Dear Civilian Friend,
You are more important to me than you could ever know.
It feels no longer than the metaphorical blink of an eye since I married my husband, and moved far away to keep him company in towns that you can never quite remember the name of (because there have been so many). You miss me, and I miss you.
We yearn for the days when we could pop round to each others’ houses with arms full of our favorite snacks and Starbucks lattes, or grab a mimosa-heavy brunch on Sunday, or take 500 selfies together, just because. We miss the times that we’d zone out together in front of our favorite TV shows, or stay up late talking about nothing, or do twirls in poorly-lit changing rooms (and you’d drop a truth bomb about how my butt actually looked in the dress, and I thanked you profusely for it.) We don’t know if there’ll ever be a time where that will be normal again.
Instead, we send each other snail mail, filled with ramblings in brightly colored pen, in cards that were probably designed with lovers in mind. We Skype often, but never often enough. We send each other texts with gifs that make us cry with laughter. Oh, sweet civilian friends.
You gently joke with me about how jealous of you are that I work out in gyms full of beautiful men, and I lament over the days where I could turn up to the grocery store in my pajamas. You envy me for the pomp and circumstance of annual balls, and I envy you for the fact you moved to a bigger city for your career. Or, heck, moved just because you wanted to.
I know that your head doesn’t swim with acronyms. In your house, hell doesn’t break loose when your spouse is leaving and there isn’t a second boot band in sight. You don’t feel that fractal pang of frustration when you get that text from your spouse that simply says, “field day.” Your spouse doesn’t go into panic mode because it’s 9pm on a Sunday night and he can’t find a barber shop that’s open. You can only understand what a deployment feels like through me, when I call you in the middle of the night and I’m choked up with tears, and you soothe me. You don’t pretend to understand what it feels like to see homecoming as a speck on the horizon in your mind’s eye. You just care, and I love you for that.
Mostly, though, we’re aware of our differences without ever comparing each others’ lives. We don’t have room for negativity. Our differences exist silently, peacefully.
Instead, we share silly stories about our lives, we’re nostalgic about times gone past, and we indulge in culture, sports, politics, and everyday lamentations over silly things. That ten pounds that just won’t budge. Whether or not we can still get away with that skirt at “our age.” The time the hairdresser cut off a little too much. We share recipes, quotes, books, and shades of lipstick. Because, to us, we’re just living lives as different as any pair of friends. “Military” and “civilian” are just labels that dissipated long ago.
You know who my military friends are, because I love them dearly, too, and I talk of them often. You know that however many friends I accumulate over the years, the moves, the new jobs, the clubs and the unit staff will never tarnish the friendship we have with one another. You know who they are without ever having met them, and you know that you’d be just as delighted with them as I am. You are glad that I am able to reach out for information on PCS moves, and deployments, and all that other “military stuff,” and you never feel guilty that you can’t help, because you know I’d never expect you to. You are simply there for me, as I am for you, as we both meet new people and see new places and evolve naturally, from a distance.
I am sorry my military life takes me far away from you. I’m sorry that I get caught up in superfluous detail about my military life that makes no sense to you. I’m sorry that I move around so often that you can hardly keep up. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there for your last birthday. I’m sorry that sometimes, our lives feel a world apart.
But I’m grateful that we stick it out. I’m grateful that we always pick right up where we left off, every time we see each other. I’m grateful that, with you, I’ll never have to make awkward small talk, or wonder if we’ll lose touch.
You may have been there before the military, you’ve been there through the military, and you’ll sure as hell be there after the military. To you, my spouse is not the rank on his collar, and I am not his “dependent.” We are friends, and I am forever grateful for you.