Robert Katz, assistant web editor-in chief
For the final enrichment of the year, I spent my 50 minutes in the most effective way imaginable: Lisa Dickens’s class on how to wear high heels for prom, along with all the other insider tips and tricks from seasoned prom veterans. Yes, it was intended to be a girls-only affair. Yes, I was encouraged to cover my ears when a few of the more gender-specific details came up. And yes, I did, in fact, discover that I am apparently a natural in heels. Either that, or teenage girls are impressed by any teenage boy strutting like a paralytic emu in black, three-inch heels.
So when I and another brave male innovator decided to take our newfound skills into the real world (as is so often stressed by critics of modern education), we were flabbergasted by responses of laughter and mirth, rather than applause and prom dates. Well, actually, we had stopped enjoying the novelty of heels after about ten minutes and by the time lunch began, we were doing it primarily for kicks (pun completely intended).
What I wasn’t expecting was how I received my peers’ reactions. Those I was close to were quick to point out that yes, I was doing a very silly thing. However, there is a sort of overwhelming attention that an unassuming boy earns for wearing women’s shoes. That the attention is not only negative, but mocking, bothers me.
While it was obvious to those that know me well that I was wearing heels for reactions, nobody else could have known that for sure. What if I simply decided to wear heels that day because I felt better in them? What if the derision from my peers (a girl I have never spoken to popped her head out of the restroom, giggled at my feet, and retreated) was only making me more uncomfortable than I already was? I don’t mean to play Aesop, but there is not any real way of knowing what is going through a stranger’s head, especially when they appear to be doing something very strange.
Recent controversy arose in March over a homosexual Southern California student wanting to wear heels to prom and being prevented from doing so by his school’s prom dress code. The issue of self-expression through attire has become a hot topic (pun still intended) recently and, although I don’t plan on reliving my educational experience very often in the future, there are men who want the opportunity to wear high-heeled shoes, as well as women who prefer tuxedos to skirts.
I cannot speak for those of our peers who feel that way. I’m just another teenage boy who decided to do something unusual because a friend said he would do it as well. However, I hope that, if there are Beverly students feeling oppressed by fashion, they will speak out. From my blip of experience, I see that there may be the potential for being ostracized for small decisions like what we wear on our feet at Beverly.
Clothing is only our outward representation of our inner selves. We, especially as teenagers, dress the way we are and the way we want others to see us. If fashion is about expressing who we are, then attacking peers’ fashion is attacking who our peers are. Name-calling and assault are dangerously similar to ridiculing one for his or her choice of clothing and, by judging others for how they choose to portray themselves, we drift dangerously into the territory of general intolerance.
Instead, let’s keep working on making everyone feel comfortable at school. As a tolerant environment, Beverly can foster a stronger and more friendly community where students do not feel left out of school culture due to their differences. We don’t necessarily have to agree with other people to strengthen Beverly’s tolerance. We are allowed to disapprove of what others do, but that’s still a long way from deriding others for their choices. And, of course, it’s a step in the right direction. Pun not intended.