If you're a military wife, chances are, another military wife has asked you the following question: "What's your husband's rank?"
While that might sound innocent to those outside the military community, it is often used as a backdoor diss. It's gossip meant to establish hierarchy among women based on their husband's careers and achievements instead of their own merits.
Since just about everything in the military is organized by rank, including where you live on base, who (in their command) the military member is allowed to be friends with, how much they are paid and what job he or she does, asking rank is like asking for someone's financial and social standing—which, in the context of two people getting to know one another, can be invasive and awkward.
When I was a new military wife 18 years ago, I was shocked at how quickly my opinions and experiences were dismissed based on my husband's rank. Women who had only been married a few years more than me would say things like "your husband is only a Lance Corporal, you have no idea," or "I feel sorry for you, your husband is still a boot!"
Later in my husband's career I was actually invited to a dinner party from a fellow wife who specifically stated in her email that she only allowed the spouses of higher ranking military members to attend her "very popular" monthly event and that based on my husband's rank, I was welcome to attend. The email read more like a scene out of the Great Gatsby than a genuine opportunity to make new friends. I politely declined.
Thanks to social media and women who are no longer intimidated (like I was) of more experienced wives, the tide is slowly turning for military spouses. Women who do wear their husband's rank are likely to be shamed themselves (just Google "dependa" to see what I mean) and fewer women are relying solely on their husband's careers to find personal fulfillment and importance. This is a welcome change.
However, there are still those gossipy military spouses who feel entitled to know your husband's pay grade and promotion status, and will use that information to determine if you're good enough to be in their clique. If you didn't already realize it, those are the kind of "friends" you don't want.
While you can easily answer by telling them your husband's rank, you may—like me—want a more creative, subversive approach. The following list is a collection of snarky, silly and completely nonsensical responses my military spouse friends and I save for special occasions when the question of our husband's rank makes no sense to the context of the conversation.
So, what's your husband's rank?
Reply No. 1: Are we talking in the bedroom, or around the house? He's a 10 in one and a zero in the other. I'll let you guess which.
Reply No. 2: Depending on what he ate, he's DEFCON 5.
Reply No. 3: He told me he's the guy who hands out towels at the gym.
Reply No. 4: He's either Captain Underpants or Captain Obvious.
Reply No. 5: He's a Marine/Sailor/Soldier/Airman (fill in the blank).
Reply No. 6: He tells me he's the leader of the free world.
Reply No. 7: I think he's number one!
Reply No. 8: He's the grand master champion of (insert name of game here). I'm still trying to beat him.
Reply No. 9: He's the Commandant (long pause) of our family. I'm the Commander-in-Chief.
Reply No. 10: Beeswax, none of yours, incorporated!
Reply No. 11: Oh, you know, the one with the thingy, (point to your shirt collar and look confused).
Reply No. 12: He's at the top of the best dressed list this year.
Reply No. 13: He just reached Master Prestige in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. He's pretty stoked about it.
Reply No. 14: He's a level six remote control hog.
Reply No. 15: He's basically in charge of the (insert branch of military here). Just a step or two below the President.
Reply No. 16: Unfortunately, that's classified information. You'd need a top secret clearance for me to tell you.