“I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but you better change that attitude.”
How many of you heard that when you were growing up? Some of us heard it more times than others. That would be my group. I was born with a voice, and I used it much to the dismay of the adults in my life. They called it attitude, I called it spunk. They accused me of being fresh; I considered it refreshing. I wasn’t argumentative. I had an opinion that I felt obligated to share, every chance I got.
I think you get the picture. To say this did not always go well for me would be an understatement. Now that I’m a mother and a grandmother, I can assure all those adults that would say, “I hope you get one just like you when you grow up!” got their wish. Some children are more challenging to raise than others. To put it plain and simple, some are a real pain in the derrière, to be politically correct.
See, that proves my point. I have refined my “Attitude.” I am now a kinder, gentler version of my former self. I have mellowed with age. It happened around the time I turned 60. The fact that I’m too tired to care what other people think has nothing to do with it. Just because anyone that knows me might disagree with this is just a detail. And they would be wrong; ask me, myself or I! I dare you. LOL.
This story is a perfect example of how that “attitude” would get me in a lot of trouble. I was 23 years old and was just married three months ago to a Naval officer stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Newlywed, newly moved and a new Officer’s wife. Please do keep the “new” in all three of these titles. It’s paramount in my defense.
Unlike many of the wives of other officers, I had no experience and didn’t understand the ways of the Military. It still amazed me, but every time I drove onto the base, the Marine guard would salute me because my husband had an officer’s sticker on the car. Just to make this clear, they were saluting the car, not me.
There were services on the base that we all used. There was a hospital, a gym and a commissary to name a few. It was very common for wives and families to utilize all the services that were available to the families of the servicemen.
I had joined a group of wives for an aerobic swimming class, and they were all talking about the great deals they got at the commissary. The wives were very friendly and you were immediately a member of this sorority. You shared recipes, memories and the ups and downs all mothers face raising children. I might’ve been the newest member, didn’t even have children yet, but I felt like we were all old friends.
I decided on the very next food shopping adventure that I would take the advice of my new sisterhood, and go to the commissary. This was going to be my first time. There was a grocery store right across from our apartment, so I had always used that one until the girls convinced me that the on-base food store was the place to go.
I asked directions from the Marines at the gate so I knew exactly where to go. It was a large building with lots of cars in the parking lot. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know that this was the place to go for food. I parked the car, grabbed the cart, and off I went. As soon as you walked through the front door, there was a piece of paper that gave you a map of where to locate anything that you were looking for.
Once I was inside the building, it looked like any other grocery store I’ve ever been in. I’m much more of a visual shopper, so I tucked the paper in my pocket and went exploring. The fruits and vegetables were amazing. The variety and freshness were unsurpassed. I had made a shopping list (big mistake) and started filling my cart with all the perishables Andy and I like. Next was the deli. I grabbed a number from the chaos and so I had quite a wait. There were moms and children everywhere. Everyone was friendly and except for a few toddlers that had enough of that shopping stuff, everyone was very happy.
I looked around and realized my life was waiting for my number, and that I was starting to become very comfortable in this environment. Remember it was all new to me. (I know I keep saying that, but there’s a reason! Stay tuned!)
I chit-chatted with other mothers while they were waiting for their deli number to be called. One woman who was much older than I seemed to take a real interest in me. She asked how long I’d been in Newport, and the next thing I knew, I had told her my love story, and the whole story. I might have been guilty of TMI. This was back in 1975; there was no such thing as TMI at that point. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.
It was obvious she had been married for a few years, by then. She seemed absolutely delighted to share my enthusiasm and my love story. I’m sure that my story brought back a lot of memories of a time gone by, the breathtaking feeling of new love, adventures and dreams coming true. Have you ever noticed how older women cry at weddings? I finally figured it out! They’re crying because the young bride has all the hopes, dreams and stars in her eyes. And the older women realize what real life has in store for her.
Let’s be honest, reality rarely comes close to meeting our expectations when we are young, innocent and naïve. Don’t you miss those days? By the time I finished shopping, I considered this trip a total success! I went to the checkout line and saw that there were quite a number of women waiting to check out. I got to the end of the line. I was waiting my turn when the woman that I had been speaking to at the deli came right behind me to wait her turn.
We were chatting again when a young officer came over and said, “Please follow me, ladies. I’ll open up a new checkout line for you.” It took me a second to realize what he had said. I looked at the long line in front of me. A number of those women had been waiting a lot longer than we had. I thanked him but said all those women in front of us have been waiting longer.
He looked embarrassed, uncomfortable or flustered at the very least. His answer shocked me, “No, no really, follow me and I will take you first.” He tried to grab the front of my cart and start moving it, but I wouldn’t let him. I turned to the lovely woman I had been speaking with at the deli, now my new best friend, and said, “I don’t think that’s fair, do you?” As she was agreeing with me he added, “All their husbands are enlisted men, and both your husbands are officers.”
I was ready to argue because I didn’t think our husband’s rank had anything to do with their wives at the grocery store. We were all just women shopping. By this time, they had moved our carts and began checking us out. I had the feeling they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. I said goodbye to Nancy (we were on a first-name basis now) and went home. It’s a five-minute drive! Five minutes!
The phone was ringing off the wall when I walked into our apartment. I grabbed the phone and was delighted to hear my husband’s voice..at least for about two seconds.
He asked, “What did you do?!”
I honestly had no idea what he was talking about and responded with, “When? What? Where?”
“At the Commissary,” he said. “I just got off the phone with the Admiral of the entire Naval base. He told me he and his wife Nancy had been married for the last 19 years, and he had never had a problem until the day she met my wife. He was not happy. And before he hung up, he asked me if I was planning on making a career as a Naval Officer? When I told him no, he said “good”, and hung up.”
Well, first of all, how was I supposed to know who she was married to, not that it would’ve made a big difference. I told you how I felt about us wives. I would love to tell you that that was the only time there was an incident like that, but why lie? I am no more or less important than anyone else, especially as a result of my husband’s rank or accomplishments. And if that’s wrong in anyone’s book, I don’t wanna be right.