A Brief (ha ha!) Introduction to this series….. Through the Eyes of a Female Firefighter
One of my BFFs is a female firefighter. I can’t say this has always been the case. I just met her about a year ago actually through the Fire Wife Sisterhood. She’s my go to girl for a sanity check about the firehouse and some of the questions we get here at the website. But I didn’t used to be so ok with this topic. When I first met my husband, it seemed that the only female firefighters I was exposed to were ones who got possessive with their “brothers” and rolled their eyes when I came to visit him, spouting off some snarky comments.
Then there were others who were out of shape, diet coke addicted, chain smokers who would never be able to lift my husband out of danger should the situation arise. (To be fair, there were also male firefighters who meet that description as well.) And finally, local news media (which I no longer watch and encourage you all to take with a big grain of salt) exposed quite a few issues of sex in the firehouse. Some of the same firehouses / firefighters my husband had worked with.
Talk about a new fire wife’s mind wandering to bad places.
So it took some time, exposure to some amazingly talented and dedicated female firefighters and mostly friendships developed over time for me to better understand. Before you take this the wrong way, I’m a huge advocate for women to excel in uncommon workplaces. Personally I have spent 20 years building a career as a business executive in a male-dominated field (technology). It’s quite difficult to do, fraught with men trying to make advances and quite lonely. I totally applaud women who are battling through that and going for their goals.
But it’s clear by the number of lawsuits flying around in the fire service that there are some extra sensitive situations that happen here. In some ways it should be no surprise as males and females are asked to “live together” in the firehouse. In contrast, with my male-dominated job, I have my own hotel room when traveling for business and can chose to dine alone away from the crowd. Not so easy when you are a female firefighter living under the same roof. And so it makes sense the tensions, the misunderstood eye rolls, the challenges that we hear so often about here at firefighter wife in regards to their husbands female co-workers.
So we’re going to go there. We’d be tiptoeing around the giant elephant in the room if we didn’t.
Today marks the first blog post where we go inside the fire house through the eyes of a female firefighter, who happens to be also married to a firefighter. And we attempt to bring peace of mind to fire wives regarding that environment and to dispel some of the rumors, myths and gossip about female firefighters.
Don’t get us wrong. There are bad eggs out there. Men who are sexually advancing on their female coworkers (Yes, married men.) and female firefighters who pursue them. Let’s just leave them be and hope they see these articles and think again about their morals and values and loving and respecting the spouses who are at home waiting for them.
Yes. We enter this topic with love, honesty, respect and class. And somehow, we decided to begin with underwear.
Here we go….
Lori: Hey Sarah, let’s talk about underwear and the firehouse. Go with me for a second. When I first met my husband and he gave me the whole “I’m a firefighter and here’s what it means” talk, I was starting to get an understanding of what that really means. Then my crazy lusting new girlfriend brain realized…. there are no doors on his bunk and his hot self is jumping up in the middle of the night to get dressed and there are females on some of his crews (He worked at like 5 stations back then. Soon after I convinced him he really needed to spend more time with me.) Obsessive girlfriend kicked in a bit when I realized he may be eye candy for another female every third night. Whoa. So I won’t spill how lovely that conversation did NOT go. But tell us from a female firefighter’s perspective. Do you see your male counterparts in their underwear?
Sarah: Honestly in this situation most of us are courteous when it comes to our space. In my particular department, at this point, we all have our own rooms with doors. Before that, I can tell you a little bit about how we handled things in our department. Most of the guys and girls, wear department issued work out shorts to bed. I haven’t really seen many men in their underwear. There have been a few funny situations like the one I am about to tell you about, but let’s preface this and say that we are all adults and honestly if I do see a man in his underwear, it’s not gonna make me wanna jump his bones! I have an extremely hot guy that I go home to, just as all of you do.
For laughs…one night the tones went off and I was a probie FF at the time. My Lt and I were in the engine and my Lt said “Where’s……?” (Trying to figure out where our driver was. I will leave out his name for privacy) so, we waited a few minutes and he still didn’t show. I got out of the back of the truck and went and knocked on his bedroom door…no answer…I knocked again, no answer…I started to get nervous. So I cracked his door. About that time, time he rushed to the door and very sleepily opened it..standing there in his tighty whities…we both exclaimed “OMG” and the door closed. He threw on his clothes and I went back to the truck.
I will not lie and say that the whole crew did not laugh about this for a long time..BUT I will say this, do you know what my biggest concern was?! It wasn’t his underwear. In my heart, I was worried when he didn’t come to the door. I was concerned that one of my co-workers was sleeping through a call. Let’s face it; we as FF see so many deaths in our line of work that the very real reality someone may have a cardiac arrest during their sleep, can always be in the back of our minds. Not to mention, we had a call to go on, a job to do and this is the last thing on my mind. His wife does know about this story and we all laugh to this day about it.
Lori: I’m with you. I might not admit at what point in our relationship I finally stopped worrying about this. But what about “those guys”. You know the ones who like to prance around in their skivvies. Guys like to shower after work outs, etc and one day I was just standing in the dayroom dropping something off and a firefighter came fresh out of the shower room in his red satin boxers then stood there and talked for a couple of minutes. I was appalled! It got me thinking…. maybe there really should be an “underwear policy” or a dress code of some sort. Am I just the crazy wife? How are things addressed?
Sarah: Honestly, there will always be “those guys”...There was a guy that I work with that walked out of the bathroom in his towel after a shower. My Lt at the time promptly climbed all over said FF about being inappropriate in front of a female co-worker. You may not have seen discipline given to the guy in the “red satin boxers” but odds are someone called him out on it later. Even in the case of not being called out. There are just some of those guys that will do those things anyway. If I am personally offended. I call them out. I have been in this line of work for 17 years and I have not had to defend myself many times.
