19 Things You Should Never Say to a Military Girlfriend

Originally published here.

As Adam and I are coming up on our one-year anniversary, I’ve taken some time to reflect on our relationship — particularly the things people have tried to “tell” me about dating someone in the military.

I don’t let my identity revolve around making myself a military girlfriend and the military isn’t my life — it’s just his job. But it’s a job that helped bring us together and, for that, I’m forever grateful. However, I like to identify myself through my own actions, accomplishments and challenges.

But some people just don’t get that.

This is an actual compilation of things people have said to me over the course of this year.

1. “So you’ll be getting married soon? That’s what everyone in the military does, anyways.”

While I can’t refute the statistics, it’s really none of your business what I do or do not do.

2. “How do you feel about resigning yourself to a life of being underpaid and underemployed?”

http://giphy.com/search/eye-roll

Holy none of your business, Batman.

3. “People don’t want to hire someone they’ll only have for a few years — max.”

I cringe at this one.

4. “But you never see them.”

http://giphy.com/search/designing-women

Well, yeah, while he’s in another country. But the rest of the time he has a normal job so I do kinda see him on a normal schedule. That’s how jobs work.

5. “Long distance relationships never last and you’re no exception.”

This one in particular hurts and I probably will never forget this person saying it to me.

6. “Wow. It must be hard being apart.”

It’s not exactly walking in a winter wonderland and a barrel full of monkeys.

7. “I just don’t think you’ll be together very long.”

This one also still hurts.

8. “So… like, that show ‘Army Wives’, right?”

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I wish. Have you seen Claudia Joy’s sense of fashion? Amazing. She’s also a lawyer. Beauty, meet brains. But that’s a TV show.

9. “Don’t worry about him cheating on you, there’re no pretty women in the service.”

Thanks for the concern.

10. “Have you cheated on him?”

Thanks for at least being blunt about asking.

11. “Aren’t you afraid he’ll be killed?”

I don’t even respond to this anymore.

12. “It stinks he’s missing Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years/Graduation/insert holiday here.”

He’s not missing it, he’s just not here. Life is all about how you look at it.

13. “I just don’t know how you do it.”

I get up, I walk out the door and I live the life God intended me to live — man or no man.

14. “What do you do to keep yourself busy while he’s gone?”

It’s different if you’re asking because you’re trying to figure out how to occupy your time. It’s another story when you’re just trying to be nosy.

15. “Well, in my opinion…”

Halt. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I didn’t ask for your opinion.

16. “I would never let my boyfriend be in the military.”

Lemme break this down for you. A) this was his choice before I came into the picture. B) this is a choice that he has decided on for himself. And, C) would you let your boyfriend be an accountant? A reporter? A professional video game player? Do you not realize how bratty you sound?

17. “Are you just going to live off him and his income?”

Hi, yes, I work. I have a great job. Two, in case you were wondering. Two that I love very much. Ask me about them because I’d love to tell you what I do for a living.

18. “You will be OK” or “are you sure you’re OK?”

The mileage on this one varies but don’t ask people you don’t know if they’re OK because some, like me, will hate you for it. I’m not OK when I look you dead in the eyes and say that I’m not.

19. “It’s just all so romantic.”

He’s romantic. Not his job. Romance is in the person, not the career.

When You’re Running On Rumors

I’ll admit it– I’m a drama addict.

love to read all the Internet drama and shenanigans that go on around the Internet (hello, Cracker Barrel and Brad’s wife was the funniest thing to happen in March) and I love to see the carefully curated screenshots that go along with the drama. However, I don’t like to participate in it and I hate when things are based off of rumors. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t run on facts like a little robot girl– I have feelings and pathos appeals to me just like any normal human– but I hate when all you have to go by is rumors.

But guess what, friends. Rumors are what makes the military float. Every day it’s been something new; “we’re coming home in month A”, “just kidding, they’ve decided to push it back to month B”, or (my personal favorite), “they said they’re going to keep us past our orders and have us come home four months later in month C”.

