Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.

Kathleen Parker: When Vanity becomes Narcissism

By Kathleen Parker

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 6, 1999.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't much. A young woman didn't want to wear a dress to her high-school commencement as required by rules and established by tradition.

In fact, one might say it was an insignificant thing, the sort of sophomoric protest a parent might resolve by saying, honey, learn to pick your battles and wear the dadgum dress. You're going to be covered up by a robe anyway.

But no. Absent anyone to suggest that Naomi Courtright-Kellogg get a grip, she instead hired a lawyer, rallied the American Civil Liberties Union and threatened to take her extremely important individual-rights case to court if necessary. And, of course, she made the news.

To bring this bratty tale to the swift finish it richly deserves, Naomi won and became -- you guessed it -- a faux-folk hero.


She was allowed to wear a pantsuit instead of the dress because, well, oh, who cares? Because the Springdale School District in Springdale, Ark., apparently is composed of grown-ups who have learned to pick their battles.

They're busy, after all, trying to maintain medium-riot levels in classrooms ruled by large children who, as my father used to put it, don't even know how to blow their own noses.

As I stated, in the grand scheme of things, Naomi's pantsuit predicament didn't squeeze America's news space. But it did offer a microcosmic view of our absurd indulgence of a generation of self-esteemists.

Personally, I don't care whether Naomi wore a zebra thong and rhinestone flip-flops to her commencement exercise. But teachers and administrators did. They cared about the tradition they had cultivated during the past 20 years. They cared about the integrity of a ceremony that was developed for the many, not the few, and certainly not The One.

They also cared that Naomi registered her complaint just days before the commencement exercise, even though she knew two months in advance that the dress code called for ankle-length dresses for girls and slacks for boys.

The purpose of a graduation dress code, after all, is to create uniformity, which lends dignity to an occasion. It's not about individual expression or even comfort, assuming no physical disability to warrant special consideration.

Naomi's protest was mostly about style. She doesn't like dresses, she said, because they make her feel "uncomfortable and ugly." She didn't even wear a dress to her wedding three months ago.

I understand the uncomfortable and ugly part. What woman doesn't? I reject thongs on the same principle. But surely we understand that the difference between a wedding, which is all about "me," and a school function, which is all about "us."

Meanwhile, within every system of rules is a process for seeking exceptions and redress, so to speak. She might have been denied her request, but that's life. Sometimes you don't get your way. What a concept.

Better, Naomi should have suffered an hour of humility -- a handy asset in the job market, by the way -- and worn a skirt like the reportedly smart graduate she is.

Best, she might have skipped the proceedings altogether and declined interviews. Of course, we might never have heard of her, but such are the breaks for real heroes. Glory earned -- as opposed to privilege extorted -- is seldom all about "me."

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