Each time Donald Trump Jr speaks his brains on Twitter, I am reminded that you grew up in New York in the 1980s. Do you have any memories of the Trump family you could share with us?
Marina, west London
Marina from west London, you are Bill Paxton. And I am an old lady in a rocking chair, hiding a precious treasure. “Are you ready, Hadley?” you ask. “Ready … to go back to New York in the 1980s?”
“It’s been so long!” I protest. “Just tell us what you remember,” you say soothingly.
And so we leave this Titanic analogy (or is it straight-up cosplay?) and go back … back to my early encounters with la famille Trump. Paging James Cameron: stop faffing around with Avatar 17 and send us some CGI stat!
Growing up in Manhattan in the 80s meant that it was near-impossible to avoid the Trumps entirely. They were like acid rain, or Leona Helmsley – part of the 80s New York atmosphere. And for a while, I succeeded in suppressing the memory that I, for example, shared a primary school teacher with Donald Trump Jr. That’s right, Donnie and I learned our ABCs from the same blessed woman – well, one of us learned them, anyway. Because Donnie has indeed been “speaking his brain” on Twitter, and my memories have been unstaunched. But it is a decidedly unsettling experience to have not encountered someone since they were six years old and to realise they have regressed intellectually since then.
Last week, Donnie tweeted a photo of his daughter holding her Halloween candy and added the unimprovable caption: “I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It’s never to [sic] early to teach her about socialism.” Donnie, Donnie, Donnie. You (or one of your servants) had just taken Chloe out and literally got free handouts. Remember thinking before speaking? I’m pretty sure we learned about it between music and nap time on Monday afternoons. Also, I would like to say, for the record, that other students of the lovely teacher I’ll call Miss B learned the difference between “to” and “too”.
Donnie has also been tweeting smugly about “Hollywood creeps” after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, apparently unaware that his own father was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the vagina. (There’s another lesson for you, Chloe: let’s listen to some of grandpa’s comments and learn all about sexual assault!) Donnie, must I be the one to break it to you that your own mother gave a sworn deposition that your father raped her? Ivana later insisted she hadn’t meant rape “in the criminal sense”, while the best spin Trump’s own special counsel could put on this last year was “[Ivana] felt raped emotionally”.
Donnie, you probably won’t be surprised to learn, was not known on the Manhattan schools network as the brightest spark in the toolbox. Indeed, I can’t say for certain that he was the inspiration for Ralph Wiggum, with Daddy-pleasing issues to boot, but I also can’t say for certain he wasn’t. Ivanka, on the other hand, who went to the school across the street from my high school, was always described to me as “actually pretty nice”, and the unspoken but heavily alluded to words at the end of that sentence were “for a Trump”, so make of that what you will.
Anyone who ever picked up a copy of Vanity Fair or Spy magazine from the 1990s will know that the blustering, self-aggrandising narcissist who currently occupies the Oval Office was a blustering, self-aggrandising narcissist and wannabe bigshot back then. My father was tasked, in 1991, with helping Galeries Lafayette, a French retailer, rent space in Trump Tower. Even though this was explained to Trump several times, he somehow didn’t understand that Galeries Lafayette was not Hermès until the store was literally in front of his face. Plus ça change, eh, Trump watchers?
My father also went to college with Trump’s older brother, Freddy, and was friendly with him. I used to love to look through my father’s college yearbook, and there he was, “Frederick Trump, from Jamaica Estates, NY”. According to my dad, Freddy was nice, really smart, easygoing, low-key. He was also, apparently, fond of his family, and he occasionally had his scrappy brother Donald, who was eight years younger, come to stay with him at Lehigh University.
Alas, Donald does not seem to have felt the same familial loyalty. Freddy, an alcoholic, died at 43, and when his father, Fred Sr, died 18 years later, it was discovered that the latter’s will, which Donald helped to draft, specifically cut Freddy’s children and descendants out of the family inheritance. Freddy had a grandchild who suffered from cerebral palsy and the Trump family had helped to pay for his care. But when Freddy’s children sued over their grandfather’s will, Donald promptly withdrew the medical benefits the baby desperately needed.
“I was angry because they sued,” Donald said to the New York Times last year, when asked about this incident, as if that was, I don’t know, justification for depriving an infant of medical care? The final outcome of this charming saga is unknown but one thing we can say for certain is the US is truly blessed to have this guy overseeing its healthcare plans.
So there we are. Those are my hot insights into the Trump family based on my ships-in-the-night relationship with them: Donnie is a fool, Ivanka can at least fake being almost normal and Donald is always worse than you think he can be. Granted, you wouldn’t exactly call any of these revelations, but one of the problems with the Trumps is that there is no depth: what you see is exactly what you get.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.