Back in the mid-1980’s, my parents sent me to a private high school that required uniforms. While the other students saw this as oppressive, I viewed it as liberating. Four happy years of my life were spent wearing a plain white blouse, navy plaid skirt, and saddle shoes. A uniform announces, You belong.
My first real job was at a health club. I did not exactly look like a college grad wearing my uniform of a preppy pink polo shirt (and plastic name tag) paired with tan shorts, but I did save big on my clothing budget. A uniform helpfully suggests, Save your money.I left the health club job to pursue a more lucrative offer working in a hotel. And, along with the job upgrade came a uniform upgrade: a navy suit. Navy always was my color, and it was the uniform United Airlines handed me a few years later when I began my career as a flight attendant.
“I could not wear a uniform day after day after day,” says my friend Trish, her voice oozing condescension. “It would be too depressing, to look like everyone else.”
Trish, of course, is wrong. As a flight attendant, I stood out from the passengers, and the uniform gave me an aura of power and authority. A uniform declares, Treat me with respect.Is it any wonder that my younger son adores his first real uniform, a navy and white soccer jersey? “I am on a team, Mommy,” he explains, “and this is our special outfit so everyone knows I am a real soccer player.”
He wears the uniform every day, whether he has practice or not. I have to beg him to take it off so I can wash it. “Short, come on, it’s filthy. Wear something else for half an hour.”
“No, Mommy,” he resists, “it’s fine.”Deciding it’s not worth the struggle, I relent and let him wear it for the rest of the day. That evening, he refuses to put on pajamas.
“I’m sleeping in it!” he demands.“Short,” I say, as my patience evaporates, “NO.”
“Oh, Mommy, I love my uniform so much,” he sobs, his eyes brimming with tears, “but you wouldn’t understand.”