The Kilt

I have a sister and two brothers, all significantly older than me - seventeen to nineteen years. Yes, I was not created intentionally. Some call it an “accident”; I refer to it as “unintentional conception”. It makes for some interesting familial situations.



Because of this, when I was a little kid, my siblings were all off doing adult things, like drinking soda straight out of the bottle, wearing deodorant, and joining the armed forces. The younger of my brothers, Mike, did the latter and joined the navy, where he was stationed in Scotland for two years.

No, he did not locate Nessie (though he did spend a day of his shore leave trying to locate her), nor did he develop a taste for haggis with a whiskey chaser (unless he kept it hidden). He did, however, purchase a child-size kilt and tam (a Scottish hat), which he sent home for me. He probably thought it would be cute. Instead, it traumatized me a little.

I never wanted to wear the stuff, and I think my father protested as well, but my brother had been nice enough to buy it for me and send it across the world, so the least we could do, my mother felt, was to get some photos for him. So my parents and grandparents (who lived with us) trotted me out for an improvised photo shoot in our back yard. It became another opportunity for me to be exposed to some ridicule.

The problem was that a kilt looks a whole lot like a dress... oh wait – it is a dress, except it comes from Scotland, where it is commonly worn by men. That’s fine if you live in that country, but while I was old enough to know that the difference between a dress and a kilt was negligible at best, I had not quite reached the age of understanding about what a country is, or how social mores differ between countries. That’s asking a bit much of a five year old, don’t you think?

The vultures got their precious photos, but that wasn’t enough. For some reason, my mother wanted to parade me in front of the house – ostensibly for the amusement of the neighborhood.

It was no surprise to anyone that I started crying once I put on the exotic attire. My mother kept insisting, “Every boy in Scotland wears a kilt like you are, Stevie!”. Maybe if they pulled out a globe or a Mercator Projection, that would have helped. A travel book with large illustrations may have even done the trick. But instead, I was struggling with the concept that my parents were trying to turn me into a girl, and simultaneously having a hard time grappling with the concept of different nations and their customs. The tears did not stop flowing.

The vultures got their precious photos, but that wasn’t enough. For some reason, my mother wanted to parade me in front of the house – ostensibly for the amusement of the neighborhood. I was still sobbing, but she told me everyone would love my new outfit. Her words did not prove to be true.

The older people in the neighborhood felt I looked adorable, and that calmed me down a bit. But then my “friends” – some older kids I looked up to – walked by. They were not especially receptive to my freshly imported clothing, especially the kilt, which to them was not very different from what they called it - my dress. They openly teased me, asking “Who’s the new girl?” and mostly just pointing and making me cry much more. I didn’t like that very much.

My parents brought me inside and, unable to contain my indignation any longer, I yanked off the kilt and threw it on the floor. My father told my mother I’d never be wearing “that thing” again. I was happy, though the photos still survive. Years later, my brother heard the story from me, and apologized. If only he’d had better luck at Loch Ness... a package from Scotland containing Nessie (or at least a photo of her) would have made me so much happier.