While I was on vacation, I took a liking for the rental’s hammock. It was perfectly situated. If I slanted my head to the left, I could see the lake, and my kids on it, looking like seasoned kayakers. If I rolled my gaze to the right, I could see the house, and indulge in a bit of wishful thinking (Wouldn’t it be nice to own a cottage). But mostly, I stared at my feet and thought about stuff. Like, for instance my career…and then, out of the blue, I remembered an old movie called Private Benjamin.
A youthful Goldie Hawn (Kate Hudson’s Mom) played the part of the spoiled miss, Judy Benjamin, to perfection. Judy is a sheltered society miss, who endures a shock, and then finds herself in a situation that she never expected.
Judy Benjamin: My husband had a heart attack and died on our wedding night, while we were making love.
Pvt. Mary Lou Glass: Jesus! Benjamin! I don’t get it, what do you do after a thing like that?
Judy Benjamin: Join the Army!
She’s woefully unprepared for the realities of the army. The concept of discipline and hard work were something she thought she understood, but the practicalities of boot camp were so unnerving. She had doubts.
Judy Benjamin: I think they sent me to the wrong place.
Capt. Lewis: Uh-huh.
Judy Benjamin: See, I did join the army, but I joined a *different* army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.
I can’t remember the whole flick and I’m left with the sense that the best part of it was in the first act, where Judy meets her nemesis Captain Lewis and she learns along the way about the true meaning of the phrase “You’re in the army now.”
Judy Benjamin: Oh God, you can’t mean me. I worked the night shift! Go check out the bathroom. It’s FABULOUS!
She really thought she understood hard work, but that term has a whole different meaning to those in the army. She really, really wanted to throw in the towel a few times.
Judy Benjamin: …Do you think I like schlepping in the rain all day and all night?
Pvt. Winter: Just keep marching, Benjamin.
Judy Benjamin: My name is Judy! J-U-D-Y Judy and I’d like somebody to call me by my name! Oh, okay I took my life in my own hands, I made a mistake fine I’m sorry! I’ll never do it again! I wanna wear my sandals… I wanna go out to lunch. I wanna be NORMAL again!
And by golly, people have these opinions about your work…that they share…and sometimes you can’t believe what you’re hearing…until you do….you think about that for a bit…
The idea of going awol for a night or five is tempting.
But here’s the thing: being in the army ain’t for sissies. You either girl-up or you fail. And there are things about the army that you really like. And besides, you find yourself wondering…
Judy Benjamin: Has anybody ever died from basic?
I thought a lot about that movie during my leave from the keyboard. (In between lolling in the hammock, and reading eight Dick Francis novels.) And you know, though I know some people have died from basic training, I think the majority comes out just fine. They’ve learned some important stuff, like how to shlep your own stuff, and how to fight, and how to march in the rain, and all about the art of looking good even when you’re on parade and it’s pissing cats and dogs. Boot camp is arduous but eventually you’ll look back and grin.
Though I’m never, ever going to wear a hat decorated with twigs…