A Long, Long Time Ago

I’m using a few random shots from the past few days to decorate this post. They have no relevance to the story I’m about to tell, but they might make it less boring. grin

A young woman I’ve grown fond of has realized a dream she’s had since the age of 10. She is joining the Canadian Armed Forces with the goal of being a medic. I’m thrilled for her. Chasing and achieving dreams is worth celebrating.

The process she has gone through to reach this point is far different from that of another woman almost exactly 50 years ago. Let’s call this, now far older, person Sally.

Sally wanted to go to University but the costs seemed to put that dream out of reach (and it was much less expensive then). She knew that the Army (they weren’t combined at that time) would pay for your tuition etc., if you agreed to serve for 5 years after graduation. This option was in stark contrast to the continued hippy lifestyle most of her contemporaries were living, but it was still appealing.

So, she called the Recruiting Office, and got an appointment. In preparation she dressed as neatly as possible in her most publicly acceptable mini-skirt (she didn’t have any other options) and, gathering her courage, entered their building.

After checking in at the first desk Sally was shown to a tiny room which contained one chair, a table, and a multiple choice exam. She was told she had 30 minutes to complete the test and somebody would be by to collect her.

Some of the questions included terrifyingly difficult problems such as “What letter has the same relationship to Q as B does to K?”. Coming up with the answers was assisted by the alphabet somebody had carved into the table. Whew!

After 15 minutes she was tired of looking at her answers and tried to leave the room. A nice man in uniform outside waved her back whispering “No, don’t leave early!”. So she sat down and admired the decor for another 15 minutes until she was officially released.

Sally was then taken down the hall to a Lieutenant’s office, which is where things got really weird.

The Officer introduced himself and then apologized. He was quite embarrassed he said but the questions he was about to ask her were required and not of his choosing. Sally told him she understood and braced herself. The following highlights of the interview are indelibly etched in her memory.

  • Officer: Does my (and here he stopped, got up, and put on his jacket) Does my uniform scare you?
  • Sally: Uh, no.
  • Officer: How much makeup do you wear?
  • Sally: I don’t wear any.
  • Officer: You should probably wear a little lip rouge.
  • Sally:
  • Officer: Do you understand that sometimes the military kills people?
  • Sally: I’ve heard that, yes.
  • Officer: Could you handle yourself faced with 10,000 men?
  • Sally: (wondering if they thought she’d explode in a sexual frenzy) Yes. I’m quite sure I could handle myself.
  • Officer: (by now tomato-red from blushing) Do you have sexual fantasies? If so, what are they.
  • Sally: (now convinced the whole sexual frenzy thing was not her imagination ) No, I don’t.
  • Officer: Good. (obviously relieved he wouldn’t have to transcribe any salacious details)

After a few more less memorable questions, and having evidently passed the exam, Sally was given some forms to complete which would lead her down the path of Army Recruit.

Reader, she never submitted those forms and used Student Loans, Bursaries, and part-time jobs to finance her degree. Sally’s reasoning was that the differences between them were too great. One of them would have to change, she didn’t think it would be the Army and she didn’t want it to be her.

Things have progressed. Oh, there’s still misogyny and sexual assault/harassment – but there are a lot more women in the Forces (many in senior posts) and awareness brings more change. I’m quite sure the interview questions are very different. 🙂

My young friend is smart and strong and I’m sure she’ll be brilliant in her new career. Where ever she is, Sally is cheering for her.

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