Going to the Dark Side
I apologize for not updating last week. I had to interrupt this regularly scheduled program to launch my new diet program, Puke Away the Pounds! I got a stomach virus and spent a couple of days in the fetal position, eating Cheerios like a toddler with a distinct lack of motor skills and sipping half-strength Gatorade. I lost six pounds in two days, so feel free to contact me for more information! Side effects include dizziness, nausea, extreme shortness of breath when moving more than fifteen feet at greater than a sloth-like pace, and abdominal pain. Oh yes, and vomiting. That’s how you Puke Away the Pounds!
But! After I got better, I had a splendid time frolicking about New York City with my Manfriend. I also got to meet up with two of my favorite girls: Sister #3 and one of my Glee Club girls who is gearing up to graduate and commission from West Point next month (Eee!). They met us in Grand Central (which I adore), and then we took the subway down to Little Italy for a fancy lunch (we split a bottle of wine, so that’s how you know it’s fancy. Even if it was super girly wine because that’s the only kind of wine I’ll drink. But I digress.).
It was a really great afternoon (we followed up carbs with a book-shopping trip to The Strand, so I was pretty much in heaven), but one thing the experience highlighted for me is how my status has changed in the last year. And by my status, I mean that I was once a cadet, and then a cadater (a cadet who dates other cadets, for those of you who don’t speak West Point), and now, suddenly, I am that which I once envied and despised: I am a Cadet Girlfriend.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are some really excellent Cadet Girlfriends out there in the world. They send boodle to their cadets who share it with other cadets (i.e. me. I loved getting junk food from other people’s girlfriends). They are smart, well-spoken, ambitious, hard-working girls who in no way make me ashamed of my gender. They don’t need to be super human though; they don’t even have to do anything extra, just not be obnoxious when they come to visit and not post on their boyfriend’s wall every two seconds about how he’s an American Hero because he is serving his country by doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING THAT I AM DOING EVERY DAY.
These are the things I always hated about Cadet Girlfriends:
- The Hair
It sucks wearing your hair in a bun every single day for four years. As a girl, you learn as you grow up that your hair has a certain power. If you wear it the right way, and toss it just so, and push it coquettishly out of your eyes, cities fall and the ocean’s currents reverse. Containing all that power in a hairline-ruining bun in the height of your youth and beauty somehow cripples your ability to use the power of your lovely lady locks (80s cartoon reference intended) in a way that is devastating to your fragile young ego. It only exacerbates your misery when some PYT comes sassin’ up in YOUR cadet area, making cities fall and the ocean’s currents reverse and you can’t compete or even contribute. You are a female Samson; your hair has been castrated.
- The Perfume
It wasn’t that I couldn’t wear perfume. I just don’t, unless I am being fancy on a date. Otherwise it just seems dumb to wear it in ACUs. Same principle while I was at West Point. We lived and worked in close quarters, and I hated it when I walked into a classroom only to find that Passion Breeze or Kiss Me There or whatever they name perfumes these days was going to be assaulting my sense of smell for the next 55-minute class period. (This also goes for the improper use and application of AXE, so don’t think you’re immune here, guys.) Most cadets weren’t too bad about this. We got that we lived in small, somewhat crappy conditions, so we tried not to make it worse for each other by stinking up the place.
Cadet Girlfriends rarely seemed to extend the same courtesy. Every class weekend was like the March Back smell, when the New Cadets come marching into the area and everything reeks of New Cadet sweat and fear for a few days, except instead of the smell of scared 18-year olds’ B.O., it was a massive cloud of perfume descending upon the Corps until the dates departed.
- The Hogging of the Bathroom/Barracks Rooms for the Purpose of Beautifying
I get it that there isn’t exactly a luxurious (or even reasonably spacious) place to get ready for the banquets in the cadet area. There is pretty much only space for cadets to get ready in cadet rooms, which are already crowded as it is. All I’m asking for is a little courtesy here.
But as soon as 800 extra females suddenly descend upon the barracks, you know what happens? Anarchy. The power shorts because every single outlet is being used by a curling iron, hair dryer, or straightener. Mainstream hip-hop and pop blare from 800 pink iPhones. Mirrors shatter as girls elbow their way to the front to achieve flawless makeup application. There is no hot water for the Corps for a week because every date decided she wanted to “freshen up.”
Okay, I am exaggerating. But ONLY A LITTLE. They really do descend like locusts and use all of the outlets. And you’re minding your own business in your room and then suddenly your guy friends want to know if their girlfriend/fiancée/girl they bribed into being their date for the weekend can borrow your hairspray/bobby pins/hair dryer/room to change clothes in. Inevitably I zip some strange girl’s dress, or do her hair or assure her that her dress is not too slutty and she looks nice, because I am kind of a softy and it’s not her fault her boyfriend is kind of a chach who told her to dress sexy for a military banquet and she was too dumb to realize he was just being a douche.
