USMC Ball season is here: The more you know

USMC Ball Season is here and that said, we are under one month away from the 244th Birthday of the most elite fighting force in all of the lands, the United States Marine Corps. Within this piece are some tips, suggestions and last minute “the more you know, the better you,” are pointers.

The U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebrates the history, memory of those who served before and rekindles the bond that unites all generations of Marines. It is a celebration of the profound respect for the Marine Corps traditions and reverence of the heritage that distinguishes the Corps of Marines.- Military Benefits

Each year, generally in October, the “Ermahgerd, I need a dress” crunch-time fest begins. As a proud and seasoned Marine wife, I totally get it. It’s only the biggest night of celebration of the entire year in our marine family lifestyle, right? It’s like prom to the infinite capacity of all adulting powers. Seriously, it’s not prom but it is a hardcore adult celebration.

Well, here’s a few things that I have learned and seen not go well over the years and a few duty stations. As well as there are a few things that I honestly don’t understand after all this time, why anyone cares or complains yet there have been a few moments that have made my head spin.

Let’s get down to it:

Alcohol- Drink responsibly. 

No spouse, nor any marine should show up to the ball  severely intoxicated and you should also refrain from leaving that way. Get dressed at the hotel nearby and decide to have a cocktail or two before heading over? Totally fine, if you are walking over, otherwise call Uber, Lyft or phone a sober buddy. If you are attempting to leave a venue to travel home, don’t forget to use your “Arrive Alive Card,” they’re there for a reason. I wouldn’t recommend it driving for obvious reasons of the law. I say this because in Greenville for example, there’s a hotel attached to the convention center and you can walk over. I always recommend staying as close to the venue as possible to be able to walk safely to and from if you plan to take this route of cocktails before cocktail hour. I understand this because let’s be super honest here, it is more fiscally responsible (cheaper) to consume responsibly the adult beverages of your choice at your hotel room than to purchase by the drink from the bar at the ball.

Another point to make here is, don’t blow your whole paycheck on the ball and spouses that includes you. Don’t overspend trying to impress other marines, spouses/girlfriends or superiors. The ball is one night and you will have to eat next week, put in gas, and if you have kids- their field trip, lunch money is still due, daycare fees and that grocery bill won’t pay itself. Don’t dig a financial hole right before the holiday’s to celebrate the biggest USMC holiday of them all. Be responsible financially and consumption of alcohol wise. I’ve witnessed younger marines show up pretty intoxicated, as well as spouses and completely wasted by the end of the ceremony because the quick and heavy consumption caught up to them. Your command will not be pleased and if you are one who is already on thin ice, this definitely is the time to be on your best representation of the corps.

Does the dress matter?

Oh you can bet your first born and a vital organ it does! Please, for the love of God, 7lb-4oz-21in long baby Jesus, and the peace of Buddha please do dress according to your spouses uniform requirements in any military function. Don’t show up to the birthday ball in arm with your marine in dress blues and you are in a club dress fit for a rump shaking contest, a sundress fit for a pig pickin’ and a pie baking contest, don’t wear your Sunday’s best- I know it’s modest and you only had the whole year to find a dress suitable for the one night a year your husband’s career of service is celebrated on earth and in heaven. (Sigh in sarcasm) Seriously, go get a floor length formal dress, it is the standard to accompany the dress blues uniform. It can be bridesmaid style, something inexpensive from Ross or TJMaxx, honestly, they have some really great finds and won’t rob the bank. Focus more on accessories to enhance a simple solid dress if you feel it isn’t “formal” enough. Male guest standard is to wear a suit and tie or a tuxedo.

Stella McCartney Sweetheart Neckline Gown
Stella McCartney Sweetheart Neckline Gown

Example of a simple and acceptable dress with nicely placed accessories is shown, a similar dress can be purchased on Amazon for an affordable price with two-day shipping for Prime members. Can’t afford a new dress, ask around to see if anyone has one you can borrow or rent from them and please do the right thing and return the dress in the condition you received it. You can also add a simple belt  with rhinestones or a satin band to a plain dress like this and make it appeal more to your taste.

Can I wear a formal that has patterns/print on it?

