Don’t let suit of armor prohibit self expression


Chris Cox

Senior, Leah Newhouse

Leah Newhouse, Managing Editor

A ratty, dirt-stained, stuffed rhinoceros was the start of my obsession. It was bought for me when I was a young child to bring my favorite character from a sing-a-long book to life. Rhino-y became my best friend almost immediately. He slept by my side every night, and when I was scared, I would chew on his horn, which has my bite marks embedded in it still to this day.
Soon after Rhino-y came into my life, I began receiving more rhinoceros-related gifts. One stuffed animal rhino grew into seven, along with 24 rhinoceros figurines, two necklaces and one rhino t-shirt that took me 17 years to find and purchase.
I not only have acquired many physical items related to rhinos, but I have read and learned a great deal about them. Regardless of having a sharp spike and a serious attitude, rhinos aren’t as scary and vicious as they look. In fact, rhinos are actually herbivores. Instead of snacking on human flesh like some may think, rhinos eat leaves, fruit and grass. The only time that they would ever take advantage of the weapon on their face would be if they felt attacked. They wear a suit of armor that disguises them to look frightening so predators will leave them alone.
People often have their own personal suit of armor that they use as a facade to deceive the world about who they truly are. Their armor could be outstandish clothing, unemotional facial expressions or headphones that never come out of their ears. These guards could be put up to keep their “predators” away.
My freshman year, my armor was the way that I dressed. I chose to wear different clothing than my peers and stand out from other people, not in the way that had all eyes on me but rather the opposite. I wore cat sweaters that were twice my size over striped skirts instead of a normal sweatshirt with jeans, and rather than just a dress with a cardigan, I would wear a dress with a plaid shirt and maybe another sweater on top of that. Not many people talked to me, and that year my only friend was my sister. This was because I refused to get out of my comfort zone. I used the way that I looked to hide myself from others.
I acted as if I didn’t care that I never had plans on the weekends or that I sat by myself at most school-related events, but I was actually really lonely. I wanted to have the typical high school experience of finding a group of friends that I could trust and stick with for all four years. But, my armor prohibited me from gaining any of this.
Then my sophomore year came around, and I decided that I was not going to use how I looked to hide. I was going to use it not as a protective guard but as a way to express myself and gain the friends that I was longing for. I chose to merge into two unfamiliar environments that forced me to come out of my shell and meet new people.
Newspaper and theater allowed me to find a purpose within my identity. I was still able to dress as quirky as I do without feeling like an outcast. I have learned that by using my armor to my advantage it will help me get through the battle of adolescence.
Whether the disguises be emotions or lack of them, obscure music or unique clothing, applying them could be beneficial for future opportunities. Empathy could lead to a sense of caring between two individuals. Friendships could be made over a mutual favorite band. Conversations could be started by an interesting outfit.
Even rhinos use their armor to benefit them. According to, rhinos allow oxpecker birds to sit on their back and eat pests. One gets a meal out of it and the other doesn’t have to worry about ticks. Just like the oxpecker birds, people from newspaper and theater “fed off” me by starting conversations relating to my style. Some of those people are now my closest friends.
I never had to stop wearing my favorite cat sweaters in order for opportunities and friendships to come about. Those armors don’t need to be taken off, but they instead need to be accepted and expressed to allow others to feed off of them. Armor is used to succeed in battles, not to get defeated.