Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Breaking the Mold

We're trying to break the mold...aren't you?  But what does that entail?  In what way are we not typical Army wives?

There are over 2 million people serving in the US military.

There are potentially 2 million people in the USA partnered with soldiers.

There are certainly nearly 1 million female spouses.

Many if not most of those are Army wives. 

There are so many of us that it is hard to believe that anyone would think there is such a thing as a "typical Army wife," let alone how specific the details of that label get.

We're supposed to be very young- possibly too young to get married at all.
We're supposed to be god-fearing Christians wrapped in the flag.
We're supposed to be unquestioning, unflinching, with a skill set adaptable to disposable diapers and unaccompanied tours spanning years.
We're supposed to be a-political, non-political, and uncaring about systemic economic forces.
We're supposed to be registered Republicans or at the very least middle-of-the-road Democrats.
We're supposed to talk about household budgets and the surprise return of our spouses at Christmas-time. Not politics. Not confusion. Not despair. Not career-ending frustration.

Aren't we typical Army wives?

Echo: I wanted to find other spouses/partners who could relate to what felt like a unique experience- the reality of military life as a newly-married, child-free, socially conscious thirty-something. Then I met Kilo, Bravo, Charlie, India and others who were in a similar boat. Actually, the exact same boat...ironic, given we are all Army wives. We felt alienated by so much of the media that targets military spouses as young women who are beginning adulthood as well as couplehood, and often simultaneously, parenthood. We saw a need for validation for spouses and partners who support their soldiers but cannot see themselves reflected in the mainstream media. We believe that every military spouse deserves recognition- perhaps especially if military culture sharply contrasts with his/her background. Military life requires plenty of adjustments, even for those who are not "older", childless, religious minorities, queer, vegan, etc.

Bravo: Marrying someone who could retire with a full Army career by our 10th anniversary was out of the 'verse. In my not-super-long life I have had several labels: red diaper baby, Gifted & Talented, varsity player, high school graduate, college graduate, master's candidate, foreign student, international traveler, young professional, manager, Board member, subject matter expert...fiancé and Army wife were most definitely new ones for me. Moving to a new state without friends or peers was a struggle and it put a strain on my relationship with my lover, the north star that brought me here. In a relationship with an introvert and serious gamer is not the best place to be when you're lonely. And then Echo and Kilo entered my life and I finally felt part of a community. A military community of like-minded people. Suddenly I had other women to talk to about all the targeted communication from the Army and MilSpouse society that didn't speak to me at all.

Kilo: I blew up a fulfilling life that I had worked hard for and loved very much to support my now-husband's career. Although I love my dude more than I ever knew I could love someone and there are thousands of moments in any given week when I am genuinely happy to be here with him, the knowledge of what I've sacrificed continues to hurt every day.  I used to think that this feeling of loss would stop, but now I honestly am not sure it will. So that my husband could pursue his dream, I left friends who are more like family and below-market rate rent in one of Brooklyn's coveted brownstone neighborhoods. I passed up a promotion with a $15K pay raise in a city government office and took a pay cut below what I was already making in favor of a job with a nonprofit that offered me flexible work location.  When I miss out on parties and friends' birthdays while being bored to death because there is nothing to do in this town, when I work longer hours than my new salary justifies, and most especially, when the person I moved here to be with is too busy with work to spend time with me, I miss that life profoundly.  I feel like the pat storyline is that Army wives are just so proud of their husbands' work; they're our "heroes," yada yada.  I am very proud of my husband for doing something difficult to pursue his dream, but I can't say that I am proud of his work.  Mostly, I resent the everliving fuck out of it, because it cost me everything else that mattered to me, and some days it doesn't feel like I am getting back even half of what I put in.  Make no mistake: he puts all the time and effort he can muster into our marriage, and I know that he loves me most of all.  It's just that once the Army is done with him, he doesn't have very much leftover to give.  I put him first to a degree I didn't think I'd ever put anyone first, yet he still has to put the Army first in a lot of really tangible and important ways, even if it's not what he feels in his heart.  That makes it hard to really be proud of him sometimes.  And that's before even considering the political objections I have to what his work entails sometimes.  I guess part of the reason I needed this community was to connect to others whose relationships to their partners' careers are way, way more complicated and painful than people usually talk about.

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