I know, I know, never plan around the military; that’s a lesson I’ve learned all too well these past 8 months. I’ve had a crash-course in planning to plan again. At this point, I could teach a master class on preparing for one thing just to have another happen. I have no idea when Adam will be home and I’ve resigned myself to that fact. Like I keep telling him, it is what it is at this point and I have to be okay with it because there’s no other choice. I mean, where does getting upset get me? Hint: the answer is nowhere.

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There is one thing I’ve noticed– the actual lack of information. I know that they’re given orders and (most of the time?) those orders have a date when they’re coming home. But, as I’ve just so recently found out, those orders can be extended. How often are orders extended? Is this something that’s common and you can always look forward to or is it rare? I’ve tried googling the answer to this question but, alas, to no avail (but if you know the answer, please tell me. It’s not so much that I need the information but more-so I’m just curious).

But wait, my friends, there’s more. Adam and company do not have new orders in hand about extensions. That’s right, there’s rumors heavily circulating around that they won’t be coming home when they were supposed to but yet there’s no official word that they aren’t. Wouldn’t you think they would get on that soon? I mean, there’s not exactly a whole lot of time left until they should be preparing to come home. Only one person has officially been given orders but he’s the last one to leave for continuity sake when the next group comes over.

I understand the logistics of moving thousands of people at once can be difficult, I really do. But wouldn’t you think someone somewhere would want to make a concrete decision about something somewhere? I guess the answer is no.

How I imagine the Army looks right now

Adam and I are trying to plan our whole lives around this deployment and when he comes home. I’m currently looking to relocate closer to where he’s stationed when he’s not deployed because, more than likely, when he leaves the military to transition into the civilian world with all us plebs, he will be working out of the same city his current base is. In the long run, it makes more sense for me to be there as well so we don’t have to spend so much money on car upkeep and gas for long commutes (oh, did I mention that my city and his city are an hour and a half apart and the only housing options in the middle is farmland?).

However, I don’t want to move to an army-run city by myself where I have no friends and no support system. I mean, I’m currently living the dream. I live with my parents, I pay no rent and no grocery bills, all I pay for is my car upkeep and insurance and when I go out or shopping. If I move, I have to take on more responsibility– more responsibility than I’ve ever had. And, I could be doing it all alone for an indeterminate amount of time.

I don’t want to live in a high-crime city all alone with few friends and my family an hour away. It sounds terrible. Of course, one of my best friends lives in the same city since he’s stationed at the same base as Adam but he has his own career, own trainings to attend and his own friends to hang out with. I’m sure if I asked he’d come over all the time; but, do I really want to ask and take him away from his friends?

Nah.

Of course, there are apps like BumbleBFF but I don’t really want to take the chance of the wrong person seeing my profile and thinking I’m on it for dating purposes. Or, I might get catfished and killed– there is no in-between in my mind.

The point of this is that I’m running on rumors right now and rumors get you nowhere. Remember when people thought Y2K was going to happen and they pulled all their money out, bought freeze-dried food to last a lifetime and built bomb shelters in their backyards? Obviously you can’t believe every rumor that circulates because then you wind up looking like a serial killer with a ton of freeze-dried food, no money and your family shoved in a tiny lockable space.

I’m trying to make huge life changes based on rumors. Will he come home in three months? If he does, then living alone won’t be so bad. Will he come home in five months? Maybe, but I can’t count on that either. Could I afford to keep up an apartment by myself for that long? I don’t know. I also don’t know how well I would do living alone for five months. Maybe he’ll come home in seven months. I for sure cannot live seven months alone with no friends and no family. It will literally be me going to work and coming home and that would be a miserable experience. But, if I move now, everything will be settled and ready for when he comes home.

But no one knows when that is.

 

 

Why I’m So Salty: An Essay

I don’t consider myself a “salty” person in general but sometimes I’m saltier than the Dead Sea. For those of you who don’t know, salty means:

Being angry, agitated, upset

Thanks, Urban Dictionary.

What am I salty about? Glad you asked. Sit down and get prepared for the diatribe of salt that’s about to spew from my fingertips.

I’m salty because I live at home with my parents.

