I bristled when I read this piece on SpouseBuzz — but I also get her point. Stay with me.
By most definitions, I am a so-called “senior spouse.” At his work, my husband is the boss. (That’s why I’m writing this anonymously.) We’ve been married for a while — eons, really, in military time. I’m older than most of the other spouses I meet. I get invited to the “senior spouse” stuff. I don’t always feel senior, but there it is.
I have been there and I have done that. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
But I remember what it’s like to be the new kid and I remember many times wishing that someone would have told me what was going on and what I could do to make it all a bit easier. And I remember the relief I felt at those times when someone actually did.
I care about people. I know how hard this life can be and I genuinely want to spare people some of the more painful experiences I’ve had, because other people have done that for me. I hope that people will continue doing that for me. I offer guidance because I want to pay it backward and forward.
The writer of that piece said:
Here’s the problem: “Mentor” feels like code for “I think I know more than you do and your life experience isn’t good enough.”
Sound familiar? Every time this happens I wonder where this apparent need comes from. Why? Those making the offer don’t know anything about me, my career, my past or what my goals are to even assist me in my endeavors. I’m already succeeding — what do they think I need?”
While reading that I tried to recall if I’ve ever said something to someone that they might have construed as me diminishing them. Possibly. I’ve certainly made myself available to newcomers and invited them to ask me questions.
But I didn’t offer because I think they are less capable or less intelligent or less, well … anything than me. I’ve done it because I legitimately have been there and done that, and I genuinely want to help.
And, still, I see where she’s coming from. Even while bristling, I understand.
As a woman who likes to work out, the veins on my muscles get all twitchy when some guy in the weight room offers me unsolicited advice, presumably because he assumes that a girl couldn’t possibly understand how weights work.
(By the way — If you spend much time in the weight room, this is likely to happen to you. Every gym I’ve ever joined has a few of “that guy” — and really it is always a guy.)
On a good day I might just tell him “thanks, but no thanks.” On a bad day I’m apt to let him know how much more I probably know than he does — or that I know at least as much. Just because I’m not the typical weightlifter does not mean that I’m unqualified. Just because I look like I might be new doesn’t mean I can’t handle myself.
So I get it. The writer of that piece is not stupid. She doesn’t require hand-holding. I do not doubt that she’s perfectly capable of cleaning and squatting the weight of military life all on her own.
But I do doubt that the “senior spouses” (and please know that I have yet to meet a senior spouse who doesn’t hate that term!) she’s encountered meant any disrespect at all.
In all likelihood they were just trying to put some of their hard-earned knowledge to good use.
Because of her husband’s job, the writer of this piece asked to stay anonymous.