This is What Triggered Looks Like
Update to add (9/24/2018)
When I wrote this post, I was responding, indirectly, to a Twitter troll who had responded to a woman’s powerful, eloquent outrage with a very common meme - you know the one, the white girl making the freak-out face, the one that says “TRIGGERED.” I know, so unique of him.
I wanted to directly address the idea that this term can be used in an attempt to “declaw” people who have every right to scream into their pillows or out their windows, or here, on their blogs.
I wanted to debunk the notion that a person who expresses strong opinions is also operating outside logic, has lost from the ability to cope, and is, in essence, out of their heads. False, false, fucking false.
I want to thank the readers who spoke up to tell me that I did not sufficiently explain the difference between "clinically triggered” which is a dangerous and traumatic experience for trauma survivors, and “Twitter triggered,” which is, you know, a woman using an exclamation point.
Words matter. How we use words matters. And there are any number of people for whom the omnipresence of the word “trigger” has made “nbd” an experience that is, for them, a decidedly “bd.” I sincerely apologize for the way my post contributed to the minimization of your experience.
I’m leaving the post intact with this note, so that hopefully we can all learn from the kind and generous people who let me know the harmful impact of my imprecise words.
OK. Now, on to the post:
I swear to fucking God, it just hit me this morning while I was 18 ounces deep in my 20-ounce Americano, sitting here in my office, aka the lobby of my son's preschool, which is always empty and quiet and has free Wi-Fi and precisely zero piles of unfolded laundry to whisper, "Write your stories, you terrible housewife, but remember: everyone runs out of underwear eventually. I will wait, I will wait for youuuuu..." over my shoulder.
It just hit me, the cascade of stories over the last week or so.
I am officially triggered.
You got your Jian Ghomeshi "Weeping Jerkoff Nightmare Circus" in the New York Review of Books.
You got your Kavanaugh sexual assault defenders alternatively shrugging "boys will be boys" and screaming, "but who among us has not attempted a rape? All this talk about attempted rape makes me feel VERY scared!" to which the ladies say "No fucking shit Brett & Co. Welcome to the motherfucking party."
You got your Soon-Yi Woody Allen puff piece. But he eats so healthy! But he collects pewter jugs!
You got your John Hockenberry piece in Harper's, entitled "EXILE" like he's fucking Hockenberry/Willougby/Valjean, the bread-stealing officer with a haunted past from defending all that girlish virtue... No, dude. You're just haunted, doughy, fucking less, and fucking miserable.
You've got a fucking epic, bizarrely timed avalanche of POOR ME narratives, you've got a churning, swirling flood of HEAR MY CRIES FROM THE BOTTOMLESS DEPTHS OF SHAME ("The Bottomless Depths of Shame" is the name of Charlie Rose's Hamptons estate, btw.)
As if any of us ever had the luxury of taking a year to reflect on what YOU did TO US. As if any of us could say we needed some time. As if we could call in traumatized to work for 6 months. No, motherfuckers, we got home, took a shower, and took care of our shit. We never had the choice, and we certainly never had the offer to write thousands of words for internationally renowned journals glorifying the choice we never had, demanding an apology for the person who changed the trajectory of our lives without our consent.
You know, my kids ask me for TV a lot. I say no, it's 7 am, not right now. They ask again. And again. And again. And before I know it, I'm saying, "There will be no television this morning or any morning. Ask me one more time, kid, and I will throw the television into the bathtub. Try me."
STOP ASKING. WE ARE NOT READY FOR YOU TO COME BACK YET.
You think that a year of eating your meals alone is sufficient to demonstrate that you have earned a spot back in the lineup? I ate a year of meals alone and I never got a spot in the lineup, and I was in the same fucking room you were in when you did the thing to me that eats me up, the thing that you're apparently immune from, the thing that makes you feel pretty good, actually, when you think about it, which you do, from time to time. For fun.
You think that four years, Jian, of singing karaoke in Manhattan, is a fair sentence for the crimes of which you stand accused, and which you never deny, not once, not even a little bit, in the 96-bajillion word essay you wrote for NYRB? How much karaoke would I need to sing for you to apologize for treating women like, as I wrote earlier, "an assembly of holes dotted with bullseyes." How many songs would I need to sing, and how well, before I get my 4,000 words in NYRB to tell my side of my story?
Whatever has happened to you since the things you did in private became public and you realized that discretion is not a substitute for respect, it's not enough yet.
