This week, Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility issued uniforms to its female inmates. Whatever the reasons behind the administrative decision, you can be sure its ramifications are not rippling so much as tidal among the women. It would have been fruitless to try to address anything else in writing group. So we made lemonade.
The opening poem, ‘Distinctive,‘ speaks to the issues of consistent appearance in contrast to variation within. Although many of the writings shared anger and dismay at this move toward regulation and sameness, they also probed deeper insights. None perhaps addressed the original impetus behind the decision. Regardless, these women are not shy about sharing their opinions – or their feelings. A quartet of writings is posted here to illustrate some of the range of responses:
MATCHING UNIFORMS: There they were in matching uniforms, walking down the hall in line, all in blue, hard to miss ‘cause, if you blink, it’s still blue; tan or denim pants, that’s how we rock now. Wait, Stop there. Not another step, ‘cause don’t forget, you must rock them blues. So wake up, smell the coffee, but don’t forget your Sunday blues, ‘cause the new rules are no blues, no meds. No meds without the blues. So let’s go, everyone, rock them blues. Match them and cheer with me. What do we say? Here we come in matching uniforms down the hall of CRCF. – KH
* * *
VIVE LA DIFFERENCE: There they were in matching uniforms, looking so much the same; yet, all so different. Some with blue eyes and smiles, others with green eyes and frowns. Some short, others tall . . . they were not cardboard cut-outs, even in as much as they were supposed to appear that way. Some are shy and reserved, others looked tough and were jovial . . . not anything like they appeared on the outside.
All of these women, beautiful in their own right, look uniform in their clothes but, in their eyes, heart and souls, are nowhere near alike. Still, these massively different goddesses in blue and tan befriend one another and share their individuality freely and without reservation. Some can cook, thankfully, because I cannot. Some draw, some write awe-inspiring words. I am blessed to be among these words every Thursday night.
None of us is like anyone else, despite the uniforms and appearance of sameness. We’re all so different; but we manage to blend harmoniously with our sisters . . . Come to think of it, maybe we have more in common than the blue and brown. After all, we’re all in the same boat. – ED
* * *
FALSE PACKAGING: We are all in false packaging. We look at each other and immediately see the outside, decide we already know what is on the inside. A tall thin blond is kind of ditzy. A chubby brunette is loving and motherly. A tall dark stranger is the man of our dreams.
Sorry to rain on the parade. I know a tall think blond with a PhD; a chubby brunette who is a grumpy witch; and the tall dark stranger is the one who put me in jail. So quit looking at the packaging and look at that is inside. -CB
* * *
FALSE APPEARANCE OF THE SAME PACKAGING
Here we are, all looking alike.
Where has our true identify gone?
Or is it just lying beneath
with our hearts and our souls?
Will we be seen in a different light?
Will we be the same and all right?
Will this make us want to fight,
or scream out loud with all our might?
It’s strange to be the new unknown me|
when everyone else is looking like thee.
But it really doesn’t change –
it’s only appearance, you see?
Beneath the clothes is the same mind,
the same heart, love,
the same person – kind.
Do the clothes really matter,
do they create aught but clatter?
Do our minds and feelings
still show through? Or is it
a matter of identity lost?
Please tell me
that I am still
who I am.
– Me – [AW]