Public Displays of Affection

3 Apr

This is a topic that’s been on my mind. For starters, I just got back from my husband’s BCT graduation at Fort Jackson, and you have to be VERY careful to avoid PDAs then! Several of my friends are there this week or will be heading out there next week, so the issue of avoiding PDAs is a big one.

But I ran across an article and a video today over on SpouseBuzz. It’s an old one, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it. The gist of the debate is this: On one hand, you have wives who use Facebook as a way to send a public “I love you!” to their deployed or geobach husbands, usually by updating their Facebook status, posting on their walls, tagging their spouse with sweet messages, etc. On the other hand, you have the party poopers who get angry at these status updates. Some of them are jealous; they think that you’re missing your spouse TOO much. After all, they reason, THEIR spouse is gone for 18 months and yours is only gone for 2 months – you have no reason to complain! Or their spouse is deployed and yours is only in BCT. But as I looked through the comments on SpouseBuzz, I noticed that several of the commenters compared these public status updates to cyber-PDAs, which they found offensive. So let’s talk about what is actually offensive about PDAs, and why tasteful PDAs can be a GOOD thing for a military marriage.

A quick Google search for images about military deployment returns will yield thousands of results. We rejoice over pictures and images of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines coming home after months away. It’s sweet to see them embrace their loved ones. Strangers see that first kiss in the airport and stop to applaud. There’s nothing sweeter than the first embrace and first kiss after that long separation. THAT is not offensive, and I don’t think anybody would argue that point.

It IS offensive, however, when the display goes from sweet, loving reunion to X-rated (or even R-rated) making out in public. There is a BIG difference, but for some reason, we seem to be hesitant to be specific about what it is. So here’s the rule: No grabbing or touching the butt, breasts, or crotch. No tongue-kissing. And while it’s cool for the embrace itself to last for a few minutes, the kiss shouldn’t last more than about 30 seconds.

The point is that there is a difference between “sweet” and “pornographic”. No matter how sweet you may think it is, it is not “sweet” to grab your husband’s crotch in the airport, on the parade field, or at the grocery store. Don’t do it. And don’t misconstrue ANYTHING I’m saying here to indicate that I approve of that sort of public exhibitionism.

But PDAs (when it’s a display of “affection” and not a porn audition) have their place in military families, and there IS justification for making that status message public.

When I post a status update to ALL of my friends saying, “I have the most amazing husband! I miss him so much! I can’t wait to see him again!” I’m bragging about my husband to my friends. And certainly, I’ll tag him in it, but there’s a difference between making that brag post to my own friends and making it directly to him. First off, it allows my more compassionate and wonderful friends to reply. They’ll say, “What did he do?” and I can say, “He sent me the sweetest e-mail for my birthday! He’s always thinking of me and doing the most wonderful things!” and they can say, “How sweet! You are so lucky!!!” Now, he’s getting a big thank you from ME (in the form of my public brag), but he’s also getting praise from my friends. This makes the post much more meaningful.

But even if the status update is ignored by all of my friends, the public update is still useful. It indicates that I am willing to talk about him publicly, that I am willing to praise him publicly, and that I WANT to be publicly associated with him as much as possible. I’ve heard from other people (military and civilian) about the opposite issue. They say that their husband/boyfriend/fiance NEVER mentions them when he makes a status update on his wall. He’ll post a quick status update from the movie theater saying, “About to go see the Lorax,” and they won’t tag the girlfriend they’re with. She then starts to wonder WHY. “Is he seeing somebody else and he doesn’t want her to know about me?” “Why is he so unwilling to talk about me to his friends?” There are hundreds of paranoid questions she might ask, but the point is that his refusal to mention her to his friends is viewed as offensive and cause for concern.

We may look at this and say, “Grow up! It’s just Facebook!” but that would be missing the point. For so many younger people, Facebook is one of their most frequently used social outlets. When a man avoids mentioning a girlfriend on Facebook, it’s like he brought his girlfriend to a party and then refused to introduce her to any of his friends, leaving her languishing in a corner alone talking to the hostess’s cats while he made the rounds and hung out with his friends. Rude? Absolutely! But Facebook is the modern equivalent to that party or coffeeshop or bar.

So how does this specifically apply to military marriages? Because when a woman makes a public post about how she misses her husband, she’s publicly acknowledging him. It’s like walking into that coffeeshop, running into a few of her old friends from high school, and saying, “I’m a military wife now, and I love and adore my husband. He may not be physically here right now, but he’s always in my heart and on my mind.” It’s a way to let your husband know that you’re thinking of him, AND a way to say, “I’m proud of my husband,” to everybody. Public acknowledgement of your love for your husband is more powerful and meaningful than private messages.

What are some other things you can do to publicly praise your husband? Care packages! Don’t send enough cookies for him; send enough for his entire platoon. (I’ve never heard of somebody getting so many cookies that they went bad before they were eaten!) Send beautiful, creative, fun care packages; he’ll show them off to the people in his barracks. Do nice things for your husband where other people will see; doing nice things for your husband is another way to say, “I love you.”

So make that status update public (or at least, friends only)! Send him those beautiful care packages and sappy cards! And give him that big hug when you see him again!

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