I have never had a ‘thing’ for men in uniform.
Perhaps it is because I take a broad view of the term; uniforms are, after all, worn by millions of people every day, and are so commonplace that we often don’t even recognize them for what they are. The UPS driver wears one, as does the cashier at the grocery store. Hospital staff are recognized by rank and position within their workplaces by the color and style of scrubs they wear, and are recognized by the common layperson as “medical staff” by virtue of wearing scrubs, period. It’s a uniform.
Bus drivers, mail carriers, mechanics, firefighters, police, flight attendants… Everywhere you look, someone is wearing a uniform. Chefs, nurses… Hell, even your friendly neighborhood Starbucks employee follows a dress code and wears a smock so as to be immediately recognizable to their customers as “someone who works here.” Slightly informal though it may be, it’s still a uniform.
Uniforms are everywhere. And they do nothing for me.
While I’ve never had a thing for men in uniform, I’ve definitely had things – a few ‘things’ – with (for? about?) specific men who have happened to wear uniforms.
Most notably, two:
- One, I married.
- One, I was smart enough not to marry.
The latter was my first love. After high school, when I went to college, he joined the army.
It was a four-year stint that became – without my foreknowledge or agreement – a re-up to six. (Not a brilliant move on his part, relationship-wise. We were engaged to be married at the time he made this lone-wolf decision. We were quickly un-engaged thereafter, though somehow we decided/managed/bungled-through staying together until after he got out.)
With him… When he was his most natural self, he was a loving, affectionate, outwardly demonstrative person. But when he was in uniform, he was a not that person.
It started off as a UCMJ scared-into-compliance thing during his basic training (because God forbid should a soldier demonstrate any kind of affection toward their loved ones – I feel incredibly sorry for children who are raised under such ridiculous strictures, and I find it completely unsurprising that so many military brats mature into adults who are ill-equipped to handle emotion), and over the years he wore the uniform, it became a hardening of head and heart.
It was not good for him.
It was not good for US.
And it wasn’t long into his military service that the only interest I had in his uniform was in getting him out of it. Permanently.
By the time he did get out of his uniform (involuntarily – medical discharge is a bitch)…
Well, let’s just say it was long past time for me to get out of the relationship. And that’s what I did.
On the other hand…
The man I married – the man to whom I am still happily married 🙂 – wore a uniform of a different kind for almost 25 years. He was wearing his uniform when we met, and he wore it up until August of 2015, when he was told that, due to his medical condition, he was no longer qualified to do so.
It wasn’t until then that I really even noticed his uniform.
Because I noticed its absence.
And I noticed the changes its absence wrought on my spouse.
No longer wearing his uniform was indicative of SO MUCH… Not only did it mean no longer having a job – a job he liked, one he was good at, in which was rooted his sense of personal accomplishment and from which he had gained financial security – but it meant no longer having something much more important: His uniform was, after 25 years, a symbol that had become an entire identity.
People – and I believe this is true of men moreso than women – often define themselves by What They Do. By their profession, by how they make their living.
When he stopped wearing his uniform, he had a physical reminder – DAILY – that he could no longer identify himself that way. The loss of his uniform was a very deep, very personal loss. One he still feels.
It’s been a struggle.
He’s handled the struggle with much more grace and willingness to accept change than I ever could, and I am constantly amazed by his ability to do so. At 57, he is redefining Who He Is and he is figuring out What He Wants. My husband is – willingly and enthusiastically – accepting challenges and pursuing options and learning and growing and being in ways that, while at times difficult, are rewarding.
He is seeking success.
He is finding his niche.
And I am incredibly proud of him.
The future is unknown. There may come a day when he will once again wear a uniform.
And while I will gladly help him into his uniform if and when that day comes…
At the end of the day…
You can bet I’ll be doing my damnedest to take it off of him. 😉