“The good ol’ days weren’t always good, and tomorrow aint as bad as it seems” ~ Billy Joel. Romanticizing the past is something that should be done very carefully; usually the past was not better than today, and usually progress is a pretty great thing, especially in our military.
A recent “Spouse Buzz” Blog written by an Army wife titled “5 things military wives could learn from their Old School sisters, did just that, it romanticized the past, a past that wasn’t that great and often was not as we remember. The Blog spoke of all the great things we could learn from military wives of the past. The Blog specifically mentioned 5 things us “newer spouses” could learn from the military wives of long ago; the 5 things (real gems) were in this order: 1. Patience, 2. Appreciation, 3. Dignity, 4. Respect for and pride in your Service member, and finally 5. Manners.
I have no doubt that the Army wife who wrote this is a very nice person, one that has sacrificed great deal in the cause for her husband’s career, one that, at a game of Bunco, I am sure I would get along with fabulously, one that I might even know. But it just so happens that I really don’t agree with her, and since that’s not on her list of things not to do, here goes.
1.Patience: “I know many of you can’t fathom a life free of cell phones, Skype, email, Face Time, etc., but believe it or not, there WAS a time where our Old School Sisters relied on paper, ink and stamps exclusively. Sometimes it took months for letters to be exchanged and every word of those were read and re-read again, cherished and tucked away for future generations to read. We of the instant gratification generation demand daily communication and get annoyed and upset when that doesn’t happen. We are spoiled and impatient. A little patience goes a long way for the heart, mind and spirit- our Old School Sisters had it, and we should learn to cultivate it”
Patience, I should learn patience from the military wives of the 1950’s? I have learned patience, I learned much of it growing up, just like anyone else, but this “Army Wife” really honed her ability to be patient during each of my two tours in Iraq; that’s right: “MY two tours, not my husband’s. And for the record I can fathom a time when cell phones or Skype didn’t exist, but ya know, thankfully they do, and their existence does not mean that I, or most of my fellow military spouses are impatient and spoiled. Frankly I embrace new technology, and yes… we may never pen another “war letter”…but so what. The saved and printed out emails between a deployed soldier and their spouse are kinda the same thing right?
2. Appreciation: “Hearken back to the day where there were no FRGs (I know some of you are looking for a time machine to jump into after hearing that!), no Child Development Centers, no MWR facilities or activities- basically you had a house and that was it. And let’s not forget being notified by telegram of the death of a service member instead of in-person by a Casualty Notification team”
Appreciation: Again with romanticizing a past that cared little for the sacrifices of military spouses…no thank you. It is not a good thing that no one showed up in person to tell a 1940’s era Army Wife that her husband was killed in action, it is not a good thing that “old school wives” had no child care options. I am proud of the advances the military has made in terms of caring for military families, and soldiers those themselves who are mothers; it has made us a superior and stronger Army.
3. Dignity. “Old School Wives wore suits or dresses, hats, white gloves, and the dreaded stockings (not pantyhose — stockings) every day at some point. Be happy those standards have lessened, but let’s not take the lax dress requirements of modern times to the extreme.”
Hmmm, it seems to me that dignity is something one either has or does not, and has little to do with being an “old school” Army Wife, soldier, or even your local garbage collector. What one wears rarely coincides with the amount of dignity in their soul. I am very sure that the “Army wives” of the good ol’ days didn’t always wear dresses and stockings, in fact they probably wore “house clothes’ and pajamas quite often…but no one ever saw them, as they rarely left the house….the past is not somewhere I am interested in returning to . So I say go ahead and wear your pajamas, running shorts and a smelly sports bra to the Commissary and be thankful your allowed to run in public.
4. Respect and pride in your service member: “This one gets people all kinds of riled up. I know spouses who think it’s their job to talk about how crappy the military is, how much they hate it, how much they are against the wars, etc. That’s fine and dandy. But do you really need to share that constantly with your fellow military spouses and, especially, your service member?”
Do I really need to complain to other military spouses or my “service member”? Actually yes, I do feel that it is 100% OK to criticize and moan about a war that has lasted 10 years and taken an average of 2-3 years of your family’s life, and I feel that it is absolutely 100% OK. to do this on any Army Post, in front of any Officer’s wife or husband, and especially with your “Service Member” (who might happen to be an Army Wife as well) after all, who the hell else are you going to talk to this stuff about; the 99% of other Americans who have no connection to this war or this Army? Give me a break, I say go for it; if you feel the military has given you or your “service member” a crappy deal, say so, if you feel that 10 years is a long time, and that 2-3 year long deployments are crazy, unsustainable, and damaging…say so, if you feel that it is wrong that your wife cannot join a spouse’s club because she is gay, than yell as loud as you can, and do so at the next spouse event you go to, or better yet say so to your local paper.
5: Manners. “This is the most simple, and the most abused by modern military spouses. If you get an invitation, respond. Respond “yes” or “no.” How hard is that? Apparently, extremely, since most people I know at some point either complain that people didn’t RSVP, or confess they themselves didn’t RSVP. Tie this one with point two: appreciate that unlike the Old School Wives, our invites are no longer by hand and for sleep-inducing teas. We don’t have to wear gloves. Or heels. No, our modern invites are usually by email and involve cocktails and a fuzzy dice game (Bunco, anyone?).”
Much like the author’s comments on “dignity”, I feel that people are either polite or they are not. By the time one is married, one is usually an adult, and therefore they have been either taught or not taught to be polite. I learned to always write a “thank you” letter from my own mother, and I learned to RSVP from her also, but ya wanna know where I really honed this “manners” thing? The Army, that’s right, as an Army Officer I was trained in the finer points of etiquette. Spouses that are not in the military themselves often, like me, learn manners from their parents, and they improve upon these skills at their job…that is correct their job; most work, and are professionals in their own right. In 2013 most military spouses still have manners but some do not, and in 1965 most military wives had manners and some did not.
Frankly, I don’t want to take any advice from my “old school” sisters, because I think they would have given their right arm for a child care center, a Commissary, being able to wear “house clothes” to the PX, or being able to tell someone they lived next to, that they “hated” Army life, that the fact that their “Service Member” might die tonight in a very faraway place scares the hell out of them, and they are pissed at our President for sending them over there. I think many of my “sisters” would have very much wanted to be able to say and do all of those things. The military has changed, radically changed from the military of long ago, and that is a great thing.
Today’s military spouses thankfully have very little in common with the women (they were all women) of the 1940’s, 1950’s, 60’s 70’s 80’s or 90’s. In 2013 many of us are decorated combat veterans ourselves as well as military spouses, many of us are men, many of us are gay, this war has produced multiple and long deployments (also different from any past war), social media makes hiding the truth difficult (sexual assault in our ranks), and soon women will be attending Ranger School with our husbands. We are charting totally new territory and I wish to take ALL of my commands from the current, wholly different, and evolved population of military spouses. I am plenty patriotic on my own, I can learn how to RSVP and make a cherry cobbler on Pinterest, and as Billy Joel says at the end of the song I referenced prior: “now I’m going outside to have an ice cold beer in the shade.”