Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 1)

After I separated from active duty (you can still call me Petty Officer though, because I’m in the reserve), I spent several months traveling, and then I married a fellow Sailor who was (is) still active.

We met when we were both E-nothings in the Navy, stationed on shore duty in San Diego. He got orders to sea duty in Japan while I was considering a career transition from avionics to the legal field. We’d been together for six months when I had to choose a path:

-Left at the fork meant taking orders as a third class calibration technician to Japan a few months later.
-Right at the fork would’ve meant waiting several more months in San Diego, going to school in Rhode Island during winter, a guaranteed promotion, and my boss’s word that I’d get orders to Japan after that.

There was plenty to it, and much happened personally and professionally in the years that followed my decision to go ‘left.’ Eventually, I decided to leave the military and go back to college. There were many factors to this decision as well, but so it happened. My then-fiance was still in Japan when I got out, and he chose his next orders (to the extent that we choose our orders, of course) based on where he could go that had a good university reasonably close. Here we are now in San Diego.

When we moved here, we had limited time to find a place. At first, we completely ruled out living in military housing either on or off base. Why? Because the stereotypes of badly behaved military families are based on something—and I’ll just leave it at that. We lived in a really nice neighborhood for a while, although we did get tired of the many dogs in all of our neighboring apartments. We were going to stay as long as the rent didn’t get raised to a certain level, but after our lease was up, it was raised past that level. It wasn’t worth it to us to stay there, so we looked for another place. Looking for a new place is such a pain in the ass that I’m not going to detail it. Basically, we opened our minds to the possibility of living in military housing, and then were offered a deal we couldn’t really refuse. A way bigger townhouse style unit than we could afford outside of military housing, and for significantly less money every month than anything else we’d seen. It wasn’t even in a ghetto! And utilities were included! So we jumped on it, and now I’m really not sure if I regret it or not.

Oh, you’re in the Navy…

Without detailing why I hate my neighborhood, and the disagreements I have with some of my neighbors, I can just say that I don’t fit in with military wives. I damn certainly don’t fit in with the Marine Corps wives who make up the majority of this area’s stay-at-home assholes moms. I’ve read a lot on the Internet, and had conversations with friends in and out of the military, and the few friends I have who are also married to men in the military, about women who try to “wear their husband’s rank.” The idea is that one woman considers herself superior to another on the basis of her husband having a superior rank. It’s actually an especially ridiculous behavior for Sailors’ wives because in the Navy, pulling rank is really….

How do I explain this? It depends on the unit, of course. But there’s the saying, “You attract more flies with honey.” I have observed in other leaders, and experienced while holding leadership roles myself, that saying, “I’m your superior, and that’s an order,” is far less effective than being the kind of person that your subordinates want to follow. Rank is quite a complicated thing in a social sense, in the Navy, at least, and so I will leave it at that for now.

Anyway, there are the rank pulling wives. But as a Navy person in a mostly Marine neighborhood, I wonder if there isn’t a similar thing going on with women considering their husband’s branch as superior as well. There’s absolutely a swinging dick mentality going on. I’ve trained with and known Marines. I go to school with many Marine veterans now. Everyone has a reason for joining the military, and everyone has a reason for choosing a branch. And I’m not saying every Marine is the same, but plenty of them choose the Corps because of ego. Marines are thought of as elite, as a more difficult force to join than the Army, as a more masculine force than the Air Force or Navy. “The few, the proud,” and all of that. It’s hard to get along with people who seem to think they’re better than you for some reason. For me, it’s especially hard to get along with women who have never served in the military, but seem to think that their husbands’ service in the USMC is superior to my service and my husband’s service in the Navy.

Not to mention the Navy is absolutely without a doubt the greatest military branch in all of history anyway. But I digress.

We never see you…

In one of my exchanges with some of my neighbors here, I told them to talk to me during the day some time. It was ten at night, and I think I was reasonably in not wanting to talk to them at that time. They responded emphatically, “We never see you!”

I guess they don’t see me. I don’t have kids, so I don’t hang out at the playgrounds (though I do go to the playground nearest my unit to do pull ups on the monkey bars). I don’t sit in a lawn chair in my driveway socializing because I don’t have time. I don’t go to neighborhood events because I don’t want their shitty free hamburgers, and again, I don’t have time. Three days a week, before 1600, I’m in my garage with the door open, working out. I run and bike in the neighborhood when I can. I check my mail almost everyday around 1500. I frequently drive in and out, and see the neighbors and their children out and about. I frequently have to stop my car while they yell and drag toys out of my driveway so that I can pull in. They don’t see me? No, they do see me, but they don’t see me at a time when it’s convenient for them to gang up on me and tell me what they think.

The thing is, even though they definitely see me and have opportunity to talk to me, and even though I do spend many hours at home during the week, I am a busy person. Very few of these women work, though some have small children they care for all day. Hell if I know what the ones do whose children are all in school until 1500. They don’t see me because I’m busy. If I’m home, I’m working. I may just be a student, but I generate income from being a student, and I put in my 40 hours a week. In a very real sense, I have a job. My job happens to be preparing for another job (partly).

Work is what I’m getting at. Work is an amazing thing. I have a desire to work. I have a desire to do work I consider meaningful too. I am not satisfied simply to support my husband in his meaningful work. It is difficult for me to identify with a group of women of whom so few women are driven to do their own shit. Being a mother is one thing, and it’s more than I am ready for right now (well, ya know, unless God decides otherwise). But of all my friends who are mothers, I really don’t know any who are satisfied to stay at home. Some have taken time off for the baby years, but all have put great efforts into home businesses, education, or plain, old-fashioned, earn-a-paycheck jobs. I guess that’s just who they are. That’s who I am. Maybe someday I will have a greater ability to click with someone who is happy putting 100% of herself into other people, but for now…

I simply don’t know what to talk about. << 5 / 12 / 14 I’ll continue this post another day.  >>

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