by Darrah Belle
I’ve always thought of the President of the United States as the father of our nation. So, it’s not surprising to me that when Donald Trump was running, there was a familiarity to him. In fact, my own father loved him. But, so did I at one time.
There was something enticing about his bombastic personality. His ruthlessness. His machismo. The way he “told it like it was” and cut to the bone. Just like my own father, who I’ve written about here in an effort to find the peace and clarity that many reporters haplessly seek in press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
I dismissed Trump’s border talk as bravado and instead stared into the future with a hopefulness I’d not had since I pasted a Rolling Stone cover with Barack Obama’s face onto my bedroom wall like it was Anthony Kiedis.
“Everything is OK today, because Obama is the President!” I proclaimed naively to my roommate. I really believed the words coming out of my mouth.
Years later, as the polls began turning in Trump’s favor, and my ex began twisting in his seat, I bounded upstairs, secretly hoping that when I awoke from my nap, Trump would be the leader of the free world.
I don’t think anybody actually knows this story. Now, you do.
However, when I woke up a couple hours later, via a text message from Richard—telling me, with great grief—that Donald J. Trump beat Hillary Rodham Clinton, a blunt ache hit my bones. What have we done? I thought.
Against the backdrop of the histrionic debates, where he slithered and lunged like an angry reptile, circling his prey; the pageant perfect wife; the pageant perfect head daughter; and the ex-wife suddenly recanting her previous rape claims, I had gotten caught up in the drama. Plain and simple.
“Do I really want this dude running the country I live in and love deeply?” I asked myself, as I soaked in a sids bath. Holding my legs close to my chest, I repeated a dark joke I’d heard: “Is he going to set off a nuclear bomb—by accident?” I smiled to myself. “Definitely not.” I hoped.
Within the first thirty days of his presidency and definitely by Day 45, I stopped reading the news. Nobody knew I was a secret centrist and some things are better left unsaid, I thought, as I eavesdropped anti-Trump conversations at the local Starbucks or Ralph’s or even at church. Nobody, and I mean, nobody! seemed to support this guy. But, that can’t be true, can it? I mean, he won the election, right?
My mom once said, “nobody is only one thing,” and I find myself reminding myself of that daily. Nobody is one thing.
The perplexity of the human condition has been pondered by philosophers from Socrates to Plato and playwrights from Shakespeare to Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yet, these days, it seems like there are only a few boxes to check in the minds of our peers that ceaselessly relegate us to either: liberal or conservative; straight or gay; religious or not religious and so on… and once checked, they are nearly never unchecked, even if one experiences vast changes in their lives.
It’s like we can no longer unsubscribe to the thought patterns we once held, without somebody reminding us “hey, remember when you…?” Obviously, social media helps this along, but even IRL (in real life) people seem to have a longer memory with friends and family than with formerly-jailed celebrities promptly given a second chance at fame, fortune and their own reality shows.
Perhaps I’m projecting. Hmmmm… Likely it’s me who is less forgiving of my own radical transformations and embarrassing episodes and stages than those in my life, but, not unlike that snake shedding his scales when the season invites new skin, I’ve endured more mutations than a crop shackled by Monsanto.
Let’s recap a few: from age 19 through the age of 27, I dated only women.
At 25, I was engaged to a trans man. (Little known fact…)
I spent much of my twenties writing poetry about The Man and how being a bisexual, vegetarian, culturally Jewish woman was a trifecta that made it difficult to walk down the street, let alone engage in office lunchroom conversations. But times have changed.
In only a decade, I have witnessed society change in such a radical way—in ways I didn’t dream possible while poeticizing about the death of Harvey Milk and the delicious prose of Joan Nestle.
I was a feminist when saying so would bring a buzzing room to a standstill. Now, ironically, owning an interest in issues affecting men in America will have a similar effect.
I’m proud of the stripes I’ve adorned.
