By Erin Whitehead
It’s not because non-military-affiliated folks don’t care, or that they are being insensitive…
It’s just that they can’t get it, no matter how they try.
And you know what? That is okay.
There are plenty of things in life that I just don’t understand, because it has not been a part of my life experience.
Because our unique military lifestyle can be difficult for others to comprehend, we sometimes get asked some pretty uncomfortable, cringe-worthy questions. I used to get really upset about it… and still, there are some people who are just jerks and they would be jerks if they were asking me what color the sky was on any particular day.
Their questions still get me a little peeved. But, when a well-meaning friend who has no clue about military life asks a question that makes me cringe, I try to offer up a reasonable answer- one that might help them to understand… if even just a little.
And to the jerks? Well, my answers can be less on the reasonable side and more on the side of extreme snark.
I’ve compiled a list of a few questions that have the ability to make us ALL cringe…and offered up responses (some reasonable, some snarky) to help us all the next time we are asked.
Which questions would you add to the list?
1) “Will they get to come home for Christmas (or the birth of a baby)?”
This one is a classic and stems from a basic mis-understanding of how military deployments work. Most of the time this one comes from a well-meaning person who just really has had no experience with anyone remotely affiliated with the military. No need for snark here, the answer is pretty simple.
“No, but wouldn’t that be nice? Deployments are never scheduled around holidays or important events or even big things like a birth. We have simply learned to celebrate holidays on different days or by Skype. Thank goodness for technology!”
2) “Have they had to kill anyone?”
Now THIS ONE has some real blood-boiling potential.
But not everyone who is asking this question is being a jerk face. We have to remember that, for many people, the only thing they know about our military life is what they see on TV or in the movies. They don’t really grasp that shooting and killing bad guys is not the only thing that our troops do.
They probably don’t see the whole picture. They also may not be aware that many service members are uncomfortable sharing that information, even with their spouse. Many are not proud or excited to have to kill…it is a terrible thing for them. So some education is in order here:
“Gee, you know that is not something most service members like to talk about… my spouse included. And even if I did know I probably wouldn’t be comfortable talking about it. Hopefully, my spouse’s job as a pilot means they won’t have to do that, but if they did I would keep it private. Thanks for understanding.”
3) “Don’t you miss having sex?”
I have a hard time finding anything reasonable to say in response to this question. So I am going to have to go with snark here. Even if the person is a friend and joking, the snarky responses work best anyway.
Here are two of my favorite:
“Shoot. If I could get one moment to myself, I might have a chance to miss sex. But last week I never even used the toilet without an audience. It’s kind of hard for me to feel or think sexy thoughts these days. Ask me if and when I get more than 4 hours of sleep!”
Or… my favorite:
“Sex? No way! I mean, that’s why I got married in the first place…so they wouldn’t bug me for sex anymore. Well, that and the BAH.”
Oh, come on… I would only use that one on a major jerk. 100% for shock value.
4) “I could never survive being apart from my spouse that long, how do you do it?”
This one just screams “lack of understanding” for me.
This is also a hard question to answer. None of us have a perfect formula that we can recite about how exactly we survive the separation aspect of our lives.
So my answer is usually simple:
“Honestly, I don’t know how I do it…I just do. Because I love my spouse. I’m sure you do things every day for your spouse because you love them…this is just one more thing. I’m sure you could do it too.”