Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wife vs. Army Wife?

I have read some stuff lately that has really bothered me. And since I have all this time on my hands, I've had time to think about it. I struggle with the label "army wife" on a personal level anyway. But when these young army wives and girlfriends use the term to define themselves, it really makes me wonder about them as individual people. I know many people just use the term as what it simply means, you are married to an army soldier. It doesn't define you. Its not a special club. Its not a cookie cutter mold of who you're supposed to be. And when said to another "army wife" it says it all.

My problem with the term is not only the generalizations that can be made, but the fact that many young women want to use it as a special buzz word, like a secret hand shake for some club. I read something the other day... "I am many things... But most importantly, I am the Girlfriend of a United States Soldier." Well, let me tell you something my friends, I am many things, but "army wife" isn't at the top of my list.

I'm an individual.
I'm a strong independent women.
I'm a wife.
I'm a daughter.
I'm a sister.
I'm a niece.
I'm an aunt.
I'm a friend.
I'm a scholar.
I'm an employee.
I'm a co-worker
I'm Rigel's *person*.

The "I'm an army wife" hat doesn't come on until all of those other commitments are taken care of. I love my husband. It honestly doesn't matter to me if he's a soldier or a teacher or a ph.d physicist. I would love him no matter what. I knew Joe long before he ever touched an Army uniform. I'm incredibly proud of the path he's chosen, but his life doesn't define mine. His job may direct our lives, but it doesn't make me who I am. Honestly, his job doesn't even make him who he is. It might dictate his haircut, but not the kind of person he is inside.

I worry about these young women that fight so hard to be "army wives." I never even thought about the term when I was getting married. I wasn't a "future army wife." I was the future Mrs. Sutliff.

So what happens when being an "army girlfriend" doesn't work out? What happens when you get a divorce? I've seen far too many people still saying they are a "former army wife." I honestly just don't get it. Is it the drama? Is it the romance that most think our lives consist of? And of course I've seen far to many young girls chase those ACUs. That confuses me the most. So you're dating him just because he's a soldier? Just because he wears a uniform? Let me tell you, I know LOTS of soldiers. And many of them are just scumbags and losers!! Just because he is sporting the uniform and the haircut doesn't make him a stand-up guy. But that's a whole different blog. My point is, be with the guy because you love him and he loves you, not because you want to get on Twitter and label yourself as an Army wife or girlfriend.

Yes, when in conversation, the term speaks volumes. I can say to another army wife or to an army wife in a generation or two ahead of me (someone like my grandmother), yes, I'm an army wife. And they can imagine the PCS moves and the deployment worries and the shitty FRGs and the lonely nights and even the perks of military life and the amazing friendships we make. But they still know nothing about ME.

And so I struggle with labeling myself that. Even struggled naming my blog that. But I have two blogs. Did you know that? I have another blog just for ME and my non-army wife life. Because I need somewhere to forget about all the stupid Army jargon that's been thrown at me for the last 4 years. I need a place where I can be a daughter and a sister and a dog lover without the weird overtones and connotations of being labeled an Army wife.

I really dont mean to offend anyone. It's just an observation that I've made over the last few months. I want these young women to take value in their lives outside of their husband's career and haircut.


Kayla said...

THANK YOU! I guess you could say that I'm an "army girlfriend" but that does not define who I am! I'm 23, and my bf and I live together, and have been together for 4 years. I have a budding career, a college degree, and friends & family inside & outside of the military. It disrubs me to see so many of these blogs by 19 and 20 year old girls whose sole purpose in life is to exist for "their soldier". My bf and I enjoy that I have a life outside of his career. I think I'd go nuts without it, and he needs something to remind him that a civilian world still exists. :-)

Kayla said...

Aaand I just mispelled "disturbs." UGH. I am ashamed. Apologies.

Jennifer said...

It is honorable to support soldiers and the lifestyle that the military requires. It is a sacrifice for soldiers and their families (mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, siblings, all of them).
You are smart to recognize the distinction between the sacrifice/honor of it with being defined by said sacrifice/honor. I love reading your insights. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

oh and I didnt know you had two blogs, but I will subscribe to the other one too!

AimeeJ said...

I have always said that being a mother and a wife (army wife) are just 2 aspects that make up the whole me...they do not define me. I am my won person, not an attachment of my husband. Nice post!

Daisy B. said...

Amen. I'm so glad I've found your blog. I'm the wife of a soldier too -- and also an Arkansas Razorback. :) I got my master's degree in English there, and now I have a doctorate (from another school).

Anonymous said...

I actually really liked this post! It wasn't offensive... although I'm not sure I feel the same way. I know my husband and I would be together regardless if he was a Marine or not but the Marine Corps has been such a huge part of "us" that it's hard to NOT let it define me... at least a little. But I still like this and it's given me something to think about. :)

TheAlbrechtSquad said...

I am proud to be an Army wife because to me it wraps up my husband's profession which I am proud of and my love for him all in one. But I don't identify myself like that when making introductions. A lot of people assume my screen name has to do with being an Army Wife but it doesn't, I have used ArmyGirlNay since I was a Soldier (hence ArmyGirl, haha).

I think we all struggle for our own identity and how we define ourselves. Some find comfort in that spectrum while others do not. I'm proud to be an Army wife, proud to be married to a Soldier but it's not all that defines me. Those that matter will figure that out and those that don't, well they don't matter :)

Anonymous said...

