What Happened to Miss Independent?
One thing I write very little about on this here blog is not the fact that I’m a spouse – but that I’m a military spouse.
I hint at it on occasion, like how I need to be respectful of Justin’s superiors at holiday parties and how sometimes our house shakes with explosions and it makes it hard to concentrate on anything but… you know… explosions and how it’s generally frowned upon for spouses to get speeding tickets for going 20 miles over the limit.
While driving a government vehicle.
What? I didn’t write about that last one?
I guess maybe I haven’t gone into details about these things because I feel like there are about a billion and a half blogs out there written by military spouses for military spouses, and I should probably leave the advice-giving to the actual good, non-domestiphobic military spouses who’ve managed to not only accept, but embrace this lifestyle — the ones who visit the Commissary (that’s the on-base grocery store for you non-military peeps) on a weekly basis; the ones who head to the Bx or Px (Base Exchange or Post Exchange) for their various sundries first, before making a stop at Target or Wal-Mart; the ones who are actively involved with the FRG (Family Readiness Group) and attend the spouse get-togethers and know their commander’s name and mumble acronyms in their sleep.
Okay, I lied.
That’s not really why I don’t write about it.
I think I don’t write about it because there’s a chance — and this is only like a 98.9% chance — that I resent it.
You see, everywhere I go, I’m labeled a dependent. Even back when I had an actual job and made money and paid taxes. Even when Justin had to leave for 3 months and I had no way to reach him and the house, the cars, the bills, the dogs – everything was my responsibility and mine alone. Even now, when I can still successfully complete menial tasks without assistance and speak in complete sentences and buy my own vino and wipe my own ass.
Still. Just. A dependent.
And I’ll tell you this: That awful word — that dependent word — brings my ailment of Domestiphobia to unprecedented levels.
There are people — military spouses and active duty members specifically — who would, and have, cut me down for saying things like this.
But it doesn’t change how I feel.
Sometimes I get confused and I think it’s Justin I resent. But then I realize that’s not true. Not even a little bit. He was dedicated to the military long before we met. I love him, and it’s a part of him, but that doesn’t mean I have to love every aspect of the military.
I don’t have to love the fact that I have no say in where we live.
I don’t have to love the fact that it would have been increasingly difficult to maintain my career path anyway, had I not succumbed to my quarter life crisis, quit my job, and moved to Costa Rica.
I don’t have to love the fact that at any moment my husband could come home and tell me he has to leave and I won’t see him for days, weeks, or months.
And I have it easy compared to many military spouses.
When I’m honest with myself, it’s clear I haven’t done a stellar job of embracing this aspect of my life. I’ve let the resentment — not for Justin but for his career, for his passion — malignantly grow for way too long, and lately it’s become my crutch — my excuse — for everything I don’t like about myself.
For everything I’m not doing.
And that’s pretty damn ridiculous.
It’s time to stop fighting it and really own what all of this means, which isn’t just the bad stuff — the deployments and the uncertainty and the career upsets, but also the good stuff — the uniqueness and the travel and the opportunities his job affords me if I would just go with it.
So. From now on, I will try to be more cognizant of the happenings on the installation. I will try to shop more frequently (or at least more than never) at the Commissary and Bx. I will try to get to know the other spouses instead of being afraid that they’ll judge me for being weird and outspoken and childless and stubbornly… fiercely… independent.
I will stop trying so damn hard to be a normal citizen because nothing about this lifestyle is normal.
Unless, of course, you’re in it.
UPDATE: Just as I hit “Publish,” a helicopter flew directly over my house. Low. Like, scary low. Like, they-probably-could-tell-whether-or-not-I-was-wearing-a-bra low.
Welcome to my world.
From one fiercely independent dependent to another, I’m happy to abnormal with you, and whose to say that isn’t normal? :) I agree, it is UBER frustrating at times, but can be fun when you think about it – it’s just hard to remember those shining moments in the middle of the dark and dreary. Seriously, when else would I have ever seen the only monument to an insect? Now that’s exciting ;P
PS- you should try living and working here – multiply your helicopter traffic by a bazillion and you’ll ALMOST be there :)
PPS- I miss you and you should visit me. I’ll buy the wine!
Haha, that bad there, huh? It seems to be worse here ever since Bragg took control of the Pope air field…
I miss you too!! You need to come back HERE for a visit. ;)
Yeah, but you haven’t BEEN to Lower AL – I would hate to rob you of the opportunity :)
I love this post. I think it reveals a side of the military that a lot of people would never dare talk about.
As far as the “dependent” thing goes, though… well, maybe you just have to think about it as a term, and not be personally insulted by it, ya know? Labels. Who gives a shit about them.
Thanks, Dennis. Spouses do complain amongst each other, but to do it anywhere else just seems to come across as whiny. I mean, we chose this, right? But at 23 I had no idea how hard it would be.
And you’re right – it’s just a label. But it still bugs me. ;)
Good for you, embracing it. Not that I want you to become a military spouse drone(now I’ve offended a couple hundred thousand military spouses,) but it’s nice that you’re embracing parts of it. There is nothing more romantic than the world travel that can result from being a military spouse, and there’s something to be said for being friendly with people who are in your shoes.
I know you stop by my blog all the time, but if you never do again, you have to check out the semi-pornographic churros I posted today for Cinco de Mayo. As I was typing it up I thought, “Katie needs to see these.” Is it weird that I thought of you while posting? Maybe. I promise I won’t get all stalkery.
You know, the funny thing is, of all the military spouses I’ve met over the past 8 years, very few would be offended by that statement. Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky in hanging with the more down-to-earth ones, but yeah… I’d say there are definite “types,” and it’s pretty easy to pick out the ones who are real vs. the ones who live in their own little world of being the picture perfect military wife and mother.
