I started a Myspace binder years ago of the journal entries I wrote from late 2004 to late 2007, which covered many transitions: relationships, changes of command, getting married, leaving the Marine Corps, and preparing for college. As eager as I am to engage other women in sharing their stories of choice, I am always a bit hesitant to share pieces of this journal. There are intimate details of people I’ve loved, my anxiety regarding coming home, my desire to get back to Iraq, and my struggles to have a private life in the face of being a female Marine.
In high school, I didn’t date much and as I considered myself to be on the periphery of popularity, I enjoyed certain freedoms regarding the few relationships I did have. I didn’t fear some other chick trying to steal my boyfriend. I was known more for my athleticism and bookish manners than my attractiveness so I didn’t attract the boys who wanted nothing more than to get into my pants. No one pried into how far I did or didn’t go with my boyfriends. I am very thankful in high school that my private life was private and I could share the details I wanted to but others were not privy to information that was none of their business.
Unfortunately, military life is not that way. Women make up such a small component of the Marine Corps and our dating and/or married status make us fodder for all sorts of inappropriate attention, comments, and behavior. My experiences are no different. Thankfully, I was treated well by a variety of men in my life-Marines I knew before becoming a Marine, Marines I served with, and the Marines I’ve met since, but there were those moments I could have done without and I will share more details of those unprofessional situations in a future post.
There is a book called The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict I’m tasked with reading for one of my courses this spring for which I will share with you one of the few situations where I was sexually harassed by a superior who was probably too dumb to realize the inappropriateness of his actions. Although we are equally raised to be cognizant of inappropriate language, I feel he missed this message based on how frequently our shop talked freely about their sexual exploits or fantasies.
For a variety of reasons, I know it is important to share some of the more private moments of my life. I cannot encourage others to share their stories if I am not equally vulnerable. We cannot ask others to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do, so I must lead by example. I am cautious in sharing the few journal entries I am sharing today for a variety of reasons. These were entries shared with friends and family at a time in which my ex, Nathan, and I were very serious about our relationship. We had talked of marriage but never moved forward with any plans for an engagement. Many people, including my family now, did not know these details. I try not to compare one relationship to another; one relationship failed and the other survived. There is no one single factor that contributed to these situations but a series of events that extinguished what Nathan and I had and what Thomas and I were able to begin. While I would not be bothered with my husband being friends with his exes, I understand the natural societal reaction to these postings is highly likely to be negative.
My courses have taught me one of the biggest risks we face in our research and findings is how it affects the target population. I want the stories of female veterans to be heard and as such, I cannot sanitize the truth to make it more acceptable. As a woman sharing this story, I will probably be criticized by a variety of people for engaging in a combat zone relationship. I was probably already criticized for previously dating someone legally separated from his wife. I will probably be criticized for sharing publicly how much we liked each other now that I am a married woman with a child of my own. I will probably be criticized more for the fact I am friends with this ex. My list could go on and one but the criticism over and over again results not from my actions but from others’ perception on what is socially acceptable behavior for a woman and for a woman in certain relationships.
Here I am in 2015, January 9th still subject to negative stereotypes based on my sexuality as a woman and the role women are expected to fulfill. Oftentimes, I go to work, I make the decision to not wear much makeup. I know society favors, and the beauty industry thrives, on telling women that a made up face makes us beautiful and hides our imperfections. Let me tell you, my skin breaks out easily from most foundations and even some tinted moistures and very often, I find these products further magnify the issues I see as problems–adult acne and dry skin (I do live in the desert). I enjoy being the girl-next-door kind of beautiful. I only require mascara, some slight blush, lip balm or chapstick, and some moisturizing products to feel glamourous. These few items allow me to look more awake when I’m tired but are not so heavy that if I touch my face, the look comes undone. This “face” is my beautiful.
As I am not in the Marine Corps anymore, I have more freedom to be an individual. I’m dying my hair red for the first time in my life. Although I could have done so in the Marine Corps, we are restricted to hair color choices that are “natural” for our physical appearances. For example, it would not be appropriate to have the chunky blonde highlights nor would the service allow me to do the ombre colors that are very popular today.
My hair was also restricted to being up and off the bottom edge of my blouse collar, which is part of the reason I am still most comfortable wearing my hair up as opposed to being down. My daughter and I are enjoying one of our particular mother-daughter outings on Saturday as I get my hair dyed and cut and she gets hers trimmed. She has already requested some pink for her hair and thankfully, my hairstylist has hair chalk for her which washes out easily.
And on the news front, I got a limited glimpse today about a standoff in France in which a few terrorists and quite unfortunately, a few hostages, were killed. I was incredibly busy at work and so I didn’t get to stop to watch the news in full. I hope tonight to watch the news and learn a bit more about what’s going on. It sounds as though it might be related to the terrorist attack at Charlie Hebdo, but I’m not entirely sure.
Take care everyone,
Below is who I was back in 2005, still deployed in Iraq: