There is the woman who adorns her car, her home, her wardrobe with Coast Guard pride. She is eager to share her life with others who comment on the decal or ask where she got that neat sweatshirt. A lot of folks might call this woman a “newbie”.* Perhaps she just married her Coastie or maybe her beloved just joined the ranks. I was that woman. Practically, the day my husband and I returned home from our honeymoon, I was scouring the net for anything that would announce “Coast Guard Wife”. I wanted everyone to know. Now, I’m almost embarrassed at my eagerness to demonstrate this pride so loudly. Who can blame me though? I was in love. I had joined the family. I was happier than a pig in …. a vegan commune. :)
Years later, I still have the sweatshirt-comfortably worn a little faded. Usually, it stays tucked in the depths of my closet. My husband hates when I have worn it (I think). Though, I can’t blame him. It’s a tad in-your-face, and he doesn’t wear a sweatshirt announcing that he’s my husband. Now there’s an idea for an anniversary gift. Hmmm.
Nevertheless, that sweatshirt doesn’t see the light of day near as much as it used to. I will wear it bumming around the house or maybe cleaning the yard, but not many other places. Of course, that was until the other day. I was rummaging through my clothes trying to find something comfy enough to keep me warm, it was a sweatshirt kind of day, and I happened upon the sweatshirt. Without too much hesitation, I pulled it on and off I went. At first, I didn’t really give too much thought to what I had just done. After all, it was just a shirt that I had worn many times over.
The day I chose to resurrect the old thing, I went out in public. I felt people’s eyes on me everywhere. The truth is they probably weren’t. Still, I caught some reading my sweatshirt. No biggie, right? Well, suddenly I felt naked. I felt out there with my business. Despite my pride and love for my husband, I don’t define myself with his career. It’s a part of who I am, but I am an individual. I’m more than what a sweatshirt reads. Oddly enough, I found myself covering up the “wife” part with one of my children’s jackets in the doctor’s office. I didn’t want anyone to realize who I was because I somehow in that moment I felt as if they were reading into what it all meant. What were these people thinking? Did this “define” me? I felt naked. Consider this, a lawyer’s wife where’s a shirt reading just that. What would people think? Would they chastise her, applaud her? Surely they would judge her and that was how I suddenly felt the other day. I felt judged. I was even judging myself as well as the people who looked at me. Silly as this may all sound, it does seem a bit narcissistic, and it’s not at all meant that way. Writing about this is cathartic in a way because I’m still trying to sort out why I reacted the way I did and how suddenly PERSEC could have been compromised because of what I chose to wear that day.
The sweatshirt that once was so important to me, in my own naïveté, was now an unwanted advertisement. It gives too much away. In this day and age, we never can be sure who to trust and how people will react (to anything). Really, though, there’s no morale to this story. It’s just a mere observation of how my perceptions have changed. Deep down, I’m still that giddy bride, simply in love and undeniably proud, but somehow I’m far more cautious and aware.
*Small disclaimer: Yes, I'm aware that many seasoned spouses do this. More power to them. This is in no way meant to offend.