I love my parents but I left home at 18 and showed back up at 21. It’s been an adjustment for everyone involved; I think we’ve pretty much settled in to a routine by now but sometimes you need a little more freedom. Besides, you cannot sound cool saying “yeah, we can just go back to my parents’ house and chill”. Can’t. You sound dumb.

It’s been great having their support and being able to save money but sometimes you need a little bit of a break.

I’m salty because my Lush Dirty bar is almost done. Again.

I love Lush with all my heart. The products are good for your skin and good for the environment. With no animal cruelty and their tendency to use vegan products (so no animal fats to clog my oily skin!), Lush has quickly become one of my favorite brands. The only downside is the price. For $10.50 you can buy the Dirty massage bar and it’ll last you a month. A month! That’s $126 a year. I guess I can afford it since it’s not like I stop by Starbucks on the daily. But dang, it’s hard to drop that kind of money on a little lotion bar.

I’m salty because I need to go to the gym.

I haven’t been since November and I have a desk job. You do the math because that’s all I have to say on the subject.

I’m salty because my boyfriend’s deployment homecoming date keeps changing.

When is he coming home? No one knows. I don’t know, he doesn’t know, no one knows. It’s really great– I love being totally in the dark about my future. It’s not like he and I have plans or anything.  I do understand the need to keep everything under wraps due to safety concerns but dang, we didn’t even have a month when he was coming home so we have no idea about anything.

I’m salty because I have $60,000 in student loans and no idea where to start paying them off.

I racked up a ton of debt by going to school. But it’s fine, I’m not worried.

*cries internally**

I’m sure there’s more but that’s pretty much what’s weighing on my mind currently. I just need to keep repeating “life it great, life is fine, you’ll be okay”.

 

I originally wrote this for my internship on July 1. You can find the original blog post here. I wanted to share this here because the topic recently came up again at my job and I was reminded of how hard I had worked on this.

Ding. An email rolls in; it reads “Final Fourth of July Opportunities!” as the subject line. Ding. Another one. This one titled “Newsletter: July 2016”.

These emails slip through your spam filter and into your email because you specifically signed up for them. They are a slight nuisance, but not enough of one to take the time to unsubscribe or send them to the black-hole known as your spam inbox (just yet). They are about things you might have an interest in purchasing or reading later, but not at this moment. They are graymail, or, in keeping with the meat-themed emails, bacon (spelled bacn).

So what is graymail?

Graymail, coined by Hotmail, is a term used to describe solicited emails that don’t fit the definition of spam emails. In other words, they’re those annoying emails you get from that online store you bought your niece’s Christmas gifts from when you had to put your email in to finally checkout. Most people just pass over them when checking their email. They’re usually characterized by a waning interest over time until finally, out of sheer annoyance, you mark them as spam. It’s been estimated that 82 percent of emails in your inbox rights now are graymail and 75 percent of all spam identified by Hotmail users is actually unwanted graymail.

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HubSpot recently published an article on Medium about what happened when they unsubscribed 250,000 people from their new-content emails – without asking. “Although it’s not considered spam,” HubSpot wrote, “sending graymail is problematic because it can hurt the deliverability of your email overall.”

The first thing they did was to set up a system to unsubscribe subscribers once they became unengaged with the content. After six months of not clicking on the email, the subscribers become unsubscribed.

“If you think we didn’t have anxiety about unsubscribing 45% of our list, you’re dead wrong. But once we got over the sticker shock, we realized there wasn’t really anything to be worried about,” HubSpot wrote, “the people we were unsubscribing hadn’t clicked through to our blog from any of the emails we’d sent them over the course of the last 6 months, so we weren’t at risk of losing any email traffic.”

After cutting down the list by 45 percent, HubSpot removed the “instant” subscription option. Instead of sending users an email every time their blog was updated, these users now received a daily email with an aggregate of the day’s best posts. Subscribers were made aware of this decision with HubSpot noting “their inboxes would be a little lighter for it”.

But why does eliminating dormant subscribers and removing graymail from users’ inboxes matter?

It matters because your email server is smart. Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, they’re actively studying their users’ habits. They learn what kind of things you like to read, what you’re interested in and what things you don’t pay attention to.

