Tuesday, July 13, 2004

the only time

Steve Harrigan has a blog that is very good reading. His writing is wonderfully descritive without being flowery, homey without being vulgar. But something in his blog caught my attention. Today I was coming back from my run, and stopped in CVS to see if they had any headphones since mine have died after only three years and 5 trips to the desert. As I sought the right isle I ended up walking by a gal in her BDUs checking out the lipstick. As I passed, the sight jarred me a bit, not for any other reason than it seemed so incongruous: a slender blonde, 20 something, perusing a stack of colorful sticks topped by an ad for loreal, just as you would see in any CVS store in the country; but instead of fashonable clothes or jeans and a t-shirt, she was wearing...standard Army green BDUs. The green and brown and black clashed horribly with the dozens of shades of pink and peach and moave and lavender arrainged in neat rows.

It was then that I thought of the blog:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,121050,00.html and Steve's story of a woman called J.B. In a company of soldiers, she was the only female and "needless to say...very popular". That in and of itself was not that illuminating, but what Steve wrote after came back to me in a flash when I saw clash of camo and color:

"In the daytime she disappeared in a khaki uniform and floppy hat, but after work she wore a white tank-top T-shirt. "It's the only time I feel like a woman," she said.""

It flashed through my head "The only time I feel like a woman" was when she was out of uniform, out of the formless pants, drab t-shirt and combat boots. When she could let her hair down and kick back in a chair. But this woman was living the feminist dream! She was 'one of the guys' and very popular, to boot! She carried a gun and shot with the best of them as they lived in tents and dust and sweat in a combat zone. She had proved herself and made the likes of Hillary Clinton and Pat Schroeder proud, and yet, "the only time..."

So it was with the girl in CVS. She was not seeking lipstick and makeup to help her looks in uniform. Not with the colors she was considering. "The only time..."

It struck me...

You would never hear words like that from a guy. On the contrary, most guys, some time in their life, pick up a stick, a toy or a gun and play army. Many dress in camo for fun, to hunt or just to look the part they want to feel. Many join the service becuase of the ads of shining Marines in their flashy garb, with a sword and a slogan:

earned, never given.

It is true that wearing the uniform may get old, and some may want to discard it after traumatic events, as my grandfather did when he got back from Europe in WW2. Others have even been known to throw parts of theirs (or someone else's uniform, whatever) over a fence in protest, feining disgust, but it was never because "the only time..."

Uniforms, military garb, military gear make a man feel like a man. It is in his DNA, his very being to be a warrior. And those same things, the same clothes and toys may make a woman proud, may make her feel strong, may make her feel...like many things.

But they cannot, will not, and I believe, should not, make her feel like a woman. Were that to happen to a woman, I believe she would have lost something vital, that same thing that makes one woman among 82 guys, "very popular".

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