Sunday, April 19, 2015

Just Another Number Introduction



Introduction to Just Another Number

            I didn’t write this book with honorable intentions. I had no plans of connecting with my readers, treading the rugged path towards gender equality, or exploiting myself for the greater good. I was just venting.
            At twenty-two, I was recovering from the most recent of my slew of failed relationships. When my college professor suggested I write a book, tales of my romances and sexcapades began vomiting through my keyboard.
            I was emerging my four-year and barely honorable military enlistment. Since my teens, I’d been playing roles much bigger than my combat boots.
            I had been one of the many harlots repeatedly accused of contaminating America’s armed forces. At eighteen, I was the thirteenth female aboard the freshly integrated USS Higgins crew. Suddenly, the glorious boys in blue were forced to serve their country without their precious nude pinup posters hung in the open. They had to walk on eggshells and learn the ropes of political correction. Affairs began, drama spread, and traditional, good-old-boy camaraderie was tainted by the temptresses who represented the inconvenience of feminism.
            Less than a year out of high school, I was one of many girls planted in a steel box of men. Spotlighted in unfamiliar territory and carrying a mix of teenage insecurity, homesickness, curiosity, and hormones, we certainly rocked our boat.
            Predictably, I slept around.
            The females showed their vulnerability by caving into the comforting arms of their shipmates. The males put us in our place through a cat and mouse game of wooing and slut shaming.
            Only the most fluent in military language dodged the bullets of heartbreak, unplanned pregnancies, mistress roles, and the wrath of jealous Navy wives.
            Four months into legal drinking age, I evolved from a naive Tennessee teen to a criminal. A year into the Navy, I entered a platonic marriage for a housing allowance and off base living quarters. With a six-month NCIS investigation, interrogation, and threats of embezzlement charges, the Navy set their sights on making an example out of me. A year later, I made an example out of the Navy. Thanks to the salvation of my JAG lawyer, I escaped legally unscathed. One day into civilian freedom, I submitted my San Diego Weekly Reader cover story, Confessions of a Phony Navy Wife.
            The college final paper turned smash expose´ spilled the beans on the fraudulent marriages and infidelity that still run rampant in services. I told a brutally honest tale of my own reasons for entering convenient matrimony and addressed the forbidden. I targeted the flaws in America’s blessed military, an establishment meant to be unconditionally honored, respected, and cherished by any decent patriot. I was referred to as both an anti-American whore and a brave truth teller. Whether condemned or praised, I got a ton of attention.
Although I could decorate Confessions of a Phony Navy Wife with a mission to address corruption and improve life for single sailors, my heart was vengeful. I left the Navy bruised and embittered. My words were my kick to the military’s groin.
I embarked on Just Another Number with that emotion. I didn’t understand my urge to dive into my sexual encounters. But it only took a few paragraphs to realize that I was haunted.
            As an author, I became an internal pioneer. I explored the foundation of my sexuality, from my childhood discovery of self-induced orgasms, to a fifteen-year-old’s road rash after shaving her southern borders. I dipped into the darkness of my adolescent drug use, eating disorders, and rape. I even had fun, gulping red wine as I splattered filthy words and my gritty episodes of intimacy clashing with bodily functions. Throughout my stories, only one message was consistent. Every grave I dug for myself was in the name of a man.
            Although I left a man to enlist, ironically, the unexplainable urge to please them only amplified. Loaning my soul to the government was more intense than simply stumbling into ‘bros before hoes’ territory. When I enlisted, the military was rapidly changing. Technology had altered everything. Suddenly, the brave warriors parading to combat with bugles and bayonets were replaced by the push of a button. The combination of the War on Terrorism and the declining economy damaged my generation’s patriotism. The Navy seemed to push old school rituals like marching, uniform inspections, and military bearing like a parent demanding their children ditch their smart phones at dinner. Once brains became more powerful than brawn in wartime, females flooded the military’s ranks. The Navy began with staffing women safely ashore, but we inevitably leaked into aircraft carriers and then smaller ships. I was one of the first on my destroyer.
            Like any player in tumultuous change, life wasn’t easy. We were in the heart of all gossip, from our whereabouts the previous night to the ten pounds of post boot camp weight gain. Ship women were constantly accused of interrupting a crew that once functioned peacefully. We were sexual targets, marked as eternal sluts for exploring the desires only acceptable in men.
Every female handled herself differently. Many remained discreet about their personal lives. Some put on an air of meek innocence, granting them more likeability than the rest. Those who were able to pull it off rocked their tough bitch personas. My strategy was to become one of the boys. I developed the mouth of a trucker and pursued men as sexual objects. I spent four years loud-mouthed and full of fury, only to suffer the consequences of stepping out of bounds.
            As I told my tales of boot camp body criticism, screaming chiefs, and affairs with married men, I emailed drafts to voluntary readers. Although I knew that I was not the only Navy woman who’d been ditched for a Thai prostitute or dubbed one of the ship’s most infamous hussies, I was in awe with the level of connection they felt.
            “Somehow I feel less alone and broken,” they told me. “I wish I had known that somebody was going through the same thing.”
Outpourings reached beyond soul sister connections. Once women caught wind of my confessional memoir, they responded with experiences far more intense than my black sheep status.
            From eighteenth birthdays celebrated with threats of getting kicked out of the Navy if she dared to “fuck one of his Seamen,” to rape kits mysteriously lost in the abyss of NCIS documents, I learned that my worst military horror stories were merely a taste. Aghast at how good I had it, I initially wondered why they remained so hush-hush.
            “I have kids,” they told me. “I’m an officer’s wife. I will ruin his career if talk about this stuff.”
            Then, the end of one confession never left me.
            “Thank you for being so bold and brave,” she wrote. “I know I could never put myself out there for the sake of my children, but I truly love you for it.”

            I do not claim to be a martyr or anything holier than an articulate attention whore. But despite my original intentions, my writing suddenly has a purpose beyond my understanding.

2 comments:

  1. Who told you that you were one of the first females to be stationed on the HIGGINS?

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    1. I boarded the USS Higgins in April of 2004. The Higgins had just returned from a 6-month deployment in the Persian Gulf where they did a crew swap. The Higgins crew had previously been the John Paul Jones Crew. However, when I boarded it was the USS Higgins and remained that way. My crew had been previously an all male crew and integrated 3 enlisted women before the deployment (CT's). In the middle of deployment, they integrated 3 deck seamen females. When they returned, more women boarded the crew. I was the 13th female. You can doubt my word and authenticity all you want, but facts are facts.

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