When I was 18 a friend gave me a jacket. My friend had been serving in the Canadian Armed Forces and had grown extremely disillusioned with the entire environment. He said he could see no better use for his jacket than to give it to his young punk friend, and so it came to me. It was a Corporal's jacket, I believe, complete with stripes and other decoration. I was, of course, quite delighted - what a unique piece to own!
The weekend after he gave me the jacket I went to a local restaurant with my boyfriend and his best friend. We were dressed in our punk finest, of course - me with a miniskirt, fishnets, heels, and hair teased up high. We arrived at the restaurant and on our way to the table I saw someone I'd known in high school and a couple of his friends. They looked at my jacket and sneered "Nice jacket". I said thank you and continued to our table. I noticed them shooting me dark stares throughout the meal but I assumed it was due to the attire of my friends and I - being some of the few punks in the city this was a pretty common reaction.
After we finished the meal we exited the restaurant, and standing outside were the three young men who had been glaring at me. Also there was a police cruiser with two officers. What happened next was entirely unexpected, of course. One officer exited the car and asked to speak with me. The other officer, sizing up my companions, suggested to the other young men that they leave as what happened next could likely lead to them being followed home and having the snot beaten out of them by a gang of young punks. You see, what happened next was that I was arrested for unlawful use of a military uniform and impersonating a military officer. When the officer explained the charges I began to cry. He looked at his partner and said "I feel like a complete jerk". He then told me that if it was up to him he would just ask me to remove the jacket, but that because the young men had complained (they were Army cadets, apparently) and wanted me charged he had no choice. He took my jacket as it would be held in evidence, and he said I could pick it up after my court date. He wrote up the summons, explaining that I would need to appear in court and might want to find a lawyer. I was aghast at the whole affair.
When I got home that night I decided against telling my parents. I was eighteen, and an adult, so there was no legal requirement to tell them. I'd also already put these people through a lot. I was the person who brought home entire punk bands, often sweaty, smelly, and foul-mouthed, and expected my mother to feed them (bless her German heart, she always did). I'd had a boyfriend who drove an old hearse. When I dyed my hair pink, black, and blue my father hadn't spoken for a week (initially I thought he just didn't speak to me until my sister later explained he didn't speak to anyone for a week - I had traumatized the poor man). I'd had parties when my parents were away that ended with all the screens on the windows being removed and several men's t-shirts in the freezer (and no, I still have no idea why those things happened, but I do recall trying to explain to my father why he found all the screens off when he returned, and to my mother why there were soiled t-shirts in the freezer). My parents had already raised my four sisters but I think they'd started to think I was a horse of a different colour entirely, and I was worried this latest stunt might well break them.
So, I called my eldest sister who was a practicing lawyer in another city. She advised me to contact a friend she had graduated with and see if he would represent me. I called him and after explaining I'd been arrested for impersonating a military officer while wearing a fishnet and heels he agreed to take the case (after all, how many times in one's legal career does a case like that cross your desk?).
I was quite anxious as my court date approached. My parents still knew absolutely nothing of all this, and I intended to keep it that way. On the day I went to court I tried to appear as demure and responsible as possible. My lawyer was actually quite disappointed I didn't wear the heels, fishnets, and miniskirt to court that day, although I'm not sure how that would have helped our case. I suspect he just wanted to see the judge's reaction. In the end I was granted a conditional discharge, which required me to spend 4 hours doing community service at the local Salvation Army (hardly punishment for me - I believe I came home that day with two bags of clothing as I loved vintage stuff and this was like being able to jump the queue to get to the good stuff!). My lawyer charged me $85 for his services, I believe, and had a story to tell at cocktail parties for years.
After the court date I wanted to forget the whole thing. I had no intention of picking up the damn jacket - it could rot as far as I cared. One night a few weeks later, though, the doorbell of our suburban house rang as my mother, father, and I sat down for supper. My father went to answer it, and when he returned he glared at me. He informed that there was a police cruiser in the driveway, and an officer asking to speak to me. I believe I stopped breathing at that point, but finally collected myself and went to the door, trailed by my parents. Realizing this could end very badly I stepped outside and shut the door behind me. The officer was the same one who had arrested me. Due to my distress during the arrest I hadn't noticed that the officer was quite young, perhaps in his early twenties, and quite a handsome blonde man. He had in his hand my army jacket, neatly wrapped in plastic.
He looked at me and said "I noticed after your court date that you didn't pick up your jacket, so I thought I'd bring it to you". He handed it to me, hesitated, and then said "Oh, and I'm wondering if I could take you out to dinner sometime?". I politely declined as I had a steady boyfriend, but thanked him for both the offer and delivering my jacket. As he drove away I drew in a deep breath and tried to figure out how I was going to spin this one for my parents.
I went into the house and they looked at me questioningly. I explained that I'd left my jacket at a local nightclub and the officer had been kind enough to return it, and I went to my room. I can't imagine they bought that story, but they didn't question it, either. Perhaps they were too scared to ask.
Some months later a new friend told me his father worked with cadets at the local army facility. I told him the story of the jacket, and when he told his father he was appalled. He said any true army man would have just explained why I shouldn't wear the jacket, and that he was going to ensure that those particular cadets ended up doing some extra grunt work as "payment" for their attempt at public relations.
I lost that jacket many years ago during a move, and never missed it really. I lost both my parents, too, and they died never knowing this story. I realize now that I could have told them - I doubt they would have even been surprised. I imagine they would have been disappointed, but I know that in time we would have laughed about it, like we did about the hair and the parties. I wish I would have told them that police officers don't deliver jackets left in nightclubs, and that their daughter never meant to hurt them with her shenanigans. I think they knew that last part, though - they loved me unconditionally all their lives, and I suspect they would have loved me even despite my criminal transgression.
I have a young daughter now. I hope she doesn't repeat my mistakes. I hope she knows that she can tell me everything - even if she's ever arrested for impersonating a military officer while in fishnets and heels. I'll still love her, I'll get her a lawyer - and I'll tell her to wear her fishnets and heels to court, too.