Well sure you can, but the question is to gauge off of is how would you feel if your photo in it ended up circulating the internet for weeks after the ball and years to come as to what not to wear? Does it compliment your marines dress blues? Seriously, the great photos don’t go viral, only the bad ones in a drama-filled society. Honestly, I’ve seen chevron satin and sequined, floor length gowns. I wore a Jovani zebra print gown one year myself but my husband approved and actually selected the dress. I would advise against some extreme prints and especially text printed. I know how much many of us Americans absolutely adore and love our 45th President Donald J. Trump but please don’t wear exhibit A to the lower left for example. Believe me, people will talk to you, maybe even take some instagood “usies” for Instagram and all the perks but you will be talked about, likely not in a positive way.

The 59th GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
Photo Credit-GettyImages

What would be in line of the standard with print in mind? 

I know, kind of hard coming from the woman who just admitted to wearing zebra print to a birthday ball? Well it shouldn’t be. I will share that photo in this piece before it’s over.

Here’s an example of a gorgeous, A-line, print that accents the dress blues and wait for it, $99.00 on PromGirl.com

print 1
PromGirl.com $99.00

Now, I know, I know, we don’t all have the body type for that dress and it might not be available in your size. But the point is, we have placed so much stigma on the ball dress, whose wife did what, what marine made a pass at who and who got in trouble, I believe many have forgotten what it is about to begin with. This is a celebration of the establishment of the USMC in 1775, it is an honor, it is respect, a time of reflection on those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, a time of building unity and comradery. These are not only sought amongst marines themselves, but in our community in general over the last 244-years of service amongst the most admired and revered branch in the world, the US Marine Corps. Lest we forget, it is a privilege to be a part of these events as well as this lifestyle, though we may not always realize it.

Amazon has this pretty floral print as well with great reviews, always read reviews.

Mean Girls aka Stepford Wives, this part is for you.

Instead of standing around with your noses turned up in the, “investment dress” you wear every 3rd year or the one you ordered from Rent the Runway to look snazzy for more money than you could have just bought a dress at a consignment shop that has also already been worn while you judge “Jr. Spouses” for showing a little leg or an exposed collarbone. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely nothing wrong with Rent the Runway, it’s the attitude described that is an issue. Someone call the paddy wagon if one of these uptight, self-righteous, scrutinizing Spanx lines showing or gawking in questioning is that a roll or is she pregnant, miserable trolls gone wild if they see a tattoo exposed women start with you. (Hope you got a chuckle, seriously, it isn’t this bad- it’s honestly a dying breed.) Moving on here, everyone has a different personality, everyone has their own style of fashion and it’s okay to show that through what you wear to the birthday ball. You do not have to be forced into a dress that is equivalent to someone’s mother-of-the-bride-dress. You can be sexy, feel confident and look respectful. Now grant it, no we don’t want any of your body parts escaping or anatomy questioned as it creeps out. Honestly, the bend test usually solves everything. If you can bend over and your entire bosom is visible, plops right out, that dress is probably not a wise selection. In short, if you bend over and your breasts or dairy air come out, stay home if you cannot find another dress. There’s no other way to put that nicely because mini-dresses are not birthday ball acceptable. Use common sense.

Tattoos/scars

You don’t need to cover your tattoos, it’s a part of you now. However, if it is something offensive that would go against USMC standards of conduct, I would suggest covering it. Of course if you would just like to, there’s a waterproof concealer on Amazon (Prime) for $24.99 that is great for covering scars and tattoos. As far as scars go, I believe they are proof something attacked and didn’t win so I wear my few scars proudly. If it is something that would make you more confident by covering, go for it. This event is about feeling your best and being your best.

Ceremony

The ceremony is the most important part of the ball, it is an intimate ceremony (I don’t mean time to make out with your marine) and unless you cannot stand at all, you stand for any portion instructed to stand, sit when told to be seated and remain quiet. This is not the time for laughing with your sister wife (spouse friend), fix each others dress straps or to fix each others hair. Wait until the ceremony is over and then go to the restroom. This usually lasts around an hour, the cake is cut, the reading of Gen. John A. Lejeune’s birthday message, speeches and the current Commandant’s birthday message over a large screen. You should be seated prior to the start of the ceremony, silence your phone, refrain from texting and please don’t scroll social media during the ceremony. Photography is permitted at some events but please check to make sure it is acceptable at your event this year. Just because it was okay last year, doesn’t mean it is this year. Then there’s dinner served, most times your marine picks your meals in advance, so you already know what you are having and is usually a three-course meal. Following dinner, the dancefloor is opened to get down. Once everyone has had their fill in uniform and fancy dresses, it’s time to change clothes and find a nearby establishment for the after-party if you wish or head home.

