merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

March 19, 2013

the question

    So there you are, happy to have your mariner home!  You've finally adjusted to the homecoming, perhaps it's been a day, a week, who knows?  Then you make your first public appearance, so happy, all is right with the world.  You walk into the get together, you're greeted by friends, family, etc...hugs all around.  Yay!  Then there's a pause and someone asks your mariner, "SO, WHEN ARE YOU GOING BACK TO SEA?"  Killjoy.  I mean it's literally the first question they ask. 
    Does this happen to you?  Does it happen so much you'd like to wear a t-shirt stating the answer in all forms?  Or how about the question you get over and over when your mariner's gone"So, when's he coming back?"  Again, first question, as if that's the essence of your being, the purpose of your existence.
    Let me insert a little disclaimer here before I go on.  I realize that people genuinely care about Beady and want to know about his comings and goings and I also understand that friends and family worry about me from time to time being alone, so it's only natural they'd want to know when Beady's returning.  And both of us really appreciate that, truly we do(Okay, that's the end of the disclaimer.)  But just imagine, pretty please for a moment, having that question posed to you on a loop.  It's what everyone leads with, everyone.  
    Beady has been famous over the years, at least with me, in his varied responses.  'When are you headed back to sea?' has been answered by him enthusiastically with...
     "On Mars." 
     "Never, I'm retired."
     "I like the Wizard of Oz." (Just like that kid from 'A Christmas Story')
     "In an hour."
     "Are those real?"
     "My wife is super crazy."
     "I have diarrhea."
     "When are you going back to work?"

      All to no avail, I might add, even when he tells the simple truth.  When it really begins to grate on us is answering those questions over and over for the same people every time we see them again, people who for some rude reason don't listen the first three times you told them, "When were you going back again?"  "When's Beady coming home again?" It's maddening.  I used to work with a woman who would ask me the latter question every single day, I'm not joking.  The only change-up she ever graced me with was when Beady came home, then it was, "When's Beady going back to sea?"  I answered her with a smile at times, others through gritted least I got the weekends off.  What I came to realize, though it didn't lessen the irritation, was that she asked simply to make conversation.  Apparently, there was nothing of value in my person to warrant her engaging me in a more interesting dialogue.  That was all she saw me as, some guy's wife who goes to sea.  Listen, I've been kicked out of bars, I've got a lot more going on than just being someone's wife!

Salty doesn't like questions either.
    I guess the reason these kind of questions bother us so much is that in this type of lifestyle, you tend to live in the now, you have to otherwise you miss out on some really great stuff.  So someone asking Beady when he's going back is like hanging a giant albatross around his neck, reminding us both about his eventual departure even though it may be in a couple of months.  We don't want to think about it, believe me, we do enough thinking about it when he's about to leave, when he leaves, and when he's gone.  We've got it covered.  
     And as for my question, specifically "When's he coming back?"  Here comes Bad Wife again...sometimes, I don't want to think about it.  Sometimes, I want to forget I have a husband who's not home beside me, where he's supposed to be.  Sometimes, 70 days goes by much faster when I don't have to think about Beady every single moment of my life.  And there you have it, another window into my horrible soul.  Mwuah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!!!
     It's a toughy, but something that I don't see changing any time soon, unless I actually did get a t-shirt with all possible answers to those questions, or maybe if I started weeping uncontrollably when they asked?  Or perhaps I could ask them not to ask that question anymore when they ask it!  Get it?  But that probably wouldn't work either because in the time it took me to explain it to them, I could've answered their original question and left.  
    All kidding aside, yes, it infuritates me on occasion and I know Beady hates it, but...I'm guessing we'd probably ask the same type of questions if we were living on the other side of the fence.  People are people.  However, I would absolutely love some advice on those types of questions, in the small hope that I could change the game, so to speak.  Please, gimme whatcha got, I'm always willing to try out new material!  And in the interim, I'll leave you with a new mariner friend's response to that lovely, lovely question.  

