Wearing Rank.

Ah…wearing your spouse/significant other’s rank. It’s something that nearly EVERY military wife has done at some point. Yep, even me. I won’t admit to it often but sometimes it’s hard not to. Now, I always feel like I should do a little background explanation for those of you who aren’t living the military lifestyle. When a spouse “wears the rank”, it really means that they are using their husband (or wife’s) staus in the military to better their social lives. I had been warned about this beforeĀ I got married, but brushed it off.

My first experience with a military wife wearing her husband’s rank was when we had just moved to Camp Lejeune. Jacksonville, N.C. is a total military town. It has Wal Mart (two of them!), bars, strip clubs, tattoo shops. Weird things go on there. I have heard rumors about a midget strip club night at one of the popular clubs down there. Of course, we didn’t know any of this when we moved there. We had wanted to get in base housing but the wait was a few months so while we waited we rented a townhouse out in town. It was a pretty crappy place, had a lot of “waterbugs”, a.k.a. roaches, neighbors were all kind of trashy. Jesus, I sound like a spoiled brat.

I had taken my son Scott to the park in the community. It was summertime and hotter than hell, I must have been covered in sweat. Not looking my best, I’m sure. A mother and her son came up to us and her son started playing with Scott. As mothers do, we carefully tested the waters to see if we had anything in common. Turns out we did…both of our husbands were in the military. Once this was discovered, she started into the military wife inquisition. This is where they ask what branch your husband is in, what rank he is, what he does in the military, how old you are, and how long you have been married. They keep a mental scorecard in their heads, checking off each answer, and using that to judge your “worth” in the heirarchy of military wives.

Unfortunately, I failed that test. If that had been the old days, I would have been the scruffy maid milking the cows in the barn. My answers were as follows: husband is in the navy, he is only an E1, he is a corpsman, I am 22, we got married 3 weeks ago. Suddenly her friendly face turned stony. I will always remember the way she curled up her lip at me and snapped at her son to come here and that they were going home. She literally took her child by the arm and towed him out of the park, away from the contamination of my virginial military wife status.

I was so offended. I couldn’t understand what happened. I was a generally likeable person. I had friends! Hell, someone liked me enough to marry me…why didn’t she want her kid to play with mine? I kept this experience to myself, always wondering what I had said wrong. After I spent a little more time in my new role as military wife, I began to understand (but definitely not condone) that woman’s thoughts.

Camp Lejeune is not a naval base. It is a Marine Corps base. The only naval people there either work at the hospital, with the platoons as a field corpsman, or in the administrative side. The fact that my husband was not a marine was my first fail. Secondly, he was an E1. Fresh out of boot camp. No rank, no respect. Next, I was too “young”…a sterotypical fresh, young military wife. Lastly, we had only been married 3 weeks. This I don’t understand, everyone has to start somewhere!

Now that I am a seasoned military wife, I have caught myself doing this…the military wife inquisition. I always stop myself before I finish, knowing that this could be a young, new wife who is lonely in a new duty station. I have often told my husband that I want him to go officer so I can be saluted when I drive through the gates on to a military base šŸ™‚ Or so I can park in the primo spots at the commissary. But I would never treat another wife so disrespectfully. Even girlfriends deserve respect, because a military girlfriend is only a few steps away from a military wife.

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