I tell myself that we have 3 years and then the milspouse label will no longer apply to me. And in that vein, I have been trying (after a decade of doing my best to avoid involvement with the mean girls who drove me off my first year as a milspouse) to check off all the quintessential milspouse things, like a trip to Disneyland before we depart into that blessed goodnight. This year, I was working myself up to going to a ball, something the t-shirt and jeans (also sweatpants in the commissary) me would avoid like the plague.
I was already feeling stressed about it. I was poor growing up and had saved to buy a second-hand homecoming dress. The mean girls at school made a point of making fun of me and when prom came around, I never went. I couldn’t make myself go through the humiliating bullying again, even when my friend offered to buy me a dress and the whole nine yard. (Mike, I still adore you for that offer and I have never forgotten it.) So I steeled myself for dress shopping and shortly after I had made the circuit and found that there just weren’t a lot of pretty dresses that fit well, and addressed my modesty concerns (raised Mormon), I talked to my mom who resurrected a dress she had started for my wedding. She finished the skirt off and sent me the top from my engagement dress. And then I accidentally stumbled on the ~300 comments about ball dresses on SpouseBuzz, which ran the gambit from: -the chic in the pictures boobs are not the same size, some one should call her plastic surgeon- to-ball gowns are not appropriate for a ball and look silly- no slits, no bright colors, no low-cut because we think you look like and are a slut- and of course, the quintessential -we’re mean and judgy for your own good. In all fairness there were minority voices who disagreed with being mean and judgy as a public service, but they were a very small minority.
I walked back to my closet and looked at my hand-made dress with it’s full skirt and old-fashioned pale lace. It definitely looked like a dress right out of the 1950s, closer to an old-school cotillion dress than modern evening wear, and I felt sick. Add to it my asymmetric breasts and the 30 lbs I’ve gained in graduate school and I just wanted to cry. I could just envision my ball experience, surrounded by these women. It looked a little like this. This is going to be high school all over again. And my next thought was, maybe I should just get our money back from the ball tickets. I wanted to do it once for the experience, but if this is the experience I’ll be in for, my ego doesn’t need another beating. But then what do I say to my arthritic mother who lovingly sewed me the dress that they women will mock?
You see, my problem is that clothes don’t make the man or woman. What comprises your character is something deeper than that and it is often revealed the second you open your mouth. These women who spent so much time ripping on every aspect of other people’s formal attire do so because they believe that how you look is the measure of who you are. But, what you say indicates something profound about you and that how you act toward other people is a measure of who you are.
So I will wear my old-fashioned ball gown to the military ball and I am sure I will be mocked by women (aka Cinderella’s step sisters) who think that the only thing that matters is what I wore. I will conduct myself with grace and kindness toward every person there, regardless of my attire. But I want to believe I am wrong, that this won’t happen and that we are more than just a bunch of mean girls. I want to believe that some day we will grow into the word community, embrace it and treat each other with dignity and respect. I want to believe that some day military spouses will realize that how they act in the public arena matters as much, if not more, than how they dress and that they will let every military spouse enjoy their moment with their Prince or Princess Charming at the ball because we have enough darkness and sorrow and suffering in our lives and each of us deserves a moment like this.