Dear Margo: Really, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Moving away to be with my partner has not garnered the approval I had hoped. Margo Howard’s advice

Really, Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Dear Margo: I’ve been dating my partner for nearly two years long-distance (online dating product), and we both knew early on we’d found “the one.” This is a same-sex relationship, and my parents (and hers) have always been completely accepting and supportive of my sexual orientation. By all accounts, they love my partner, who is successful, beautiful, family-oriented and very warm toward them.

Well, after all these months of frequent flier miles and building a solid relationship, we’ve decided to take the next step of moving in together in anticipation of, eventually, marriage. Because she is more established in her career than am I, the logical thing is for me to relocate to her city — a mere one-hour flight away from home. The problem is my family’s rather schizo response to this: It is both indifferent (“That’s nice, honey, could you pass the salad?”) and guilt-tripping (“Your grandparents are probably going to die soon, and they’ll sure miss you.”).

Is it too much to ask for just the slightest suggestion of “We’re so happy for you”? Are they just sad to see me go? Despite their categorical support of my being gay, I can’t help but think that if I were announcing my intentions to marry a man, they would show a little more enthusiasm. Or could it be, as my partner believes, that I’m projecting disapproval onto them and fishing for their more explicit blessing to assuage my own anxiety over making this huge life change? — Uncertain

Dear Un: I suggest you short-circuit your wish for effusive happiness on the part of your parents because of your move. You already have the important thing: They support your choice of a same-sex partner, and they love her. If your folks are not planning a shower or throwing rose petals at you, allow them the ambivalence of your leaving town. I suspect they might have these same feelings if you planned to move to be with a man. Old Margo saying: Do not go looking for trouble when there’s another way to view the situation. — Margo, judiciously

Sidestepping Dumb Questions

Dear Margo: How can I get people to stop asking where my husband is deployed? They ask all sorts of questions that I would never ask anyone, civilian or military. The last one I heard was, “I don’t know how you do it. If it were my husband, I’d just roll over and cry my eyes out every day. Are you OK?” They will ask where he is now, what does he do, and the most insensitive one of all: “Has he shot anyone over there?”

How do I sidestep these questions before I decide to throttle the questioner? I don’t have time to dwell on the negatives. I have a house to run, teenagers to raise and a life to live while he is away. I just want them to stop asking questions that I really cannot answer due to personal reasons and Opsec (operational security). Any advice? — Military Wife

Dear Mil: First of all, I hope you know that I and many others think military spouses are heroes. You carry on without partners and without complaint. As for closing down the clods, when you hear the beginning of the kind of remark you describe, have a little speech memorized — and cut them off, if necessary, to say it. “I know you wish the best for me. I am doing just fine, and military policy forbids me from answering any questions. Now … how are you?” As my dear mother used to say, “That ought to settle their hash.” (P.S.: I have learned that most people mean well and often aren’t sure what to say. I, myself, have said dumb things. Does that help?) — Margo, protectively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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45 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:

    When I announced my engagement to the man I’d been dating for two years, and with whom I had bought my first house, my mother responded with the equivalent joy as if I’d just announced my engagement to that charming fellow, Jack the Ripper. If they love your partner, that’s terrific! My mom hated every man I dated until I broke up with him. With the garnishment of grand-parent guilt, I think it’s about the move. Me, I’m hetero-sexual. Mom didn’t want me involved with anyone more than with her, although she wanted grandchildren. (Go figure.)

    “My husband’s out of the country at present, we’re all doing just fine, thank you, and how are you doing?”

    If you keep repeating “How are you doing?” long enough, the Clue Fairy will show up. If she doesn’t, just say, “Gotta go! Nice to see you!” and leave.

    Best wishes,

    Constance in the Sierra Foothills, who had a traveling husband of 1 to 2 weeks a month, sometimes more, for 16 years. Problem was, I scheduled him, so I couldn’t complain.

  2. avatar lg says:

    LW#2: I, too, have a husband in the military. Why you have such an issue with well-meaning remarks and innocuous questions such as what your husband does is beyond me. And unless he is special forces in a covert operation it is not in violation of OPSEC to say he’a in Afghanistan or Iraq, for example. Of course any specificity beyond that is not good, nor would arrival/homecoming timeframes. But really, I think you need to lighten up and realize those who are not in your position will have questions and comments about it and let them roll off your back.

