Social Lite

Image: Christa Wittmier

Did you know I was in the Navy? Yep. For 11 years. How did you think I was able to live in Europe at age 19 on my own in a big old house or move to Hawaii and make more money than I could spend? Yep. It was like summer camp that lasted forever, and because I was a female (and somewhat smart) I didn’t have to do those big scary grey ships until I had been in for like five years and was already high enough ranking to chill and not swab decks or whatever. In fact, I wasn’t onboard a real Navy ship until the more experienced and respectable age of 25 when things are in a better perspective and you don’t act like such a dummy. It was actually really fun, and the only reason I left the service and deposited myself here indefinitely was because Hawaii was the first place I had ever been to that captured my usually short attention span. It’s magic here. You know this.

I was just thinking about that because I happened upon Waikiki this past week and noticed the 30,000-plus sailors that are flooding the streets for their liberty during the big multi-national RIMPAC exercise. My first instinct when I saw all of them was to hate them, which is so lame. I can’t believe I’m such a hypocrite. I was totally one of those wandering white people exploring a new port, blowing off steam before another few weeks out to sea. The only difference was I was female. Being female meant a lot of things. For one, if you are a female and you are a six, you are automatically a 10 if you’re in the Navy. Great for self-esteem. I was Cindy freaking Crawford. Another cool thing is when you hit a new port you can totally disappear. Nobody realizes who the Navy females are, for the most part, because us Navy females are really good at being chameleons. We also weren’t as interested in boning or fighting, we wanted to soak up the culture. Not like the guys didn’t, but when they are in their packs and drinking they did tend to get a little out of hand. It comes with the territory. I mean, we would work 12-to-18-hour days seven days a week for a month or two before ever pulling in anywhere, and I’ll tell you right now–the stress of real-time life-threatening operations sort of beats the stress of some chick in accounting that was flirting with your boyfriend at Indigo on First Friday. The guys just tend to get a little pent up with their guy hormones and stuff. When you’re working in such close quarters day and night for so long it makes you go a little crazy when you hit the ports. Not an excuse by any means, but trust me, sailors, I know where you’re coming from. Here’s the thing–it all comes down to respect as a whole. You’re only going to be here for a few days, and you stick out like a sore thumb. One or two bad seeds skews everyone’s perception, and the rest of you are screwed. Thank you for spending the wads of cash you get on our struggling bars and hotels and restaurants, but how about you be nice to everyone too. If a woman you want to dance with says “no thank you” how about you walk away instead of holding it against her. Or better yet, send her a drink as a thank-you for looking so good and putting that outfit together so effortlessly. Bit by bit the perception might change and, holy crap, could you even imagine how rad the town would be when everyone was STOKED to see all of the sailors in town instead of running for cover? I bet it could happen. I have faith. See you guys when you come back in three weeks.

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