Them:  So,when do you go back to sea?

Dave:   At the end of the month...
        I try not to think about it, but  
        thanks for bringing it up.      

You see?  Even honesty doesn't work! 

Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner


  1. My boilerplate answer: "He'll be home long enough for me to be ready for him to leave and he'll return right about when I'm ready for him to come home."

    Works well with the "How long will he be home this time?" question also. :)

  2. So very true. I'm Dave's wife by the way! You hit it on the nail with the idea of our lives centering around our husbands as if we don't have our own personalities and interests, and how infuriating it is to constantly be reminded of something we try to just live with- i.e. his absence. Sigh.

    1. That's probably the part that bothers me the most, Jamie, because I don't want to be seen as just Beady's wife, although I love being that woman. Honestly, I think I might try the t-shirt thing and see how that goes over! A passive aggressive demonstration, ha!

  3. My least favorite question after "When's he home?" has got to be "How are you doing?"
    If its from a genuine friend it makes me sad every time, because likely, they know I'm not doing well or they wouldn't have asked.

    1. I dislike that question as well, but what I've come to realize over the years is that most of the people who ask it are projecting their own feelings onto me. They honestly can't fathom how they would deal with that situation, so they're truly asking me in a roundabout way, how I deal with it? I wonder if that's what happening with you, as I saw a very confident, very secure, and strong woman the other night. I'm not saying this doesn't get to you, you're human, but I bet a lot of them are really amazed that you can do it, especially with kids! ;)

  4. Awww SeaWife! *Normally I'm asking how your'e doing because I'm a super shitty keeper in toucher and I genuinely don't know how you're doing.....although you sent me a kick ass email and I WILL respond soon!

    Callies Mariner....I think it's the shittiest question too! I never know how to answer and sometimes I don't even know when I'm going back. *As the single lady sailor I have to say it's also really shitty when they follow up the 'when are you going back to sea' question with, 'did you meet anyone this time home on vacation?!'. LOL. Also, I really enjoyed peeking into the window of your horrible soul ;)

    1. Well, you're the first! My husband stays well clear of that window ;) That question must be horrible, although I think I'd play with the answer on that one, too. Make up an entire relationship solely for the benefit of those kind of question askers!

  5. OMG, my hubs HATES that. He just gets home, the neighbors come over and right after, i mean RIGHT after hello is, so when are you going back out? where are you going? He always says, well, i'd like to enjoy being home for a while, but since they aren't very nice neighbors anyway, i sometimes say stuff like, why are you asking, do you want him to go away? My son always asks how long he's gonna be home, but that's different, I want to know that too!

    1. It's so strange that people lead with that. Sometimes I wonder if it's more of a nervous habit thing, you know? As if they don't know what else to talk about.

  6. I went to sea mostly in the 80s, for nine years. Have you specifically asked your friends to do something different that they can wrap their thoughts and hearts around? With a sense of humor but also in seriousness, perhaps send a BCC email to your core group, including neighbors a couple days before he gets home each time. In it, answer THE question and ask people not to pose it when they see you again, as they already have the answer. Engage them in helping you two to feel the time expand and not to shrink oppressively. Send 'em all an email before your anniversary or birthdays every year, asking for their support in this way. And offer new conversational leads for when they do first see you two each time he comes home.

    1. Thanks! I might try that, although honestly, I think it's more of a nervous tic thing that they do, a habit. Our closest friends know not to ask right away, it's the others we have a hard time with and really don't know how many more different ways we can explain it to them. I think because it doesn't affect their day to day lives, they don't retain the info after you've given it to them, which is fine as I never assume Beady's comings and goings are at the top of anyone's list but mine. People are busy, you know? But, I may try your suggestion, and perhaps some others who read this will, unless it's too much to keep up with...some of our reader's mariners come and go at 21 and 28 day intervals. But it might be more do-able with Beady's schedule. Thanks!