My Specific Trigger Words

I’m ankle-deep in Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick: And Other Essays, which I am really enjoying despite what I’m going to say next.

I AM SO ANNOYED. Or rather I’m annoyed by a handful of paragraphs in an essay about white beauty standards, body shame, and Miley Cyrus. In these paragraphs she’s talking about a high school experience and she repeatedly refers to one kid in her class as the “too tall boy.”

What the actual fuck does that even mean? Too tall for what?

Yes, I am super sensitive about “too tall.” It triggers every single one of my defense mechanisms because by nearly every standard I am too tall too. It’s a burden that I have carried with me every day of my entire life and will continue to carry until the day I that I die. I haven’t finished the essay yet and she might reconcile that she’s talking about unruly bodies and totally judging that too tall boy for being too much of something she has deemed undesirable.

I didn’t finish the essay because I had to stop after the third reference to the “too tall boy.” It made me too angry to finish, though I will go back to it later tonight.

Here are a few trigger words guaranteed to make me think stink-eye thoughts about the writer and/or stop reading their piece altogether.

Half: especially in reference to siblings. Half-sister, half-brother, whole bunch of barf. I don’t know why writers feel the need to consistently other people like this. Nothing is more wretched than being made to feel illegitimate, less than, and that’s how I feel whenever I read this word in reference to people. I’m always unclear of what the writer is trying to telegraph about a person by pointing out they are a half-sibling or have half-siblings. Am I supposed to think something different about the half-sibling? Am I supposed to read half-sister and be think “oh, one of those.” I don’t get it.

Slutty: ugh. This one. Aside from racial slurs and the r-word, nothing will make me harshly judge a person or writer for using the word slutty. I know some women are trying to reclaim “slut” and I am not for it. However, I use bitch with reckless abandon and frequent affection, so I’m not really one who should judge, but I am anyway. Slut and slutty to me just means “woman who conducts herself in a way that I don’t approve.” Well, fuck you.

Too: knock it off when using this to describe someone, it just lets us know the writer is narrow-minded and not being very thoughtful. I type those words knowing full well that I’ve called about a million people “too” something too many time to even count. Spoiler: sometimes I’m a hypocrite. I try to be better, but I frequently fail.

Adopted: I hate this one for much the same reason I hate half. I don’t hate it when it’s used as a verb, but I loathe it when it’s used as an adjective. I think of this whenever I read about what Woody Allen did to his daughter, who is always referred to as his “adopted daughter” as if that makes a fucking difference. Again, why do so many writers feel the need to point this fact out? Does it matter in any way? What does the fact that a child is adopted have to do with anything? It’s rarely germane to the story and all it does it just signal to a reader that this person is somehow different and that difference must be recognized and noted.

I’m sure there are other words that make me cranky and quit reading, but I can’t think of them right now, so they must be triggering to a lesser degree than these big four.

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