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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dating Woes of a Navy Brat: Part Two

We were in my college dorm, pretending to watch TV when he turned to me. There was so much anticipation. I could feel it was coming. He looked at me intensely, and started leaning in. I could feel sweat on my palms, and my stomach felt squeamish. This was going to be good. Our lips connected, and for a few moments it was everything I hoped for, soft, sensual, and sweet. Then for reasons I don't understand the feeling faded. The whole thing felt forced, like we were trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. I don't know why but it just didn't feel right. I think we both knew it, but felt too invested at the moment to speak the truth. 

I had never reconciled my past hurt with him. And, for all I put in those past months, I didn't feel like he had given anything in return. I needed a man who would spontaneously decorate my house with heart shaped post-it notes each one with a reason why he loved me. I needed a man I could call at night and relive my day with. I needed a man to see, hold, love, and touch everyday.

But, here I was sending care package, notes, and falling asleep by the phone. Sometimes I wouldn't hear from him for weeks with little to no explanation. Maybe he couldn't say, but I began to remember why I didn't want to fall in love with a serviceman. I've always known I didn't want to spend holidays, special occasions, and life with someone miles away. But here I was trying desperately to be something I couldn't be, a serviceman girlfriend. We pulled away from our embrace and oddly went back to watching television. Before he left to return home that night I leaned in for another kiss just to double check. Nope, still felt forced.

He went home, and the passion all but fizzled. During our phone conversations I could hear the tip, tap of X360 controllers in the background followed by a yell from his buddy. Any gamer past or present knows when their boyfriend is playing Halo instead of paying attention to their phone conversation. I demanded his attention. He would turn down the volume, but I knew he was still playing. This became our relationship for the next few weeks. After months of building our long distance relationship, I think neither of us wanted to admit we just weren't compatible. The last stake to our dying relationship was on his birthday weekend.

He said he would spend the weekend with me, and finally meet my folks. I did what any sensible. struggling girlfriend would do. I went out, bought a super cute outfit, cooked dinner, baked a cake, and waited. Then I waited some more, then waited some more. After a few of my calls went to voicemail, and the day turned to night, it was clear I was getting the Heisman once again. This term is after the Heisman trophy in which a football player is giving his opponents the stiff arm. In love it means rejection, "He's just not that into you" getting the hand, dissed, whatever word for shutdown you want to us.

 There was never any closure, just days of me writing angry diary entries, fighting back tears at night. Eventually I found peace on my own. I vowed again he would be the last serviceman I let myself fall for.

I know what you're thinking I just happened to date a crumby dude which is true. But, that experience coupled with my own childhood as a Navy Brat has made me not want to fall in love with a serviceman. In a Jennifer Lopez romance comedy, I'm sure I would somehow find my soul mate in a serviceman and struggle to fight back my feelings. Then I would realize I was making a terrible mistake, I'd run after him, we'd get married and have lots of babies. Life is never as poetic as a Jennifer Lopez movie though. This heartache is not my main reason for shielding my heart from service men. I do not want to make the sacrifices that serviceman girlfriends, wives, and moms do. Call me selfish.

When my dad was promoted to Master Chief, the NAVY gave my mom this awesome certificate of appreciation. It had a list of all the sacrifices military spouses make so their loved ones can help protect our country. It honored her service to the Navy for her selflessness, and bravery. To be honest there wasn't enough space on that certificate to list all my mother had given up. She delayed nursing school while my Dad was at sea, juggled three kids, and sometimes three jobs. I love her for being two parents sometimes, for never letting us see her cry, and always putting on a brave face when her kids pleaded not to move again. I love my Father for the sacrifices he made, for giving up all those years he could have watched us grow up to protect this great nation, for laying the foundation for us to go to college and pursue our dreams.

