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My Tightrope Walk...

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Monday, May 11, 2009

My Tightrope Walk...

More evidence that I tend to lead a double life. I have the honor of not just being a member of the military, but I'm also a proud Air Force wife.

When I was active duty, I'd attempt to participate in spouse functions, sometimes successfully, but sometimes NOT. Most were very welcoming and I had a great time playing Bunco, going on shopping trips, and attending countless bridal and baby showers.

The Air Force Wive's group when I was in Korea in the late 90s was a prime example of not feeling welcome...most of their functions were tailored to times when the kids were in school, but once I made it to an evening event, and, to be honest, I wasn't very comfortable listening to the men I worked with being referred to as "Billy", "Joey", "Tommy", etc.

On the other hand, when I was stationed with the Army in my first years in the USAF, many of the Army ladies' functions I participated in were great! They seemed much more laid back, and I didn't see the distinctions between whether your spouse is enlisted, officer, the commander, etc. And they certainly didn't care that I was Air Force, not Army.

If you're a commander's wife, you're expected to be a leader in the spouse's group. Obviously it isn't required, but the other spouses will look to the commander's spouse for guidance.

"What in the world is making you think of this NOW?"

Here's what. Last week I attended a spouse's appreciation function at Dave's office. There were about 20 of us, we had a nice catered lunch and they even had some young Airmen who took Timmy and sat with him in a conference room where "Tale of Desperaux" was playing. After the lunch, we received the official Air Force Weather Agency briefing and then got a tour of the relatively-new building they work in now.

I like things like this.  Dave will tell you about how much fun I have at social functions, and it's important to me to know about the people and their families in Dave's professional life, we help each other out in times of need.

During the function, the AFWA commander came out and addressed us, thanking us for supporting our husbands and even giving us these lovely certificates.

From 2009 05 11 AFWA Spouse Certificate

I felt like a heel. Honestly, what have *I* done lately to be a supportive wife to Dave? It should have been vice versa, someone should be giving DAVE a certificate thanking him for supporting his wife!

It was great meeting other wives, I have to say. I'd laid low from spouses' functions from when we got to Nebraska, mainly because I'd been quite busy since October preparing for my deployment. Now I'm finally getting to meet all the other ladies, including two wives of Airmen who are still deployed, who I had the honor of serving with while I was there. That was nice.

With this certificate in hand (plus a number of other "thank you gifts"), I started to reflect on my current role. Dave is being considered for command real soon, and I'll have to kick it up a notch in terms of my involvement if he were to become a commander one day.

As a semi-joke a couple years ago, Dave's Dad gave me a 1957 "Air Force Social Handbook" that he found at an antique store:
From 2009 05 11 AFWA Spouse Certificate

I enjoyed the foreword by Mrs. Nathan Twining:
From 2009 05 11 AFWA Spouse Certificate

Talk about kickin' it old skool! This book emphasizes that being a military spouse holds you to a higher social standard than in civilian life:

-  You MUST call on your Base Commander and your husband's commander upon reporting to a new location.
- Calls are typically made between 7:30-9:30pm.  They shouldn't exceed 20 minutes.
- If a senior officer and his wife arrive for a call, your role is to graciously exit.
- If a servant answers the door, you're to hand a calling card to the servant who will announce your visit.
- "Only engraved calling cards are considered correct.  Consult a reputable engraver who will give you advice to size and form.  An officer's card is 2 7/8" x 1 1/2", a lady's card is 3 1/4" x 2 1/4".  The husband's and wife's cards should match in color, style and type of engraving."
From 2009 05 11 AFWA Spouse Certificate

Wha?????

Holy smokes!  If today's senior officers had servants now, I think the general public would go APE SHIT (pardon my French).  Who do you think pays for those servants?  Engraved calling cards? (I'm a Vista Print fan, myself.)  The chapter goes on to discuss who in a group does and does not receive the calling cards (never to exceed leaving more than 3 at a function).

Are you confused?  I sure am!

The book continues much like an Emily Post etiquette handbook, discussion what to wear to breakfasts, brunches, luncheons, coffees, weddings, "dessert bridge", "bridge teas", formal teas, cocktail parties, suppers, something called an "At Home", barbecues, and formal dinners.

There are several miscellaneous items unique to military life, such as respecting foreign customs when living overseas, how to act at a parade (i.e., military parade), how to go through a receiving line, orders of introductions (i.e., "General's Wife, please meet Captain's Wife"...not the other way around)., how to work a room when socializing (senior ranking guests get your attention first), how to make a seating chart for a formal dinner, when to be "Mrs. David Vollmer" as opposed to "Mrs. Patricia Vollmer" or "Patricia Vollmer", etc. (and it's never "Mrs. Major David Vollmer", thank heavens!)

Well, that was definitely THEN.  1957, to be exact.  Back then a military officer's official record had not just records of duty performance, but it also had photographs of the military member AND of his family.  Seriously.  My first squadron commander's wife showed me the official family pictures that used to sit in her husband's record.  It had to be done once a year, and if you recently married or had kids.

It probably started to fade about the time I came on active duty -- the importance of the social aspect of officership.  You were expected to be a member of the base club, your spouse was expected to be active in the community and the wive's club, and officers were expected to marry and have children at a certain point in his career.  Advancing in rank could even be held up if you were still a playboy and it was professionally time to "settle down".

This probably is most irrelevant to most of you, but heck, it's on my mind and I thought I'd throw it out there for some discussion.

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2 Comments:

At Monday, May 11, 2009 at 10:13:00 PM CDT , Blogger Christina said...

I was enlisted, not an officer. So to me, the officers' wives lifestyle looked so glamorous - to the the extent of the 1957 description, but they just seemed to live in a whole different class than I did. I felt uncomfortable around some of the wives when they'd be at squadron functions. Anyway, I'm rambling... but I do know that you will definitely be able to step up when Dave makes Commander. :-)

 
At Friday, May 15, 2009 at 7:47:00 PM CDT , Blogger Susie PSU said...

My grandma was a Colonel's wife in the 1940's and my mom used to tell me stories of the calling cards, and turning down the corners that meant different things, and all of that stuff. Pretty funny you have a book about it!!

 

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