I confess: my first FRG was a little intimidating. Last year when I was living with my now-husband, I wasn’t quite comfortable attending various wife functions as “just” a fiancée. Despite an attempt to include girlfriends, at the meetings of my first FRG I always felt insecure showing up to events.
Even when being introduced to other soldiers and their spouses-- most of whom were wonderful and sweet--it was a bit disconcerting to hear about their backgrounds. It seemed like everyone else had been married for decades and been through 89 deployments and singlehandedly raised 14 children and six special needs rescue cats while inventing the FRG and cooking organic eight course dinners for other families when needed.
So yes, at my first FRG I was pretty intimidated.
In addition, almost every time someone learned that I had little experience with military life, they would launch into their best stories about the challenges of deployments or the terrors of FRG participation.
I heard reports of spouses acting as if they held the ranks of their husbands, horrific anecdotes about cockroach-filled houses, chilling tales of going through a pregnancy alone. By the time we were ready to move, I was sure that every time I went to the grocery store, some major’s wife would try to cut me in line with threats to my husband’s career.
My first FRG never prepared me for the benefits of my second FRG. At our new duty station, nobody at my second FRG expected me to know every acronym my husband discussed with his soldiers (which is good, since acronyms seem to make up 75% of those conversations).
Everyone was fine when I met the other wives in the unit and sat there listening. No one demanded that I provide free babysitting because their spouse outranked mine. I didn’t even see many “brag bags” (which, I had been warned, were the camouflage purses with the rank of the owner’s husband attached). I tried to be nice to everyone, and everyone was nice to me back.
Of course, there have been a few awkward moments.
The first time I met some of the wives, I made the mistake of jokingly referring to my husband as “old.” When it was revealed that most of the assembled group was the same age, if not older, I immediately regretted the previous 45 seconds of my life.
As one of the few spouses without children I often have very little to contribute to conversations. I tend to be on the quiet side anyway, and am more than happy taking mental notes about the trials and tribulations of potty training toddlers or disciplining teenagers.
I don’t even have a dog (yet!) so it can still be a bit embarrassing when everyone takes out their cell phones to show off adorable puppy pictures, and I am left sharing the goofy picture of my cat sitting in unladylike poses.
Because my husband is about to be the only married officer in his company, I recently had the pleasure of experiencing another uncomfortable moment when the company commander mentioned we would need a new FRG leader.
Apparently my subtle staring at the ceiling didn’t work, because when I looked back down the entire room was watching me expectantly. Didn't they know that this was only my second FRG ever? I had hoped that it would be another couple years before being voluntold for that position.
As we’ve been here longer I’ve started to learn how to be an involved wife without feeling like I’m either letting everyone down or stepping on others’ toes. Super spouses do exist, but there are also a lot more who are the complete opposite. I’m pretty happy sitting somewhere in the middle.
So yes it was scary to first show up and get involved, but so far everything has been fine. Of course, I still may have to be an FRG leader in a few months, but I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
Magdalene Blocker is a civilian married to a a soldier in the Army. They are currently stationed at Ft. Hood prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse.