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How Donald Trump (and This Nightmare Election) Finally Taught Me Body Positivity

How Donald Trump (and This Nightmare Election) Finally Taught Me Body Positivity

How Donald Trump (and This Nightmare Election) Finally Taught Me Body Positivity

It took 23 years, but thanks to Donald Trump and this dumpster fire of an election, I discovered body positivity, self-love, and the many joys of voting for Hillary Clinton. 


This morning changed my life. First, I woke up to a somewhat strange instance of credit card fraud. Someone was desperately failing to make my info. work at an out-of-state Chick-fil-A. They only ended making about $35 worth of charges, including a particularly modest one at Panera, and they also seem to have purchased a train ticket. I hope they went somewhere that made all the difference in their lives with the food they needed. Despite the fact that I now have to reset my Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify information, this didn't put me out a whole lot but, thanks to a post-voting diversion to the bank, it did end up changing how I got to see election day.

I've voted proudly for Hillary Clinton twice now (first in the primaries and again today) with a lump in my throat, clutching my ballot as I waited to fill it out, triple checking to make sure all the circles were filled in correctly. For me, this election is not about having a 'woman president,' it's about having a woman who is president. I know Hillary's policies, I know her flaws, I've watched her speeches and studied her history, and I am prepared to tell you why I am nonetheless voting for her with pride, trust, and loyalty. For me, it's about change and perspective. It's about studying a challenging situation, reviewing options, and understanding why this person made the choices she did. I believe Hillary is the best candidate that's been on any ticket this year—so much so that I went out of state to canvas for her recently—and it's an added, beautiful bonus that by putting a woman in the highest office, we're proving we can do anything. Seriously, unstoppably, anything. (It also doesn't hurt to say a big "Fuck You" to the man who thinks that all women amount to is what they look like. And that's not even the worst of it.)

Until recently, I don't think I fully registered the internal misogyny in this nation. That ignorance came from an incredible amount of luck, familial economic status, and privilege, and I don't deny that, but I don't want that to stop me from exploring my experience. I've always known I'm lucky to feel equal to many of the men in my life. I work as a female writer as successfully as many male peers in my field, I'm paid equally in my jobs, and I feel like—thanks to what I know are hundreds and years of female work, sacrifice, and dedication—I can do almost anything I really work hard for. (I say 'almost,' because if I suddenly decided to be an astronaut, it's safe to say truly nobody should trust me in space. I am a musical theater writer who had to divide '180 by 2' on her calculator this week [it was a long day]. Do not put me in space, even if I ask nicely.)

What it took me until this year to realize (or really, until Donald Trump became a presidential nominee—?!?) is that I have been letting deep-set misogyny and resulting societal beauty standards ruin my life and mental health against my will and knowledge. The best example I can find is that during college, in what felt like a fairly dismissible decision at the time, I quit my musical theater major in large part because I didn't feel I was pretty enough to be an actress. It didn't feel demeaning at the time, it just felt like the step I ought to take. I switched to studying comedy at Second City, where I felt much more at home, but I ultimately dropped all forms of performance to become a full-time writer. I miss planning dream roles most of all because I guess I never appreciated how nice it was nice to be a kid who didn't realize she didn't fit the look most people would go for to play Eponine in Les Mis. I started joking about how I could never be an actor, how I couldn't possibly sing at an open mic, how you'd have to drag me on stage at my own concert. I'd also gained a few pounds after college and decided it would be better if fewer photos were taken of me. Better for whom, in retrospect?

This felt like a small problem at the time and, in many ways, it still does. As we face so many dangerous discriminations and life-altering cracks in our promise of equality as a nation, my weight loss journey isn't exactly earth shattering. I continue to use this logic to torment myself about it, dismiss my problems, and let them consume me in their minimization. What I didn't fully realize was that, if your mind doesn't let you live your life, your problem isn't worthless and dismissible.



I've been lucky to have never been really bullied. I've been told I should lose weight, I've gone through programs and fads, I've been diagnosed with PCOS (which complicates weight loss), and ultimately I've learned to exist in constant disappointment of a pound not lost. I've heard those around me and those I love comment on the size of others throughout my entire life, sometimes with concern, sometimes with snide, bullying remarks. They weren't directed at me, sure, but these jabs at plus-size people hit me as hard as the woman who couldn't hear it herself (thankfully). I've learned that "You look so great!" mostly means "You lost weight!" and that it's often given as a higher compliment above all career and life achievements. 23 years of remarks on the female physical appearance live in my head at all times, and I collect them like some sort of horrifying, plus-size porcelain doll collection.

