***WARNING The following article does not discuss video gaming in any way! You have been warned!*** I have learned a lot about labels in the last few years. Mostly, how much being labeled can define you if you let it.
For instance, as a military wife, The United States Navy labeled me as a "dependent."
Let's look at that word for a minute.
As defined by Webster's dictionary.
–nouna person who depends on or needs someone or something for aid, support, favor, etc.
Ummm... ewww! I have no idea whose bright idea it was to come up with "dependent", but I would like to meet him in a dark alley someday. Honestly, as if life weren't full enough of obstacles, the USN thinks of me as dependent. Fabulous.
I railed against the label for the first year of my marriage. I had worked the last 7 years to find my independence, further my career, stand on my own two feet, and spit in the eye of any male who looked my way with "I am your hero and can save you" in his expression. I'd met and married a good man, one who supported my dreams with love, but didn't try and run my life. I was ecstatic. Score one for 30 something single women everywhere.
We had been married less than twenty four hours when I began to understand I wasn't in full control of the situation at hand.
My newly minted husband drove us onto a local military base. I felt intimidated by the guards wearing weapons at the gate, by the institutional buildings, and masses of uniformed men and women walking around. I didn't belong here, I thought, as he grabbed my hand and walked me into the ID office. After a long wait, a woman looked over my marriage certificate, passport, social security card, and all manner of documents before telling me to smile and look at the camera so she could get a picture for my dependent card.
I think I stopped breathing for a moment. In a fog, I could hear the lady asking me several times if I wanted my picture retaken. I didn't.
My wonderful new husband had neglected to tell me my new title. I don't think he saw it as any big deal. Well either that, or he knew it was a big deal and figured I wouldn't kill him in public!
I carried around an ID for two years where I wore an expression of shock and anger.
I dove head first into everything Navy. I took classes on being a new military spouse, volunteered for the FRG, and read every book available on navigating the military maze.
Know what I discovered?
You are only as dependent as you think you are. All my hard work didn't mean I was any more in control of my life than if I had let myself relax into it. The Navy still told me when I could see my husband, where I would live and for how long, and how little closet space I would have thanks to the bazillion assorted uniforms.
On the occasion of his re-enlistment, an officer gifted me with a certificate listing among my many attributes, my unselfish and unwavering support of my husband.
I think in that moment standing on the deck of a battleship everything crystallized. I counted as long as I was with him. It's like the military lives in a time warp. A 1950's time warp.
Surely I am more than just his wife? I've had my own social security number for years, but when asked for it by a doctor's office the other day, I gave his.
I had acquaintances who couldn't figure out how much money they had because their hubby paid all the bills. One girl moved while her hubby was away and was found outside her place of business balling her eyes out because she couldn't remember her address. Another doesn't drive at all and has to call friends when her hubby is away. Another quit college and moved to our base so she could stay home and just be a wife for a while.
Another favorite of mine is the email/phone call game I've watched be played out on facebook, at dinners, meetings, on a picnic or at the beach.
Imagine a group of spouses from the same command in a room. One says "I've had an email every other day." Next one counters with "Oh I had one everyday." Only to be one upped by the next one who announces "I had a phone call yesterday and emails every day." This game can go on and on until someone just gives in and walks away defeated wondering why her spouse can't find the time to email 5 times a day and call every night.
It's sorta sad to watch how we fee the need to prove our spouses love us more than someone else's . Or, let there be no mistake, one will say "Oh, well your husband doesn't actually have all that much to do I suppose. Mine is busy working hard and can't spend that much time on his rearend writing me." (Picture my face when I heard this conversation go on behind me at another command's party!)
I don't get it. When I said it was a time warp, I wasn't kidding. Out of my command, I can only think of a handful of spouses who are happy and fulfilled in their own right. I am not saying you need to be working full time out of the home to be fulfilled. You don't. I just don't know many spouses who feel like they are fulfilling their own dreams and they seem to spend a lot of time being bitter about it.
I've had moments when a coffee creamer commercial brings me to tears and my hands freeze when I do a load of laundry and his socks fall out of the basket. We all have those moments, but for me they are just moments. I don't live in the dark spaces in between missions. I live my own life. Sometimes he's here, sometimes he's not, but in between I live.
And in living I have found and cherish relationship's with women who inspire me to be more than I am. In my circle we each have a set of skills the others can rely on when needed. I've watched a mom of 6 volunteer her time at the USO, for her FRG and raise her kids with joy everyday. Her best friend, a mom of two, is one of the most organized women I know and never fails to make me laugh at myself. A fellow gamer and military wife I know never lets the every changing schedule of missions get her down and takes me out on girly dates. Another wife I know has a career she's never let the military get in the way of.
Everyone of these women makes me strive to live with more tolerance of those around me who haven't quite gotten to a place where they can find their own way.
I am more than just a military wife. I can let the label represent me, anger me, own me. Or I can just say it's a part of who I am, but not the whole.
I am thinking of leaving the following answering message on my cell phone.
"I am sorry I am unable to answer the phone right now. 1. If you are calling to whine, plead or moan about your life, please hang up and talk to a mirror. If you aren't getting emails, don't panic. If you are calling to tell me how many emails/phone calls you are getting, please refer to number 1. If you really feel the need, please leave a message and I'll probably text you back. Have a blessed day."
Too much? Probably, but if you are wondering if I am screening my calls? I am :D
As an aside, last time my husband went to sea, our puppy tried to get in his bag.
Cracked me up.
Maybe I can sneak into his sea bag next time? *ponders*