OMG I have to get ready for work, but I will for SURE check out the churros very soon. I think it’s awesome you thought of me while posting, and if you don’t get at least a little stalkery, I’ll start to feel like I’ve done something wrong. ;)
I really enjoyed this post, Katie. I spent my entire childhood on military bases, so I totally know what you mean about the moving, the uncertainty, and then the lack of control. I too have been a military dependant much of my life – no fun. At the whims of the US Army and my dad’s career. I remember always being really attracted to military men, but then forcing myself to not consider it as an option for me – I just can’t imagine having to put my career on hold to constantly move with my husband. I think it takes a strong person (and some independence, considering the pressure of the family and to be alone while your partner is overseas) to successfully be a military wife, so I think you may have a lot more in common than you know with the other “dependents” out there. I do feel, now that I’m away from that whole lifestyle, that I miss some of the safety and the security I felt living on base. I always felt like I was being looked out for. So maybe, focus on the positives, like that, and it will help you deal with the negatives.
And, be sure to go to the commissary! Lots of good deals. :) And, eat at your local AAFES food court. My mom runs those for a living ;)
Self-sufficiency is something that I definitely think most military “dependents” have in common. We have to be, otherwise we won’t make it.
Oh, and AAFES food courts ROCK! ;)
I love this post. My boyfriend is about to commission as a Marine and while I am so proud of him, I am terrified at the idea of becoming a military wife. Or more so, I am terrified of being really, really bad at it.
I just can’t do the whole “Army Wives” thing, you know?
And reading those military wife/girlfriend blogs/message boards only make me feel guilty for not memorizing the military ranks yet.
Thanks for letting me know that there are lots of military girlfriends/wives who feel the same way I do. I hope that someday I’ll get the chance to meet many of them.
Yeah… I’ve been with my husband for 8 years (married 5) and I still don’t know all the ranks. ;)
The great thing about the lifestyle is that you meet SO many different types of people with different types of backgrounds. In some places you’ll fall in with groups you love, and others… not so much. But you can rest easy knowing you’ll be moving again soon anyway, with new people to meet and places to explore. We have a love/hate relationship, the military and me. :)
I can see why you are annoyed by the label – I would be too.
But no, plow ahead and see exactly how you get around everything the lifestyle puts in your way to get what you want.
Try to remember – it’s a state of mind more than it is a damn label.
*cheering for you from across the world*
Also I had an opportunity to become a military spouse. I ran away from it.
Someone proposed to me while I was at Denision while he was deployed in Iraq. We couldn’t communicate and then he decided we should get married.
I said no. I said no because I knew back then that I couldn’t handle the way his colleagues treated me (I know not all military people are like this but I got tons of emails harassing me), the non-communication, the constant moving from base to base …
… and the fact that I was an independent person who could not fit what his colleagues and superiors wanted me to be. I mean, I was not entirely sure that the troops should even have been in Iraq and I was dating one of them. So yeah I was a “loose cannon”. I didn’t want a life where I had to watch my own opinions in case I wasn’t being “supportive”, “grateful” or “patriotic”. If I had wanted that life, I would have joined the Sri Lankan army and tried to figure out how to shoot the child soldiers in front of me.
And I grew up with a civil war around me. I know that the worst thing you can do is retaliate. I know the difference between nationalism and true patriotism. I know that you have to have a proper plan and a strategy and a level of respect when you enter a foreign country for a military purpose. In the early 2000’s, there was no way I could marry an American soldier.
But I did love my American soldier and he did love me. And so we broke up and he went off on his merry way to find someone far better for him and a life he enjoyed. And I went off across the world to write books about how maybe we should probably think a little bit more before heading into such things and quite possibly it would help a lot if everyone all around was a bit more educated about politics and the rest of the world because then we could keep everyone accountable and when crap happened, perhaps then we’d know how to solve it in much more peaceful way.
And also about how cynical I am about whether peace is achievable at all because human nature includes aggression in competition over resources and in defence against anything perceived as an attack or insult whether it is one or isn’t.
Oh, you wouldn’t believe some of the backlash I got from military guys (mostly neighbors) for wanting to go to Costa Rica for 2 months. What’s worse is Justin got even more shit for “letting” me go. Their wives each confessed tome individually that they finally had to tell their husbands to shut up about it, because while they didn’t want to leave for 2 months themselves, they didn’t like knowing they were married to the type of guy who would tell them they couldn’t. It made me feel pretty lucky to be with someone who supports me, no matter how crazy I might seem or how it makes him look to the military community.
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I gotta say, I have been struggling with this concept of desperately needing some personal independence and how to explain the need for personal identity to my husband. On top of not being the dependent, he is also—lets face it— a man. If he were to have given up pursuing a career and stayed home to raise the two kids we adopted, he would have been celebrated by literally everyone. But as the wife it was sort of expected of me. Not having a steady income and sometimes no personal income at all leaves this chest thumping feminist feeling every bit the stereotypical “dependapotamus”. On the occasion I am able to maintain a job for more than six months and talk to some actual adults, I have this desperate need to contribute. While I completely believe being a mom is a job and a half, the idea that my entire livelihood is dependent on a man is a thorn in my side. A recent point of contention in our marriage was my insistence in building myself a computer from scratch, and also every single dime out of my own money. He describes this computer as “my” computer and basically refuses to use it. Your poignant take has helped me put my ideas into much needed perspective. I already dont fit in with the other stereotypical military wives, my husband not understanding is just icing on the camo cake.