I joined the military spouse ranks at the end of an era. Which specific era, you might wonder? Well, the end of the blatant separation of spouses into “officer” and “enlisted.”
When my husband was wrapping up his stint at initial training, all of us wives (and it was only wives) were herded into an auditorium and given the rundown on life as a USMC spouse. We learned the ropes from a seasoned spouse and were handed a copy of Parade Rest.
We were lectured about protocol and decorum. I, the dependent spouse, was a direct reflection on my husband and his career. My behavior needed to be impeccable at all times. The correct place settings and seating arrangements for every possible formal and informal dinner party was reviewed in my new book.
Oh, and the rules against officer and enlisted fraternization were reviewed. But I didn’t really pay close attention to that part of the seminar. I guess it covered spouses, too. I mean, it must have, based on how other newly minted military spouses were acting.
I crossed the unwritten officer and enlisted friendship line.
And I don’t care. Because that line isn’t a real thing. It’s something that someone way back in the “good old days” created.
Some of the friends that I do life best with happen to be on the “other side” of that line.
The whole rank thing came up once at the beginning of each friendship. And then it was done.
No one blinked.
No one flinched.
Our spouses’ ranks aren’t even discussed, except for a hearty congratulations when someone gets promoted.
I have just a few criteria for my friends. First, be kind to my kids, but don’t be afraid to make them toe the line.
Also, it would be nice to enjoy a few similar hobbies. I’m into true crime, running, reading, writing and being salty about military life.
Finally, I like to have adventures and try new things.
Can you hang with that? Great! You’re in.
This attitude is becoming more and more the norm of military life and friendship among spouses.
The atmosphere has changed slowly over the last decade or so. I’m so glad that it has too. It makes everything much nicer and friendlier. Having an “all-hands” spouses club unites all of us for the good and, honestly, the food.
It wasn’t always like this, even in the very recent past.
I remember overhearing troubling conversations as a young(er) spouse. Harsh, untrue stereotypes were repeated. Some folks thought they could “just tell” what rank someone’s spouse wore based on their accent, clothing, number of children or perceived education level.
When I volunteered in the family readiness group at our first duty station, a few spouses liked to throw down rank very obviously. As if it made a difference to who got the last word.
One of my friends from that experience happened to be married to an enlisted Marine. After all the nonsense at my military spouse indoctrination, I was nervous about venturing into this friendship. I didn’t want to create a situation. I hesitated to connect on Facebook. I paused before socializing outside of unit events.
Then my husband set me straight.
We’re all just spouses.
By “just” I really mean without the officer or enlisted caveat attached. At the end of the day, we married the person our hearts connected to the most.
It wasn’t because of what was on their collars, but because of who they are as a human.
Although, if we’re being honest, how they look in dress uniform might have played a role in the process.
Breaking through that invisible O/E friendship barrier was the best thing I’ve done as a spouse. When I decided to stop listening to the stereotypes and the unwritten rules, I gained a whole lot of love, light and laughter.
I’ve got a whole army of amazing friends that I know I can call on, day or night, for anything. Whatever our spouses do, we’ve got each other. And to be honest, none of us are really 100% sure what our active duty other half does some days.
We’re all in this together, all of us military spouses. We are all just trying to get through this wild ride, with our sanity mostly intact. So cross that “line” if you spot a kindred spirit. It will be so worth it.