locker room talk.” What’s happening with the Trump campaign and the rhetoric surrounding this election is striking a familiar chord somewhere inside of me, and it’s time I tell you all how Donald Trump made me fat.
As a teenager, I developed quickly and early and the boys noticed-as did the girls. In gym class, I tried everything I could think of to get out of running, jumping, or any other activity that would cause the boys to hoot and holler at my bouncing breasts. Boys dated me because of my body, and other girls called me a slut for the same reason. I learned early on that my body was something I should be ashamed of. That idea-body and shame-rooted itself inside of me and bore fruit for years and years in the form of bad decisions and self-loathing.
Sometimes, I welcomed the attention. If a cute boy said hello in the hallway, I smiled. If a boy told me I was pretty, I accepted that compliment. But the language never stayed benign. The rhetoric always escalated. There were nicknames, obscene gestures, forced sexual encounters. What should have been a kiss always ended with a hand under my shirt. Boys would grab my breasts under the bleachers at the football games, press themselves against me in dark corners at parties, or break up with me after I refused to allow their hands to wander. At 12, 13, and 14 years old, I never knew how to handle the Donald Trumps of this world and their overtly aggressive and sexual advances. I didn’t know how to respond, how to handle what I perceived as ridicule, or how to hide my body from them.
Then, I discovered a way. I began turning to food for comfort and protection.I know now that I didn’t want boys to stop paying attention to me altogether, I just wanted them to pay the right kind of attention. I wanted boys to notice my sense of humor, to appreciate my intelligence, and if they thought I was pretty-I’d take that too. What I didn’t want was the boys leering at my breasts, thinking I was easy because I was shaped a certain way, and for girls to hate me because of it.
In my late teens/early twenties, I gained a massive amount of weight, hence changing the shape of my body. And while being fat brought with it a new kind of shame, in many ways it felt safer. I felt safe. I found a boy who loved me in the right way, who saw my humor, my mind, my inner beauty, and who-for a while anyway-loved me for those things. I didn’t attract attention from men on the street anymore. Girls didn’t hate me. I was still ashamed of my body, but I no longer felt unsafe because of it. I had finally found a way to protect myself from the Trumps of this world, from the boys and men who had reduced me to a sexual commodity.
Today, I am 39. I have two daughters and a wonderfully supportive husband. I am a better weight, not great, but better, and have learned to love the body I have. Still, the Trumps of the world are out there. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while a man will make a comment or an advance that focuses once again on my body-specifically my breasts, and I am immediately 12 years old again and can still taste that shame on my tongue. The instinct to hide myself from sexual aggression is a reflex born out of a lifetime of feeling ashamed of my body. It is the tree still living inside of me-no longer bearing fruit-but refusing to wither.
That’s why Trump’s campaign of sexism and hatred is so very dangerous. Many of us still have that tree inside of us. We know what it feels like to be objectified, to be ridiculed, or worse yet, to be sexually assaulted. Trump’s comments went beyond any “locker room” talk I’ve ever heard, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t heard them somewhere before. I’ve heard talk like this under the breath of the boy pressed against me in that dark corner at a party, before I could wiggle out of his grasp and before I could muster the word “no.”
If you ask me what I want for my 9-year-old daughters the list is long. I want them to be strong, to have a solid education, to make their mark on the world with kindness, not power. But if I could only have one thing-just one wish for my children-it would be that they find their voice and they learn how to use it for change. Simply put, I want better for my girls. I hope they never have to feel how their mommy felt, or her mommy, or her mommy before her.