    • avatar Robert Smith says:

      This is kind of what I was thinking, but I had no authority to say so.  Glad you said it.

    • avatar Mishy Smith says:

      Agreed. Like I said below, it takes a special kind of person. Say it with a smile, and all the confidence of a military spouse. I for one am proud of my husband, and wouldn’t trade our life for the world.

  3. avatar Lila says:

    Thoughts for the military spouse: first, people are going to be curious because only ONE PERCENT serve. So that other 99% has little idea what it’s like. Grrr, don’t even get me started on that.

    I think in most cases it should be sufficient to say “He’s an MP stationed in Iraq,” or “He’s with a reconstruction team in Afghanistan.” If they want too much detail on what he does, try “You know, military stuff” with a slightly sarcastic emphasis behind your smile.

    For the nosy schadenfreude types who seem to imply that you should be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, you could say something breezy like “Oh, we military folks are pretty tough that way.” For the morbid clods who ask “Has he shot anyone?” you might reply, “Why on earth would you ask such a thing?” And for anyone who really just can’t take a hint, perhaps you could suggest that they could learn all they want to know by heading on down to the nearest recruiting station.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Lila – but say that in a bit of a shocked tone. “Why on earth would you ask such a thing?!?”

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        Gosh. I think it would be more fun to juice it up to the point they never ask again. Things like: You can’t tell I cry 23 hours of the day. My eyes aren’t puffy. My kids don’t mind. OR maybe: He shoots anyone who get in his way- usually a couple a day. If they don’t get at least three, its a bad day.
        Sarcasm runs thick so if they don’t get it then they at least will be shocked and leave you alone.
        As for where he is, something dramatic like,
        “God only knows. I hope hope he isn’t lost. He never was good with a map.

  4. avatar Lila says:

    A general remark on asking soldiers if they have shot anyone: it IS insensitive.

    We do have the occasional sicko who gets off on that sort of thing. Those are usually the ones you read about in the news, getting court-martialed for war crimes. You will also hear young punks in bars bragging about such things; in my experience, those guys are usually rear-echelon types trying to impress, with stories that are, shall we say, heavily embellished.

    Normal, non-sociopathic people who go through real battles and kill people or lose their friends right next to them in violent, sudden and messy ways, don’t come through it unscarred. Don’t ask their family about it; it is extremely personal. Don’t ask the soldier directly; you know what happens when you ask? You make them think about it. Generally one does not want to think about their friend’s head blowing off or what their insides looked like, or the fact that they shot a woman who was about to throw a grenade… And then how long it took her to die, and how she screamed, on and on… And the soldier knows it was justified and does not feel guilty, but he does feel horrible. And then there are mistakes – friendly fire, a civilian who seemed a threat but wasn’t – and then they feel guilty AND horrible. And then they come home, and someone who has never served, and has no intention of ever serving, idly wonders “Did you shoot anyone over there?”

    Sometimes, rarely, one will want to talk. If you make the offer to listen if he wants to talk, then be silent, listen, and do not judge anything.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Lila, thank you for your insightful and sensitive comment. My dad was in combat in Korea. I know his best friend died horribly while standing right next to him…and I extrapolated…from the facts of “being in combat” and “in Korea” that yes, he had killed people. I never felt any desire to ask him IF he had, or how it felt. Why would I do such a thing?

      Rusty’s father was an Air Force Mechanic (that was his aptitude) during the Viet Nam conflict, and served time in Thailand. The base he was serving on was infiltrated by Communist insurgents. To save his life, and the life of the people who he was responsible for, he had to kill one of them with his sidearm. He later told Rusty’s mom, and she told Rusty…but no one ever asked him any revolting questions. To know was enough.

      I have known many combat veterans in my life, mostly from Viet Nam, a few from Korea. Many were very damaged people. My father’s very good friend, who served with him, committed suicide by shot gun when I was just a young child. They saw the same, just recently declassified things in Korea. Although I never served, I have infinite respect for the spouses of military people, and for those serving.

      I have also known a few who thought that serving was about “killing ragheads” (when I was younger it was “killing gooks”, How does that grab you?), or seeing what it felt like to kill people. The kind who ask veterans what it FELT like. My personal opinion of such people is that, faced with the dire circumstances of Afghanistan, or long ago, Southeast Asia, they would have been the ones frozen in terror…hindering their people or finding out what death feels like from the other side…or those few that the media loves to latch onto like lampreys to prove just how defective, demoralized and loathsome our military is.

