NOTE: Poet e.e. cummings had an alter ego, a cockroach which would bang out poems at night on cummings’ typewriter. At the risk of being diagnosed with delusions of grandeur, I must defer this week to my own alter ego, “Good Lil’ Army Wife.” Don’t let the name fool you. If you haven’t been a military spouse, her rants may not be your cup of tea. But they will, at least, be capitalized properly.
So, a while back, I was asked by a girlfriend for some advice. Her husband’s unit was going through a rough patch, and all the soldiers were working what she perceived to be excessively long hours. She had a notion to call up the food chain and give someone in command a piece of her mind.
It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Now, GLAW is, in The World, a legal professional. And under no circumstances would GLAW ever expect her husband to call a partner in the firm and chew him out for keeping GLAW late while prepping for a case, unless I intended to leave the legal profession. Likewise, if my husband were a doctor, I would eat glass before I lifted the phone to reprimand the hospital administrator for scheduling so many rounds per month. Hell, I wouldn’t even do that if he dug ditches for a living! So, when I was asked what she should do, I answered, “Suck it up.”
Being a military spouse isn’t for wimps. The hours suck, your time with your husband or wife is monopolized by the military industrial complex, and periodically (at least for the past decade plus), they get sent to shitholes where people fling mortars at them (justified or not is a Rebecca topic, not a GLAW topic). As the saying goes, if the Army wanted a soldier to have a wife, it would issue him one. You are a dependent, an appendage, a “camp follower.” The Army is like honey badger: it don’t care. If you are so fragile that you can’t handle this reality, run, don’t walk, away.
Before I married my husband, I had a strict “No cops, no soldiers,” dating rule. But the heart wants what it wants, so here I am. I have chosen to partner with a man who is, like it or not, contracted to the military until retirement. In the world, I may be “kind of a big deal,” but to the military, I’m an addendum to my soldier’s personnel file. Until retirement, his job is my job, too. And my job is to support him when he comes home. No, I don’t have to become a Stepford wife and vacuum in pearls. But I must be able to realize that lots of our daily life is out of my husband’s hands. Bitching at him about it, or worse, barking at command, won’t change a thing, and it will create even more stress and distraction for him during the day. And frankly, whether my husband is on post or downrange, I want his mind on his work, so he can come home in one piece, not draped in a flag.
Don’t be “that wife.” The military is still very much a misogynistic machine, and if you call command, you will label your husband as you-know-what-whipped for the rest of his time at that duty station, possibly longer, because reputations like that tend to follow a soldier from post to post. And eventually, he will come to resent you as the root of that reputation.
Then, life really will suck.