Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife

Me and a great vocal lady


Speaking UP

We’ve all been there. It’s a party. We’re celebrating. There’s beer. Maybe even cornhole. We’re in presumably like-minded company. Then suddenly, in casual conversation with a new acquaintance, they drop some opinion, probably political, that contradicts our core beliefs. What now?   


Increasingly, I find myself in this situation. It’s no secret I lean left. I listen to NPR and donate to Planned Parenthood. Yet I’m also a military spouse, and while there are certainly liberals among us, it’s not exactly the core demographic. I never want to do or say anything in public that may reflect badly on my husband.  


On this occasion, someone made a negative comment about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem to protest racial injustices in the United States. Many believe, in part thanks to President Trump (typing those two words together always makes my liberal hands recoil), that Kaepernick’s protest was anti-military. As if the military exists to protect symbols of freedoms instead of individual liberties, like free speech. Regardless of whether or not someone agrees that the racial injustices Kaepernick alleges exist (they totally do), I think it’s admirable that he found a nonviolent means of political protest that sparked a national conversation.   


Did I say any of this? No. In true 49er fan fashion, I went off on a tirade about how the Niners never should have let Alex Smith go when they promoted Kaepernick to head quarterback.  


It was a pass. I do think the 49ers were wrong to let Alex Smith go, but that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t what this woman meant when she disparaged Kaepernick to me. She wanted and expected validation for an opinion that I couldn’t give. Instead of engaging her in a conversation I sidestepped the issue into politically neutral territory. It was eminently ladylike of me. Miss Manners would certainly approve.  


It bothered me though. It still does. Not that this woman and I disagreed, but that I didn’t say anything meaningful in response. Shouldn’t this have been the perfect occasion to have a friendly debate? Isn’t that how we open dialog to understand differing viewpoints to help mend the overly partisan rhetoric that is fracturing American society?  


But I didn’t want to offend.  


Another time recently my husband and I were out with a few military friends. One guy kept interrupting and talking over me. He didn’t do it to anyone else. I was also the only woman there. It felt gendered. I’m trying to give people the benefit of the doubt though because sometimes when you assume, you only make an ass out of one person. I let it slide. Later, when I pointed it out to my husband, he said that yeah, that guy is a bit of a misogynist.  


I don’t know why I needed that validation from my husband. I also don’t know why I kept allowing this person to trample me with his words. In retrospect, this man never asked me any questions. He showed no interest when I mentioned my work. I kind of hate the word “mansplain,” but in this instance, there’s no better way to put how he lectured me about military esoterica for a quarter hour that I frankly didn’t need to know and had no interest in.  


Again, I was bothered. The situation was different, but it seemed like another instance that I should have spoken up for myself. I knew intuitively that this dude didn’t value me or my voice. I wished I hadn’t let him dominate the space.  


I think often women are taught to be meek (how else will we inherit the earth?). It’s not always an intentional lesson, but through countless overt and subliminal messages we’re taught to sacrifice our voices for the sake of other’s comfort. Well fuck that.  


We live in a powerful time for women. When the news about Harvey Weinstein first broke I didn’t know why I should care. It was nothing new. Now I get it. What’s come out of that, and the #MeToo movement has been beautiful and empowering. Women are learning to take their voices back.  


As a writer, I’m not always great in the moment. I tend to need time to mull over ideas and formulate reasoned responses. But I’m challenging myself not to do that anymore. I will no longer be silent when my morals or my gut tell me to act but when polite society would have me do nothing. It’s a new world, and I intend to be part of it.  


Military Spouses: Why we do what we do

Memes are the inside jokes for people who spend too much time on the Internet to actually socialize and generate inside jokes with friends. This notion was recently appropriately commemorated with a meme on the front page of Reddit (AKA the Front Page of the Internet), signaling that indeed, nerds know they are nerds. (As a Redditor with lots of fake Reddit points or “Karma,” and not a single Karma-whoring tit shot to my posting repertoire, I’m well qualified to diagnose my own kind.)

Memes usually consist of a picture that signifies something. There’s the Actual Advice Mallard who gives pieces of legitimate advice. There’s also Confession Bear who states deep dark secrets that range from a love of nose picking to actual murder. Chances are that if there is a very particular story or emotion that you need to evoke, there is a meme to match it.

One meme that usually garners nods of approval is Captain Hindsight, who originated in South Park. This spandex-clad Captain points one finger to the sky and states platitudes of things that really, people should have seen coming.

About a year ago I was browsing the interwebs and came across a Captain Hindsight that I wanted to slap across his smug cartoon face. This was it:


The image had thousands of views and many accolades as to its accuracy. For the first time, I cursed all of those morons out there on the Internet. These were supposed to be my people. How could they be so naïve?

On the one hand, I understand where the Captain’s coming from. People should always go into a marriage with open eyes and clear expectations. But how could they assume that a difficult career trajectory was the only aspect in determining whom you marry?

It made me think about a lot of things, including why I married a military man. I never wanted to marry someone in the Navy. Why would I subject my life to constant interruptions from moving, a poor chance at a steady career, and a spouse who would be intermittently absent? Really, it didn’t sound like a good deal.

But before I met my husband, I didn’t have a good idea of what being married would mean. I didn’t know what to look for. I’d had my heart broken more than once and I couldn’t fathom what it would take to commit to a life with someone.

Now I know. My spouse is someone who I never tire of. I feel more myself when he is next to me than I do sitting alone. He is the one person who can make me angrier than I knew possible, and also the only one I want to comfort me when I am down. He knows all of me and accepts it. And I know and love him back.

When you find someone who does that, how can you not try to form a life together? It is literally the foundation for why people should get married. And with any partnership, there is a give and take.

I gave up my home. I gave up a good job with a free graduate education. I gave up seeing my family as often as I wanted, and I gave up the consistency of living in the same area for an extended period.

In exchange I got the ability to take some time away from an office to explore my true passions. I got a man who enjoys cooking and allows me to eat like an adult instead of foraging like a feral child. I got a dog and started to form a new family. I got to experience living in new places and meeting new people. I will get to live in Hawaii soon.

My husband made concessions as well. He gave up on the hope of retiring to a state without income tax, because he thought it only fair I could decide where we live after the Navy. He gave up playing video games until dawn. He gave up assuming that all free time was “his” time, and now knows it’s “our” time.

For his part, he got someone task-focused in his life that happily took over budgeting until all debt was paid off. He got the ability to never worry if the stockpile of toilet paper is low. He got a new drive and passion in his career, because it’s not just him anymore.

We both got a lot in the end. We got each other. We both get to know we’re married to someone who knows and loves us- flaws and all. We both get to wake up to each other. We both get to look forward to what our future looks like together. We get to know that no matter what, we’re in it together.

In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophones tells a crowd of drunken philosophers that in the beginning, there were circle people. These beings had two heads, four arms, four legs and one body. In that form, the circle people were so powerful they tried to take on Olympus. Zeus decided to chop them in half to reduce their power, creating singular beings. These single people do not feel whole, so they are always questing after their other halves. Once two separated beings find each other, they never want to be apart again. And that is the origin of love.

I found my other half. And no, I honestly do not want to deal with the stresses of being a military spouse. There are many benefits, to be certain, but I hate that I have to be separated by deployments from the person I love, I hate moving frequently, and I hate that I don’t always get to pick where I live. I imagine that most partnerships involve sacrifices and stresses that are balanced against the benefits. So while there are downsides to this lifestyle that I’d prefer not to have, I wouldn’t change it, because the scales are heavily stacked in favor of being whole.