      By the way, I have a son who thinks that violence is “cool”, who is fascinated with Nazis, and serial killer movies (and not because he gets to put his arm around a girl when she screams), and has repeatedly asked me if his grandfather ever killed anyone. No, he wasn’t raised that way…not in this household. He’s 20 now, and lives with his father. His younger brother watched a History Channel series on WW II and asked a lot of insightful questions. He was moved deeply by the letters and journals, read aloud as narrative, of the soldiers. He plays video games, but he fully understands that they are games…and that war is real, and that real soldiers don’t get up again when struck by IED’s, or RPG’s.

      I have had police officer friends, and they get the same kind of questions. “Didja ever kill anybody? What was it like?”. People without a clue.

      Sorry. Sorry. Something that hits close to the bone for me. And no, I never have. But good grief.

      • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

        Lila and Briana, thanks for sharing your stories.  The things that so many soldiers have seen is horrific, and it’s astounding how daft people can be about their experiences.

        My grandfather served in Korea, and never spoke a word about his experiences until about six months before he passed away (two Christmases ago already-how time flies!).  As his own mortality approached, the stories came out, and they were awful but we listened.  One of the worst explained a lot to us-Grandpa had always been hyper-sensitive to a child in pain, even more so than normal folks.  We finally learned that when he was in Korea, one tactic the North Koreans used was to strap a small child with grenades, pull the pins, then send the kid into enemy camps.  The American soldiers, including Grandpa, had no choice but to shoot the child before he or she could come into the camp and take out the whole battalion.  He never really recovered from that, even on his deathbed it haunted him.

        My cousin was in special forces in Iraq for four deployments, and he doesn’t talk about it.  I’m sure he had to do some unspeakable things, and I’ll be happy to listen if he ever feels compelled to get it out.

        • avatar bright eyes says:

          I agree with you all – sit back and listen if they want to talk with you about it – but I won’t be the one to question a military person. My father is retired military and many of my friends went into the military as well. One friend was an MP and his job was escorting children to school safely. He told me of 2 incidents that happened while he was on assignment. I talked about it with him briefly, but when he was done – end of story.
          I had an uncle that was in Korea and I grew up thinking he had a much different experience than he actually did there. He talks about it, but he has started talking about what they did in their down time and I just listen.

  5. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  Maybe your family’s response is schizo because they have two minds about your move.  On one hand, they want you to be happy and…on the other hand, they will miss you.  It seems you have good communication with your family in some respects; they know your gay and they support you and have communicated that support to you as well as their approval of the particular person you love.  So, why not just ask one or more of them how they really feel about your move?  I think, even in this day and age, parents may have worries about their children moving in with someone without the benefit of marriage…particularly when the  child is giving up his/her world to move to the lover’s world.  The qualms likely have nothing to do with the *moral* issues, but with the concern that if the relationship fails, their child will have given up their independence/career path/friends and family and have to rebuild.  I don’t think the worries are any different if the lover is of the same or opposite sex.  So talk to them about it. 

    LW#2:  Thank you and your husband for your service.  I think everyone’s advice to keep answers short and turn the questions around to the questioner is good.  And, thank you Lila for your comment as to why asking about the details of combat is insensitive.  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to ask that question of anyone who served or his/her family but your explanation as to why this question is out of line is excellent. 

  6. avatar B.eadle says:

    LW1 – Most parents are worried about their children – no matter how old the kids are – when they move into a new stage in their lives. The urge is to hold them and protect them from any potential pain, disappointment, danger. I think you could just as easily interpret their reaction to nervousness and love for you.

    LW2 – Not all men and women in the military are stationed in a war zone. I’m sure they are only asking a general question – as in, in what country are they stationed? Not – can I have the exact longitude and latitude of your loved one? My friends military father is stationed in Germany. When people ask where he is that is what she says – Germany. That’s good enough. Unless the questioner has been to Germany, the questioning rarely goes any further.

    • avatar Paul Smith says:

      Lila, I don’t think it insensitive to inquire about the subject. They are warriors afterall, and all volunteer ones at that. In a society drenched in violence and  violent imagery for our daily amusement, why pretend squeamishness on this subject. Candor is best.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Paul, some inquiries are more cloddish than others, and “Have you shot anyone?” is actually pretty bad, for the reasons I stated above. It’s not a matter of squeamishness, it’s a matter of being thoughtful enough to NOT ask point-blank questions that are the equivalent of rubbing the worst experiences ever in a soldier’s face, when all he wants is to forget it. Or at least, bury it in some dark corner of his mind and try not to look at it. And then here comes the question: “Can you go get that really painful and horrific stuff out of the dark corner of your mind and air it out a bit? ‘Cuz I’m morbidly curious and wanna look at it.”

