A Gift From Scotland

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, "It Must Be Me":

I have a sister and two brothers, all significantly older than me - seventeen to nineteen years. Yes, I was not created on purpose. 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 entered the U.S. Navy, who sent him off to Scotland.

No, he did not locate Nessie (though he did spend a day of his shore leave trying to 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, his little brother. Mike probably thought it would be cute. Instead, it traumatized me for years.

I never wanted to wear the foreign clothing. I think my father protested as well, but mt mother explained that Mike had been nice enough to buy these things for me and to send the package across the planet, so the least we could do 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 public 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 particular 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 in other lands. That would be asking a bit much of a five year old.

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 she'd 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 idea of different nations and their customs. The tears kept flowing.

The vultures got their precious photos, but that wasn't enough for them. 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 said 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 taunted me, asking "Who's the new girl?" while t pointing and making me cry even more. I quickly decided that I should probably stop looking up to these cretins.

After an interminable period of time, my parents brought me back inside the house. 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.

The horrible evidence. If only they'd taken a closeup, you'd be able to see the tears.


  1. Oh dear, that sounds awful. Thankfully, my parents only chose to dress me up in ridiculous attire while I was too young to care. This reminded me of that scene in "A Christmas Story," where Ralphie dons the pink bunny suit. Ugh...

  2. Yeah, I was old enough to remember, which is what made it hurt. I think Ralphie had it a little better than me - at least he got to stay indoors, and I don't remember them taking photos of him.