Forgive me, but I’m going to start with a tired cliché of sorts:
Sometimes, in the midst of an odd experience, you end up learning something about yourself and about life.
This happened to me at the intersection of my personal experience with the historical (I think we can already call it that) 2016 election and my intimate relationship with the 2004 classic cinematic feature, Mean Girls. And for the purpose of this post, I am going to assume you have seen this incredible masterpiece at least three times. Just in case you haven’t (are we even friends IRL?) – Mean Girls Plot Summary
Last Thanksgiving (2015), I expressed my concern over a possible Trump Presidency. My father assured me that there was no way he would even win the nomination. He laughed at me for being so worried! If this had been a scene in a movie, there definitely would have been some ominous music playing during the fade out.
I cast my vote early, on a random work-from-home day in late October. It felt amazing. I saved my “I Voted” sticker with a dream of framing it and putting it in my future daughter’s nursery. You can roll your eyes here. I am, too. In my college-educated, Journalism degree mind, in my bleeding liberal heart of hearts, I truly did not believe that Trump would win the election. I thought Pussygate had pretty much sealed the fate for Our Queen HRC. How could people in 2016 America vote for a reality TV star who campaigned on a platform of islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, and classism? Ninety-six years after the 19th amendment was passed, the glass ceiling was finally going to be shattered, and the shimmering pieces would fall all around a crying Donald Trump, human equivalent of cargo pants that zip away into shorts (credit: Every Description of Donald Trump).
I won’t go into the sexism that played a role in the portrayal of HRC throughout the election and beyond. You can look that up for yourself, if you’re so inclined. Our local Tampa Bay Times published a great, non-partisan piece that covered a good chunk of her history of public service (Read it here).
When Trump won, I was devastated. And then I latched onto a really depressing theory…
For 8 years, we had a black president, and during this time it wasn’t like racism disappeared. It’s just that racists didn’t really advertise their racism outside of their own racist circles – obviously I am white, and do not experience everyday, systemic racism the way POC do. I’m not naive. (Highly recommend this piece: My President Was Black – The Atlantic, but you’ll need an espresso machine nearby – it’s long). For 8 years, we had a president who stood up for women and women’s rights. But sexist, misogynistic people were still around. For 8 years, we had a president who campaigned for equal civil rights for our LGBTQ friends and loved ones. But, for the most part, homophobic people weren’t introducing themselves saying, “Hi, I’m James, and I really care about where you put your penis/vagina/mouth/fingers and it personally affects me and I think you’re subhuman and are probably going to hell. How about this weather we’re having lately, huh?”
You get the point.
After Trump was declared PEOTUS, people started worrying about an increase in hate crimes. Would blatant displays of all those awful -isms become commonplace? I thought so! All the “’deplorables” now had a reason to believe that their thoughts and beliefs were validated. They had a president elect who bragged about grabbing unwilling women by their pussies, who stereotyped and discriminated against Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans, and who didn’t understand or care to understand the plight of the working poor (let’s pause to recognize that many working poor actually voted for Trump – ah, the joy of voting according to party lines). These people would no longer feel the need to hide or blur their shitty opinions of their neighbors, their fellow Americans, their fellow human beings.
I let my own shitty opinion of these people be known. I cried to my husband. I rage-typed angry texts to my friends and family. I posted a lousy Facebook status expressing my anger and sadness (I have since hid this from my timeline, but you can find it at the end of this blog post). I was an angry person, and I was thinking (and sometimes saying) cruel things about other people. I was not fun to be around.
Remember when Cady Heron first came to her new school and was a sweet, smart, and kind teenager? About halfway through the movie, it starts to become clear that she isn’t just obsessed with Regina George – she actually idolizes her. And as Cady finds herself in line to essentially replace Regina as the Queen Bee, the audience realizes that Cady has become just as self-centered, rude, and cruel as Regina had been. Janice Ian said it best –
“…you are a mean girl! You’re a bitch!”
In an effort to highlight the worst characteristics of Trump and (a portion of) his supporters, I didn’t realize I had begun to adopt some of those very same characteristics myself. I was Cady Heron trying to take down Regina George.
I’m thankful it didn’t come to the point where my husband, mother, or friends had to tell me I had become a mean bitch. I was running one night after the election. I was obviously still full of rage, so I was running faster and further than usual (so, still not very fast or far). On my way back to my car, I saw a guy eat shit right in front of me. He looked like he literally tripped over his feet. How embarrassing! Poor guy! I laughed and said to him, “I’ve been there!” I hadn’t, though. I’d miraculously managed to avoid ever tripping over myself and falling in front of all the beautiful people on Bayshore. But I knew that my time would likely come. One day I will be down on that concrete in front of passing cars and other runners, and I hope someone nearby says something to make me feel a little better.
Today I try and focus on projecting only positivity from my own tiny space in the world. It isn’t easy. I’m still angry, and I’m definitely scared for our future, but projecting my dark feelings onto other people isn’t going to help anyone, and it sure as hell isn’t going to make me feel any better about the current situation.
If you ever feel like the Queen Bee or the desperate new kid, remember that your role could change at any moment, and you probably won’t enjoy the feeling of being on the other side.