Wednesday, October 20, 2004

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

There is a pool on the base in Iraq. It has caused arguments and sparked outrage. The pool has become the forbidden fruit. Some of the wives have banned the pool from the list of off duty activities that are acceptable for their husbands. But it’s not the pool itself that the wives are worried about. No, they are worried about who could be surrounding the pool or wading in it. Namely, the wives are worried about other women. They are worried that in their husbands’ current state of forced celibacy, the sight of the opposite sex will cause their normally faithful men to go into a frenzy.

On the other end, some of the husbands have told their wives they are not allowed to go out during the deployment. That means no going to a bar to have drinks with the girls, no break from the kids to have an “adult dinner.” They are worried about their fellow man, and more specifically, their fellow soldier. They have heard and participated in enough locker room talk to know how nightlife operates in a military town. And I guess with the male to female ratio, perhaps they are not totally paranoid.

War always brings out the best and worst qualities in human beings. Incredible acts of kindness and generosity are mixed with scenes of inhumane brutality and cruelty.

On the homefront, the love and support that spouses give to each other would impress the most pessimistic cynic. But sometimes, insecurities are amplified and past wrongs are dug up. The frustration of missing each other and living separate lives is taken out on each other. Conversations between husbands and wives lapse into petty arguments and phones being slammed down on the receiver. You don’t call enough. You don’t understand what I’m going through. You are not there for me.

During last year’s deployment, I admit that some of my conversations with my husband also ended in anger. I was still dealing with residual resentment over him joining the army. I was still bitter over the choice he made that forced us to be separated.

But this year, there is none of that. The anger has disappeared. Our conversations are filled with laughter, teasing and affection. This is not to say that we are the perfect couple, but we don’t want to waste our limited phone time on arguing over who is right and who is wrong. The length of his deployment doesn’t bother me. I almost don’t even care when I will see him again. My only concern is his safety and that he comes home in one piece. If that is our future, then I will gamely endure this for as long as I have to.

And in case you are wondering, my husband often goes to the pool and no, he doesn’t need my permission. As for me, Saturday night is often girls' night out, albeit it’s usually just me and one other girl.