Spouse calls: Men in spouses clubs, too
Steve Frisch is not your average spouses club member. Why not? He’s a spouse. But the truth is that most military spouses club members are women, even the one where Steve serves as second vice-president.
The demographics are intimidating to some men, said Mike Clark, an Air Force spouse who serves on the board with Steve. As the membership chairman, Mike knows exactly how far he is outnumbered.
"You talk to guys about it, and they ask, ‘How many men? There’s five? How many women? Two hundred and fifteen? Yeah, OK, have fun with that,’ " he said.
Despite the uneven ratio of men to women in these groups, the men I talked to said they were welcomed.
"I do find that people are very respectful to me as a military husband when it comes to spouses clubs and things like that. I’ve never really felt like they didn’t want me around," said Thomas Litchford, a Navy husband stationed in Rhode Island.
"Everyone was so welcoming and so friendly," Steve said of his initial experience.
Steve said his wife, who is in civil service, signed him up. She moved to Germany three months ahead of him, as he prepared to retire from his civil service career.
"My wife knew that I would need something to do while I was over here, so she volunteered me for the (Ramstein Officers’ Spouses Club) Bazaar," Steve said.
"It was the most wonderful thing that could have ever happened … as far as I’m concerned," Steve said. "It immediately threw me in with people to meet."
Until then, he thought spouses clubs were only for women.
"I was really very hesitant to get involved with anything, because I thought I would be the only man," he said "but I worked with other men in the bazaar."
"The more I’ve gotten involved," he said, "the more I saw that they provide so much for people: first of all, the relationships that you have and friendships with people in the club.
"I bowl with them on Thursdays; they arrange trips to see Europe during the week, but primarily the volunteer work and the charity work that they do."
Steve said he has become involved in other volunteer work in the community because of his spouses club experience. In his board position, he said he sees the club’s fundraising efforts invested in school programs, scholarships, Scout troops and programs for wounded troops and families.
So it’s not just tea and shopping, but making an organization masculine-friendly requires male involvement, the men agreed.
"If men want there to be a better support system for them, they have to get involved," Thomas said. "They have to stop saying, ‘They don’t offer anything that helps me out, so I’m not going.’
"You’ve got to go and say your piece and maybe get involved with planning some of these activities," he said. "They don’t see any need to change because the guys aren’t coming."
"In any business or venture, it’s a good thing to have different voices out there," said Mike. "Having us in the board meetings, I think, gives them that visual reminder … to have something to make the men feel more included."
From his experience and his vantage point at the membership table, Mike said personal invitations are effective.
"An individual got me involved. I didn’t really go looking for it," he said.
"I’ve become more aware of that, and I try to invite or recruit more people myself. I think that to get more men involved, the men that are involved need to get out and talk it up."
Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Write to her at email@example.com and see the Spouse Calls blog at: http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.