This year, a close friend of mine ranked my appearance on that "numbers system" or whatever horrifying bullshit you call that 1-10 scale. I was dubbed a "six," which I was informed was a good ranking. I was also told the reason I felt more comfortable going to a club in my small hometown than in my now-home of New York was because "the bar is lower." It was said thoughtlessly, thrown out after a few drinks, but in a second those comments burrowed into my mind and snuggled up next to every gross, throwaway remark I'd ever heard directed at a woman. Those comments stayed with me, and I struggled intensely with how to digest them and move forward. I struggled with how to walk out the door into a world that seems to believe it should be looking at something more beautiful. I struggled with knowing a close, trusted friend saw me as a 'low bar,' a number on a scale and, no matter what, I couldn't reject the idea that I might have deserved it.

Because these comments were changing me, I was open about this with my friends, many of whom shook their heads in horror and insisted that was untrue. "Of course it's untrue!" I was able to tell myself rationally, "This 'numbers' crap isn't real! It's a disgusting manifestation of a patriarchal society!" At the same time, another voice was right there to tell me it wasn't my friend's fault I was 'ugly.' Why should I shut him out for something that's my own responsibility and, ultimately, my failure? I escalated to telling myself that my friend was probably being generous. I deserved a four, probably. That felt more accurate. I began having multiple frantic conversations with myself about how to save myself by introducing body positivity into my life and experiencing it genuinely. When that seemed to fail, I changed tactics to explore how to live unattractively and push forward as someone who just won't be pretty. When that wasn't feeling stellar, I tried to learn to accept who I am while continuing to live a healthy but not harmful lifestyle. Believe me, it's harder than it sounds.

The war in my mind about my body has been getting quieter as I've been learning to find new ways to love the version of myself that fit the moment. It's never perfect, but I've created small reminders that the voices that tell me I'm worthless aren't real. I got a small tattoo on my hand that urges self-love in simple ways. I sought professional help, I talk to people I trust about how I feel. But as my mind got quieter, this election got louder, and even though I could rationally tell myself Donald Trump is a monster, I heard those numbers resurface as he placed them on women. I heard the disparaging of so many strong ladies' appearances, and I saw people stand up behind this man who seems to be running on a platform of tearing women down. I got scared, and I lost a lot of the love I'd found recently. Worse, I got scared for the women who haven't found that love yet, who aren't in a place where they're pretty confident they'll be able to keep themselves together. What about the young women who hear this presidential nominee (?!?) not only defend disgusting comments he makes but then continue to spew even more hate? I can tell myself he's wrong and know it in my heart, but the noise burrows, even if it's just noise. It eats at me, it makes me question my worth and my pride, and it challenges how strong I need to be to rise above. It also makes me mad as hell.

Today, I didn't just have to tell myself to rise above—I could take that anger and act on it. Today, maybe for the first time ever, the hate in my head was silent. There were no numbers on a ranking system or on a scale, my body was a champion for nothing but positivity, defiance, and hope, and I walked away from that polling location on air. Because here's the thing: I am beautiful, and I'm devastated for the part of myself that trashed her dreams because of a toxic societal standard perpetuated by toxic, dangerous people. I am proud to be open about this, and if it seems like a small accomplishment to you, thank you for continuing to read this far. I don't know why you have, you should probably stop!

Today, when I walked to the bank from my polling location with my sticker proudly affixed, when I was greeted by strangers on the street, when I even purchased a Levain cookie (they're amazing, look them up) to make today's victory a little sweeter, the place in my mind that is reserved for self-loathing was replaced with a quiet ecstasy that allowed me to move from moment to moment in pure observance of what a beautiful day I believe this will be. 

I've refused to consider writing any pieces for this site from the perspective of a Trump victory. I believe this nation is Hillary Clinton's. I also believe something powerful has happened no matter what, because I've learned that the man who stands at a podium and says "You aren't good enough," is a dangerous liar, and I know this nation will stand against him. The history of this day does not escape me. The woman working at my polling place wearing a gorgeous yellow pantsuit does not escape me. To the group of children wearing shirts saying "I Can't Vote" who were giving information to those who can and cheering me on loud and proud for my Hillary sticker, I am so grateful. In a way, I am grateful for the credit card fraud that sent me on a small journey in Harlem—to run into strangers and cheer for our future together, to look into each other's eyes and know we have each other's backs (stronger together, amiright?).

Maybe, more than anything, I'm grateful to Donald Trump for being so terrible that I learned how to love myself a hell of a lot more than I ever dreamed. I've learned a piece of my soul filled with self-hatred isn't natural—it was man damn made, and this is the start of the rest of my life where I get to tear it down. I'll no longer try to grin and say, "I'm a proud '6!'" like I used to in an attempt of self-acceptance. Today, tomorrow, and forever, I'm a proud, nasty woman, infinitely more than a number, and I'm excited for a future where I get to love myself, my country, and our new president, Hillary Clinton. 



P.S. it's not too late to vote! Find your polling location here.

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Preston Max Allen