Talking the (Complaining) Talk


I find myself having to warn many people about my speech mannerisms when I first meet them.  The explanation is getting so long and detailed at this point, that I may just take to typing up a contract for new acquaintances to sign before we get into any discussions.

"Okay, initial here at the cursing section.  Now initial next to the whining waiver.  Oh, wait - you almost forgot the b**chy moments notice..."

It's nice to know I'm not the only one, however.

One thing many military folks and families do well is complain.  Taken in by someone with no experience in military people, I've come to see that we may sometimes sound like very negative people who revel in the nearly impossible situations we get thrown into.

Okay, I have to admit that I kind of do revel.  But, as I've had to explain many times, complaints are not always complaints.  They are usually military spouse poker stories.  Except when they're actually complaints.  Or when you're trying to approach a complaint in a way that doesn't seem like you're actually complaining so you try to make it sound funny.  But they might actually be a complaint. 

Oh, those poor people who have to listen to us without English to Militarese Dictionaries and Native Speaker Guides!

I actually can't think of a group of people with less negativity and more optimism than the military families I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending life with.  It just works out that for us, the way we deal with all the same stresses "regular" families have, plus the stresses of being a military family in wartime is to complain about them.  And somehow, when you make fun of those irritations and complaints - it takes their power away.  At least some of their power.  It makes you able to cope.

Several months ago, a friend called me when she received news of several fatalities in her husband's unit in Iraq.  There was a total blackout on information, and although she heard reports of between four and six people down, she could not find out anything else.  Of course, the news media was reporting blithely away.

So, she called me and we talked.  We talked facts, we talked hysterically, we talked with horrible dark premonitions.  And then we began joking.  I asked her, "And honestly, where did you get this information?  From CNN?  You might as well just believe the opposite, then!"

From the lowest place a military spouse can be - that absolute fear for your servicemember - we had gone in one foul swoop to complaining and making fun of news networks and laughing about it.   It's how we cope.

I know that I have a tendency to get very ... cantankerous (to use family friendly language Andi would approve of) when the long arm of military bureaucracy sends a smackdown in our direction.  I find myself fluctuating between the glassy eyed stare of a Stepford Wife to people who won't understand, and the mad cackling of Cruella DeVille with those who will.  I've also seen other spouses in the same fluctuation. Some of the best poker stories come out when we are in Cruella DeVille mode.  I've also been accused of being downright nasty sometimes.

We all have our moments.

But did I ever tell you about the time the housing office sent someone to spray for roaches while my second daughter was practicing escape and evade while completely nude?  And how when the VERY UNCOMFORTABLE Pest Man went to open up a cupboard a roach FLEW out (base housing, you know)?

Not that I'm complaining, or anything...   

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