But, there are other parts of me that I am SO not proud of. For example, I am guilty of something I call “in word but not action.” In the past, I’ve been too shy or weak to defend racial stereotypes about, for example, Asians being bad drivers or black guys being good in bed, and I’m ashamed that I’ve giggled about things privately that, brought to light, I’d never say publicly.
But, now I am.
Around election time, I remember voraciously consuming news articles about the influx of violent crime in Germany, and blaming Angela Merkel’s immigration policy; genuinely fearing that Islamic terrorists dressed as refugees would take over the world. At best, I’d stay relatively silent among others who lambasted races or cultures I knew nothing about other than the kind of food they ate.
The “word” part of “in word but not action” is that my words hurt others and allowed peers to spout their racism unabated. The “action” part, is that I would never treat anybody in my daily life differently based on race. I don’t think I would. I hope I wouldn’t.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, because I’ve consciously decided to defer to a curated group of people. People in their late-teens and early-twenties.
I am blown away by the open-mindedness of the folks I’ve spoken to. Their wisdom is well beyond their years. Their acceptance of different people, from different walks of life is stunning.
These are the kids that I made fun of (likely incorrectly terming them “millennials”) for being entitled and spoiled. I was wrong.
They are some of the most accepting minds I’ve encountered. They give me hope.
When I sought to heal from my paternal wounds at their age, I did so using drugs and promiscuity. Every man that praised me helped to close a tiny fracture in my heart. A touch, a conversation, a fleeting bout of physical intimacy. Whatever it was was profound to me because it came from a man. That hasn’t changed that much.
It’s no secret that I was diagnosed with major depression by the time I was 25 years old and also PTSD. I never did more than cradle that PTSD diagnosis as proof that my childhood truly was as bad as I thought it was, despite my father’s gaslighting and impassioned speeches about how my memories and those of my siblings, and even our mother, were simply, wrong.
I allowed myself to be bullied by girlfriends that claimed to be my besties. Yelled at by boyfriends who promised to protect me. Shamed by men for things I’d done before we even met, all the while, they were actively cheating on me at any given opportunity. Sometimes, I even knew about the infidelity and did nothing about it. The confrontation would sting more and cheating was not my non-negotiable. The lying is the clincher, isn’t it?
Because of my own shame at the skin I wore in my last incarnation, I allowed others to shame me. Makes sense.
I was recently told by a doctor that I have a habit of defending and cheerleading for every man that has profoundly let me down.
Whether it is my father, my grandfather, or my exes, I can rattle off their top ten attributes without hesitation.
The man who raped me was also complex and intelligent and taught me so much about strength and I believe he loved me still.
My father couldn’t control his temper, and used his children and wife as punching bags, but he was also a well-read movie buff who supported my acting career and taught me to always find the loophole in systems that felt untouchable.
And so on.
When I brought up the topic of men’s rights in a mixed group the reaction went off like a shotgun at a birthday party. But, I expect that. However, afterward, a 19-year-old guy asked me to expand upon the ideas I had and said that, as a feminist, he was interested in what I had to say about gender. We had a captivating conversation. It was healing to share my ideas and to say, that while I don’t consider myself an MRA and don’t agree with everything on their docket, I do think that issues affecting men matter.
Even though I’ve experienced profound disappointment at the hands of some of the most important men in my life, I don’t lump all men in the category of disappointments. (Even Donald Trump.)
Because, like my mom said, “nobody is one thing.” And that means the world to me at the end of the day. I’m not one thing either. Encircling my sometimes deeply sad and sometimes buoyantly joyous mind around that concept keeps the breath swelling and receding from our collective consciousness. We are all One at the end of this journey, and forgiveness means forgiving the ones you love or have loved. And, most importantly, it also means forgiving yourself.
Darrah Le Montre is a writer, devoted single mom and student at UCI. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Fix and SuicideGirls, among others. She’s obsessed with Cracker Barrel biscuits, country music and all things Southern. Join her monthly e-newsletter Darrah’s Club! Join her on Instagram.
Follow Your Bliss…xoxo