A quick Google search of dependapotamus retrieves around 37,000 results. That’s a lot of dependas!
Dependapotamus is a (surprise!), derogatory term for military spouses that stay at home, eating bon-bons and watching TV all day while their spouses work hard in uniform. Typically portrayed as overweight women, the (not at all) elusive dependapotaamus comes in the male variety, too.
Often seen in the BX and commissary, the wild dependapotamus, dependa for short, is indigenous to military bases worldwide. These majestic creatures do not flourish in the wild, however; they require the loving attention of a military handler in order to achieve their true potential. Immature dependas are often found in bars and clubs around military installations, congregating in large numbers, especially around Army and Navy bases.
Traveling in packs, these dependas, known in some areas as Tricareatops, work together to poach unsuspecting Soldiers and Sailors from their battle buddies. As teams, these groups circle the waters, ingesting information to determine which Sailor or Soldier is looking to get out of the dorms. Once a target has been acquired, the team moves in, engaging buddies until the target has been isolated. That is when the immature dependa moves in for the kill (kiss).
The unsuspecting Airman (yeah, the Air Force is not immune) sees this vision, this vision of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), and NO MORE DORM INSPECTIONS! She (or he) is standing before them, a beacon of non-communal bathrooms, and some guy NOT playing weird German techno at full volume at 0300 next door. This vision, with credit card debt, bad credit score, and absolutely zero prospects, has become soulmate and savior within the space of a six-pack and an enthusiastic WAP karaoke experience.
Quickly, the dependapotamus moves in for the kill. The prey believes themselves to be the hunter, but this is not the case. With cunning guile, the stalking dependa whispers “Let’s go back to your dorm,” and the prey is thereby lost. Using only the lizard brain, the prey then leads himself or herself off to their doom. Only a few fumbling hours later, the seed is planted that will grow into the roots of this tangled tree.
‘Oh God, I’m Stuck!’
“I’m late” induces panic in many ways. In formation, “I’m late” means an ass-chewing, possibly extra-duty and paperwork. “I’m late” to a doctor’s appointment means a no-show, which leads to an ass-chewing and some paperwork. “I’m late” to dependa-prey means a shotgun wedding, First Shirt counseling, and the realization of a dream of BAH. Remember, kids: nightmares are dreams, too!
From there, the true dependa can begin to flourish. Once all the paperwork has been signed, and finance has pushed through BAH and BAS, the “fat paycheck” achievement has been unlocked. Access to the BX and commissary has been opened, and with that, the great Star Card experience can begin. Even with bad credit, the Star Card can unlock worlds of high-interest, high-priced crap. All the things sold, with absolutely no savings from the BX can now be bought on easy terms! Even if the bill can’t be paid at the end of the month that’s okay; they’ll garnish straight from the paycheck! With only a few pieces of paper from the prey’s commander, and some extra shifts thrown in to teach them a lesson to boot! Oh, rapturous joy!
Once roots have been firmly established, the dependa is now free to talk shit about their prey’s job, First Shirt, commander, friends, whatever irritates them at the moment. Regular shift changes and 12-hour shifts give rise to “You’re never home” and “Why don’t you love me anymore” pleas. These give way to calls to supervisors and First Shirts, demanding to know why their Airman can’t come to bring them lunch or babysit the kids while they have a “spa day.”
Without this outside stimulation, many dependas turn to dark arts such as Scentsy and Lularoe. Built like the great pyramids of Egypt, these dark arts rely on the work of others to reach ultimate fruition. Much the same as the pyramids, no one is sure how these heights are achieved, or even what their purpose is. When dependas are not ready to dabble in these dark arts, gateways such as Twitter and Facebook are readily available. Facebook groups spawn, with dependas from around the base coming together to swing their combined clout at long wait times at the gate, and complaining about those loud noises coming from the flight line. How can they relax and watch The View with all those annoying jets taking off and landing?
Oftentimes, the dependa can not keep their prey. Because it’s a parasitic instead of a one-shot one-kill relationship, the prey will sometimes break the chains of self-imposed entrapment and strike out for unknown territory. This may include Korea or a 365 desert rotation. From these great distances, shots in the form of divorce papers can be fired, with little expectation of blowback. At this point, both hunter and prey are wounded, and each blames the other. In reality, the prey set his or her own trap, then promptly fell in. The hunter happily joins them in this trap, until they both realize the stupidity of their actions. This usually never happens simultaneously.
Every military base in the world is full of, and surrounded by, wounded hunters and prey. After extracting themselves from the traps, many will go on to set and trip numerous other traps and snares. Others, remembering the wounds, set their sights on a different prey; the military spouse.
Enter the Military Spouse
The military spouse is in direct contrast to the dependapotamus. They take on the responsibility of the caregiver to all when the servicemember can’t be available and commiserate with the member when shift changes and real-world commitments spring up. The military spouse may be irritated, or even pissed off, at the member’s chain of command, but realizes that this is part of military life, and provides support to the best of their ability.
Support may come in the form of having dinner ready when the Airman gets home from work, washing clothes, or simply making sure the kids are fed, bathed, and taken care of. A true military spouse makes sacrifices. They don’t open a revolving Starbucks account nor hold Scentsy parties while the Airman is trying to sleep because they’ve been on three different shifts this week. Also, a military spouse bakes cakes and cookies for squadron picnics neither the military spouse nor servicemember want to attend in the first place.
The Backbone of the Military
The true military spouse may rail at perceived slights and unfair treatment. They may be a part of the available Facebook groups but will use them for good, rather than pyramid schemes. Organizing get-togethers for spouses during deployments, volunteering time for Airmen’s Attic (lending closet), and generally being a good neighbor are all hallmarks of the military spouse. Military spouses watch each others’ kids to allow for date nights, or simply to give couples, who never see each other, time to themselves. Forget NCOs, military spouses are the real backbone of the military.
Go to any base in the world and you will find the dependapotamus. They’re usually fairly easy to spot. Look for the out-of-control children, screaming and running in orbit around the person who can’t be bothered to look up from their phone (or plate of nachos). Look for the irate drivers at the gate who weren’t saluted because “My husband is an OFFICER!” When you see the base house that has a revolving door policy when the servicemember is deployed or on extended shifts, that’s the dependa house.
The military spouse is harder to identify. They are the ones at the park with their kids and five extras. Go to the commissary: they’re often the ones working there. They have goals and ambitions, they may be taking classes in their limited free time. They may hate the military, even, but they love and support their spouse, and know that this, too, shall pass. Like a kidney stone, but it will pass. True military spouses are the quiet professionals. They do the work in the background, with no accolades, to ensure mission success. I am proud to be married to a military spouse.