I always seemed to have a “thing” for uniforms.
I liked being able to identify people based on what they wore. And I wanted to feel like I belonged and thought that being able to wear a uniform would mean that others would open their arms to me and include me in the group.
The uniform also represented “standing for” something. I wanted to stand for what was right and good.
As a little girl there was a time I wanted to be a nurse. Nurses wore crisp, clean, white uniforms with perfectly starched and formed caps. Nurses had to be smart. They had to be caring and show respect to others.
As a young adolescent, I read the book, “Candy Stripers” by Lee Wyndham, and saw older girls from school in their red and white striped jumpers on their volunteer days before going to the hospitals. Many of them talked about being a nurse someday.
Oh! How I wanted to be a Candy Striper so I could wear the peppermint candy cane inspired uniform, but that idea was nixed by my parents.
It also didn’t take me too many years to realize that I would not be a good nurse, when I found out that there would be bedpans to empty, vomit to clean up, needles to poke, blood to wipe, and guts to stuff back in and sew up. Of course, hearing nursing students talk about the cadavers was likely the clincher for my abandonment of ever wearing a nurse’s uniform.
Once I gave up the idea of nursing, I wanted to be an airline stewardess with “Fly the friendly skies” United Airlines. Yes, stewardesses are what they used to call flight attendants back in those days. They wore smart suits with heels and wonderful little hats. Sometimes they wore white gloves. The job of the stewardess was to make sure the passengers were comfortable and felt safe.
My dreams were shattered about joining their ranks, however. Most airlines had a strict height and weight standard.
I seem to remember the requirements allowing only petite girls at that time, under 5’7″ tall and less than 125 pounds. By the time I graduated from high school in 1972 at the age of 16, I was still several years too young to join the airlines, and I had already grown to 5’9″ and 130 pounds.
I did wear a uniform for a few years during my childhood days. From fourth through seventh grades, I was a member of the Girl Scouts.
For the first three years, I was a Junior Girl Scout and wore a short-sleeved, light green uniform shirt dress with a yellow tie, a green belt, a sash for our badges, and a dark green beret.
In seventh grade I advanced to Cadette Girl Scout. The Cadette uniform was my favorite with its white blouse and dark green a-line skirt. There was a dark green tie, that matched the skirt. I wore the sash, and the same beret, but the emblem on the beret was replaced with a snazzier version.
I loved wearing the uniform out in public and being identified as belonging to a special group that was involved in good deeds out in the community. Even our leaders wore uniforms. I am not exactly certain of the reasons I didn’t continue on past the seventh grade.
I loved men in uniform. They looked sharp and they represented peace, safety, justice and order. I had the utmost of respect for fireman, policemen, soldiers, and others wearing the military uniform. I believed that they stood for fairness and all that was good. And when women were allowed to freely join these organizations, I knew I belonged in uniform and I knew I belonged in service to this country.
In just two days, August 23rd will mark the 38th anniversary of the day I joined the United States Air Force. I was so proud to be in uniform and belong to a small group of special people who were willing to serve this country. I wore the Air Force uniform for nearly two years. In 1976, I donned a Navy uniform and served until 1989.
I haven’t worn a uniform since those days. I have to admit that I miss wearing it. I miss the recognition it gave of belonging to a special group of special people. I miss the crisp, starched uniforms and the polished look.
The days of my wearing a uniform are pretty much over now. I’m too old to reenlist in the military. Nurses now wear scrubs. Girl Scouts wear t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. And I don’t care much to deal with rude, grumpy passengers who complain about how uncomfortable it is to fly the friendly skies nowadays.
I suppose there may come a time when I may wear a uniform again. Walmart employees now wear blue polo shirts and khaki slacks. I wonder if they would be willing to bring back the signature blue vest and consider adding a beret?
I can only hope.