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Reluctant Army Wife

Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2010 in Army wife, Me

I’ve written before about my conflicted feelings about being an Army wife. Or a Army National Guard wife. It’s not an identity I chose, but it’s coming on with additional force. There’s nothing like a spouse’s upcoming deployment to focus your attention towards the Army and how it affects your life.

The National Guard has more influence on my life than I’d like. It’s the reason I got married. HabMoo and I might be married by now even if he hadn’t deployed, but it was one huge reason I wanted to marry. If something happened to him, I wanted that knock on my door. I didn’t want a visit or call from his parents who I didn’t know well yet. I wanted a person trained in how to deliver such news. Plus he made more money if we were married, so it was a good financial decision, but one I felt a little rushed into making.

This week I’ve taken a few steps to accept this Army wife identity. I joined the family readiness group (FRG—everything has an acronym.) I’ve even volunteered my time to the organization. But I do it with some amount of resistance. And I found myself bristling at so many things I might normally take in stride: website terms and conditions, commander’s approval needed for newsletter content, online discussions needing a moderator, etc.

While working on this blog entry I finally realized where so much of my emotional reaction is coming from. My introduction to the Army was through my high school sweetheart. She was a woman. This meant that everything even remotely indicative of our relationship was hidden. I did not officially exist. Any hint of me was buried. When my partner was at Basic Training I received phone calls only when she could get away from everyone and be as secretive as possible. She didn’t even want too much correspondence from me. I resent the fact that the Army created so much stress in our relationship. I resent the fact that now I can be part of the community because this time I fell in love with some with more testosterone.

I think I need the FRG, however. Being home alone during HabMoo’s deployment and a few extended trainings has been difficult and isolating. I have great friends and family, but I could use the additional support of being around a few others who understand my situation first-hand. I have hopes that if I’m a volunteer for the group, I can shape it a bit so it’s a place where other reluctant spouses and loved ones can feel welcome.

Military Spouse magazine coverToday I took the additional step of signing up for Military Spouse newsletter. I’m not up to subscribing to the magazine yet. The cover they use to entice you to subscribe shows the 2008 military spouse of the year. So for one thing, I’m appalled that they haven’t updated their ad. For another, it feels too much like other popular women’s magazines. I don’t identify with the spouse of the year image at all. I think I’m a good wife, but I don’t think a childless, bisexual, liberal, agnostic really fits the spouse of the year mold. I am not interested in how to stretch my makeup budget nor about choosing the perfect wine. Luckily, I’m positive that there are others in the FRG group who also have little or no interest in these things.

Here’s what I learned from a page on the site. This should give my friends another sense for why I’m a little uncomfortable with the Army’s intrusion into my life. While my spouse is in uniform, I have specific etiquette to follow.

  • Offer your husband an umbrella in the rain, but only if it’s black. He’s not allowed to carry any other color.
  • Push the baby carriage or stroller so your spouse doesn’t have to. It’s considered “unmilitary” to do so while in uniform.
  • Help your spouse carry any packages or bundles to make it easier for him to salute.

I’m actually happy to know these things. I’m not terribly good at etiquette in any situation and it’s easier if I know which rules I’m probably breaking. And those rules are more for active duty situations. I’m not sure I’ve even seen my husband salute.

I feel like I’ve joined some society with a language and mores I don’t understand yet. I’m slowly learning a few acronyms HabMoo uses, but even at the FRG meeting there were a few I had to ask about. And I know that once I become more of a part of this world, the more I’ll be using that same language and drawing that same boundary around me. I do not like that. I distrust any group large enough to have its own jargon and the Armed Services has layers of it. I don’t want to make someone feel like I felt so many years ago.

I think HabMoo gets a good feeling from being part of an institution with a long history. I wish I felt that same connection. My father served during WWII, but he wasn’t married to my mother at the time. So she has no experiences to share with me other than having a boyfriend killed during the war (and she was never willing to talk about that.) My brother served during Vietnam, but I was too young to remember and he never left the country. I’ve been around only a few people with loved ones serving and mostly I paid almost no attention to that part of their lives. My circle of close friends hasn’t included service members for a long while. So I haven’t found where I fit in history. Can anyone recommend any good book about the history of military wives?

I’m trying to be more comfortable with this identity. You’ll know I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid once I join I ♥♥ Being A Military Spouse! on Facebook. I’m just not there yet. (And those hearts will probably forever keep me out. Are those military spouses all 6th graders?)

  1. I think it comes with an innate distrust of any group that is so rigid in their codes and such. In addition, all the secret-handshake stuff can be very intimidating. And, frankly, if I read those articles (on makeup and such), I would probably punch a wall. I also don’t understand why holding a baby while in uniform is so unseemly. I’m not even going to touch the LGBT issues.

    At any rate, I think it’s a good thing that you can get a very specific kind of support from other military spouses that we, your non-militarily-espoused friends cannot help you with.

    But, I will warn you, if you join that group, I’m going to stage a FaceBook intervention.

  2. Bwahahahahahahahaha!

    Sorry, I love your post. And it reminds me of me five years ago. I have been assimilated in some ways–I know the lingo and drop in conversation accidentally. I have been an FRG leader and volunteer regularly. I’ve lived on post so long I feel a little awkward in a civilian community. Things are so damn pretty! It’s kinda overwhelming when you’re used to drab, ugly towns.

    I have no experience with the national guard. I hope that the mil-spouses there are less intense than active duty. Those of us who follow our loved ones around the country so we are precluded from having real careers get a little nutso as we try to establish ourselves amongst our peers. I don’t play well with others in a lot of ways. In our community, people are shocked–SHOCKED–to learn that we are Zen-practicing atheists. We have been shunned because of it by the groups of the mean girls who just luuuurve those hearts. (Seriously? Are we 12???)

    I also don’t talk politics, although I hugged a woman wearing an Obama pin in the commissary and squeed like one of my 12-year-old peers when I saw an Obama portrait in one of our friend’s houses. I was like so OMG!!!1!

    I have long wanted to open up our FRGs to all family members, but until the stupid DADT is repealed, it’s just not possible. I worry about my families who aren’t able to receive information about their deployed loved one. My brother was kicked out of the air force for being gay many years ago–there is really no excuse for treating servicemembers so badly.

    Find a support structure that works for you–sometimes the FRG can be that. Sometimes not. It might be that you just need to have it for unit information but your emotional support comes from other places. I find tremendous support from LAW (proud liberal army wife) and several of the girls at LeftFace. We are outnumbered but we are strong. And loud. 🙂

  3. Please don’t be sorry. Thanks for your comments and support. I just found yours and LAW’s blogs yesterday and gasped in delight. I’m excited to go read LeftFace’s now.

  4. I have just came across your blog today. I googled some terms because I started thinking after nearly a year of being married, I could have written some (or a lot ) of this myself! I thought there just has to be more out there like me…

    I think I just found the only other person(or few people) who are military spouses and (dare I say) also share similar views as me?

    Thanks for blogging!
    valorie

  5. It’s great to get this type of feedback. I’ve been meaning to write about the two-weeks-after-leave feeling that I could cheat if it didn’t take much effort on my part. Or about how hard I’ve been having during reintegration this time around. I’m missing my routine. Also selling and buying a house within 2 weeks of his return might not have been the best idea we’ve ever had. Even though his being on leave before he returns back to work has made it easier. Maybe I’ll get around to these posts eventually. But they are hard to write.

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