Monday, February 13, 2017
Barracks Talk, Locker Room Talk and Old Soldiers
A few short years ago, when I was 59 years old, I was assigned to a field barracks in Northern Michigan with a unit I had never trained or deployed with. The young men in the barracks were mostly mechanics and mostly under 25 years old. The barracks was not full so I had a bunk to myself off in a corner.
One evening I was reading in my bunk. Five young men sat in a circle in the middle of the floor and began sharing stories with the topic, "Worst [sex] in my life."
I tried to keep reading but left the building after storyteller really got going. I could read in the mess hall. I stayed away for an hour. When I returned they were still going and the group now had eight story tellers. I went to the duty shack near the airstrip and stayed there for a while. After another hour, they had exhausted their deep well of bad sex, the group broke up, and I returned to my bunk.
On fitness tests and obstacle courses, on the firing range and waiting in long lines, I was just another enlisted man from the day I re-enlisted in 2007 until I was discharged last year. I trained with the 20-year-olds, suffered in heat and cold with them, marched with them, and joked with them. But when a group of young men decided to impress each other with stories of their love lives, I was not invited, nor were any of the the other men in the second half of their lives. I was as old or older than their Dads. Despite their obvious delight in perverse stories, they would have thought it actually perverse if a man my age was bragging about sex.
When I first enlisted an old Air Force Tech Sergeant in my unit who was an alcoholic would occasionally talk about sex in front of the young airmen, but we all thought he was disgusting. He retired the following year and we thought about having a retirement party the day after he left.
I thought of this last year when America elected a guy who at 59 years old bragged to a 33 year old about grabbing pussy. His defenders said this was just "locker room talk." It is, but not for men at the end of their sixth decade of life. No soldier near my age in a 40-man room in a field barracks or a 77-man tent in Kuwait ever spoke that way.
He is President now, but the way he spoke on that Access Hollywood bus was not locker room talk. It was not barracks talk. It was an arrogant old man bragging to a man half his age.