My daughter did it just to yank my chain. “Thank-you Daddy, for your service.”

“Ha, ha. Do that again, and I’ll quit not domestically abusing you.”

“Thank-you for your service.”

Bop, went my hand (lightly) against the back of her head.

“Thank you for your service, Daddy.”

Bop, again. It was sort of fun. She must have thought so too or she wouldn’t have kept at it.

She’s going away to college next year, so this is pretty much it for a close personal relationship between us. But it’s been fun this year, as she’s tried to decide what she wants to do while juggling a busy social life. She’s got at least two main romances and a number of boys that are just “friends”. I’ve told her, like Harry told Sally in the 1990’s movie, men and women can’t really be friends. Men who befriend a woman only do so in order to get laid. Sorry ladies, it’s true. I’ve tried to help my daughter, even as she does her best to aggravate me in every aspect of life, understand the male psyche. It’s not terribly complicated. Men want sex. They’d like to have sex with a woman who they find attractive and who wants to have sex with them, but they’ll settle for a snake if they can find someone who will hold its head. It’s just the way guys are. They just aren’t usually as emotionally invested in the relationship as are women. The way a woman can get a man emotionally invested is to withhold sex until he is. Nothing new here.

I’ve also told her that I don’t care how much a woman thinks ‘no’ means ‘no’; to imagine that she can then get sloppy drunk and expect men will respect her wishes is to also imagine that there will be a unicorn under the tree on Christmas morning. Like I told her, boys and booze don’t mix. The country music song, Tequila makes her clothes fall off, was old when it was written.

I’ve told my daughter why I can’t stomach people thanking me for my service—it’s condescending, awkward and presumptuously foolish. It’s condescending for some stranger to think I served for their benefit just because I happened to serve. Maybe I served in spite of the fact that they benefited, which is certainly true, for example, in the case of early 1990’s soccer moms eagerly cheering on the death and destruction in Iraq and Kuwait. I served in that war, but only because I had to, and not at all for those cheering soccer moms. The idea that we were killing people so that spoiled, entitled, rich, white soccer moms could fill up their hulking SUV’s with cheap gasoline repulsed me. It repulsed me then and repulses me now. That the first Iraq War led directly to the attacks on 9-11, which led directly to the destruction of the Constitution with passage of the Patriot Act, which led to two more wars in the region, repulses me even more. Especially don’t thank me for my service in that one. I am ashamed that I was involved.

And how awkward is it to have somebody you don’t even know come up to you and thank-you for something you didn’t do for them? What do you say? No thanks to your gratitude? Because I didn’t serve so you could expiate your guilt at living an easy, indulgent life while others were sacrificing for you. It’s just awkward and like most things awkward, contrived and pretentious and unnecessary. If I were still serving, I would never let any civilian use me or my soldiers for the purpose of guilt expiation. There would be no trotting out of heroes to make the politicians look good.

It’s also presumptuously foolish to imagine that I and my fellow service members are schmucks who didn’t do a cost-benefit calculus when deciding to serve in the military. I certainly did. And here’s what I got out of it: A paycheck, no small thing in the economy of 1985; a chance to travel the world; a chance to fly helicopters, and I could go one, but isn’t that enough? The cost? Maybe, just maybe, being asked to participate in a killing that I didn’t agree with, which happened to be the case for me, but still wouldn’t have tipped the scales against serving. I didn’t serve for altruistic reasons. I haven’t an altruistic bone in my body. And neither does anyone else. No one has ever done anything for someone else for which they didn’t get some sort of benefit. And the guys who joined in the years since 9-11 when the US basically entered an era of perpetual war, obviously knew what they were getting into. It has to be assumed that they did the same cost-benefit calculus as I did, and as every other living creature in the world, human and otherwise, undertakes before embarking on a course of action.

But my daughter did a reasonably decent job, eventually, after being bopped on the head a few too many times, of justifying why she should be grateful—because by serving I made money and started building a life for myself, and that life eventually led to her. Fair enough. But she could say that about a number of things, and she needn’t have thanked me for her, because, there as well, I have selfishly benefited. I’ve always gotten more than I’ve given through having her in my life.

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