Help me give informed consent about being an Army wife. Ridiculous amounts
(Caveat: this is really long! I get totally rambly. Sorry. I'm working this out as I go along, man.)
I’m an early-thirties girl in a serious, long-distance relationship with a late-thirties career Army officer.
He would like us to get married.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to say yes, and the larger part of me feels really good about this choice: I love him; we’re a really, really good fit – sexually, emotionally. We find each other hilarious, and we just really like
each other. I want to have his babies. He’s excited about knocking me up. We have dovetailing thoughts on how marriage and parenthood ought to be approached. On matters of opinion and preference – religion, politics, whether tuna sandwiches should involve pickles or not – we either agree or are fine with disagreeing.
The smaller part of me is going “OMGWTF?!?”
What’s giving me pause is not the fact that he’s in the Army, per se. I don’t have political issues with what he does. I am not preemptively terrified about his safety. I’m a largely upbeat, not-anxious girl, and I’m okay with being apart from my partner for long stretches.
He thinks I’d be good at being an Army wife, by which he means: I’m cheerful and naturally happy, I’m independent, but I also really like to be the person in the support role. I think he’s right about that part of it.
But I’m also from a liberal-hippie California background. I’m not a registered Democrat because sometimes I vote Green (BITE ME.) I’ve lived in big cities all my life. I’m a writer. I drive a hybrid. I like to go to indie-rock shows and I shop at pretentious organic farmer’s markets.
…also, I’m not as much of a jerk as that makes me seem, I swear. I mention those things because my concern, in thinking about marrying the dude, is not about the… political or philosophical differences between my life and his. It has more to do with the social/community aspects.
I think I have a pretty good sense of what it will be like to be married to him
, but I’ll also be sort of married to the military, and I have no idea
what it would be like to be an Army wife, particularly the specific variety of Army wife I’d be with him.
The dude works in a very, very male-dominated environment. The only ladies are the wives and girlfriends of the soldiers in question. On my visits, he’s introduced me to various couples and families, and my perception is that this is a pretty gender-segregated and often quite formal environment. The menfolk work in this tremendously macho setting, and the wives… are referred to as “the wives”. They have book clubs
. The commander’s wife apparently has teas.
I’m actually okay with this. I think. I’d just like to know what I’m getting myself into.
As a bachelor officer, the dude is not the best source of information on what goes on among the families and wives. Frankly, I suspect he’s as mystified by “the wives” as I am. On his suggestion, I’m reading The Army Officer’s Guide
, which is interesting, and would be really useful. If I wanted to be an Army officer. (Bless him.)
I’ve thought about asking his best friend’s wife, but I’m aware of a certain amount of “OMG HOW DO YOU HANDLE THIS LIFESTYLE?!?” judginess in my attitude, so I’d really rather get my head around this before I ask real women for tips.
I’ve flipped through a few other books directed toward military wives, and found them unhelpful. I don’t need advice on how to throw a formal tea. I just want to know what my day-to-day life will be like if I say yes.
I’m looking for ANYTHING that accurately portrays Army-wifeness: personal experience, memoirs, advice books, novels, blogs, etc etc. I’d be especially pleased with anything that’s sort of bright and funny and sarcastic, and approaches military life from an outsider’s perspective. The memoir-type books I’ve looked through struck me as not-terribly-smart. (Sorry.)
I’m asking this question anonymously (mostly because I don’t want it connected to my published stuff) so I set up an email address – firstname.lastname@example.org - if you have questions or wanted to mention something not-in-public. I promise to keep whatever you might like to say in confidence.
But since I can’t publicly respond to follow-up questions, here are some more factoids:
*He’s not going to leave the Army, I don’t want him to, and I wouldn’t ask, any more than he would ask me to stop being a writer.
*Our marriage will be more complementary than equal, in terms of our careers. Part of my job will be to support his. I’m okay with this, and being a writer makes it a lot more feasible, but I’d like more information on it before I commit.
*Living together before marriage isn’t something I’m willing to do. I guess I could temporarily move near him and scope things out for six months or something, but geez, at some point I’m still going to have to take a leap of faith, you know?
*This is going to sound kind of dumb. Um. But as a pinko-hippie Californian, I have certain expectations of pregnancy and childbirth. How likely am I to find a midwife and a doula in Georgia?
I guess the above is actually symptomatic of the main thing I’m wrestling with: will I find People Like Me on an Army base in the South? (…that totally makes me sound like a judgmental jerk. Sorry. I’ve never lived in the South, or on an Army base, and I don’t know. I’m trying to learn! Help me!)
Finally, if you have a lot of anxiety about FASCIST POLICE STATE and the military and things like that, that’s fine, but I hope it’s clear from my question that I’m not asking your feelings about the military or Iraq in general.