        Yes, they are volunteers. I get pretty sick of people bringing that up, because some folks have blatantly told me straight out that 1) They got what they asked for by signing up, and 2) they were stupid to do so, and no one would join the military if they had other options. Insulting, ignorant, and untrue. Anytime someone says, “Well, they DID volunteer,” it seems like that is what they are implying. Like military people are defective, losers, expendable, and it is somehow OK to intrude on their personal lives and make them relive the worst moments, just out of curiosity.

        Sorry if that’s not how you meant it… I have a big chip on my shoulder about that. I get so angry at some folks’ cavalier attitude, it almost physically sickens me.

        My view is that anyone who does not want to go to war should be thanking these guys and singing their praises, because without volunteers, EVERYONE would be subject to a draft. In fact, I think all free citizens should be obligated to participate in their own defense, and ADVOCATE the draft in order to vest the public in the decisions Congress makes. If we all might find ourselves or our kids in the lottery, we would damn sure pay more attention and speak up when Congress is about to sucker itself into the next unnecessary war. But no, our duty is to go shopping.

        As for our over-the-top violent imagery, it is artificial no matter how realistic, and we know it as we watch it. The psychological effect is not, CANNOT be the same. You will not feel the concussion and heat of an explosion, you will not smell the blood and feces that just spilled from a shredded human body, or the cooked smell of their flesh. You won’t see the flies buzzing around the spilled blood and body parts. And the gore on-screen is not your best friend, co-worker, not even a passing acquaintance. No number of bloody movies or images or descriptions can prepare you for the real thing.

        Most will NOT want to share. Notice how they clam up. Notice how they probably move away from you or get angry. They don’t want to look in that dark corner. Can’t people just leave it alone?

        • avatar bright eyes says:

          🙂 It’s a good thing I read the whole comment because if I just saw #1 & #2 – then I’d be terribly upset as well. You sound like me as in I totally support all troops – no matter what. Yes they are volunteers – BUT some signed up with thinking they would never see combat. Some are/were innocent kids who wanted to get out and see the world, etc – as all the ads that glamour it up never mention that you may one day be stationed in a war zone and subject to everything that includes.
          Yes they chose to be in the military – for whatever reasons – and they did chose to have it as their career, but just because they did – doesn’t mean they are expendable or are any less than any other person. And there are a lot of people coming back from the war with PTSD and mental issues like that – where asking about combat is a big problem/issue for them.
          There is a big difference between fake gore on the tv screen, video game, etc. You are free & welcome to watch whatever violence you wish, however if you were put into that situation – it would be a totally different experience than a video game.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      B.eadle my Dad was in the military for years. He says he doesn’t consider himself a vet because he was never in a combat zone. It just so happened that his years of service was between conflicts. He had a good job and we traveled with him most of the time. As for people, when they ask where I grew up, I explain we traveled around. If they ask further, I saw we lived here for __ years, there for __ years and you’re right – unless someone has a knowledge of the country – they generally drop it. Although people do ask how I liked it living over there and then I take time to explain how it was – fun! 🙂 and explain how different cultures sometimes aren’t that different.

  7. avatar Paula M says:

    Other than the “has he shot anyone?” remark, I’d say both LWs are a tad touchy. LW1’s parents sound pretty normal to me. They probably just feel bad that she’s moving away and don’t want to show it too much for fear of making her feel too bad.  LW2 sounds plain grumpy.  Tell them what you’re allowed to and move on!  My own husband travels a LOT – I get asked those same questions all the time, “where is he?  what does he do again? When’s he coming home?” and he’s not even in the military!  I have three teen-agers that I parent alone most of the time and I get a lot of “I don’t know how you do it – I could never do it” comments.  I laugh and change the subject.  Jeeze – lighten up.  People are just making conversation.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: I think your partner has you pegged. But having been through a situation like this before with my own mother, I think they are unhappy to see you go.

