To the Military Spouse Who Feels Clueless
Remember the Friends episode where Joey pretends like he understands what everyone else is talking about, but really, he doesn’t have a clue? The one where he buys a set of encyclopedias so he can sound smart and fit in with his more intelligent buds?
Have you ever felt like that?
Years ago, in middle school P.E., our teacher attempted to form teams during our volleyball unit by saying, “blondes to that side of the net, brunettes over here.” Now, my hair color is what you might call “dishwater blonde” or “light brown”. Honestly, I could have gone either way. But, instead of making an executive decision and claiming a side, I made the mistake of walking up to my teacher and asking if I was a blonde or brunette. His answer?
“If you have to ask that question, you’re over there with the blondes.”
I’ve obviously never forgotten how that embarrassment felt and learned in that moment to keep dumb questions to myself and, like Joey, pretend I know what everyone’s talking about. Even as a military spouse.
My ID card shows I’ve been a dependent spouse for 17 years, long enough to have weathered deployments, PCS moves, and surely know all the ins and outs of military life. A “seasoned spouse”, some would might say. Right. Well, I could sit here, nod along and pretend, but that would just reinforce an elitist mentality when the truth is that I’m still learning.
Do you know what an FRG is? Maybe I should be embarrassed to admit that I just learned the meaning a couple of weeks ago. And not even in real life. I came across the acronym on a website the other day and come to find out, it means Family Readiness Group, which apparently, are at all commands to support family members, especially during stressful times. A place to meet friends and other military families. Hmm. Sounds fantastic.
In all my years as a Navy wife, I’ve never known about such a group, been invited to one, or knew another person in real life who attended one of these meetings.
There is a perception that military spouses are all connected in neat little support groups. But it’s a flat-out myth. Many of us live off-base, have spouses who don’t serve in a socially tight-knit unit and have to actively seek out friends to find community often in places that don’t feel like home.
A couple of years ago, I drove on base and the gate guard saluted me.
For an instant, I felt worthy of the gesture and sat up in the driver’s seat a bit taller. I mean, my husband had recently transitioned from enlisted to officer and I thought maybe somehow as an officer’s wife I was due equal respect. I returned home from the commissary and excitedly told Clint about the encounter.
“Kara! They saw the officer stickers and were saluting the car.”
So, I’m telling you that even blonde, seasoned spouses such as myself make mistakes and fumble through this military life, learning something new almost every week. I can’t sit here and pretend I know the meaning to every acronym or all the etiquette and uniform rules. There are simply thousands.
Sure, I know enough to tip the commissary bagger and to stop what I’m doing if I’m on base during colors, but even those lessons were learned the hard way.
If you are just starting out as a military spouse, please don’t think you have to have everything figured out. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. You’ll learn as you go, accumulating humorous stories which will end up being your best memories. And then someday, you will look back and see how far you’ve come, that you actually retained the meaning of a few acronyms, know the dress code for a military ball (I still have no idea), and how to successfully navigate a PCS.
So, to the gal who feels like Joey Tribbiani, nodding and listening to her friends as they rattle on about TDY’s, base housing and living OCONUS, you’re still legit.
You may not get a salute, but you are a warrior at home and deserve all the respect for dealing with last minute schedule changes and living a life much out of your control.
Even if you think you barely know what you’re doing, I promise, there are other spouses wondering the same thing and you might just be able to pass on some of your knowledge learned the hard way. Chin up. You got this.