I wore a Trump hat in public to see what people would do

Skylar Davis and I sat in the Target parking lot. She was putting on her coat, and I was putting on the sweatshirt I had borrowed from someone for this social experiment that read, “Trump: Make America Great Again” across the front in white cursive lettering, as well as a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. We were about to drive around Milford for a few hours, going into stores and walking around to see how people would react to the fact that I was wearing Trump gear. I suspected that I was going to get a huge negative response, considering Trump is not as popular in Massachusetts as in other parts of the country, but the night did not turn out the way I had thought it would.

“Are you ready?” I asked Skylar. Then, we threw the doors open and bolted from the car, through the freezing temperatures of the parking lot, and into Target.

I was nervous and wondered just how much attention my Trump attire would attract. Sky and I made our way back toward the candy aisle, and I tried to make eye contact with as many people as possible, so they could notice what I was wearing, but no one really looked up from their shopping carts to return my glance.

“Sky, we should go somewhere smaller with fewer people,” I suggested, thinking this would increase the amount of attention we would get.

We hit our jackpot at Wendy’s. As soon as we walked in the door, an older woman looked at me and pointed up at my hat. Finally.

“Do you like my hat?” I asked her.

She nodded, and proceeded to poke her husband, who was facing the other way, motioning to him to turn around.

“Look at the hat she’s wearing!” she said. Then, she directed back to me, “Good for you, honey. It’s so uncommon for a young lady like you. Good for you!”

I stood rooted to the spot, realizing that I hadn’t prepared anything to say to anyone who actually complimented me for wearing this stuff.

“Umm, thank you. I guess I just…saw the light,” I managed to finally stammer. I realized just how stupid and insincere it sounded as the words came out. But it was enough for the woman. She looked convinced. Meanwhile, everyone else had gone silent and stared at me.

We ordered a small fries and went to go sit in an almost-deserted corner next to a suburban mom and her two kids. As she saw me approaching with my French fries and my Trump hat, the expression on her face made it quite clear that she had neither the time nor the energy to put up with any of my crap.

“Oh, you see, I’m a journalist,” I began to explain as I walked over toward her table. “I’m doing a social experiment to see how people react to what I’m wearing. And that lady over there just gave me my first positive comment of the night.”

I spoke to her as if she were an old friend that I was entrusting with a secret. The way she looked at me made it clear that she did not care at all that I was a journalist, and that I had probably just violated her personal space.

“Yeah, I just try to stay out of all of that,” she said.

Despite the warm reception from suburban mom, we decided to leave Wendy’s, but not before waving goodbye to our new friend still sitting with her husband, who gave us a friendly wave back.

We stopped at Cornell’s for dinner. I ordered a grilled cheese and an IBC root beer, which I drank from the bottle up at the counter. Maybe if I looked like one of the guys, one of them would talk politics with me. They did talk politics, but just to each other. I heard the name “Trump” thrown around just outside of earshot, and I was dying to know what they were saying. For the most part we were ignored, until we got up to leave.

A man walking by turned around once he had passed and said, “Hey, I like your hat!”

“You like my hat?” I said, excited someone had finally acknowledged us.

“Yes, I like it!” he said, and went to go sit back at his table.

We also tried our luck at Staples. Even at rush hour on a Friday night, it was almost empty, except for a couple of sad souls scrutinizing different brands of pencils hanging along the shelves.

“I know. Let’s pretend we’re looking for a certain item, like, I don’t know, these pens,” I said, pointing to a pack on the wall. “We can ask an employee to help us find them so they’ll have to look at us.”

We timidly approached the young woman behind the service desk.

“Excuse me?” I said. “Would you be able to help us find something?”

“Yes, of course,” she said, with an indifferent look on her face. She led us back to the shelf with the pens as Skylar explained to her what we were looking for. She handed us the exact same package we had seen earlier as we said things like, “Oh, we’re so dumb!” and “How could we have missed them?” The employee told us to have a nice night and walked off, still without any visible reaction to my outfit.

Our cashier was a little different. When we told her that no, we did not need a bag, she practically threw our pack of pens at us as she told us to “have a nice day.” However, her face made it quite clear that she really did not want us to have a nice day. But she still did not say anything to us directly about what I was wearing or start an argument.

Back in the car, I turned to Skylar.  

“Well, that was sort of not what I was expecting. No one really did anything,” I said.

“Are you kidding?!” she said. “Molly, everyone did something. Seventeen people glared at you, and like, five people shook their heads like they were disappointed. I was counting. They just didn’t want to do it while you were looking.”

What I mostly learned from walking around Milford for three hours wearing a Trump hat was that people generally do obey the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” People who supported Trump were much more likely to respond directly to me, while those who did not refrained from comment and preferred to jeer at me once I had passed.

Then again, we were two teenage girls. Maybe no self-respecting adult wanted to get into a political battle with teenage girls in Target at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Who knows.