A post in our “The Way I See It” Series

“Is he commissioned?”  “Is he a Chief?”   “Is he a……..?”

In my opinion, when meeting a fellow military wife for the first time, you shouldn’t be able to ask these questions.

Why you ask?  Well, because once you answer it the wife who asked this question has usually categorized you, stereotyped you in a matter 10 seconds.

She might not think she is doing this, but the truth is if she wasn’t……then why ask the question?

We all have stories of this happening to us.  The wife who suddenly doesn’t talk to you anymore when she realizes what your huband is or isn’t an “LPO”,  “a nuke”, “a chief”, “an officer”, “a senior officer”…etc.  I think we all have experienced this in one way or another.

I don’t make a habit of asking what a fellow wives husbands rank is.  Nor do I make a habit of asking “what part of the boat” he works on.  They are usually very anxious to tell me ALL about their “husband”.

I know that my husband works in “xyz” so I tell people that if they ask and they usually are satisfied with that simple answer.

If they ask his rank, I give it….but it’s hard for me to not “categorize” that woman in turn. 

I wonder why do wives ask this question?  Is it out of “small talk” and not to “classify” you as a “potential friend material” based on your husbands rank?  I’d like to think the first, but in my experience the second is usually the case.  The same could be said for wives whose husbands work in “certain” divisions.  Example scenario:  “My husband’s front of the boat, what part of the boat is your husband in?”  “He’s a nuke”, and suddenly the “non-nuke” wife disappears even though both husband are similar in rank.  Marie likes to tell stories of that happening to her all the time.   I also think if a wife only wants to talk about her husband, what does that say about her?  Im more interested in her interests, beliefs, personality than in her husband’s rank or her husband.

My friend Marie and I have two different versions of the day we met on the soccer field.  Well, actually we saw each other….well I saw her at a FRG meeting and thought she looked familiar on the soccer field so I approached her in attempt to get info on the boat.  It was our first patrol on that boat. 

I don’t think Marie and I would be friends today if we both were concentrated on finding the answer to this question.  In fact, I don’t think I knew anything about her husband rank/rate until well into the patrol (meaning for months!).  I don’t think she even “knew” my last name.  I know I didn’t know hers until the guys came home.

Only until our husbands met on the soccer field that her husband said something about mine and that they wouldn’t be having dinner with us anytime soon.

True, her husband and mine will probably not hang out together.  But that doesn’t mean her and I can’t go to Savannah (which we did), or even Chicago…minus husbands and kids (we did that too.)  Keep in mind our husbands are not in the same division.

We hear all the time “wives do not wear rank”.  However, we all know the “fraternization” rules.  Where do we draw the line?  It can be a tough one.  I think close friendships take time and you aren’t going to be “the best of friends” from the moment you meet someone.  They certainly are not going to expect to come for dinner just because you chatted while waiting in the parent’s line for after school pickup or at the gym. 

First impressions are very important.  Let your own personality make a good first impression.   A simple first conversation does not need that question to be asked.  You can converse with both officer and enlisted wives, whether on the soccer field, at church, or at homecoming.  It won’t “hurt” anything and it certainly will not “harm” your husbands career.

I challenge you, the next time you are tempted to ask “what rank is your  husband”, ask instead a question that pertains specifically to the wife.  Examples:  How long have you been on the boat, do you work outside the home, how long have you lived here, ….etc.   You might be surprised by the answer.

She just might not ask your husbands rank and then you’ll know she has an identity of her own.