      LW2: Lighten up, Francis—or in this case, Frances. And to be honest, I don’t see anything wrong with any of the questions that you’re being asked (including the shooting question), given the fact that our military has been marketed as HEROES! FIGHTING TO SAVE YOU! AND THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE! ON A DAILY BASIS! for a number of decades now. That is not to say they aren’t heroes. But they are heroes with guns and other weaponry, and they are the direct link for everyone else to this horror of a war that we have found ourselves in. My suggestion to you is that if you’re encountered with questions like these, you can say: “unfortunately that’s part of war. I just can’t wait until he’s back home with his family.” And leave it at that.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        @ David Bolton: What cawntry you from, sonny? “HEROES! FIGHTING TO SAVE YOU! AND THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE! ON A DAILY BASIS!” In the United States? Really? We must live in parallel universes, because in the USA I live in, soldiers coming home from Korea (yessir, that’s right, Korea) were greeted with silence and faces turned away in disgust and shame. Those returning from Viet Nam were spit on, physically struck, and had vomitus and feces hurled at them. Those were mostly men, and boys, who had been drafted…not volunteers.

        O, or maybe you’re listening to, or reading, the Right Wing-Nut, Tea Bagger media, in which you might well hear that every soldier is White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Fundamentalist Christian, against female rights of any kind (there are no women serving except as nurses according to those folks, dontcha know, and never have been), and out to preserve Mom, Apple Pie, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachman, no homos in service (in fact, homosexuality is a sin and should be made illegal) and guns against anyone who isn’t Christian (that includes Catholics and Mormons, I should note), has less than lily white skin, and is a damned furriner.

        However, the much more liberal mainstream media takes every fragmentary, dubious, highly suspect (not to mention the truly gross actions of a few loathsome pukes…and those exist in every walk of life. College football, anyone?) action, and blows it up into a full-evening news mass coverage of What’s Wrong With the Military. Sometimes, nothing has really happened. Sometimes, it was an epic failure on the part of some REMF(s), not the volunteer soldiers at their command. Sometimes it WAS people getting out of hand. The liberal media has, for decades, thoroughly enjoyed the right and privilege of insisting that the actions of the few indicate the thoughts of the many where our soldiers are concerned.

        Yes, it is a volunteer army. Do you think all of them volunteer so that they can pick up a gun and kill someone. Do you base this on violent media and video games, assuming that they really don’t know the difference and would like to experience the thrill of stopping a life? I think that asking a soldier, or a police officer, or anyone else who carries a weapon and may have to kill someone in his/her line of duty, “Have you ever shot anyone?”, or “Have you ever killed anyone?” is not just curiosity. It’s intrusive, it’s a certain species of child-like fascination that I find akin to pulling the legs off of flies, and it’s a question that I, personally, don’t think that a mature person with any empathy would ask.

        I’m very liberal. I want us out of the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan, which is, and always has been, a case of futile hurling that should be in textbooks under “futility”. The only way to solve the problems there is to convince one large faction of the population that the other needs to be utterly destroyed for some obscure and violent reason, then let all of the factions fight it out until no one, and nothing, is left standing. Our returning wounded, mentally and physically, are getting nothing from the military and the government. Hail the Conquering Hero, indeed.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I know a number of military people—none of them gay, of course, because gay people are unable to defend the country and are prone to cause dissent in the ranks—and EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them was more than happy to describe the combat conditions they faced. And get more than one of them together and it turns into a non-stop litany of “Charlie-this and Charlie-that” (“Charlie” being the generic term for whomever was being fought at the time). The same with cops. It’s a natural question: “wow, you’re a police officer—what’s the worst/deadliest situation you’ve ever faced?” I can certainly understand why LW1 would be upset if someone came up to her and suggested that her husband was a baby-killer, etc, a la Vietnam. But with the way the marketing gurus have latched onto and glamorized the armed forces—that’s not likely to happen in this day and age. If LW1 doesn’t like being asked about her husband’s activities in the army—then she should probably not mention that he’s in the army. Barring the occasional encounter with a mind-reader, her problem should be solved.

