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The Dark Gray Sweater
The sunrise is not all that romantic. It doesn’t make you breathless the way Hollywood movies claim it does, as if the weight of the cosmos is pressing upon your diaphragm and there is nothing you can do to resist the pressure; so you crumble under this burden that is the awe of the universe. It doesn’t make you release a gasp of astonishment the way you would when you see the Mona Lisa for the first time on your trip to Paris. It doesn’t make you pause for a moment in your tight-scheduled life to catch a breath and reflect upon the complexities of your life. No, that is not what watching the sunrise is like. Not for me, anyway.
The first time I watched the sun rise, I woke up five hours earlier than the time I had set in my alarm clock. Groggily, I hauled myself out of the comfort of my warm bed and blankets and allowed my feet to carry me to my closet. Without giving more than a second glance at the clothes, I threw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Well, nothing unusual there. However, my choice of clothing was unique in that I included a dark gray sweater.
My friends and family had often made fun of me for the plain and unattractive sweater (“Are you crazy or just stupid? It’s 100 degrees outside!”), but I paid no heed to their comments. Whether I was facing winds traveling at twenty miles per hour or standing under the scorching sun in the hundred-degree desert, I had worn that sweater. Others did not understand why I would put myself through such sweltering agony, and in hindsight, I don’t think that I, being only thirteen years old at the time, understood that completely either. I can recall being upset at the darkness of my skin the summer before, as a result of the constant exposure to sunlight, and I was determined to prevent the same outcome from recurring. Additionally, wearing a garment that others would not wear made me seem unique, and I stood out among my peers. Although initially driven by a simple mentality – to prevent over-tanning and to be distinctive among others, these goals were ultimately the manifestations of my early forms of rebellion against society’s expectations and push for conformity.
Despite how my defiance had little to no impact on changing the ways of the community, this was my first step in acknowledging the aspects of society I didn’t agree with. I had seen the standards of beauty mainstream media set for individuals, most of which were unrealistic and almost impossible to fulfill. Although I could not fully articulate it at the time, I understood that individuals, mainly women, were easily bounded by the parameters of this mainstream culture. These impractical standards were simply glorified ideals, yet we are all expected to achieve these goals. Perhaps, I thought, that it would be all right to not abide by these expectations and expand beyond these restrictive parameters.
As I made my way down to the park to watch the sunrise, my cousin decided to accompany me. Although it was early in the morning, my cousin seemed to be full of energy.
“I brought my video camera with me,” she said.
“Yeah, I brought my camera, too,” I replied.
Once we reached the park, we settled down in the swings while waiting for the sun to grace us with its presence. We sat in silence as we observed the stillness of the empty streets, full of eerie tranquility as if the streets devoid of living souls were unnatural, but the silence had provided us with comfort. The street lamps further down the street seemed so small that they had reminded me of fireflies. Some of the lights even flickered.
As the sun met the horizon, it spread a warm orange glow across the canvas of the sky. I turned my digital camera on and snapped a few quick shots of the sunrise. Within a matter of minutes, the sun was already well positioned in the sky and the entire town was enveloped under the sun’s blanket of warmth. My cousin turned to me, and with curious eyes, questioned my attire. “Are you going to wear that sweater all day? It’s going to be hot.”
I cast my eyes downwards, towards the compact digital screen on my camera. The pictures I took of the sun didn’t seem to quite capture the essence of sunrise that I was hoping for, the ideal romantic sunrise that popular movies seemed to offer and the comforting knowledge that yet another brilliant day was about to begin. The reality of the sunrise did not meet my expectations.
I gave the pictures one last, hard look, and then I turned the digital device off. “Nah,” I said. “I think I’ll keep the sweater on.” After all, the sunrise really was not all that romantic.