Recently, I read a really interesting piece by Raul Felix about the Generation Y Division that inevitably exists, based on those who entered the military versus those who went to college. It resonated with me because it was honest; it wasn’t sugarcoated or cleaned up for political-correctedness; in fact, it was just the opposite: explicit, crude, and matter-of-fact. It further resonated with me because although I first went to college, I also worked in contingency operations in Bagram, Afghanistan from 2011-2013. Although I did not serve in the military (I tried- they wouldn’t let me), I absorbed and experienced the pain and hardships they endured from the friendships I cultivated, from the yoga classes I instructed, and from the daily interactions where I looked for an insider’s glance into the military man’s life.
Let me also throw in the fact that the environment was 92% male. I was among the 8% of women who served as the only in-living-color eye candy for a cesspool of testosterone. Now, add to that the fact that I am often perceived as a decently attractive woman, and you may have an “a-ha” moment about the kind of experience I faced daily. Yes, I was objectified. Yes, I received plenty of attention. Yes, I knew that I could pretty easily sleep with anyone that I wanted if I really tried. And yes, I still chose to date a man-in-uniform despite the crude, ugly truths that Raul described.
It was not the first time I dated a military man; being a strong, ambitious female- I find that men who “like a challenge” don’t normally have a liberal arts degree and come to my yoga classes (no offense to those who do, just keeping it real). So there are usually two polarized groups of females who want to date a military guy:
The typical, grew up near a military base and was told she had to have a man, so she would do anything to get one kind of girl, who is also usually the same girl who cheats on her man while he is deployed….
The strong, neo-feminist inspired woman, who is successful on her own and is seeking a man who is strong enough to lead her, despite her own capabilities and independence
So, whether you fall into the former or latter of those groups, IF you find yourself attracted to a Gen Y military men, here are a few warnings for you, based on my experiences:
1. He is not going to feel sorry for you for trivial, meaningless shit.
Look, I’m a woman. I get it. I know there are days where you want to burst into tears because your favorite lipstick got discontinued. But your military man is not going to care or lend very much sympathy to you. He likely doesn’t give a shit if you wear lipstick or not, and this is not even a blink on his radar of things that seem worth getting upset over. Don’t vent to him. Call a girlfriend, find a new lipstick shade, and keep this one out of sight from your guy.
2. He has adapted to not being around a woman 24/7…
So it’s possible that two different things may happen: one, he may not feel the need to pay as much attention to you as you’d like, or two, he may be excessively clingy. Be prepared and try to understand that 3 to 6 months of bro bonding time really is not healthy for a man, and he has to do what he has to do to overcome that.
3. He is desensitized to face-to-face interactions.
Seriously. The majority of these guys- especially the ones who have deployed during the last 12 years to Iraq or Afghanistan, had the gift and the curse of the Internet at their disposal. They used Myspace, Facebook, e-mail, texts, and all other written mediums in order to communicated with their loved ones- on a limited basis. So sitting down one-on-one may be really challenging and uncomfortable. Again- call a girlfriend or your gay bestie for a coffee date and get that gossip-craving satisfied.
4. He probably has a negative opinion of women.
Now don’t get all defensive- the horror stories you hear that happen to men on deployments are real. Of course we know that not ALL women are unfaithful, and not ALL men are saints who didn’t deserve the bad luck he received in a relationship. But come on. Can you imagine being in a shit-hole country, miserable, fighting to survive, and learning that you or your battle buddy’s woman just hooked up with another dude? That’s killer to the ego and to the heart. If this hasn’t happened to your guy, it happened to one of his buddies, guaranteed. And she probably spent all of his money. Be aware of his hesitations.
5. He may not be “over” his military experiences.
Can he ever? It takes a lot of emotional maturity for a person to begin removing the pain from memories and just seeing them as stories, or objective experiences. Most people live their entire lives without facing their emotional demons, because we live in a society that has taught us to suck it up and soldier on. Couple that with the seriously beyond-human-comprehension brutalities of war that your man may have experienced, and hey- it could trickle into your relationship. You’ve got to be willing to be okay with that and understanding of it.
So there you have it — just a couple of words of caution so you know what you’re really signing up for if you choose to date the lust-worthy and all-powerful man in uniform. It can be the most incredible relationship you’ve ever had, BUT, like any other relationship- it takes work, it takes compassion, it takes patience and understanding. If you think you’re up for it, just prepare yourself by really accepting that you have no idea what he has faced. While that’s not an excuse, it is a respect that I believe we owe our service members. There is no greater respect than acceptance. Good luck!