(Disclaimer: this is not intended to discredit the majority of great military spouses, but to highlight the humorous side of the negative and more commonly talked about aspects of military married life.)
Love it or hate it, one word in particular seems fairly universal to military culture, regardless of branch: “dependa.”
While simply a short-form of “dependent,” the word “dependa” often carries a pejorative tone, thanks to stereotypes of slovenly, couthless, entitled, overweight, underachieving and predominantly-female spouses who cheat as soon their Soldier, Airman, Marine or Sailor’s feet leave American soil (and sometimes, even sooner).
As with many stereotypes, however, there is a bit of truth in the caricature- otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a stereotype.
With that in mind, here are a list of tongue-in-cheek “symptoms” to help you find out if you or someone you know fits the stereotype of a bonafide “dependa,” complete with treatment recommendations. Remember, these are purely based off of the stereotypes are based off of comments provided by our readers, so don’t “shoot the messenger,” as it were.
Symptom 1: Dependas are overweight and sloppy
We’ve all seen it at the Exchange or Walmart near the installation- the rogue, unkempt dependa charging like a furious hippo towards the processed foods section, breathing heavily after a few yards. Not unlike Honey Boo Boo’s mom in her early days as a reality TV star, the dependa knows no dietary discipline, and will not tolerate recommendations to improve quality of life. Much to everyone else’s horror, yoga pants and ill-fitting tops seem to be the only outfits in the dependa’s wardrobe.
Maybe the dependa was in good shape before parenthood, maybe they weren’t. Whatever the case, the servicemember has to stay in shape, so it’s only right that the family members maintain a similar sense of readiness and health- once the servicemember leaves the military, paying for obesity-related health problems is going to get ugly.
Symptom 2: Dependas feel entitled to their servicemember’s rank and benefits of service
Have you ever worked security at the front gate and had an officer’s dependa demand you salute her? Well, unless her husband was in the trunk, you didn’t have to salute- but we do hope you checked the trunk.
Be it refusing to intermingle with personnel whose spouses are of different ranks or attempting to boss military personnel around, “assuming the rank” is one of the most annoying things a dependa can do. Seemingly more of an issue with female dependents than male ones (though the relatively small sample size of “hependas” could have something to do with it), it usually leads to servicemembers laughing or rolling their eyes, respectively. In reality, it doesn’t really matter who your spouse is, and if such behavior seems to be a recurring problem, it’s your spouse who will suffer the most.
Symptom 3: “Hardest job in the [insert branch here]”
To those who have lived in a military town, you know exactly what phrase we’re referring to. Stereotypical dependas across all branches are kind of like vegans or Marines: they can’t go twenty minutes without letting you know who they are. Be it the “Army Wife,” clothing from head to toe that matches the high-interest car in the driveway to the “hardest job in the Air Force” mantra that is repeated ad nauseum in between short deployments and gossiping sessions, these are the one of the most easily spotted variety of dependas because they make themselves so visible.
We know your husband/wife is in the Army. So is ours. Everyone within a fifteen-mile radius is.
Symptom 4: “Where is my discount?”
This one grinds the gears of servicemembers and veterans alike- military spouses feeling entitled to discounts, and throwing a temper tantrum when they don’t get one.
One good example has been provided by a retired Soldier, who was passing through the Florida panhandle after Hurricane Michael swept through.
“I stopped at a gas station to refuel, and was nearly rear-ended by a Subaru with the USAF logo and ‘Airman Wife First Class’ semi-legally stuck on the windshield,” he wrote. “I pumped my gas with a card, but she went inside, clad in ‘Air Force Wife’ clothing from the waist up. She soon stormed out of the service station, complaining to her passenger that Mobil wouldn’t give her a military discount on her gas.”
“Around the same time, my wife came back from a nearby Arby’s and asked me why I looked sick,” he added. “I told her what happened- she just shook her head, said, ‘Fu**ing POG dependas,’ and began mocking the entitled ‘Airman’s wife’ with a whiny tone.”
Long story short, don’t be the “Airman’s wife:” discounts are nice, but you’re at the bottom of that perk pyramid.
Speaking of “pyramids,” that brings us to our next symptom…
Symptom 5: Dependas love “pyramid schemes”
Go to just about any military installation, and you’ll see hastily applied decals to vehicles advertising products sold by “independent distributors.” From crazy weight-loss body wraps to flameless candles and makeup, the military community is plagued by multi-level marketing schemes that prey on military families and spread across installations like the common cold.
From “parties” to show off the products to alienating everyone you know like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, getting involved in a pyramid scheme isn’t the best way to make a buck- or make friends for that matter.
Symptom 6: Dependas Cheat
Ah, the elephant in the room. The stereotype so strong, it spawned the demon known as “Jody” in military lore.
While many pride themselves in being an example of fidelity, many others seem to promote promiscuity and adultery like it’s Toys R Us’ “going out of business” sale. Passing through more “other-than significant others” like an Brooklyn subway turnstile, these dependas practically lick their lips as the deployment calendar ticks down.
Everyone knows somebody in this category- and while the military community is relatively small, it isn’t that small, so it’s clearly a problem.
Getting caught in all sorts of ways or simply leaving an empty home for a servicemember to return to, the foulest of all dependa species has no problem sucking a bank account dry while they’re taking care of someone else.
A wise word of caution: once a cheater, always a cheater- and no amount of legal-name changes or duty station transfers is going to rid you of your reputation.
All in all, some military dependents get a bad rap. Unfortunately, the very worst of a group tends to dictate how a group as a whole are perceived. Since all these examples are drawn from veterans and servicemembers, they collectively comprise a pretty good list of what a “dependa” shouldn’t be.
So be proactive and know the symptoms. If you or someone you know is displaying dependa-like qualities, rush them to your nearest Military Treatment Facility or Family Readiness meeting.
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