Don’t Be Typical

     Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed out a blog post on Spouse Buzz about being an “Old School Spouses,” and that blog got me thinking about what it means to be a military spouse.  It also got me thinking about the relationships between spouses of differing ranks and differing services.  By all accounts, I should be an old school spouse.  My husband is a 16-year veteran.  He has deployed four times in those 16 years, we have moved more times than I can count.  For a time, we had a different house and school every year for five years running.  I enjoy tradition as much as the next guy, but I don’t believe in being traditional, I believe in breaking the mold.

            In the 16 years, we have been active duty, and I say we, because five of those years, I wore a uniform and served my country, I have experienced the positives and the negatives of old school military spouses.  The only positive thing about old school spouses, in my honest opinion, is tradition.  I love tradition.  The sole reason I’m a Catholic, is because I enjoy the tradition of a church that has gone strong for millennia.  I enjoyed being a military officer, because it’s steep in tradition.  Sometimes tradition is bad.  Tradition is what keeps getting the military in trouble over and over again, specifically with sexual assaults, suicides, and service related issues.

Call the Command Staff If You Need To:

            When I was active duty, I had two very jarring things happen to me, and two very different responses- one was “old school” and the other was “new school.”  The first was I lived about ¼ mile from where a train crashed.  The train crash caused a subsequent power surge, which caused my hot water heater to flood my basement and ruin the carpeting.  I had to replace the entire flooring and part of the wall in my basement.  At the time, I was suffering with asthma related to the chemical released from the toxic spill.  My husband was deployed, and I surely couldn’t lift heavy furniture off the carpeting on my own.  I asked my unit to help, the response was, “we have our own people deployed, ask someone else.”  I requested assistance from my husband’s unit, they were there the next day, and the furniture was moved.  The second time I needed the help of my unit, I had miscarried in my office.  As I left to go to the hospital, I hear the Chief Master Sergeant tell the commander, “women fake this shit all the time.”

            My unit was old school, through and through.  They felt officers shouldn’t have problems and need help.  They thought that I would be able to lift heavy furniture on my own, because I was a 2d Lieutenant capable of small feats of strength.  If I had a miscarriage, I was on my own.  After going through these two things, I realize this is not who, and what I want to be as a military spouse.  I made a vow to myself, that no one should ever feel disregarded.  That every member of a military unit is valued, including the spouses—and this even extends to the same sex spouses, the male spouses, and the families where both members are active duty. 

I’m a spouse, I don’t have a dress code:

            The second thing that really got to me in the article/blog post was the encouragement of an on-base dress code.  I guess the writer is blessed with the ability to constantly put her Mary Kay face on every time she goes to the commissary or BX.  As an avid runner and athlete, the only time I’m on base is post-run, or post-crossfit workout.  I’m sweaty, I’m dressed inappropriately, according to some, and I stink (literally).  I also live 30-minutes from base, I have two kids in school, and most times, the only time I have the time to go grocery shopping is after a workout.  Don’t like me in my sweaty clothing, and running shoes, don’t look.  I recall one time even going to the commissary in pajamas.  This was after my son had a sleep deprived EEG, and we had been at the hospital for four hours after getting almost no sleep.  Pardon me for not putting on appropriate attire, last time I checked I’m a military spouse, not Heidi Klum.  I didn’t realize I had to dress in full regalia to go pump gas.

            Eight years ago, I gained a hefty amount of weight carrying my little girl.  This was right before my son was diagnosed with autism and my husband deployed.  Needless to say, I had a “See Food” diet.  I was the heaviest I have ever been.  After joining Weight Watchers, running 9 marathons, and doing crossfit, I’m the same weight I was when I married my husband.  When I go to balls, I wear shorter dress, and dresses that accentuate my body.  When asked why I do this, I say, because I can.  Usually in the Air Force, the balls are semi-formal, which means cocktail dresses are acceptable attire.  I have self-confidence and feel wonderful.  Being short, with great legs, I say if I got ‘em flaunt ‘em, and I do.  When I see grown women commenting on another girls’ dress at a military ball, or event, the first thing that comes to mind is jealousy.  There are a very few minority that could probably be taken aside and gently told, “Hey sweetheart, that really isn’t the image you want to portray at your husband’s work.”  There are other ways to address this issue than smugly on a blog post.  Last time I checked you were a military spouse, not a senior editor at Cosmo.  Military spouses should feel like that they can express themselves in fashion, and who am I to judge.

            There is a time and place for being old school and upholding certain traditions, but at some point, when it is to the detriment of a family or an individual, it’s time to buck tradition, and speak out.  When I hear old school, and think about old school officer’s spouses, it leaves a vomit taste in my mouth.  Stating that we should continue to maintain the old school standards of military spouse-hood, to me, just reads as a passive-aggressive rant against the people the writer “deems” new school.  I, for one, don’t want to be considered an “old school” wife.  My goal in life is to rock the boat, so that when someone else who is navigating the same lifestyle, the same issues, and the same obstacles I am, will not have to fight the old school system, and the system will do what is right, instead of relying on out-dated traditions.

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