Be yourself.

You don’t have to fake it to make it at the ball. There are spouses/significant others just like you there and there will be those who are polar opposite and that is okay. Remember when your spouse introduces you to people to say, good evening sir/ma’am as a reflection of respect to command.  If the zebra print or floral print dress is you, go for it. Just remember, you are always a reflection of your marine and if he/she is happy with your dress, you should be too. Shoes wise, if you can wear high heels, wear them, if you cannot, don’t. Wear nice, clean dress shoes that will complement your attire, stiletto’s are not required. When we look good, we feel good and so do our marines. Want to find the best dress for your body type? I got ‘cha covered.

wedding_dress_to_suit_body_shape_oomphelicious-wordpress-com
Photo Credit: Oomphelicious WordPress

Hair/Makeup. 

No need in spending hundreds of dollars on hair coloring, styling, clip-in or bonded extensions if it is not something you already do or have planned to do. Most spouses like their hair and make-up to look nice but trust me, you can do it yourself with a good YouTube tutorial if you aren’t very skilled or call up your friend who is and go for it. Not confident in your YouTube University skill set? No worries. An alternative to salon costs is Miller-Motte College’s Cosmetology Clinic, you can get a full head of highlights for $35 if you want color, acrylic nails for $20 and brow tinting for $5. There are several options for makeup around town if you just want to go that route. (Several MUA’s  recommended on Camp Lejeune Spouses FB group.)

Hair don’t’s

Steer from dying your hair hot pink before the ball to stand out or jumping into a rainbow mohawk for the cause. Colored hair can be done tastefully and I personally am a big fan but save it for after the ball if it is something like this mohawk below. I think you can catch my drift here.

rainbow mohawk
Photo Credit: Ebay

Bring on the beautiful plums, shades of reds, auburns, bold blondes, colored highlights to accent tastefully to your liking. Most of all ladies and gentlemen, remember, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” -Coco Chanel. Even with all of these “standards,” you can still be yourself.

As long as you feel confident, your husband approves and he gives you that eye in the dress– you know the hanky-panky eye, wear the dress and be one of the many reasons he is proud on this joyous occasion. In case no one has told you yet, “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” – Marines Hymn. That verse alone is reason to be your best self.

For more information, I suggest taking on one of the L.I.N.K.S classes that can help better understand the standards and how to navigate through this lifestyle more easily visit MCCS New River LINKS.

Oh, and about that Jovani Zebra Print dress, check it out below. JOVANI I gave the dress away 3-years-ago. Speaking of which, I have a number of gowns to get rid of ranging size 6-14 and if interested in seeing them, send an email or comment on one of the social media posts, they’ll be free, paying it forward so please do the same.

 

 

Editor’s Note: My marine is approaching 20-years of active duty service and this is our last birthday celebration with him in active service. It is a bittersweet time in our lives, the USMC has taught us both as well as our children so much through travels, learning resiliency through deployments, and being open to building in communities we wouldn’t be in long enough to unpack all the boxes. We have made friends who are around the globe and we have memories to last infinite lifetimes. I pray that the stigma and negative attitudes amongst spouses continues to cease and the future communities here and abroad learn to embrace each other just as we are. We are all uniquely, individually made just as God intended us to be. Trust me, if your marine (God-forbid) is called off to serve in war suddenly, you won’t care what the next spouse has on as those buses pull away and your children are screaming in tears for daddy, while you wipe your own tears or hold them back. In those moments, you will only care about who can help you maintain life, you will unite and you will understand what this community truly is about. So I hope in some way, this opinion piece helps you in some way, if nothing but a laugh or two. I am a former MCBH LINKS Mentor, FRA and MOPS teacher. I am thankful for those “Seasoned Spouses” who embraced me on our first round at Camp Lejeune and changed my prior perspective on military wives. Heather, Danielle 1 & 2 (D1 & D2), and Paula, you were inspiration for me to be the spouse I have matured into and the spouse I am today though now I have retired early as a FRA but volunteering nonetheless in the community. Hea, thanks for being there since the day we met and never being “that officers wife”, you were always approachable, accessible and a darn good hurricane shelter even after 10-years. Blessed to have you as a friend forever. Lady Phantoms what was that? My tribe, the women that completed my soul in this journey. From First Friday’s to garages after (love you April), to being lost on hikes in the native lands of Oahu with failing limbs to zip lining fearlessly hundreds of feet in the air, having each other’s backs on and off the field. We were a life team and K-Bay’s 1st sweethearts, never forget it! Ju-Not a Jew, Ash-sweets, Nelly, Jen, Hutch, DQ, Kell, Reesa, Britt, Jos’… you all know who you are, even unnamed. Here’s to 20 in 2020, it’s not the end, just a new chapter beginning. Take care of the Corps and it will take care of you.  Lastly, to my husband, thank you for inviting me on this journey of life and service .-M. Oakley, Reporter & Blogger 

