Sunday, 22 February 2009

Vultures Of Love

I have the mixed blessing of living near and knowing some of the folk from an Australian Army base.
I say mixed blessing because I always assume knowing and being near folk in the military could be a big plus when the zombies rise but until then I have to put up with their other little foibles.
And their little satellites.

You see folks, Army men – and I’m not being sexist here, just accurate – Army men tend to attract a certain kind of woman. I like to call her ‘the vulture of love’.
I assume it’s the same in a lot of armed forces, the enlisted personnel and junior officers are moved about on a fairly regular basis, shuttled to where ever they’re needed and sometimes just as a practice for the time when they might get shipped off overseas and need to be used to packing up and moving out.
This makes dating a little stressful as even if you manage to pick out the ideal partner on your first day in Town A you only have a year or two before you will be given your marching orders to Town B which could conceivably be on the other side of the continent.
So what do you do if you don’t want to have to keep going through the relentless dating mill, the getting to know you phase, the no-really-baby-of-course-I-love-you-sex-now-plz? relationship development and all the associated and sundry issues?
Why you get married of course!
Then you can take your girlfriend – I mean wife – around from place to place with you and don’t have to start from scratch each time.
Even though she does.
But that’s OK because she has factored this in to her plan.
Her plan to land an Army man.

The vulture of love is typically five to ten years older than the Army man she is grooming for matrimony as her desperation to marry is based more on the idea that time is running out and the biological clock won’t keep ticking for ever. She wants to get married, he wants to get married, it’s a match made in a sort of bargain basement heaven.
The vulture of love isn’t overly worried about compatibility as her spouse is most likely going to be away or largely unavailable for most of the year with responsibilities, training and – in some cases – deployment.
The most important thing for a vulture of love is that she can use the words ‘My Husband’ with unnecessary regularity, the hook-line-and-sinkered Army man effectively ceases to have a name as he must be referred to exclusively as ‘My Husband’ just in case everyone hasn’t picked up that she is married. When vultures gather together they may use the alternative ‘Your Husband’ to refer to fellow-vultures spouses which can lead to an orgy of mutual-validation that just really shouldn’t be seen in public.
Ideally ‘My Husband’ just has to be home long enough during the year to get the vulture of love pregnant. Because then she has something else to add to the list!

This also gives the colony of vultures something else to talk about along with the lamentations about the never ending washing of clothes that all look the same, what ‘My Husband’ is like when he gets back from any course or event that can be identified by an acronym, what ‘My Husband’ is like when he goes ‘out with the boys’, how you have to ‘let them have their own space’, how fast they’re all going up up up the ziggurat lickety split and now the joys of motherhood.

Don’t get me wrong I think both marriage and parenthood can be valuable and fulfilling experiences if undertaken by the right people for the right reasons. I also think that there are equally valid and fulfilling alternatives available to people with different expectations from life. However the vultures of love do not.
In their eyes marriage and spawning are the only possible goals for sentient mortals.
Either you have achieved them and are ‘winning’ or you want to achieve them and are currently in a state of ‘lose’, they will accept no argument to the contrary.
Even amongst those who are ‘winning’ there is a complex pecking order.

What is your ‘My Husband’s rank?
How old was he when he attained it?
How many times have you uplifted?
How many children have you had?
How close together were the children born?
How well behaved are they?
When did they reach their developmental milestones?
How well do they cope with uplifting and how fast do they make new friends and become the best swimmer/footballer/rhythmic gymnast this base has ever seen?

Some of these are common points of competition amongst civilian parents as well, who also take living vicariously through their children as a ‘from conception’ competition and don’t even wait until they can walk before they’re trying to make out that they’re better than other children and will indeed be a rockstar-supermodel-scientist just like Mummy/Daddy would have been if someone hadn’t been dragging them down and holding them back.

The vultures of love do not believe that you are not jealous of them, they also do not believe that you can possibly be happy without having achieved the Wedding-House-Baby trifecta.
The Wedding need not have been fancy (as they are saving for house/children/dune buggies).
The House need not be theirs (verily the Army may provide or the Rental market may take away).
In one or two ‘we-don’t-talk-about-it-but-we’re-all-pretty-sure’ cases the baby need not necessarily be his, I mean ‘My Husband’s – it’s just important to have it.

If you are a woman who is married to a non-Army man this is considered an acceptable consolation prize but in no way as good as the alternative, you will be accepted but only to a certain point as there is no way you can ‘understand’ what it’s like to be married to a military man.
If you are not married at all then you are to be pitied and reassured that one day all this could be yours if only you play your cards right. Try not to gag too hard on that one.

Observing a colony of established vultures and vultures-in-waiting in action can be quite entertaining but you have to be careful, spend too much time around them and they will start gently trying to match you up with any so far unencumbered friends of their ‘My Husbands’ and you will be lucky to escape with your life.

[Disclaimer:] I know there are many, many women who have married Army men because they love them and the fact that they are in the Army is neither here nor there. These women factor any moving about the country into their lives/careers/plans, see their spouses as actual people and stay as far away from the vultures of love as physically possible as they have standards. And brains.


Erin Palette said...

One thing you may not be aware of is that past a certain rank -- Captain for officers, some flavor of Sergeant for the enlisted -- promotion simply isn't possible without being married.

The reason is twofold. One, past a certain rank, promotion is based as much upon politics as it does upon competence. Therefore it behooves the career man to throw a formal party at least once a year. Naturally, it's practically a necessity for him to have a wife, not only to help plan - host - execute the party, but also provide the needed female requirement so that the OTHER wives can have someone to talk to. Because, if left to their own devices, military men would just drink beer and eat wings.

Second,the typical assumption is that if the man cannot keep his house in order, he cannot maintain a command. Your mention of pecking orders within the vultures is absolutely correct -- wives and children are considered "under the command" of the military man, and his accomplishments become theirs. A Colonel's wife is treated much, much differently than a Lieutenant's wife.

So in a way, the army vultures are providing a useful service. One might even say symbiotic.

Of course, this is what I learned growing up on military bases during the 1980s. Things might have changed since then. I rather doubt it, though.

Ricochet said...

Huh, you're right, I did not know that.
And now that I come to think of it, I do not know any single officers.
I'll be damned.
Thanks for the insight, it puts a whole new spin on things.

I expect things haven't changed very much if at all for if there is one thing that the military loves it's tradition.
And acronyms.
By God and all the little fishes do they love acronyms!