Of Men And Uniforms

      10 Comments on Of Men And Uniforms
simple color drawing of U.S. army uniforms over time

(Image Source) This picture doesn’t really have anything to do with my post, but I love that they all look like they’re holding each other’s junk.

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.

However…

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.  😉

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10 thoughts on “Of Men And Uniforms

  1. Ganien

    Growing up as a military brat, I would agree with you about the lack of affection from a parent who is a military officer. When my father retired from the military he also had to find his own identity in the world, and it was good that he realized it didn’t have to be quite so harsh, cold, and emotionless.
    Taking off the uniform was a good thing in the end, I think it mellowed him and made him question many of the things he had a great certainty about before.
    This was a thought-provoking post because I have always seen uniforms as a way of forcing people to be the same, which troubles me at a deep level. A Starbuck’s employee loses their identity when they put on the uniform, and they gain, for better or worse, a uniform corporate identity — one that suddenly can’t correctly spell people’s names, even if they are adept at spelling in their other life.
    We really do put on an identity to work, whether uniformed or not, and often that identity is highly sanitized and artificial. Wearing that role for hours and hours makes it harder in the end, for us to remove it completely.
    Many hugs to your husband in figuring out what comes next, and I am glad that you can see the courage and determination he shows in that endeavor.

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Uniforms are, for many, a divisive topic.

      I’m not overly concerned about special-snowflake-ness when it comes to uniforms. I don’t stop being Me just because I wear the clothing required by my job (which, while not strictly a “uniform” is still a precise dress expectation), and I don’t find people who spew contempt at uniforms to be particularly unique.

      Neither do I find it distressing that people, while at work – whether in uniform or not – can/do only show partial facets of themselves. We all do this — at school, in church, at the doctor’s office, and even with friends and family. Everything has a time and place, and our relationships (be they familial, corporate, sexual, monetary, etc.) determine how much of ourselves we show. I’m not going to talk to my banker about my sex blog, nor to my clients about my bank balance. My sex writing and my work and my financial wellness are all things that matter to me, that make up my skills and stresses and contribute to my knowledge and attitudes; however, I recognize that not everyone needs to know everything. Sometimes though, one is lucky enough to be able to share All The Things with one person, which is – in my experience – both stifling and freeing.

      I found your “spelling” comment amusing. Apparently, a Starbucks employee interpreted their customer’s name, “Stephen, with a P-H” as Spheven. Which sounds like something a Chihuahua would spew as an insult. 😛

      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to hear from you.

      xoxo

      Reply
  2. Molly

    This is a really excellent piece of writing. You are right of course, uniforms are everywhere and yet the ones that we tend to have sexualised are actually quite limited. Although having said that I am pretty sure there is someone somewhere wanking away to the thought of someone in the brown UPS uniform and I guess that is the point really. Like all things related to humans and sex the spectrum of what we find sexy or sexual is huge and for some a uniform is the hottest thing ever and for others (like myself) it barely registers

    Mollyx
    Molly recently posted…Uniformed thoughtsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Once upon a time, when I worked retail, I knew a UPS guy who was damn fine to look at. But the brown uniform had nothing to do with it. 😉

      Reply
  3. Bee

    You are so right about military thinking. I work with a fair few ex-military and goodness, getting them to think outside the box can be a struggle!

    Uniforms are everywhere. They are part of our identities and a mask we wear to hide part of our identity whilst doing our job. Although don’t we do that whilst wearing our everyday clothes too?

    Interesting thoughts and I hope your hubby settles into his new role well.
    Bee recently posted…A sign of things to comeMy Profile

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