If you have 10 people all receiving the same email but eight of them don’t engage any further than opening the welcome email, the servers learn that this is something that’s of little interest and will start hiding these emails from consumers. Even actively engaged subscribers, the ones who want to see what you have created, will have their emails hidden because the majority view the content as graymail. By having a majority subscriber population that’s inactive, you’re actually allowing the servers to see your emails as irrelevant and unimportant.

Graymail isn’t spam; however, it is content that’s perceived to be spam-like by the receiver. It’s important to keep an eye on post-send engagement data. But don’t worry – lower engagement numbers aren’t a death sentence. Sometimes, like HubSpot learned, it’s important to rework your system to better blanket your consumers. Graymail and unengaged users are simply an opportunity to learn more about your target consumers and what messages work. Learning from your graymail, as HubSpot wrote, “[is] a better experience for the recipient and, thus, a better result for the marketer.”

Date Night

I’ve always said that right now Adam and I are in this strange nebulous world of dating. Before he left, we were in a traditional monogamous relationship where we saw each other weekly, went on actual dates (some of our dates will be a future blog post, Raleigh has such fun things for couples to do) and we spent time together doing couple-y things. Now, we’re still monogamous but we can’t really do anything at all other than talk on the phone. Sometimes I like to joke that I’m in a relationship without all the benefits (a partner to comfort me when I need it, someone to talk to and spend time with, someone who will come rushing to my side with Chinese food and movies when I’m sick) and I’m single without all the benefits (free dinner, um… that’s about it, actually, dating sucks). As much as a joke, I’m committed to Adam 100 percent– even if I’m constantly waiting on him.

The best analogy I ever heard (okay, I made it up) was that being long distance like this is like trying to swim across the ocean. When you’re together, you’re a team. Helping each other across the ocean, cheering each other on, making sure no one is left behind. You can physically help the other person. But, when you’re long distance, you’re no longer swimming, you’re treading water. You’re trying to keep your head above the waves and playing a game of Marco Polo in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s not impossible but it’s just very difficult.

One of the things Adam and I liked to do when he was here was to watch movies together. Our favorite thing was to make dinner together and curl up on the couch with some Netflix and watch different movies– usually a scary movie– and eat our dinner. It’s obviously hard to watch movies when you’re in two different countries with at least a seven hour time difference between you.

That’s where rabb.it comes in.

I know this will sound super infomercial like and I apologize in advance but if you’re long distance, rabb.it is great. You can video chat and watch Netflix/Hulu/Youtube or even surf the Internet together. We’ve found that if the person with the better internet (me) streams the content and hosts the video chat room, then the person with the weaker internet has fewer interruptions. Their browser seems to read both the video chat and the streaming as one.

So, what we did Sunday was watch Black Mirror together. It’s a TV series with hour long episodes that don’t have an overall story throughout each episode you need to keep up with. The episodes are independent of each other. But, we could watch this together, talk about the episode, see each other’s faces and actually have a real-life reaction to what we were watching.

There’s separate audio channels so you have the ability to turn up the volume on whatever you’re watching and turn down the audio on whoever you’re video chatting with– if you so desire. I do desire because it can be really jarring to hear laughter in the middle of the episode. There’s even a neat feature where you mouse over the bubble your partner appears in and it puts them up big on your screen.

Other things I think we might use rabb.it for in the future:

  • Looking at apartments together– a lot of the websites are banned where he’s at
  • Updating our (his) resumes for future job hunting
  • Picking out products for our future apartment– I’m on the hunt for a plain gray bedspread and it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in weeks

There’s so much we can do with rabb.it to “spend time together” that we couldn’t. Ironically, even though we love Black Mirror, I’m grateful for the technology we have because it gives us the ability to be as normal of a couple as we possibly can.

So, thank you world for WiFi, the Internet, rabb.it, and Netflix.

Oh, did you also know rabb.it has an iPhone app? Me neither since I don’t have an iPhone.

Dealing With Loss When You’re Alone

Last Monday we got the news that my great-grandmother had passed. She was 96 years old and we were closer than you’d expect a great-grandmother and her great-grandchild to be. She was one of my heroes and I looked up to her my entire life.