If you enjoyed this, give it a like or leave a comment, don’t forget- sharing is caring.

Bringing the budget back with Brandless

With the holiday season upon us, many are looking for ways to squeeze more juice from the lemon and by lemon I mean wallet. I’ve discovered an online grocery shopping store that has items at $3 each and best of all, ORGANIC! Check it out.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays drawing near, most families are readjusting budgets and planning financially for the holiday cheer or a getaway from the “bah humbug” people in your life.

This holds merit especially when we have many people who are not yet recovered from Hurricane Florence and willing to try cutting corners to spare the wallet while still purchasing necessary goods for daily life. There are even some special cases like myself where income and jobs lost altogether or temporarily until damages are rectified meanwhile having a lifestyle that requires more.

So, I have been on a search for ways to cut the costs of necessary items but not cut the items. (Totally not unrealistic! I’m a big binder hauling, super couponing Mama just getting her mojo back!) Anyway, no big binder needed so don’t run away! Keep reading.

I will utilize online shopping needs when it works out better than the cost of fuel in my lovely SUVs fuel, time, energy and schedule efforts to purchase “land based.” Oh, and I get to avoid humans in crowded stores during FLU season. #Winning

I’m a Groupon lover! Groupon for cheap getaways, baecation (hip lingo for quick getaway with your someone special aka babe or formally known as “bae”…. Not so endearing to technical measure but anyway.), concert tickets, supplements, massages, restaurant deals, and etcetera.

Recently on Groupon I have stumbled upon a really affordable, trend worthy product site called Brandless and of course there was a super amazing Groupon deal! $20 purchase for TWO Groupon vouchers that are valued for $40 worth of product each.

What does Brandless have? Gluten free, vegan friendly, organic snacks and foods with a good majority priced at $3! Yes, just $3! Hold on, there’s more to save your moolah! They have household cleaners, body and hygiene products, cosmetic goods, and household items. FREE shipping if you are a member of B.More and that’s $36 annual membership cost or $5 flat shipping fee for all orders. Can’t beat it! I’m not a member just yet but something qualified my order for free shipping! I think it’s because it’s an order over $40.

But seriously, I’m excited to get our first shipment and I will update with photos once arrived. If you want to check it out for yourself, get started BRANDLESS. For the Groupon offer to go with: $20 for $40 Towards Everyday Essentials at Brandless. I managed to puchase 14 items for $20.50 with this offer.  Items ordered range from scented foaming hand soap, toilet tissue (2ply-6ct), sour gummy worms, sea salt popcorn, organic coconut oil (10oz), body scrub, bath gel and a variety of household cleaners.

The Stranger Danger of Community Conversations

Yesterday my husband had surgery (went well and he’s beginning a swift recovery and stronger today) and meanwhile there, I ran out to get him gym shorts and to the pharmacy to go ahead and have his meds done on discharge from surgery. Thankfully I did that, because it only took an hour and a half to complete that mission alone. Yes, you read that right.

