Back in the days of training, and every year since then, correctional workers get warned about being co-opted by the offenders (or the system, I like to add). It's too easy to "fall in" and do things the way everyone else does just because it causes the least resistance. So, for instance, when I'm short-tempered and cranky, I can bark orders and threaten to write an infraction in a heartbeat. Surprised the heck out of a roomful of offenders once when I used my "schoolteacher" voice to make them quiet. (Ten years of teaching high school girls is great training for working in a men's prison. Trust me.)
But co-opting. It's a temptation. I've seen some gorgeous tattoos (and some really ugly ones) but I've only barely thought about getting one. My main hesitation? What if I woke up thin one day? What would that wonderful tattoo look like except puddles of ink?
I decided early on that my wardrobe would be simple--mostly because I didn't have much money to wear anything too dressy, but also for solidarity's sake. I stick to jeans and a bright colored top. For variety's sake, the last two years, I have sported a "boot" that protects broken bones. Last year it was the left foot (arch bone broken into "three pieces and gravel"), this year it's the right foot (four broken toes, and yes, I broke them all at one time. Go figure). The boot is also my "attention getting device," as if I don't get enough attention.
I wear a watch and sometimes a beaded bracelet made of recycled paper by women in Uganda who used to work in the stone quarries. It's the story I like, and so do the guys when I tell them. But nothing else. My pierced ears closed up a long time ago and I'm not inclined to pierce anything else.
Hair is the biggest distinguisher at the prison sometimes. We seem to go through periods where guys are growing it out (and donating to "Locks of Love") or shaving it off (when the shampoo is really bad, it's easier not to have any hair) or getting an odd cut that eventually comes off because someone determines it's a "gang indicator."
None of which explains this:
I can't wait to go to work in the morning.