The worst is when you come back from the gym on a Saturday afternoon and you forgot it’s a class weekend and all you want to do is take a shower in your crappy barracks shower, and you can’t even do that because there are a bunch of magpies chattering in your bathroom: “OHMAGAWD I can’t even BUH-LIEVE this bathroom! This is like, so gross! Did you run out of hot water? I totally ran out of hot water. Ohmagawd IT’S SO COLD!!!”
Yes. It is cold. And the bathroom is gross. Now kindly clear out of the gross bathroom with the cold water and the weird stains on the wall and the abject lack of privacy, because it is the only place I have in this cruel world in which I may douse my sorrow and my sweat in frigid water that destroys my castrated hair.
- The Stupid Questions
These are actual questions that I was asked by dates during my time at West Point:
“Do you have to go out into the field and stuff too?”
“Why did you even come here? I would never come here.”
“Why did you wear your uniform instead of a dress?”
“So like, are you guys in the Army too, or is it just the boys?”
I think I just heard a thousand suffragettes roll over in their graves. Good work, ladies.
- The Look
And by “the look,” I mean two things. First is the way the Cadet Girlfriends look at you as a cadet girl. I experience three varieties. The first was “ohyoupoorthinghowdoyoulivelikethis? I could never do it.” And you can’t tell if they’re sincere or smug because they look pretty and rested and you want to go curl up in a corner somewhere and sleep forever. The second was “ew.” As in, “you hardly even qualify as a girl; stop breathing the same air as me.” The third variety was no look at all. You escaped their notice because they were too busy making sure they looked good in all the self-pics they were snapping with their awkward cadet boyfriends.
The second thing I mean by The Look is the way cadet guys look at them and then look back at you like you’re mold growing on the wall. It is really good for your self-esteem and cheers you up after you haven’t gotten a full night of sleep in about a year. Your body is in APFT/IOCT shape, not bikini shape, and you are pale in the most unattractive sense due to the dearth of sunshine at West Point nine-tenths out of the year. It is kind of like being a new mom who hasn’t gotten her body back yet, except you didn’t bring new life into the world—just another last-minute, Dean’s Hour Special, piece of crap paper and a couple more stress zits on your chin.
So now that I have graduated (yippee!) but am still dating a cadet, I have had some rather interesting encounters when I visit Manfriend and am undercover as a civilian.
The first time I visited Manfriend as a Cadet Girlfriend was during a home football game last October.
I wore jeans and a sweater and boots and my favorite red coat. I parked down by South Dock and marched my happy butt all the way up to the stadium because I was too impatient to wait for the shuttle service. (That and public transportation still makes me uneasy because my dad brainwashed me as a child and now when I am on planes and buses and subways some small part of me is screaming, “STRANGER DANGER!!!” and thinking I am going to get horribly ill due to prolonged exposure to the unwashed masses of America. I know. Not normal.)
Anyway, once I arrived at the stadium, I spent a large portion of the game wandering around beneath the stands acquiring hot pretzels and Diet Coke, just like when I was a cadet (pretzels were my one consolation on game day). I was actually a pretty happy camper, a) because we weren’t camping, b) there were hot pretzels involved, c) the weather was cooperating; it was one of those amazing fall West Point days, c) I was visiting Manfriend, d) I wasn’t wearing White Over Grey and a hat that didn’t fit. And as we moved around the stadium, I had the feeling I was being watched.
And I was.
Cadet guys didn’t take much notice of me; I was just another Cadet Girlfriend wandering around during a home football game. Cadet girls, on the other hand, were giving me the stink eye. At first I was a little offended. And then I was incredibly flattered, because it was the same look of violent hatred and irrepressible envy that I used to give girls in civilian clothes all the time when I was trapped in a manly wool uniform and they were all gorgeous and free.
It was horrifying and awesome at the same time.
Then, Manfriend and I prepared to climb back up into the stands for the 4th Quarter of the game. We didn’t have easy access to the spot where we’d been standing before, so we decided to walk up through the cadet section and cut across to where we’d been standing. Now, when I was a plebe (freshman), it was tradition for the plebes to borrow upperclassmen’s awards and rank and put a whole bunch of stuff on their uniform so they looked like war heroes. Then they were supposed to hunt the stadium for pretty girls and bring them to stand with the cadets in the cadet section. It was funny, and a little sexist, but really just good fun. Now this tradition has apparently been axed, and the cadet section of Michie Stadium is SACRED GROUND, because the second Manfriend and I took one step into the cadet section, some girl stuck her arm out and blocked my path.
“You can’t go up there,” she said.
“Oh, I’m not standing here,” I said. “We’re just cutting across. I can’t get to my seat because there are a bunch of older people in my row.”
“You can’t go up there,” she repeated, more insistently.
