I grew up thirty minutes south of Washington, D.C. I remember having to switch routes to places because the President or some Senator created a traffic jam or blockade. In high school, LOTS of my friends’ parents had government jobs we couldn’t talk about – mine included. We weren’t incredibly interested in politics, but we all knew enough to have a conversation. And it was a regular thing, despite varying viewpoints. In college, just three hours south of D.C., it was the same. I was friends and sorority sisters with the SGA President, who was SUPER conservative, and the VP, who was very liberal. We were older and more mature then, so the political debates went a bit deeper. Everyone still had different viewpoints, and it was awesome.
Then I met my future husband, the Marine. And I started getting involved in the military life. And I would hear the spouses talking about the President, or some law, and I would panic and usually try to find some way to flee. Why?
Because I am a Democrat.
That’s right. That’s my dirty little secret. My husband even calls me his “damn dirty hippie” (affectionately, of course).
I was SURE that every military spouse was a super right-wing conservative and wanted nothing to do with liberals. Everyone knew that the military was full of Republicans and wanted nothing to do with Democrats like me. And so I was terrified that my new military spouse friends would find out and drop me like Quayle would get dropped from a spelling bee. So I kept quiet, mostly just nodding and murmuring in fake agreement, all the while petrified that my face would give away my true feelings.
I had shirts I couldn’t wear around my friends or on base at all, a purse covered in sayings and adorned with buttons my husband begged me not to use, and I bit my tongue so often I’m still not sure it’s recovered.
Now, to be clear, I lean left. I am not super left-wing. I even agree with some Republican ideals. I just identify more with the Democrat side. And not all the time, either. But yes, my voter registration has a big old D on it – something my Republican father still gets angry about.
Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to admit ANY of my beliefs or thoughts to my new friends. I didn’t even talk when I agreed with them, afraid that some slip of my tongue would prove that I wasn’t really one of them.
Then, one night, I was out to dinner with three of my closest friends, and one of them said something about what she’d seen some talking head I couldn’t stand say on FOX news that day. I closed my eyes quickly so they couldn’t see the automatic eye roll (I did it as I was typing… I can’t even help myself!) and almost choked on my drink when one of the girls snorted and said something disparaging about FOX. I was so surprised; I didn’t know what to do! I wanted to scream super awkward things about how she wasn’t a right-winger and we were obviously soul mates and even debated lunging across the table to hug her, but I wasn’t sure how that would go over. I was dying to know how the other two would respond. So I held my tongue and was astonished when the other two responded calmly.
I didn’t know what to do and couldn’t quite believe my eyes, so like the graceful, poised woman I am, I goggled at them like it was a tennis match, sure that a full on fight was about to start. But, no. Just a composed debate, and then we moved on to some bit of celebrity gossip.
I was so surprised that not only were these women – who were more seasoned than I was – not super right-wing… but didn’t care that their friend was obviously not at all right-wing. I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I don’t think I said anything that dinner, but slowly, I started voicing my opinion more and more with them. And you know what? Not a single girl stopped talking to me. One girl and I even have plans to run for President and Vice President when we’re old enough. We figure a Republican and a Democrat who both have Marines as husbands can’t lose! We’re calling it the “Purple” ticket.
Even though I was more open with those girlfriends, I found myself quiet every time I met a spouse for the first time. Sure, I had met some middle of the road spouses, but the odds were against me, right? The right-wingers obviously outnumbered the left, so I knew I should just stay quiet.
So I did. For a while. And then one day, I realized that, right-wing or left-wing, I was a Military Spouse, so what did I care about the stereotype? I had great friends – who cared about my views, but wouldn’t stop being my friend because we disagreed. And if they would… then it probably wasn’t the best friendship anyway.
I don’t run around shouting my ideas and views all the time, because regardless of your thoughts, those people are super annoying. But if it comes up, I share. And I’ve found that, just like every group of people, there are some right-wingers, some left-wingers, some in the middle… and some who are clueless altogether. It’s okay. I have learned that we can all co-exist just fine.