I received an email today from another blogger. He responded to a comment I made about one of his entries. He also thanked me for writing about the trials and tribulations I face as a military spouse. His spouse is still new to being a military wife and he said she feels better knowing that she’s not alone in some of the silly situations that can happen.
Reading the portion of the email about the mishaps as a spouse reminded me an American Dream episode I’d seen recently. If you haven’t seen the show it’s based on a family living in Philly, PA during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. It deals with the race riots, race relations and has just started a story arc that touches on Vietnam. The eldest son was the all star football player who lost his scholarship by injuring his knee. To pay for college and to pursue his dream JJ decided to follow the foot steps of John Glenn – join the military, go to college and become an astronaut. JJ also decided to marry his high school girlfriend Beth.
Here’s where the story arc hits right close to home. Beth traveled to meet JJ at his duty station. She’s a freshman in college some where and took the bus to meet him and JJ’s buddies. Beth was left at the spouses’ table and sat listening to the conversation. She felt out of place and was being berated horribly because of her ambition. This particular set of women had completely different ideas of what it meant to be a wife than she did. They didn’t understand why she was going to college, why she wanted to work outside the home and how come she wasn’t pregnant yet. Trying to avoid any further grilling from the inquisition committee, Beth exits the conversation quickly and quietly.
I have been in Beth’s place to many times to count. The criteria for not fitting in may have been different but the end result was the same – I was the square peg attempting to fit into a round hole and those women were going to make it obvious that I just didn’t fit. To strike up a good piece of imagery, visualize spending the evening stuck at the table of the Mad Hatter’s tea party from "Alice and the Looking Glass."
If you were to ask me to pidgin hole or stereotype one of these women, to define them for easy avoidance, you can’t – not really. They don't fit neatly in any one category. It wasn’t always the officer wife, or always the stay at home mom. It wasn’t always the college educated either. This type of person seems to cross through all boundaries (regardless of rank, education, religion or status) falling where ever on the spectrum of people. You just learn to spot them by listening and watching how they behave – and then you steer clear of them as best you can.
I of course don’t make things easy in situations like these. I am not a typical military wife. I told my husband on the day we were married, “I don’t own a Jackie Kennedy hat, I won’t wear white gloves, I don’t cross my legs at the ankle and I don’t care what’s on the man’s epaulets, if he’s an ass I will be the first to tell him so.” He laughed so hard at my comment and told me we’d be in for one hell of a ride.
Living up to my declaration, regardless of rank I talk to them. I asked the SGM of the Army what one of his ribbons was for because I had never seen it. My husband stood with his mouth slightly agape just in awe at the fact that I introduced myself and then asked my question. I’ve met and spoke with Mrs. Shinseki on FRGs, talked to a myriad of Generals and drive on. There will be no changing me on that one. (Sorry, my dear)
Thanks to that stubborn, fight for the underdog, outspoken determination I seem to have friends from everywhere and anywhere. They are from all ranks, any ethnic group, religion and gender. I am too Californian to get caught up in overt pretension. As long as you don’t endanger someone or yourself and you don’t shove your views down someone’s throat, then do what you want. Life wouldn’t be interesting if you didn’t have friends that you could disagree with about something. So why place yourself in such a small niche of people who think, speak, and believe exactly what you do? How boring is that?
So have hope, out there are great people who don’t care about your spouse's rank, who don’t care if you work at home or go into an office, they don’t even care if you ever stepped foot in college. Once you’ve found someone and you connect with them on some level you will be amazed at the distances you can travel and still call them a friend.
The military life can be the most interesting groupings of microcosms; it's endless hours of study for a true people watcher like me.