 Anyways, I was waiting in the hallway with other military spouses, active duty and retirees etc. Being the chatterbox I am, I engaged in conversation with two other spouses close by. We began to talk about what other duty stations we have lived at during the course of our husbands careers, most recent ones prior and comparisons. There was a hospital staff member that suggested we could sit and talk in the cafe, grab a lunch or something to drink and watch the screen there for our tickets to be called for getting prescriptions picked up. So we did just that. Mind you, we were total strangers, never asked each other’s names or anything come to think of it now but we did learn each other’s ticket numbers to help notice if one of us was called while the other not paying attention or stepped away. 

Rewind a few minutes before though. While in the hallway we shared our hometowns, distances we travel to see family and friends in other places, how it is to live around military bases, on bases, the behavior in age differences between all aforementioned, the housing markets and feeling stuck on potentially having to take losses if selling now or futuristically. One from PA, one from WNC like me.

While in the cafe, we began to talk about healthcare, foods and life in general. We got into a discussion on allergies and illnesses that people don’t think about. The one lady expressed her serious concern about dairy allergies because she has one. So severe that she wanted wings like I ordered but she was fearful they’d been fried in grease with mozzarella sticks or something dairy wise and she’d suffer later. That sent a lightbulb off in my head!! A green light at that because it made me think, wait, I’m lactose intolerant and I can’t do dairy without suffering consequences myself and sometimes I can eat things that aren’t dairy products but suffer identical pain and symptoms!

(This isn’t a dairy and allergy deal, keep reading- it’s life lessons!) I expressed thanks to her for that because I feel a connection is there in that. They both had similar ideas on how mediocre medical care on bases can be, even off base, some Drs just won’t tell you the in depth of preventing symptoms or things to avoid and we have to be our own advocates for care. I told them I totally agreed with them and told them how I live with an invisible illness and told them about Chiari Malformation and the surgery I had two months ago, then of course they looked stunned and I showed them my battle scar (surgical scar) and they sighed in amazement that I’m up and living life like it’s golden, one said “that’s pretty bad ass of you, you go!” I shared facts of Chiari etc and how it’s hard to find a specialist.

We then talked about children, our children’s schools, social lives changing moving here, positives and negatives alike. We discussed drugstores and how the costs of medications vary from pharmacy to pharmacy and which were inexpensive and don’t make you wait for days like where we were at the time.

Our numbers began to get called. The other girl from WNC was called first, then the girl from PA, then I was called soon after. As we began to part ways, we said our farewells and thanks for having conversations and wished each other a great day.

Still wondering where this is going right? Ok. See, when I was in the hallway there were many people! A diverse group of people and strangers for the most part with exception of a few who were staff members who knew each other, a man and his service dog, a man and his spouse. Various races, genders, ethnicities. But for the most part, everyone was standing silently glued to their phone screens, looking as if they hoped that nobody was going to begin talking to them. And here we were smack in the middle, two blondes and a mixed breed (Me) who began a conversation about how long we were set to wait and the new system to scan ID cards to get scripts but it grew into so much more and fast.

If only we could be like that everyday, everyone not just some people. But willing to give others a chance, willing to listen to others and just be kind! See, there were women in the hallway that were the same race as me, but when I passed by and said hello, they looked at me like “do you know her?” To each other and responded with an ole dry “hey”, “hello”, or a seemingly hesitant hand wave.

There was another lady right by us, beautiful woman with perfectly caramel colored skin and she looked terrified that we would possibly start talking to her. (lol) But she was listening to us bc she would occasionally look our ways. The seed was planted to not fear engagement with our peers. Every friend was a stranger when you first met them. Everybody that “matches you” won’t engage with you or connect.

But what we accomplished was this, an extraordinary example of how if we take strangers from different walks of life, different ages, races and put them in an environment where they have to talk or be bored with themselves, put down the devices that have become distractions from people but more into the media’s perception- we might learn from each other, we might be able to talk to each other, we might have an understanding of what each persons views are in life, what each is facing, how someone else has experienced life in different demographics and geographic locations. The endless possibilities there!

If only we could have the same kind of open conversations about how this allergy of adversity, plague of prejudice, rash of racial tension and terminal terrorism that has built a plaque in the hearts and minds of many generations in this country. Because everyone has an ailment of it in some form whether it’s internal or external links, it’s there. We killed the concept that all we have now is divide! We disrupted the regularly scheduled news and put on a reality series live with diversity working in positivity. We chose to connect and support the next person with encouragement and kindness.

When is the last time you talked to a stranger?