Wednesday we went to the funeral and internment and it was, um, interesting to say the least. There was just a lot of unnecessary drama that wasn’t needed at a funeral. It could have waited at least until Maw Maw was in the ground but what’s done is done at this point.

But, one of the hardest things is knowing your partner wants to be there to support you and can’t be. Adam was there on Monday when the news broke but had to leave that night. It was a rough twelve hours; at 7 am, I got the news that my great-grandmother had passed and at 7 pm I had to leave Adam at the airport. Monday was probably one of the hardest days– emotionally– of my life.

My great-grandmother isn’t the only one I’ve lost while Adam has been deployed. I lost my grandfather (her son, actually) in November the same week of Thanksgiving. Ironically, we lost my grandmother, another of my dad’s family members, a week or so before Christmas two years ago. My family kind of sucks about holidays, I guess. But I’ve experienced significant loss during the 7 months he’s been gone.

Loss of a loved one is already something that’s incredibly difficult to take in and deal with and it’s even harder when you’re dealing with it alone. I hate to say alone because I had my family and we all came together to mourn and to heal but I was without my partner. You learn to rely on someone that you love to be by your side through everything.

What do you do when they can’t be there?

You just move on. There really isn’t a choice– you have to keep moving. Did Adam want to be there? Yes, he did. Did I want him there? Yes, I wanted him there. But sometimes, when you’re in that much pain, you can’t spend your time wishing and wanting for things that cannot happen. You just have to keep moving and going and being.

I know it sounds insensitive of me but what can you really do?

 

When He Has to Leave After Leave

Adam’s time on leave with me has finally come to an end. We spent a great few weeks together and enjoyed our time on vacation immensely. It was nice to get to sit together and do simple things like watch TV or make dinner together. We got to talk about doing laundry and how my day at work was. We got to talk face-to-face rather than over the phone and there wasn’t that terrible delay that you get with Facebook Messenger.

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Blue Ridge Parkway sightseeing

We enjoyed a lot of hiking.

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Climbing to the top of Split Rock at Grandfather Mountain

A. lot.

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The creek while waiting for our tour to start at Linville Caverns

I think we hiked every single day.

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Carefully scaling Blowing Rock

We had some birthday fun! It was my birthday, I turned 22 on February 23 and Adam really helped to make it extra special.

He made me breakfast in bed and even got me some cute cupcakes and put a candle in it. Which I blew out and made a wish, of course (I won’t tell you my wish, I really would like it to come true).

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All hand-made by Adam

We made some amazing dinners together (seriously, try this recipe and substitute the chicken with the shrimp. It’ll blow your mind).

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We walked around Historic Blowing Rock on my birthday while doing a little bit of window shopping and even got some ice cream.

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Ice cream from Kilwins. We had bought fudge there earlier in the week.

We went out to different breweries and I expanded my picky palate just a little bit.

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Cider from Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Of course, I think you can see a trend in the kind of alcohol I like to drink. Bring on the ciders!

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This was Mellow Mushroom– but it counts, right?

We saw a ton of weird stuff on our adventures.

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Giant wooden burl at Grandfather Mountain

We did a ton of touristy stuff at Old Salem like eating at the tavern and going to see the blacksmith.

We even found a little troll under the bridge.

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Adam gave me one of the most wonderful gifts for our anniversary. It’s a map of the world where we can put all sorts of pins in to signify different things. Green is where we’ve been, red is where we want to go, yellow is where we have a trip planned, blue is where family and friends are and black is where we have genealogical roots.

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It’s funny to look at because all his green pins are on the west coast and all my green pins are on the east coast. It’s a visual reminder of how lucky we are to have met.

We went out with my friends to celebrate our anniversary at the bar we had our first date at. It’s a fun bar to go to– even if you can’t talk over the music. It was a great way to celebrate being together for one year. To be honest, I’d probably get married at Rum Runners if that was allowed.

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Mango Tango fishbowl

All-in-all, it was a great month. The last day was sad but I just have to remember that we’re one day closer to the rest of our lives.

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