          • avatar Lila says:

            ??? David, I am not understanding the gay remark. I sense sarcasm, I think? We have always had gay soldiers, and while many were discharged or mistreated, many others served successfully even with the tacit knowledge of their commanders and peers. In my own experience – I have knowingly served with gays in probably about half of my assignments, and I have never personally known someone discharged for it. Guess I was lucky enough to have decent commanders who did not pursue witch-hunts against good troops.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Lila—yes, it was.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            David, I can’t question your experience, but “Charlie” is a term from Viet Nam, trust me. I’ve known a lot of veterans, and police officers, and none of them were willing to discuss their combat or duty experiences…especially the violent, horrible, soul shaking things that such people all too often see. I’ve also known openly gay men and women who have served…without harassment. When the discussion of repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was opened, a website was started by veterans and those currently in service discussing the role of gay and lesbian people in the military. The responses ran to thousands of posts, literally, and the overwhelming majority of soldiers past and present said that they were not perturbed by their comrades-at-arms sexual orientation as long as they knew they had their back. These comments went back all the way to the Korean conflict. The objections to gay people came mostly from the same disgruntled officer types who never set foot on the front lines, who are privileged, who don’t believe that women should serve, and who were in a highly visible minority.

            O, yes, there are those who will discuss their secret, violent, deep cover operations in depth with anyone credulous enough to sit and listen. They generally have something in common. They’re lying through their teeth. And there are a few police officers who join in order to spend their time taking out their excess of rage and stupidity on others. It’s getting a lot harder for people like that to get jobs as LEOs, what with more demanding requirements for college degrees and higher standards of employment. I’m a bit surprised, David, that you’d be keeping company with the sort of braggarts who’d ramble on about guns and killing and bombs and bloody mayhem. You don’t seem to be that kind of human being. I see a contradiction in personality…and no, I am not stereotyping or being pejorative…I’ve just read a lot of your comments.

            I met my soldiers, veterans and police officers through nine years of working in a very male dominated industry. No, I wasn’t a prostitute…just a bartender serving words and pictures with imagination on tap.

          • avatar Ghostwheel says:

            I am very confused. What is wrong with “I don’t know how you do it. If it were my husband, I’d just roll over and cry my eyes out every day. Are you OK?” The asker is commending the person they are speaking to (You are amazing. I could not do what you do) and asking if they are OK or need anything. Why is that such a terrible thing? Why is it so hard to say “I like to keep a positive outlook, so we’re doing just fine.” or “It can be tough, but we prefer not to dwell on it. I’ll let you know if I need anything.”

            In addition, how on Earth would someone who is not in the military know that you cannot say where he is, what he is doing, etc. I have known a lot of military men, one was my father. I never realized he COULDN’T talk about what he did because he NEVER talked about what he did. It was just the way things were. If you have never lived with that, how would you know not to ask? If your spouse was on a business trip, someone might ask “Where did he go?” and unless this is some stranger that you have never talked to before, it would be a normal question. This is called CONVERSATION. You are perfectly able to say “They don’t always tell me where he is at.” or “I’m afraid that is not within my realm to answer.” or even “I dunno.” With the exception of the “Has he shot anyone?” question (That is just bizarre…), I see nothing wrong with your friends or acquaintances asking how you are doing, telling you how brave you are or wondering how your husband is doing. After the first interaction, they might ask “How are you doing?” but that would be about it. Now if complete strangers are walking up to you and asking “Is your husband military?” “Where is he at?” “What is he doing?” well, that would be weird. How would they even know you are military or that your husband is deployed? Who told them? And if they are strangers, just say “Who are you?”

            What would also be weird is if someone pretended their husband did not exist just because they are deployed. “Don’t anyone talk about my husband to me, he’s deployed.”

          • avatar Chris B says:

            About the whole “why is this insensitive” questions I’ve seen…

            I have a friend who has been fighting cancer for a very long time, and she gets the “I don’t know how you can do it, I’d be crying my eyes out all day” comments too, and they always make me cringe.

            Let me try to explain why it’s somewhat insensitive (although obviously not as insensitive as asking if your husband is shooting people). People who are in tough situations like having a deployed love one, fighting a disease, weathering the untimely death of a child, etc., do it because they have to in order to survive. When you see these people, they are out in the world, which means they have pulled themselves together for the time that you are seeing them. If they can’t pull themselves together, you aren’t seeing that. Those are the days when they stay at home, and may very well be crying their eyes out. And it may be very hard to be out in the world. Having people ask how you do it when you don’t know if you CAN keep doing it tomorrow and the next day and the next week… that can be rough, and not something you want to think about when you may be barely hanging on enough to go out at all.

