The Sundress

at 11:43 PM
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The trolley moves steadily towards the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and my body sways as I grab hold of the brass railing. It is the heart of summer, and my face is sunkissed. My mom and sister argue quietly over the "necessary amount of sunscreen," as my dad cracks open his book. We come to a shuddering stop, and a young family boards. The two small girls run around their mother's legs, while the father greets his friend, who is standing next to me.

As we begin to slug along, I lazily look out the window and notice a young man walking happily down the sidewalk in a sundress and hat, heading to the beach like the rest of us. I do not think much about his somewhat unorthodox attire, having been exposed to people with his sense of style through YouTube and the like. A man in a dress does not seem out of the ordinary, so I am surprised when the young father's friend snickers, then condescendingly says, "The things people do for attention."

It takes me a minute to process his words. My sudden anger is clouded by confusion. How does he know the man is wearing a sundress purely for attention? His accusation does not seem right, or even logical. The man's words are a wake-up call for me. I was raised to recognize people should wear whatever makes them feel confident. I am dismayed to discover not everyone shares this view.

Although I understand people are shaped from various teachings and experiences, we should tolerate -- even welcome -- eccentricities in any form. Unconventional thinking makes the world evolve. What if the Wright brothers never had the desire to fly? What if Thomas Edison never conceived of the light bulb? The man in the sundress has the courage to wear what he likes, yet this stranger beside me needs to crush him. What difference does it make what one wears?

Maybe one day, a man can walk down the sidewalk in a dress and a sunhat and not have to bear scrutiny. One day, ignorance might become understanding.


With a Perspective, I am Naomi Kessinger.

Naomi Kessinger is 14 and attends middle school in Kentfield.