Mr. Tolerant
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I used to be an intolerant guy who judged people by their appearance. Not anymore. Not since my daughters became teenagers. Now Iím Mr. Tolerant.

Nicole, seventeen, wears the same clothes every day - impossibly tight jeans that we used to call hip-huggers, except they donít make it to her hips, and a top that would be called underwear, except thereís nothing over it. She requires two dozen jeans and a hundred tops to replicate that look day after day, but I donít complain. Iím tolerant.

While Nicole is in the mainstream of teenage fashion, her sister Christie, two years younger, plays in a different stream. Iím waiting in the car with Nicole to drive them both to school when Christie finally strolls out wearing a short, loose-fitting black top with puffy shoulders over a red body-stocking, a royal-blue mini-skirt buttressed by a petticoat, and the coup de grace, chartreuse and yellow knee-highs accented by red running shoes. Itís a new look. I say nothing. Iím tolerant.

  
 
The girls arenít morning people. On good days they donít speak to each other. This is not a good day. Today Christieís deployed her emphysema-red eyeliner, which circles both eyes and continues in a jagged line to the top of her hairline. Nicole turns to the backseat where Christie has settled in. ďIt looks like you drew moose antlers on your head,Ē she tells her.

I cringe and wait for Christieís counterattack, but all I hear is a noise that sounds like squirrels running through the attic. I look at Christie in the rearview. She has her iPod turned up to five zillion megahertz, creating a musical forest in which insults fall without making a sound.

As we pull up to the school, Nicoleís out the door before weíve come to a stop. Christie waits until I park and then eases out, glacier-like. ďBye Dad. See you tonight.Ē

I watch the students file into the school. No oneís dressed like Christie. A silver Lexus SUV pulls up to the curb, driven by a stylish dark-haired woman, whoís talking on her cell phone. She puts the phone down and stares at my daughter. Then she says something to her passenger. Something mean. Iím angry. Iím ready to jump out of my car and give that rich snob-lady a lecture on tolerance.

The Lexus door opens and a boy in cargo pants and white polo shirt jumps out. A stuck-up, preppy kid.

He walks over to my daughter and says, ďHi Christie.Ē Then Lexus-lady smiles and gives Christie a friendly wave. Christie waves back, says hi to cargo-pants, and they walk together into the building.

Mr. Tolerant drives home. Humbled.

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