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November 16, 2010

Devious Daughters of West Point...




Well, I guess you could say, I'm a devious daughter of West Point.   My father went there, and graduated in '54, with honors, and at the top of his class.  That little bit of information, explains a lot about me. Why I'm a fuck up in school, and why I'm incredibly anal and technical.

From a very, very early age, I wanted to be a soldier and I spent many hours in front of a mirror with dad's military hats pretending.  I'd stuff my white button down shirt with tissue, so I could be the ann margaret of cadets, and stuff my long stringy blond hair up into the military cap.  I'd throw on some of my dad's funny 70's glasses, and cock my hip out to the side, pretending I had such things as hips, and put my hand in salute.  Aye aye, sir!

But I never really considered the whole picture. To me it was about dressing up. Playing with the boys.  Being tough, but feminine.   It wasn't until I was about 15, when we moved back east from our ideal west coast life, and we traveled up to West Point to visit the stomping grounds of where my father spent those formative 4 years, that I realized it was a lot more than dress up.   I could barely handle having my father tell me what to do... how would I handle being pushed around by hundreds of men.  Here I learned the endless tales of hazing, and bullying. The long hours of studying.  The drills, and the chills from the chilly stone dorm rooms.  It turned out not be quite as sexy as I thought.  Life is not a movie.  

20+ years later, my father went through his closet, and remembering my love of his uniforms, decided to send them to me.  I was like a kid at Christmas time, opening up that box, pulling out his cadet marching uniform and hats.   I don't know that he would love the idea of me and my friends dressing up in them.  But I don't think he'd hate it either.  I won't wear them out, especially up near West Point, where we oddly now have inherited a country estate right across the river.  It would be disrespectful to him.   But I think when the girls get together, and dance around the fireplace playing dress-up... it's okay.

But I wonder what those young cadets would think...



Reading on the subject of Women in West Point.                                                                                  


Porcelain On Steel | Women of West Point's Long Gray by Donna McAleer


The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, admitted, for the first time, in 1976, female cadets. Porcelain on Steel is their story, and the stories of the hundreds of women who have graduated from there since. It is a story of obstacles overcome that is unique in American education.
In a straight forward manner, the author paints a stark picture of the prejudices encountered by the first women who attended, and how they coped. We are given a glimpse of their courage, and resoluteness. The reader gets to know West Point, what makes it unique, and how it changed, for the better, as a result of a gender integrated corps. We see women who became all that they could be, and much more than they originally aspired to be as a result of their army experiences, which began as plebes in that intimidating establishment that has no equal in the vast expanse of colleges across the land.
The book encapsulates stunning career success stories of many of these women graduates, both in and out of the military, and the reader's heart cannot help but be warmed by the unanimous, graceful, gratitude of these strong ladies for the chance that their West Point education and experience gave them.





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