19 July 2010

Navy Wifery…and Other Whimsy

A few Free Your Mind Fridays ago I alluded to the idea of being "too young." I am excited to be thirty soon and I think my Mum best summed it up when she said "you leave your 20s and finally stop feeling like a kid." So true! There does seem to be a cultural belief that as long as you are in your 20s, you are merely messing about in life. Your job is just what you are doing until you "figure your life out," your relationships are just trying to find "the one," and your life choices in general are merely passing fancy because, well, you are just a young'un. Heaven forbid you are married and/or parenting, that is just a recipe for disaster. We can only assume that I am merely dabbling in this job of motherhood and that all my "new age" choices are just because I am young and don't know any better. (The fact that just maybe parenting has evolved over the past 30 years due to better research, materials and design is really not a consideration we need to make. We are just young and crazy! We are just "two wild and crazy" moms.) In a nutshell I often wonder if I would get so much helpful "advice" from everyone on the planets (all who have a right to a say in my life of course) if I were clearly 35 and doing this gig.

With all that self-entitled 20-something whining out of the way (man I am such a parody of myself sometimes) I also realized that a lot of the "attitude," for lack of a better word, I encounter has to do not only with seeming young, but also the military-wife factor. I have noticed, albeit subjectively, that when the topic arises and it is divulged that I am a Navy Wife, there is a slight shift in the environment. I am not sure why this is exactly. I postulate that many people think military wives (I cannot speak for all spouses, the submarine world is still pretty dominated by the "men on boats, women home with slow-cooker" mentality) are just silly young things who married fresh out of high school, became breeders and now spend their days trolling the mall with their "navy brats" in tow. Sure that is a bit of hyperbole, but it is probably more accurate than we would like to think. Even worse, at least among the local group of "mommies who lunch," being military may mean that you are (insert whispered tones here) poor.

Well, let me dispel a few myths for everyone. The wives I know are all highly educated (even if not in the classical school sense), articulate and intelligent women who come from all walks of life and are doing an amazing job of maintaining families under conditions that often less than desirable. We are doctors, lawyers, nurses, dental technicians, massage therapists, physical therapists, chemists, security administrators and computer programmers, just to name a few. Even those of us who don't "work" in the traditional manner are models of professionalism as we juggle children, two extended families with no spouses for buffer, family readiness groups, volunteer positions and the general rigmarole of navy political bullshit. Don't get me wrong, it is a representative cross-section of American culture and there is a decent dose of junior high clique crap going down among some groups, but sadly that is not a phenomenon unique to anywhere where herds of women roam. (Sure that is an anti-feminist statement, but the truth can be a real bitch.)

As for the money thing, without getting into the tactless discussion of dirty money, the pay is fine. At some levels it is insufficient, at others a bit excessive, but realistically speaking is just as appropriately scaled to job description and educational attainment as most jobs in industry. The places where the military system fails are the same as seen in American culture as a whole. The issue here is not that the Navy underpays, it is that the American economy often doesn't support our hardest workers. Again, this is not a unique phenomenon. More to the point, if you base your desire to interact with someone purely on socio-economic level, then really, all of this is moot. Sadly that hard truth won't help all the kids who won't be going to the "good" pre-schools in the area since there seems to be an unofficial policy against accepting military kids. As for the irony that military spouses need be lepers in upper-middle class communities due to pay grade yet everyone still feels it appropriate the throw the "free" healthcare in our face, that is a topic that requires a level of emotional and metal fortitude I cannot provide at this time.

With that rant out of my system I may now go back to politely smiling while people fall all over themselves to thank Chris for serving, while I am written off as a second class citizen. Enlisting fresh out of high school, to serve our country is noble. Using you advanced education to protect national security practically qualifies you for sainthood. Serving as the support staff for that choice is for losers. Just in case SAHM-dom didn't place me with the dregs of society, my status as navy-wife should do the job. Thank goodness I find it personally fulfilling otherwise, it would be a pretty tough racket. Ah to be young and seeing the world….oh wait…


Alicen said...


You hit the nail on the head and thank you for that!

Ginger said...

Maybe because I grew up near an army base, or because I have friends who are military spouses, but I always just figured that, past a certain point, it's just like every other community--with people from various stages and walks of life.

I think a lot of the stereotyping comes from the publics inability to think past the new (read: young) enlisted men and women. So many of those people are kids, really and truly kids, that I think that's what is burned in so many people's brains. NOT that that's an excuse, but maybe 1 explanation (of course, another explanation is that people are dumb and judgmental and don't know what they're talking about, which is equally true and valid!).

Alexis said...

Ginger- Exactly, I think when people think "military" they imagine 19 year olds with two kids and, as Richard Gere states, "no where else to go." I also assumed that it would just be a sampling of every other American community, but that doesn't always seem to be the case. I am not really sure I understand the phenomenon, though it seems to be something everyone has run up against. Granted it is not unique...think of all the people who are derisively labeled "just teachers" or "just nurses" and so on. I think it is more a cultural affectation that we don't always value our hardest workers. ( Not to imply that this job it super noble, it is not, though it is representative of this circumstance.)