“I’m not going to stay in the cadet section,” I promised. I wasn’t trying to break the rules or get anyone in trouble. “I just need to cut across so I don’t have to climb over anybody on the civilian side.”
“You’re not allowed up there,” she said, beginning to look a little frantic.
I laughed and nodded. “I know, I’m just passing through,” I said, and stepped up.
She stepped in front of me and put her hands on my shoulders. “You can’t go up there!” she said shrilly.
Ooooooooh I wanted to pop her so badly. That or put her at attention and ask her if she was going to use rank with an officer—just because WHAT THE EFF. You do not physically restrain civilians at football games!
But it wasn’t worth the fight, so Manfriend and I walked all the way around, climbed over a bunch of annoyed elderly people, and finally reclaimed our spot. He stood on one side, in the cadet section, and I stood on the other side, in the unofficial Cadet Girlfriend Section. There was a clear divide where girls were standing with their cadets:
I spent a substantial amount of time embarrassing Manfriend by mimicking/mocking oblivious Cadet Girlfriends, but it was more that I was confused about my new role in Cadet Land than it was anything malicious. I just couldn’t believe that after four years of scoffing at these girls I had become one myself: swishy hair, fitted jeans, and hip permanently affixed to the Berlin Wall of Michie Stadium.
The next time I visited West Point was about a month later, for Veteran’s Day Weekend. I arrived on Friday afternoon while classes were still in session. It was also the weekend of the big SCUSA (Student Conference on US Affairs) event at West Point, so there were delegates running hither and thither in their snazzy business cas, clutching briefcases and preparing to run the world. I was frolicking about in a pretty blue dress, carrying a pretty green purse, with no intentions of running the world whatsoever: I had made the journey from Virginia to New York with the sole purpose of having a relaxing weekend with Manfriend.
But somehow, amidst my frolicking, I was mistaken for a SCUSA delegate running hither and thither, and people kept asking me if I needed directions, and where was my escort, and had I lost my nametag, and what school did I represent?
There is an old, much-revered saying about SCUSA at West Point: THE SCUSE IS LOOSE.
And I had stumbled upon this very phenomenon unwittingly on a lovely November afternoon. My luscious locks flowed freely, toppling cities and reversing the ocean’s currents. My skirt swished around my legs as I walked unencumbered by either ruck or heavy backpack. My face was bright and happy at the prospect of seeing Manfriend, and unmarked by harsh barracks water and blankets. It was in this disguise that the stars aligned, I baffled those cadets that I had once called comrades, and they thought I was that great and holy entity: A Civilian Girl.
“They think I’m loose!” I cried with glee each time I was mistaken for a delegate.
Officers were dumbfounded. Cadets scratched their heads. The delegates wondered how I could have infiltrated their ranks so stealthily. I was delighted.
After an experience as a Cadet Girlfriend at a class weekend and now a classic NYC meet-up weekend, I have decided it is time to begin my Facebook infiltration. I have applied to join both the “USMA West Point Girlfriends Support Page” and the “West Point Girlfriends Class of ’14.”
Neither has accepted me.
I actually messaged the admin of the 2014 page about a week ago. I was very friendly, very honest, kept it light: hi! I’m messaging you because I saw you were the admin and I’d really like to join the girlfriends’ page for Class of ’14. My boyfriend is a cow in G1. I actually am a grad too, but I’d like to stay connected and help support him however I can, especially because I know from personal experience how much it can suck at West Point! If you’d add me I’d appreciate it 🙂 thanks!
All this is true.
It is also true that I desperately wish to stalk the threads they post and find out what kind of support it is that the girlfriends of the Class of 2014 think they need. I mean, seriously. Your boyfriend is a cadet. It’s like being in med school: they work terrible hours and make zero money and use a lot of terms you don’t understand while cramming for a bunch of tests in the hopes that someday when they get to the Real World, life will suddenly be magical and bright and they will live The Great American Dream. The only difference is that instead of taking people’s blood pressures and cutting open cadavers, they wear ACUs and play with guns during the summer.
“My boyfriend has a problem set due tomorrow and he’s not answering my texts! He said they have spirit dinner but doesn’t that mean that there are other girls there? How much homework could he really have? Why isn’t he answering my texts???”
QUICK SOMEBODY CALL THE HOTLINE.
Maybe I’m being ungenerous and they’re actually an intelligent, thoughtful group of young ladies who provide meaningful support to one another as they try to learn a little about the strange world in which their boyfriends are constantly immersed. They also happen to be thin, tan, perfectly coiffed and really good at applying mascara. These physical characteristics are coupled with a penchant for using only their first and middle names on Facebook instead of their last names. It makes me rather skeptical.
You do you, Krysta Rose and Ashlee Ann and Laura Michelle.
Who knows? Maybe it’s an OPSEC thing.