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Don't Marry Him, Milso

hands with wedding rings

It's June and that means weddings, and who doesn't love a wedding? So much promise. So much love. So much beauty. And military weddings ... the uniforms. The sabers. It's almost too romantic to bear.

Last year, I wrote this commencement address for military spouses.

This year, I want to amend that message a tad. I still believe what I wrote last year, but this year I want to add this sentence to the top:

Don't do it.

Don't marry him, Milso. Don't go from "Milso" to "MilSpouse."

I'll be frank. This community is on a race to the bottom and, trust me, you don't want to be a part of it. It's gotten worse -- so much worse -- in the past year, and there are no signs that it's going to get better any time soon.

This is not Patton's Army. It's not even "McHale's Navy."

There are still officers a-plenty, but there don't seem to be many gentlemen.

It wasn't like this when I married my soldier; it wasn't even like this each time he re-upped. He's near the end of his career now and it's too late for me to avoid all this ugliness, but it's not too late for you.

So don't do it, Milso.

If he really loves you, he'll get out and you can marry him then. Your wedding will still be beautiful without the uniforms and the sabers. And you won't have to spend years being told how awful you are for committing the crime of ... existing.

Why do I say this?

Because the moment you become a "spouse," you will also (to the eyes of a very vocal and completely unchecked segment of our population) become a "dependa."

These individuals, the ones who get their jollies by bullying women online, do not represent the whole, we all know that. We know that they're angry, misogynistic and immature. But they're allowed to act with impunity, and their awful words are amplified by the internet.

"Dependa" is a word they made up just to ridicule military wives, a derivative of the word "dependent," which is what you will officially become in the eyes of the Department of Defense when you marry a service member. Being called "dependent" has long irked modern military spouses.

"Dependa,"however, is much, much worse. It refers to a stereotype -- a woman (it's always a woman) who is lazy, unsupportive, opinionated, overweight, unfaithful, a negligent parent and who acts entitled. I think I covered everything there, but maybe I forgot something. No matter -- and this is the kicker -- the traits are totally unimportant because we are all considered guilty of being a "dependa" until we are proven innocent. Also, it's nearly impossible to prove yourself innocent.

"Dependa," by the way, is short for "dependapotamus," and if you really want to get depressed, Google that term and look at the images.

Some examples of how it works:

  • If you choose to work outside of the home, you are a "dependa" because you are not supportive of your husband's career.
  • If you choose to stay home and raise children (or because the military lifestyle makes it virtually impossible for you to pursue your chosen career), you are a "dependa" because you are "lazy."
  • If you are overweight or unattractive, you are most definitely a "dependa" -- because there's nothing worse a woman can be than unattractive in the eyes of these brave (keyboard) warriors.

You can't even ignore them because they go out hunting for you. They will take photos of you as you go about your business and post them on social media so that others can ridicule your appearance.

I know military wives who won't even go on the post or base anymore for fear of having their pictures taken and posted online. Personally, I wouldn't dare attend any kind of "Jane Wayne Day" event for this reason.

They will screenshot the innocent questions you post in Facebook forums and mock you for being "stupid." If you voice an opinion on an issue, hundreds of commenters will tell you to "get back in the kitchen."

If you spend much time online (and, statistically, you will spend much more time online that your civilian friends because -- living far from family and old friends -- social media will become your lifeline), you will be told, either:

  • "If the Army (Navy, Air Force, USMC) wanted him to have a wife, it would have issued him one;" or
  • "A family wasn't issued in the seabag."

(Also --  everyone who says this will think they're being clever and original.)

But you have a choice -- you don't have to sign up for this.

So don't marry him, MilSo. Not until he's a civilian.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Military Marriage

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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