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In Nursing School
by Mary McCarthy

It was not the usual nurse’s cap
with its stiff starched wing points
reminiscent of the pristine white
elaborately folded
headdresses of nuns,
sign of a true vocation.
Our school’s cap, a required
part of the uniform,
was more like a pleated
cupcake liner
sitting upside down
on your head.
A dainty humiliation
male students didn’t
have to endure.

For me, it was almost as bad
as the pink scrubs
assigned for our time
in the obstetrical ward.
In vain I looked for any other color
and was told — “only pink”
the nurses chose it there.

In those scrubs I felt
like a stealth bomber
under my pastel disguise,
learning the best and worst,
the basics of this
most basic human act —
giving birth, being born,
in blood and sweat and agony,
in pain and exaltation,
in joy and grief and nothing fit
to greet with such
a weak anemic color.

At our class party
full of laughter and gag gifts
they gave me a new
cupcake cap
dyed pink —
their joke the perfect sum
of all I didn’t want to be.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At class xmas party, with my gift hat. Note the cigarette — I still smoked then, even though I knew better!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was never one for girly frills, and would never have worn any shade of pink by choice. Never liked uniforms, required daily in my Catholic grade and high schools, and then again, after years of sartorial freedom, there was another uniform, and that damned hat!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many online and print journals, including Earth’s Daughters, Gnarled Oak, Third Wednesday and Three Elements Review. She is grateful for the wonderful online communities of writers and poets sharing their work and passion for writing, providing a rich world of inspiration, appreciation, and delight.