A while back I got a letter from a young woman who was seeing a naval officer. Never mind which navy. Come to think of it, readers from at least three countries seem to be seeing naval officers. Some of these naval officers seem to spend more time in helicopters than on actual boats, but that's naval life for you.
Anyway, this particular naval officer was about to disappear into a submarine for several months. And it is submarining tradition in that navy that submariners open up a care package from their wife or girlfriend back home halfway through their sojourn in the submarine. Guys who did not have a care package were mocked and pitied by the other men.
Now, my reader wanted to know if she could send along a care package with her submariner even though they had been dating for only a short time. She noticed that I am very down on women giving men stuff too soon. Germaine Greer and I agree that women-in-general have a teeny giving problem, particularly when we give to get love. So she (my reader, not Germaine Greer) wondered if she should send along the care package, and I said yes.
There are men, and then there are servicemen. There is peacetime, and there is war. I don't know if you've noticed this, but all the major English-speaking nations have been at war for a decade. Canadian, British, American and other soldiers are still in Afghanistan, for example. I personally do not know how Canadian or British soldiers in Afghanistan improve the national security of Canada or Britain, but for now that is beside the point. The point I am making is that there are a lot of young men and women who have given themselves to their countries to risk their lives for the lives and freedoms of others.
That strikes me as rather more important than worrying about looking too eager or about where this relationship is going to go.
Now, I don't want to get all romantic about the morals of soldiers and sailors, especially since older women have warned younger women against soldiers and sailors since time immemorial. But from what I hear, there are many decent young church-going guys in the military, such as make good boyfriends and husbands. So it is no surprise to me that numbers of you fall for them and hope they will fall for you too. I sympathize.
However, I think the worst time to worry about future romantic commitments is when a man has a previous commitment to H.M. the Queen or Uncle Sam. If you are friends with a soldier who is not an established boyfriend, then treat him like a good friend and worry about the romance when and if he gets back. Don't cut off a correspondence because you can't see a romance going anywhere; I understand guys live for letters from home. Don't refrain from sending a care package because it might look "too forward." Civilians aren't called to make much of a war effort these days; giving a boost in morale to a soldier of your country strikes me as the least a patriotic girl can do. And I'm just talking just correspondence and care packages here, got it?
My thinking here comes straight from 1918. In 1918 my American grandmother (my German-American grandmother, incidentally) kept up a correspondence with a young American soldier who was a complete stranger to her. All the girls she knew did. My grandmother didn't mention that she was only 14, and I believe tried to give the impression she was older. Anyway, the soldier was delighted by these letters, and looked forward to meeting my grandmother when he got back home, and said they would have themselves a time, etc. This may have led to interesting complications, but as a matter of fact it never came to that. I believe the soldier was killed.
Now, if in 1918 my 14 year old Catholic school-educated grandmother and her chums were all encouraged to write to servicemen who were complete strangers, it seems to me that young women who are actually seeing servicemen they know should be encouraged to stop worrying about who-gives-what-present-when and just support them.
However, what I know about the modern-day military of my own countries you could stuff in the left nostril of a bug and have room left over, so if there are any servicewomen--or even servicemen--out there who have insights to share on this topic, please write them in the combox.