I met Curt, my 26-year-old boyfriend, on OkCupid last summer. On our first date, Curt told me he had just gotten back from being deployed for a year. Since I knew nothing about the Army, I reacted as if he'd gotten back from studying abroad in Florence.
Curt explained that, as a reservist, he trained one weekend a month and could be deployed overseas at any time. He told me another deployment was definitely in his future, but I really had no clue what that meant. In the beginning, whenever he talked about army stuff, it sounded like he was speaking a different language. I knew about the Army as much as I knew about NASA -- basically, what I'd seen in movies.
My curiosity outweighed my concern; I was fascinated by his experience.
Before meeting Curt, I thought of enlisted people as intense, stoic and overly-patriotic dudes. My boyfriend reshaped my view of what it means to be a soldier, because it's not just about looking great in the uniform. I didn't realize it then, but dating someone in the army comes with a very particular set of challenges.
Long-distance takes on a whole new meaning.
Curt wants to deploy again, so we'll have to deal with the struggles that come from maintaining a long-distance relationship.
Having an LDR with someone in the military is much different than the average person kind, because contact will probably be very limited. Visiting each other isn't a thing, either. We don't yet know how we'll deal with his future deployment. For now, I don't worry about it.
Because Curt's in the reserves, he leaves one weekend per month for out-of-state drills. I have each weekend marked in my calendar and pretty much memorize the dates he'll be gone. I never thought I'd be coordinating my weekends around my boyfriend's drill schedule.
The weekends away have been a tough adjustment, but what's in store will only be worse. Aside from a future deployment, later this year he'll leave for a few weeks to do specialized training. Sometimes, the army will have to be his first priority.
In the context of a relationship, it's hard to accept I won't always be number one.
My friends and family didn't like the idea.
When I told my family about my new boo, I explained where he was from, what he does and, oh yeah, about his military service. This was a huge red flag to my family, who made it clear that I should dump him immediately.
Their reaction made me momentarily question my judgement, but I saw his choice as any other career decision. No matter how many times I told them how great he was, my family wasn't convinced. They pictured the macho army guy stereotype in their heads.
When I told my friends, they were also surprised. “That's not your type, is it?” they asked me. They couldn't see past it, either.
But, Curt is so much more than an Army guy stereotype.
While enlisting wasn't common where I grew up, it was for him. He's from Nashville, and grew up in a military family. Depending on where his dad was stationed, he moved around between several different countries as a kid.
I love the fact that we come from different kinds of families and communities, because it means we have a lot to discuss.
And, once my family and friends met Curt and saw how happy I was, they quickly got over their reservations.
There's a whole community for Army girlfriends.
Recently my curiosity got the best of me and I scrolled through Twitter, looking at the army girlfriend hashtag. The tweets were mostly countdowns to when girls will see their soldiers again. Many of them seemed younger than me, and from all over the country.
Would I tweet about waiting to see my man come home from deployment? Probably not. But, at least I know there's a community I can rely on if I need that kind of support.
I also looked up a few “army wife” blogs. There's a seemingly endless amount of resources and support for women who are dating or married to someone in the military. It's nice to know that if I'm going through something that none of my friends can help with, I have digital resources to turn to.
I can already see I'm going to be judged for dating someone in the army, but it doesn't bother me. I fully support Curt. I'm genuinely excited for him to deploy again because I know that's what he wants to do.
Even if it means I won't see him for six months to a year, his choice to help protect our country is bigger than our relationship.