Before I make my real comment, I believe I remember reading that very thing you mentioned at the beginning of your post... ;) LOL! But for real, I totally agree with you. The ACU chasers and girls who wrap themselves up in the romanticism of dating/marrying a "real, live soldier" are nauseating. I agree YES the Army does tell us where we're moving, it does tell us when we'll get to see our loved ones, but I didn't join the Army, so the Army doesn't define me as a person. When I think about who I am, Army Fiancee doesn't come to my mind first. I think: musician, teacher, daughter, sister, friend...and so on. However, I realize that in 26 days, my life is going to drastically change, and the Army will be more a part of it than ever. Kinda scary! I look forward to continuing the search for myself during my marriage to Jerad.

The Mrs. said...

I've known a few military groupies and much like you, the uniform alone is hardly what makes my marriage strong or drew me to my husband. I mean he looks nice in a uniform but it's not the reason I stick around! {the fact he puts up with me would be why!}

I don't decribe myself as marine corps wife first and foremost, I dont have the sticker or the license plate holder on my car, but it is a part of who I am. As I find myself spending more and more time raising my kids alone I do find myself finding more in common with other military wives then with the other "civilian" moms at my kids school. They don't have husbands who go away for months at a time. Its not normal for their kids to have strange stress behavior cause dads always coming and going, they have family and spouses around to help them out more.

Your right, military doesn't define us, or at least it shouldn't, but it is a part.

Sarah said...

It is really too bad your experiences have been so narrow. In the years ahead, I think you will see that the sterotype you're portraying is accurate in a very small number of military spouses. It seems to be true mostly in the very young wives. Although I do know someone who recently blogged that her husband was promoted and she is now Mrs. SFC ___, and yes I thought that was pathetic.

I am very well educated. I have a great job that I am able to do from home. I have 4 very small children (not the fury type either). I am also an Army wife. I married him 12 years ago and he has been an enlisted soldier for over 16. I'm probably the first person who would help you in a crisis, just because the Army makes us family. I am very proud of my volunteer work in the Army. Deployments with a house full of young children is a challenge. I support him through his battles, and he supports me through mine.

When I hear "Army wife" I think of my own battle buddies. The gals I was with when they gave birth and Daddy missed it. The ones I learned how to change a car tire and battery with that first deployment when we were all so clueless! The gals who cried with me when those 12-month deployments turned into 15 months. In my very well rounded life, Army wife is a badge of honor. My purse is made out of his old BDUs. I have been the FRG leader. I have also refused to be in FRG when the leadership is crappy!

Our husband's defend your right to dislike me because I am proud of being an Army wife, but I am very proud of it and and do feel a sense of accomplishment in his accomplishments. I know that my strength do play a part in his job. He knows I can handle anything that our 4 rugrats and Army life throws at me. He doesn't have to worry about me, and likewise he knows I have his back.

We all have our prejudices. I get ruffled up when new wives come in and think they have us all pegged (like you have done). We all have sterotypes.

Rachel said...

I'm glad that you suggested me reading this post! I agree with most,if not all of what you said. It's a little harder for me to not let it define me at all because I've always been around the military, being a Navy brat myself. (and for generations back have served as well) I never understood romanticizing this lifestyle. Who goes looking for this? Sleepless lonely nights, not knowing when or if they are coming home and all that wonderful stuff that comes along with this. I am so new to being an "Army Wife", that I feel that I have no place to judge anyone, other then talk about what I've seen. And yes the ACU's were a surprising plus the first time I saw my then boyfriend in them. Good for you and everyone who can say things out loud.

baby_rocka7 said...

i am so glad i browesed in to this blog. i have never seen this sight befor. i never really thought of the term "army wife, army wag, army fiance" etc to be anything more than short way of saying "my fiance/ boyfriend/ hunsband is in the army or navy or w.e and i am proud to be part of who he is and what he does"

shannon x

all these posts have really made me think very hard about the term, i strongly agree with what sara above one has said. infact, i agree with all of them in different ways.

i agree that army wags (etc) are targeted groups, groups of women that can help each other through deployements and problems. any army girl is a strong one, but all have a peice of them missing which is hard and most would like to discuss with someone in the same situation.

girls that stereotype thierselves as "army wags" cuz they think is cool or,... makes them look hardcore or what ever runs through thier silly minds, are wrong. yes it may be an over used title, but im sure alot of women are proud to be labelled as an army wife (etc) as am i.

it does NOT define who i am, were i come from and how i live. but it is a part of my life, as my life also revolves around "help for heroes" as the army is my passion, as is hair dressing and machanics.

i am a PROUD army fiance soon to be wive wife. and will never class that title as a silly lable, but a dedicated armed forces girl.

kelly said...

I am really glad I came across this post. I just got married in August and I have already been stereotyped way too many times as a "military wife." My husband's career does not define who I am as a person. I am only 19 years old, however, I go to school full time, work two jobs, and intern at PBS. I can't believe how many girls live their lives completely revolving around their husband and his career. It must be exhausting and boring to no end! I really admire the women who have a life of their own and still manage to keep everything at home stable and balance a relationship overseas. My husband is only across the country, I could not imagine him being any farther. I admire each one of you for your strength and patience.

brhami said...

Well I completely disagree. I'm proud to call myself an army wife and it does define me in my current army life! To be an army wife is a privilege and an honor. What we expercience in this process needs to be separated from the previous life we we were living. You write like you've never gone thru a deployment and your hubby sits behind a desk. The army wives I've been blessed to meet and become friends, are women I will be and I'm closer to that anyone else. They completely get me and vice versu.