I don't know when it will be enough, but it's not enough, and the way I know it's not enough is that none of you fuckers, not one, not a single one of you, has said a goddamn thing about the women. You're still talking about you, you, you, you (yes, you should be singing that in the voice of Eliza Hamilton in "Burn"). It's still all about what you want, what you feel, and how it's all our fault, really, that you hunger, that you yearn. It was our fault then - we were demanding, we were noncompliant, we guarded the gates and said no - and it's our fault now - we are demanding, we are noncompliant, we still guard the gates; we still say no.
Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you forever, ask me if you can come back one more time, kid, and I will throw your TV in the bathtub. Try me.
Most of the time I'm able to keep our collective social indifference for the pain of women at arm's length. I'm used to it. I've discovered how to laugh at it. I have so many years of practice. But sometimes I remember how little I matter, how my body exists to be taken from me, how boys will be boys and girls will be disposable. It's not funny. It's not a joke.
I just sat through the perfect storm of rape defenders and woman-punchers being given platforms in major, ostensibly progressive and thoughtful publications. They're asking me to feel sorry for them. Let me say that again. They. Are asking me. To feel sorry for them.
They are asking me to feel sorry. They are asking me to apologize for hurting them. They are asking me to apologize for being a wall they tried to demolish. They are asking me to express regret for holding my shield so tightly that their spears shattered.
They are asking me to forget that they were trying to kill me, break me, leave scars on me.
I could do it. I have so many years of practice. We all do.
But I just sat through our collective knee-jerk refusal to believe a woman who stands to gain nothing, not even a character-building experience, from coming forward to tell the truth about a very powerful man with very powerful friends. She couldn't forget what he tried to do. She isn't sorry for getting out. She isn't sorry for coming forward now. And she shouldn't be. And I'm not, either.
None of you fucking "sorry," "exiled," "shamed," crumbs of men can say, even a little, even once, "I was wrong, and this is how I hurt her. Here are the ways I hurt her. I have never been hurt in the way I hurt her. I have never been made to feel afraid in a grocery store. I have never felt the constant awareness of the possibility of my murder once the sun goes down. I'm sorry. I am not safe. I will continue to choose not to profit off of the notoreity that our toxic, man-saving, woman-devouring media wants to give me, so badly, with the offers of "behind the man" profiles and "road to redemption" essays. The rest of this column space belongs to the women I hurt. Their stories are below, and are much more important than mine."
It's fucking simple, just as simple as turning up the fucking music when you know you're about to make someone scream. All you have to do is turn down you, and turn up her, and you're fucking halfway there, you child. You children. You terrible, whining, spoiled children. You have had too much screen time.
Last night, my husband and I were in our kitchen cooking dinner together, talking about Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, and my husband shook his head in disgust. "Is anyone not a monster?" he asked, sincerely.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to burst into tears. I had just come from the gym, where I had slowed to a walk on the treadmill so I could write "What if Mine Ran?" on my iPhone.
The more we talk about these things, the more numb we become.
The more we talk about these things, the more raw we become.
The more we talk about these things, the more afraid we remember to be.
The more we talk about these things, the more furious we allow ourselves to be.
The more we talk about these things, the more we learn.
The more we talk about these things, the more we feel despair.
The more we talk about these things, the more we feel merciless joy to see the lawless, the chandelier-swinging, screaming shield-bearers, the people who are still guard the gates, who still say, no. No. No, you can't do that. No, it's not enough yet. No, we're not ready to take you back yet. No, we won't let her stand alone.
The more we talk about these things, the more we need Lin Manuel Miranda's twitter feed.
The more we talk about these things…
Well, I gotta go pick up my son from preschool. He'll run into my arms and say, "Mommy, I had a great day at school!" He always does.
I'll take him to the car and clip him in with gentle hands. He won't notice anything different about me - nothing lighter, nothing heavier, nothing quieter, nothing louder, even though I spent the last hour writing this.
We'll go home to eat lunch and later I'll record the podcast, and I'll be prepared with notes for me and snacks for him and I'll park in the regular garage, within the lines.
I am officially triggered but fuck you, I'm not taking a year off. I don't have a choice.
We are at a point where each of us has to decide whose voice deserves a platform,
and if you read this far, you may have decided mine did.
Or you might be an incel troll.
No, not you, incel.
Crawl back under your bridge.
I am a working writer.
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