*This is a guest post contributed by Catherine Hershey.
Military life gives us a lot of wonderful and difficult things and the yearly ball may just be at the top of both lists for some people. It could be your fairy tale night out with your partner dressed to the 9’s or it could be an awkward reminder that you don’t have friends yet in this new unit. And some people do not have a choice in their attendance. For many, it falls under the category of “Mandatory Fun”. But the common misconception here, as with many things in the military life, is that we have no choice. I believe we absolutely have a choice as to whether we enjoy the Ball or not.
- Get In the Appropriate Mindset: The military is difficult and requires a lot of sacrifice. The military ball is not a place you want to be thinking about how you are unhappy with your residence, your employment options as a spouse, your neighbors who smoke and make a lot of noise, the holidays and family gatherings your spouse has missed, etc. Take some time before the big day to reflect on why you joined this life, how meaningful your sacrifice is, and the part of you that have been enriched and strengthened by military life. Think about the people who do care a great deal about you and the people you are thankful to have met through military life. Intentionally focus your mind on the positive so you will be ready to participate emotionally in the ceremonial aspects of the Military Ball and celebrate with others around you.
- Make Peace With Your Date: Similar to the first step, it will greatly increase your enjoyment of this special night if there are no lingering resentments between you and your date. You will want to enjoy looking at him/her dressed in their best, smiling, dancing, talking to their friends, etc. So do yourself a favor and remember why you love this person so that you can look at them like they are the most stunning person in the room. If you need to, plan a coffee date before the event so you can get some quality communication in.
- Relieve some of the financial burden: Quick tips on this one are as follows: Don’t buy a new dress every year. There is so much turnover, there are going to be totally different people every year so cycle through them or wear the same one with different accessories for several years. Or better yet, find someone with their Ball on a different weekend and borrow their dress!
If you don’t want to spend $$$ at the bar, but still want to have a good time, get some of your friends together to After-Party at a cheaper bar down the street.
No matter how you count it, Military Balls cost a chunk of change, so consider setting aside $50 every month of the year for covering the expenses of your yearly fancy outing.
These sorts of events are often overlooked as something we have to do or something that causes a lot of stress every fall. But when I talk about the Military Ball with people outside the military bubble, such as my sister, I am reminded about how cool it is we get to celebrate our service members in such a special way every year. Most adults do not have an excuse to wear formal attire and enjoy a nice meal with their friends. So, take a deep breath, identify and lighten the stressful factors, and enjoy your night out!