trump in the lunchroom

The whole flap over Trump’s latest Trumpism has me thinking about middle-school lunchrooms. It’s like we’re all trapped at a table with our half-eaten mystery meat and the kid who won’t shut up. You know him (or her). We all do. He’s a show-off. He’s mean. He bad-mouths people behind their backs, dishing his snark at the fat kid with the butt crack, the skinny kid with the zits, the girl with the crooked bangs, the quiet boy who draws cartoons in a corner and, in a nasal whisper as she walks past, the lunchroom aide with the cheap dye job and the shuffling gait of a lifer.

We’re all too mesmerized by this kid to object. We can’t even look away. His air of relaxed authority and entitlement — and don’t all mean kids have that? — suggests that everyone everywhere ought to be listening, no matter the inanity or offensiveness of the content. I’ll never forget the sight of one such mean kid, a rawboned girl, holding forth on the playground with her fist on her sharply jutting hip. I don’t remember her name, or anything she said, or about whom, but I remember the crowd of girls huddled around her. I remember the expression on her face: snotty. I remember the angle of her elbow: 90 degrees. I even remember the color of her bell-bottoms: gray. And I remember that none of us moved.

So when Trump got in trouble, post-debate, with that remark about Megyn Kelly bleeding from her “wherever,” I was a little surprised. For one, I think I might — MIGHT — actually believe him when he says he didn’t intend it as a comment on her menstrual cycle; the “wherever” sounded more to me like the inexact blah-blah-blahing of someone who’s talking too fast for his brain. Also, after all the hateful, outrageous and objectifying remarks we’ve heard from him so far, THAT’S the one that finally incites widespread outrage? Talking about Penny Period? THAT gets him booted from the lunch table and disinvited from the RedState Gathering (and does anyone else appreciate the rosy irony of the name?).

And then I remembered those old tampon ads with clips of women in flowy white dresses intercut with shots of sanitary products being doused in crystalline blue liquid (not ferrous at all), and it hit me: EVERYONE IS GROSSED OUT! THAT EXPLAINS IT! It’s the lunchroom factor! If any woman learns anything from middle school, it’s that you do not talk in public about menstruating. You do not. Men don’t want to hear about the real-world phenomenon, much less talk about it (another reason I’m inclined to believe Trump), and women don’t generally raise the subject unless they’re in the ladies’ room and in sudden need of a Tampax. Outside that restroom, no one wants to associate bleeding with female plumbing. The most anyone ever does is make cracks about PMS, but (news flash) all the fun hormonal stuff occurs BEFORE the onset. That’s why they call it “pre.”

Maybe Trump intended the remark as outright misogyny, maybe not. He’s said plenty else that might and should have sent the embarrassed middle-schoolers shrugging away, cafeteria trays in hand, in search of another table — but nothing so far has sparked this type of revulsion. Whether he meant it or not, he introduced menses into the national conversation, and the lunchroom is officially squicked out.

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