I attempted to start a blog post about all of these things about 20 times. I had to keep erasing. My readers who are not military spouses, I will guess you are confused. For the military spouses, I'm guessing you are intrigued. Here is the thing... the separation of enlisted and officer spouses is like the elephant in the room. It's the question on the tip of every wife's tongue. "Who is your husband?" But nobody admits it.
There are a rare few who want to hear a birth name in response. Most spouses really just want to know if the husband is an officer or enlisted. Why? Because there is well established military culture which honors an imaginary line between officer and enlisted. Our knee jerk reaction is 'We can't be friends'. An overstatement at best. A complete generalization, I know. But there is truth here.
Spouses do not have rank. That is what they say. Bottom line, our military families haven't quite figured out how to look past the issue. In my 15 years as military spouse, I find those who successfully blur the lines to be few and far between. There is no rank more guilty than another. Quick judgements exist on both sides of the lines. Insecurities hold us back. The challenge is to push past the comfort zone of friends at arms reach and not accept the preconceived ideas of who they are.
Recently, my kids have become interested in the military ranking system. I'm sure my husband's recent promotion sparked their interest. Nonetheless, they ask questions. The raw honest questions which usually have to do with why and why not. Lately it has been why some Marines are officers and others are enlisted. We tell them the most basic difference is education. Officers A.) have a bachelor's degree and B.) are trained at an Officer Training School (OSC). Don't get me wrong some enlisted military members join the military with a college degree. However, still not an officer until they complete OCS.
I always tell my children if they want to join the military become an officer. There are several reasons why I encourage this. #1 I want them to finish college. #2 Financially it makes better sense especially if you retire. #3 The officer ranks have created a strong support system for their families. I believe it's something the enlisted have not achieved. #4 Being an enlisted military member is sort of the shit end of the deal. Enlisted are the worker bees. They make the plans happen. The yes sir, yes ma'am person.
Then there are things I love about the enlisted side. #1 We don't have a hundred work related social events to attend in our free time. #2 My husband doesn't have to move every 1-2 years. #3 He doesn't (typically) have to deal with work outside of work.
Ultimately, the military is the military. The job couldn't be done without any rank. The officer and enlisted ranks carry individual responsibilities needing recognition. As far as the separation between spouses, I think the key is how you approach it. I have found the way I treat people is typically the way people treat me. I guess the Golden Rule still applies. There is always going to be a spouse who believes fraternization applies to them. A character flaw. I am not really interested in getting to know them.
My best advice is to be yourself. Don't chat about the military. Smile. Be funny. Blur the line. Those interactions make better conversations anyways!