            Another thing I know is that many people’s best coping mechanism is to live life as normally as possible, and when you throw the problem they are trying to ignore in their face, that makes it hard for them to keep going. Which might be why LW2 appears a bit overly sensitive to questions about where he is.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Yes Briana—I know that. That’s why I said “Charlie” in this case is a stand-in metaphor for all enemies fought. I’m the one who called them “Charlie.”

            And not the “a different fragrance—it’s here to stay and they call it… CHARLIE” kind of “Charlie,” before we go off on that tangent.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            David: I was not going off on a tangent. You did not say that YOU were using “Charlie” as a generic term. I thought that your comment was very specific, as yours’ usually are, which is why I responded as I did. I was not being sarcastic, either.

            I just found your post disturbing, and indicative of either you having known a very limited group of people…or something else. I’ve known mostly Korean, Viet Nam, and Desert Storm veterans and active military personnel. Some of them were what you might refer to as “rough customers” whose took no pains with their general language (and I do mean none at all) when speaking with me. However, the following terms (disclaimer: forgive me, of Keepers of the Bible of Political Correctness, for familiarity with certain terminology does not mean approval or use) are known to me: gook, slope, slant, rag-head, camel-jockey, sand-n****r. I’ve only heard people who NEVER served use pejorative terminology like that. I also know that “Charlie” is a euphemism (if one can call it that) for a pejorative term for the specifically female anatomy that sends 99% of American women into a killing rage.

            As for wandering off into the land of perfume and flowers, why David. I do know my history and anatomy of scent. I also know more about military history (especially as it pertains to religious debacles), weapons; historical and modern, acts of war, atrocities, war machinery, tactics and strategy, and the psychology of war, than most of the males I know and have known. Both subjects make for fascinating conversation. Don’t be disrespectful…especially when I made it very clear that I was not being disrespectful of you.

  8. avatar Momof5 says:

    LW#1- Your mother is already missing you. The knowledge that you are moving out of her reach is hard to deal with. You are her baby and you always will be, until she draws her last. She will adjust, and be happy for you, but right now she is anticipating the loss. Give her time.
    LW#2- My husband was Army for almost 25 years. He served in Iraq. I know that he came close (too close) to being shot. I assume that he returned fire. It was his job, after all. I’ve never asked though. I figure he’ll talk about if he wants to, and I will listen if he does. I would never try to pry it out of him or any other veteran for that matter, for fear of throwing him or her into a bad place mentally. For nearly 25 years, when someone asked where my husband was, I first considered who was asking. I didn’t want too many people to know that I was at home alone with the kids. So the generic answer was “at work”. They didn’t need to know where. As for someone asking whether he has killed anyone, I think I’d probably give them the stink eye, and ask if they’d like to be the one confirmed kill! No really, absolutely the stink eye, and then ask why they would ask such a thing. I can’t imagine him saying that he had, if he did, especially to someone just prying for a vicarious thrill.
    So, as a retired military spouse, here is my best advice. Never give anyone too much information. If you are in quarters, the neighbors may notice that your husband isn’t there and it is easier to share with them, they are in the same situation. But if you are living on the economy, civilians don’t notice as much when he doesn’t come home every evening. Keep it to yourself that you are alone.
    Rude questions? Don’t answer. It certainly isn’t any more rude than the question.

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I think quite a few parents guilt trip their children about to leave the nest for a number of reasons — including for a person of the opposite sex. Probably you’re reading an element of disapproval (of being a lesbian) into their reaction which isn’t there.

    L #2: Wow. 🙁 Maybe just say “I’m sorry, but there are some questions I cannot answer due to the nature of his occupation…and some I don’t want to answer. But thanks for your concern.” And stand on that.

  10. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – They probably aren’t actually clods but rather folks who are innocently, albeit clumsily, asking about you. You yourself composed the perfect response in your letter to Margo;

    “Thanks for your concern but I don’t have time to dwell on the negatives. I have a house to run, teenagers to raise and a life to live while he is away. How are things with you”?

    Try to lighten up a bit. I don’t think anyone means any harm and this a life you and your husband have chosen.  If someone is really just being an a$$ nothing you say is going to sink in anyway.

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Don’t do anything until the grandparents are dead. I think that’s the most sensible thing to do. Just sit there like ugly on a monkey’s butt and do nothing until they’re gone. Tell your mom that’s what you’ve decided. Look her straight in the eye and say, “Wow. You’re right Mom. I’m going to do nothing until we get Poppa and Nana planted and then I’m going to live my life”. Sometimes you need to fight ridiculous with ridiculouser. Call her bluff. Then, continue with your plans.

