Article by: Bri Phillis, U.S. Army Veteran and MSOY Project Manager
No one in my family has ever been in the military, so while I thought I had done a thorough job researching what I was “getting myself into”, it was only a few months into my military career that I realized there must have been a brochure my recruiter forgot to give me…the one that explained what the heck a “military spouse” really was.
It’s safe to say I could have benefited from this (what I considered to be) essential piece of literature. I mean, at that point the United States government had issued me a security clearance, proficiently trained me in killing the enemy with over 6 different weapon systems, field-tested my internal organs on withstanding MREs three times a day and ensured I was able to run 8 miles in the North Carolina summer-heat without revisiting the above mentioned MREs. I came out of training so pumped up and ready for battle I was convinced I was ready to take on the entire Al Qaeda regime myself.
But no brochure or training manual prepared me to take on the scrutiny I was about to face from military spouses, my much closer enemy, and a group of women far more vicious than your average terrorist organization. Why wasn’t I warned to steer clear of every mad-woman driving her minivan covered in “I have the hardest job in the military” stickers? Surely there should have been a portion of training on what this so called “Dependapotamus” creature really was, and our course of action should we ever encounter one in the wild. And where was the warning that by attending the FRG meetings (the ones my chain of command so desperately begged us to attend) that I was just setting myself up to be ostracized?
I know what you’re thinking – who does this girl think she is!? Well, allow me to introduce myself…my name is Bri, and for four years I was the girl in your husband’s unit you’ve always been warned about. You know the one I mean. The girly-girl with the bright pink PT shoes and mascara covered lashes. The one who spent all those long, late hours side by side with your husband. The one who gave you icy cold glares at the unit picnic because you weren’t privy to any of our “inside jokes”. The one who made your blood boil at the mere mention of my name when he told you about his day.
Yep, that was me – and you hated me.
Of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t have similar feelings towards you. My eye rolls could practically summersault me into next week every time I saw a spouse in anything that even resembled loungewear after 9 am. There were times I prayed Justin Timberlake would magically appear and serenade Cry Me A River each time I heard a spouse complaining about how hard her life was during deployment. And I may have been heard a time or two (or twelve) expressing my distaste for spouses who wouldn’t even consider getting a job, yet incessantly whined about how poor her family was.
That was you – and I hated you.
And that was it…four years of my life went by without a single military spouse as an acquaintance, let alone a friend. The battle lines were clearly drawn and neither side was open to negotiating. I began avoiding the dreadful FRG meetings (none of you talked to me anyways) and you continued to give me your disapproving glances when you considered my PT shorts to be shorter than necessary. You never invited me to your Mary Kay or Thirty One parties and I had to go four years without owning a Coach purse, because of course you bought them all.
It wasn’t until I ETS’d that I finally realized things never actually had to be that way. I was only days into my new customer service position here at Military Spouse when I grew increasingly uneasy about what they were asking me to do. They wanted me to talk to military spouses. Yes, that’s right…I had to talk to them…but the blasphemy didn’t end there. After I was done talking, I then had to solve their problems, with a SMILE. Clearly this had to be a cruel joke, how on this green earth did they expect me to make chit-chat with an entire community of people I declared civil war on years ago?
But little did I know, that was all it took. With each passing conversation with the thousands of military spouses that utilize our media my viewpoint began to drastically change. I have since had the honor of meeting some of the rock stars of the military spouse community and I now know not to jump to conclusions when I see Erin Whitehead in her sweats at the commissary. I am actively participating in helping military spouses reach their education and career goals. And I actually cried the day Bianca Strzalkowski’s husband came home from deployment.
It’s about time we bridge this Grand Canyon size gap between the women on both sides of our same sex civil war. Just because you’ve heard more stories about slutty females than you can shake an STD test stick at, doesn’t mean that we’re all moving in on your men. And our female service members need to take off the boots every now and then and take an honest look at your compassion and commitment to your role in this. Of course I’m not saying we should all dive headfirst into pillow talk and play dates, but the battle line in the sand needs erased, judgment needs to stop, and conversations NEED to happen. We have a lot more in common than we think and it’s about damn time we step out from behind our defensive bunkers and figure out what that stuff is. So let’s put away the claws and the bonbon missile launchers and at the very least make an attempt at understanding who the people are behind the stereotypes we all love to hate.
Over the past five years I’ve since realized I missed out on being friends with some truly amazing women, and who knows…maybe, just maybe, throughout the breaking down of these walls we’ll discover that we actually all do love to wear sweatpants and none of us truly knew what we were getting ourselves into.