Monday, December 16, 2013

Naughty Spouses make Ugly (vegan) Cookies!

Good morning, readers!  Meet my new best friend...we don't know her name.  She can't be Roxy, Pam, Roland, or even Jackie because none of them are vegan- they definitely would have said so, right?  Let's call her...Simone.

it takes all kinds
Anyhow, I stumbled onto fake-Simone's post on SpouseBuzz and immediately felt refreshed.  I can totally relate to Simone's initial sense of disappointment with the "new support system," which apparently consisted of a bunch of meat-eating, tv-lovin' parents of small children.  I totally know those people- can I say those people here?

After feeding her a steady diet of awkward silence (I mean, she doesn't have a tv, guys), the other spouses made feel like hangover barf over the homemade cookies she offered and failed to appreciate her bitchin' sense of humor.

WHERE is this lady who brings vegan cookies and hilarious jokes to FRG meetings?  SIMONE 4 PREZ RFN!!!

Simone got on well with the soldiers, which kind of exacerbated the burn when she couldn't chum it up right away with their spouses.  She did make some friends and otherwise did the CO-wife thing in exemplary fashion- JFC when was someone going to tell me about "childbirth lasagna"?  It sounds gnar but if I'm supposed to be making that I need the recipe.

And yet, the article is called "Why am I Such a Terrible Military Wife"?  Sounds like she's a kickass military wife to me.  I mean like I said- I didn't even know about childbirth lasagna.  (did you?)  She tried so hard!  Simone ultimately concludes that she "might not be a a great military spouse, but I'm a damn good friend," and is learning to accept her milspouse self for the badass she is.

Simone, since we're best/damn good friends, I need to let you know that you totally win in terms of military spouseness.  You make an effort (cookies), you show up (awkward silence), you put your hilarious vegan self out there.

I don't blame you for feeling disheartened by the way the other folks treat you, though.  Or the way they don't treat you- I mean, I'm sure you've heard that if the other spouses are standing off or leaving you out, you just have to try harder.  It's not their fault they made it far enough into adulthood to get married and get involved with their spouse's career without knowing how to...act like a human being at supportive gatherings.

Yes, it is okay that you don't fit the mold, but it's a problem that there is a mold, and that those who fit in better than others feel free to act like a bunch of tools over the whole thing.

That's overgeneralizing.  We're talking about a group of grown-ass folks who are brought together for the purpose of supporting one another.

Fantastic!  What a relief.  Seriously I'm glad this high school ostracism bullshit is all in my head- and Simone's.  Let's take a look at the comments and see how much support Simone is getting from the community.  More importantly, is it possible to be a strong, supportive partner to your spouse (good wife) without fitting into the mainstream military culture?  I do have a horse in this race, as they say.

There were ten supportive comments and six that were overtly critical.  My highly scientific analysis revealed several trends- Simone's supporters tended to share that they were also "older", and generally acknowledged the sense of pressure to fit in, and the experience of being indicted for being a crappy milspouse due to failure to fit in well with the other spouses in the unit.  The more negative comments accused Simone of trafficking stereotypes and used harsh words like "snobby" and "whiny", and generally blamed her for not fitting in.  What was kind of entertaining was that many if not most of the nasty comments mentioned that they were parents- and Simone clearly felt that her non-parent status was a major factor for rejection.

I found it interesting that only one or two comments pointed out that spouses who are older or more experienced with the military community tend not to go to FRG meetings or other functions.  Right- but Simone pointed out that as the company commander's spouse, there's a set of expectations that she must address and attending meetings is a key thing.  Again- the rules don't really allow for the possibility that a company commander (who's likely in their late 20s or early 30s) would not necessarily have a spouse with five years of experience, and there isn't really a reference point or source of guidance- only rules and consequences.  None of the comments addressed this- but I would bet that Simone's husband has been spoken to by his commander at least once about his wife's "attitude."

With all that pressure, I applaud Simone for finding a way to get her head around all the bullshit and for her courage in posting about it.  I hope more of us start speaking up about the (common) experience of feeling left out by the support network.

It does matter.  The military relies heavily on the volunteer work of spouses to facilitate communication with families about deployment and big serious shit.  If the other folks in your unit decide to exclude you, that can affect your access to information about your partner's activities and whereabouts.  It's not supposed to happen that way but it does, all the time.  What, exactly, is Simone supposed to do about it as the CO's wife?  She needs support, too- but when she discusses her experience she's called "whiny" and is alternately blamed for her sense of isolation and told to just get over it.  Fuck that.  We can do better.

If we can get some recognition for the fact that spouses and partners who do not "fit the mold" need the same support offered to those for whom the mold is intended, maybe things will start, or continue, to change.
What are we supposed to do, just have separate programs for every possibly demographic or walk of life?  That's impossible.

Don't be silly.  Separate is not equal!  I'm not asking for special treatment- I'm suggesting that a smarter system will work better.  You know, progress.

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