Lori: Now let’s talk about you. And female firefighters in general. What do YOU wear to bed? Something silky from Victoria’s Secret? How does that feel in your bunker gear? No, for real. Let’s put these girls minds at ease and give us the details. I’ve heard most female firefighters tell me they wear gym shorts and that they also sleep in a bra when at the station. When you gotta jump and run the last thing you want is a bunch of floppy body parts.
Sarah: Oh yeah..silk is in!! I really want to have silk panties and bras burned into my skin in the case of a burn incident on the job! Catch my drift? I am an engineer/driver…I sleep fully dressed in my TDU pants and T-shirt and Bra, Panties and so on…now that everyone knows what I wear to bed at the fire station…I will mention a funny story.
I was dispatched to a fully involved fire while in the shower at a busy station. I had a towel on my shampoo soaked hair. I was wearing a T-shirt and no bra. I had my bunker pants on over all of that and suspenders up, hoping no one would notice my lack of bra driving down the road. No one did. I threw my bunker coat on when I arrived and pumped that fire. I can assure you that I felt more uncomfortable than anyone!! Seriously…I don’t need to worry about floppy body parts while doing my job.
Lori: I can’t say I’m a role model for this topic but here goes….. how should this conversation really go for a male firefighter and his wife? I mean, I can start off by saying don’t immediately accuse him of eyeing up the female firefighters in their skivvies until you get to know them personally and realize they are married, or don’t care for men, or are truly not into that sort of thing. Secondly I can say, don’t interrogate him about every detail of the layout of the bunk rooms, where his bed is in proximity to the females and if he’s adhering to your agreement of wearing gym shorts to bed. Neither of those conversations went over very well in our early marriage as we were learning how each other best communicates. (Although I will say he now understands it’s a sensitive topic and I don’t need to ask anymore because he comes right out and tells me if there are any females on crew and what the sleeping arrangement is like. Sadly, there have been so many lawsuits against male firefighters in our area that I think he now notices that stuff more for his own job security than my concerns!) So do you have any ideas here? What’s a good way to approach this together as a couple?
Sarah: Honestly you need an open door policy. We need to be transparent in our marriages. I am open and honest with my hubby about things that go on in the station. There are affairs in marriages in every line of work. Do your best to communicate, NOT to nag…I do know what it is like to have that “crazy girlfriend/wife” mind running like mad..honestly our minds are our worst enemies…remember I am a firefighter and a Firefighter Wife, so I may struggle with the same things you guys do. Then add to that, wives being insecure with me being in the station with their husbands. When hubby comes home, make his home his safe place…not a place to be blasted when he comes in the door. Odds are, most of it is your own insecurities (based on my own experiences). Do not force blame or jump to conclusions. It has taken me almost 11 years of marriage to come to this conclusion. I am still a work in progress, so don’t get discouraged when you have a bad marital day. I do this job because I was wired for it, because I am a problem solver with a love for mankind. I truly love helping people.
Lori: I totally agree. This topic should not be treated any differently than other important marriage conversations which build intimacy and trust. And they go both ways. It’s just as important for someone like me, a corporate executive, telling him when I plan to go back to my hotel room on a business trip and what male co-workers I dined with, etc. Openly sharing the details of your day with your partner does build intimacy. And knowing things like the color of his underwear are reserved for your eyes only has some sort of intimacy of it’s own.
Sarah: As I mentioned above, there are possibilities for “affairs” everywhere you look in life. There are some women in the fire service that may be in it for the wrong reasons, but most of us are not. If you have an “issue” with a female your hubby works with, stop in the station and meet her. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that she is harmless and you may even become her friend! It happens all of the time! Make sure you make your home a sanctuary for you and your husband…a safe place for him to land after a rough shift. There may be temptation out there, but let’s face it..most of our men, just want to come home to their families! It’s a tough job that we do. A lot of times full of raw emotion, which makes us want to come home and be with the ones we love.
Ladies….I really don’t want to see your man’s underwear…but I’m looking forward to going home to see mine in his. 🙂
Lori: Thanks for sharing with us on this underwear topic. We’re totally looking forward to many more discussions where you can help a lot of fire wives see things from a different perspective.
But I have one final request. For all you ladies who are thinking “She’s a psychotic fire wife for thinking those things!” Please bite your tongue and have a little compassion. Was I a little off my rocker? Sure was! But I adjusted and my marriage survived. And this is just one of those topics that not every wife in the world has to deal with. Wondering if her husband is being seen in his skivvies by another woman. And I am 100% certain that I’m not the only one and some ladies need to hear this message. If you go off spouting that they are insecure and ridiculous…..well that’s not very helpful and encouraging is it? And you never know….. our next post might hit your insecurity button. I’m reading your minds. Be kind 🙂
Join Something Good!
In case any of you were wondering, female firefighters who are married to firefighters are still fire wives as well and are very welcome to join us in the Fire Wife Sisterhood. You’re definitely not alone as many of our members currently are career, volunteer or retired firefighters and medics.
The Fire Wife Sisterhood, for all women married to, engaged to or dating a firefighter.
The 24-7 Commitment Honor Guard for male firefighters who are as devoted to their relationships and families as they are the fire service.
Marriage on Fire, our very own Marriage Program designed especially for first responders, by a firefighter and his wife who have been through both the hot sparks and the tough fires of marriage