  12. avatar Shirley T says:

    LW2-thank you and your husband for the sacrifices it takes to be a military family, I admire you. As for a response to the idiotic questions, the one I would use is “Well, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” with a wink and a smile. That should shut them down!

  13. avatar A R says:

    LW1. I’d suspect that it doesn’t matter what orientation you are. Parents are often concerned with:

    1. children who meet soulmates on the internet
    2. children who move far away to be with said internet soulmate.

  14. avatar Mishy Smith says:

    “I don’t know how you do it. If it were my husband, I’d just roll over and cry my eyes out every day. Are you OK?”

    I hear this all the time. And every single time I respond with a smile and a heartfelt, “It takes a special person to be a military spouse, but I assure you we do just fine.” I say this because not only do I mean it, but they mean it as well. They can’t do it. I can. We can. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      (sound of clapping) 🙂

      Mishy – I’m a military brat and have seen a lot of women (both my nephews wives also) who couldn’t handle being married to a man in the military. They either couldn’t handle moving or their spouse being deployed and so they split as soon as it got hard. It does take a special person to be able to handle everything the military throws at you.
      I have to laugh because my friends are military brats who married military men – but they knew what they were in for.

    • avatar Ghostwheel says:

      Yes! Exactly. As a child, I went to 7 schools in 12 years. My mother spent a lot of time raising us alone. I had no idea where my father was half of the time. He never told me what he was doing. It was just the way it was. If anyone ever asked, it could be anything from “We’re just fine, thank you for asking.” to “We have our good days and bad days.” to “I can hardly wait for him to get home.” Anyone ought to take that question as an affirmation of the asker’s respect for their abilities, hardly as an insult.

  15. avatar Karlyn1 says:

    Maybe her parents don’t really want her to move in with this person before spending time living in the same city. Every encounter is like being on vacation when you only date long distance. I moved half way across the US to be with someone. After dating long distance for 9 months, I announced that I planned to get a job and an apartment on my own in the same city as my boyfriend. My family was very supportive and we have been married for 5 happy years.

  16. avatar Kathleen Hein says:

    #1 When I quit my job to move in with my then boyfriend, with the understanding that we’d eventually get married, my parents were far from jumping for joy, even though they did like him. I, do, think you are projecting things onto your family that isn’t there. It sounds to me like they will miss you, but are at least trying to concentrate on your happiness over their own sadness. We’ve been married for almost 10 years now, and my parents STILL occasionally mention that they wish we lived there, rather than here. This is “normal” whether you’re hetero or not!

  17. avatar April says:

    LW#1 sounds as if she’s reacting as a child would. I don’t mean that as a cut, but that she’s looking for a specific reaction from her parents and the absence of it is translating in her head as, “They don’t approve!” It reminds me of the way my teenage self thought my parents weren’t proud of me because they weren’t as effusive as my best friend’s parents.

  18. avatar Jon T says:

    Regarding LW#2, is asking where someone is deployed a bad question? The other comments and questions are clearly intrusive and rude, but I’m honestly surprised about the deployment question being a problem. I’ve never asked anyone that, but if it’s a no-no I’ll definitely make a note for future reference.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Jon T in my mind that’s not an intrusive question. I think it’s more about where the conversation goes after she tells them where he’s deployed.
      Now if people know your hubby is in a sensitive job and they ask anyway – that would be intrusive, esp if they keep asking again and again. As long as they’re not in a sensitive job, where they’re on a ‘need to know’ basis or something like that, then it’s not an intrusive question.
      To me that’s a perfectly normal question. But if I ask where someone’s loved one is stationed and they say Germany my response would be ‘Oh wow! I hope s/he likes it there!’ And if they say Iraq, I’d probably say something like ‘Oh I hope s/he stays safe.’ whether I knew they were in harms way or not. I think for her it’s probably more about people’s reaction to her answer than the actual asking of the question. And I can see how she makes the jump from from ‘They’re asking me where he’s stationed’ to ‘Everyone keeps telling me how dangerous it is.(As if I didn’t already know!)’ because a lot of people could be telling her how dangerous it is. Just one observers input…

  19. avatar Grace Malat says:

    For LW 2 when the questions start I’d just smile sweetly and tell them that if I answered their questions then I’d have to kill them 🙂