In my heart I just don't think I'm the  kind of woman who can do what my parents did.  I've been waiting for 28 years for my Mr. Right, and when I get him I don't want to love him from oceans away. Call me selfish, but I want as much time I can bare with him. I mean I have been waiting for 28 years for this man anyway. A long distance service love is just not for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dating Woes of a Navy Brat: Part One


 Over a hot pizza oven, flying pizza dough, and marina sauce I fell for this dark chocolate brother in high school. He was the Steve Urkel looking type who I saw as my Stefan Urkel. For those of you people who aren't aware of this 90's sitcom references, Steve Urkel was a character from Family Mattedr.  Stefan Urkel was his better looking, suave, alter-ego he created with one of his quirky machines. I digress. My Urkel understood my humor, and at the time was my best friend. When my Urkel found a barber, contacts, and confidence he soon left me in the same sweaty pizza shop where I fell for him. (see the Sbarros Heisman blog for more details)

Fast forward a few years, I'm home on fall break. We bump into each other at the same mall where it all began. He looked buffer, and stronger than I remembered. Through a few awkward exchanges I learned he was in the service, and was about to be deployed to Afghanistan in a few weeks. He flashed that bright Urkel smile I fell for so many years again, and I gave him my phone number. He apologized for the Heisman he served me so many years ago, and said he wished things were different. In that way women do, my mind seemed to have erased the cockiness he got when other girls seemed to notice him. Before I knew it we were texting, calling, emailing, and trying to recapture those adolescent feelings while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

I remember jumping from the top dorm bunk in a sleep hazy to answer his 6:00 a.m. phone calls. It was the only time I could hear his voice, and know that he was OK. Days turned to weeks, and before long I was mailing care packages overseas, and taking phone calls from his mother updating her on his status. I was officially the thing I always said I wouldn't be a service member girlfriend.

I jumped up and down in excitement when he told me he was coming home. He promised to visit me. and take me to dinner. For the weeks leading up to the day I remember agonizing over my weight, my outfit, my hair, and what I would say. But, when I saw him all I wanted to do was hug and kiss him, and hopefully feel the passion we shared in those emails, letters, and early morning phone calls.

All those hours working out, and toning had been good to him. He had cuts in his muscles, and a new swagger to him. I was intoxicated, and pinching myself that a quirky good girl like me could pull a GQ hunk like him. I was floating during our date. I walked around the mall with him on my arm. I could see girls staring, and giving us looks. It only bolstered my self-esteem. Yes indeed. This girl is pulling this guy I thought to myself. His voice seemed smoother, and more suave than in high school. It was like he spoke seduction and charm. He opened doors, let me order first, bought me dinner, and gushed about my beauty. I was in girl heaven. Would this be the man to break my feelings about military loving? He was sure making a good case for himself.  Things were looking good that was until we kissed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dating Woes of a Navy Brat: The Intro


 I am surrounded. Everywhere I go, and everywhere I turn I'm confronted with tales of long-distance loves. At the gym waiting for a class to start, I hear tales of wives scouting their desired deployment locations. In the line at the grocery store, military moms discuss their husband's ranks like they're swapping Pillsbury recipes. At the Starbucks, I hear the whispers of girlfriends chatting about their sailor boyfriends, Skype dates, and impending homecomings. It's no surprise really I live in Hampton Roads one of the largest meccas for sailor sisters, military moms, army wives, and service lovers.

Every time I hear these stories I am transported back to my childhood. It's a late weekend night, and my mom has just handed me the phone. On the other end is my father, his voice sounds so close , but oceans separate us. He's on another deployment, and this is one of my mom's attempts to keep him included in our daily lives. With the receiver to my ear, I'm stumbling through an awkward mumble of what I've done at school, and how I'm trying to make new friends.

We were stationed on a Navy base in Millington, Tennessee and while it was tough I was making friends with other Navy Brats. We were like our own little cult. The senior Navy Brats held water balloon fights at their houses during the summer, the military moms hosted cookouts, and we all somehow managed until our folks returned from duty. There was even a skating ring on base we all went to on Fridays, and showed off our latest moves on our roller blades. I do have some fond memories of living on base housing. But, the worst was trying to get to know a father I didn't see often, and didn't understand.

When my dad returned from deployment it was even harder to connect with him. I didn't know how to act or what to do. Did we hug each other? Was Dad even the hugging type? Did he want to hear about my latest failed attempt to get my crushes attention or more about how I was going to pull up my C's in math? How do you bond with a parent when most of your childhood you've been apart?

These are the feelings and the memories that flash before me when I hear these women talk about their sailor loves. The tales have made me confront what I've known since childhood, I don't want to fall for a military man. I got to know my father in my mid-twenties. I love him dearly and I respect his service, and what he's done for our family. But, in my heart I don't think I am strong enough to endure what my mother endured.

My first and last military love confirmed what I already knew, I don't want to fall for a serviceman.

To be continued.