Boy + Girl + Army + e-Harmony = Captain and Mrs. Butters! This is what we're up to. Observations, opinions, events, images, and more.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Awkward Coffee

(First of all, I have to say that I was really, honestly touched by the fact that people noticed my absence in the blogosphere. Thanks, virtual friends!)

One of the comments on yesterday's post asked what I thought about the spouses' coffee (which, if you're not familiar with military-speak, is a regular, semi-structured meeting that spouses have. In this case, it meets monthly). Well, dear readers, I think I may have gotten off on the wrong foot.

For starters, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I knew that I wanted to attend the event in order to start connecting with "the community." I'm honestly pretty happy with my miniscule social circle right now (i.e., my husband and our very cool neighbor), but what if a high-up pointed a finger at Spike and said, "Congratulations! Unit X needs to plug a staff officer hole for their upcoming deployment, and you're it! Enjoy your year-long vacation in the fabulous desert!"? Probably (hopefully) unlikely, but it could happen. And then I'd need some help from other spouses. So. The introvert decided to attend the coffee.

I asked Spike if he had any idea what I should wear. He told me that the spouses' coffees he'd heard about at his old unit were pretty casual, so I shot for the classy, nice end of casual. I wore dark skinny jeans, a flattering-but-not-maternity-looking tunic top, and black boots. I accessorized. I curled my hair. I was feeling pretty good. That is, until I saw that everyone else was dressed on a Sunday-morning-church-goin' scale. Strike one for me.

Strike two was simply the fact that I'm not an extrovert. At all. I hate being the "new kid," and I hate meeting new people, especially in semi-large quantities. I don't even like it when strangers talk to me on planes. Thanks to my former job as a college admissions counselor, I can schmooze for a limited period of time, but it's very draining. (I must say, though, the rum punch helped.) For 3.5 hours I talked to a few people, but I mostly stayed quiet, and tried to unobtrusively hide my pants with my napkin when an innocent comment was made about the questionable nature of skinny jeans. (Gulp.) Honestly, I was pretty lost for most of the night. I don't think I understood fully 1/4 of what was said, thanks to my kindergarten-level knowledge of the military community, and the fact that I also don't know anyone here yet.

Strike three (although I hasten to inform you that I'm not yet "out") is that I'm not sure I really fit into the military spouse mold. As the military spouse of Spike specifically, I'm fine. We're fine as a couple. Great, even. But I'm not sure I'm the type of person the military community expects me to be. I definitely did not get an accurate picture of the spouses' community back at Fort Sill, probably because Spike was in a class for a 6-month period, and not in a "real" working unit. At the coffee, I was shocked by how all-consuming the military is to families who have been "in" for while. For instance, the other attendees introduced themselves by telling me their names and their spouses' jobs. I still have no idea what many of them do (whether that's a job or homemaking or raising kids or volunteering, etc.) after a whole evening of conversation. And conversely, they were more interested in Spike's function than in what I do. Only one person was truly curious when I mentioned that I work from home. Now, I'm not knocking the spouses. It makes sense; assimilate or die, unless you LIKE being a hermit. (Which I do.) I just felt like a square peg in a round hole since I haven't felt compelled to learn about the unit in detail and since I have an outside job instead of one here on post or in town. For me, the military is my husband's job, and I'm proud to support him and to get involved with the other spouses. But I don't see it as MY life. At least not yet. I'm sensing that might change with a deployment.

Okay, well, now I think I just sound like a whiny kid who got shunned from the popular kids' table. I'll stop. The fact is, I already knew that semi-structured group gatherings weren't my thing (I quit my sorority halfway through college, for example), and that hasn't changed. I'm going to try to stick it out a bit longer, though, in hopes of making some individual connections and learning the military way of life.

One thing's for sure: If I do continue with the coffee group long-term, I'm going to have to step my hostessing skills waaaaay up! A bag of chips and a soda is not going to cut it with this crowd.

*Addendum: Please know that this assessment of the coffee isn't meant to be offensive in any way to the "typical" military spouse. I fully admit that I'm a bit of a nonconformist loner!


  1. Yeah, sounds like fun...not really. I'm still on the fence too, about the spouse's group too. Thankfully I have met some other wives who don't attend the spouse things and I like them a lot. I've met them by accident. So there are probably spouses that you would like and are probably like you but they don't attend the events. I hope you can find them!

  2. I. Hear. You.

    Take your experience, but add the dose of we're-not-married-and-they-don't-know-what-to-think-about-that. Voila. Even more awkward. AND we're the only ones in our situation. The whole squadron/unit is either married with a bazillion kids, or single as a jaybird. Then there's us. Just us. Happy, unmarried us.

    I, too, will see...

    But at least you're loved in the blogging community!!! :D

  3. I'm just as awkward, but on the other end. I talk a lot, and sometimes loudly. I make comments about NOT wanting kids and how I love our commitment-free lifestyle at the moment (we did just adopt a dog, so that's not as free as it once was). I am proudly a newlywed, childless, and over 25. I am not overly liberal but I definitely don't think Sarah Palin should be in charge of anything, ever.
    I managed to make a few friends. One was through blogging (seriously, best thing ever) and another is my husband's boss's wife. We don't give a shit about our husbands' jobs, so no 'fraternizing" issues for us.
    Everyone else in the unit is a mom. Some are cooler than others. Some like me, some take offensive to every comment I make about frumpy people and bad children.
    I won't ever stop being talkative. I won't ever quit with the comments. I will always look cute to my standards. People like to show off- and any church I went to, nice skinny jeans were appropriate enough.
    Be yourself. Maybe open up a bit more, but do not hurt who you are to get these people to like you. Some will suck, some won't.
    And there a few books out there for people like you who don't know a lot of military stuff. They are easy to read and won't take up much of your time or brain space. It will make your life easier knowing a bit more about his job, but don't go overboard.
    Again, just be you. And anyone who doesn't like you because of it- well, it's better than being liked for someone you are not.
    From one awkward gal to another.

  4. Yeah, I don't fit in anywhere either: I’m a 30 year old liberal archaeologist from Santa Cruz California, have an Masters degree, work at a Smithsonian museum, am the bread winner and I’m married to an enlisted Infantry soldier without a degree. We don’t have any children and we are the only couple in my husband’s company who live in DC. Oh, and I recently ENLISTED in the Army Reserves and ship to basic in March. Stereotypes? Apparently I break them over my knee.

    I have yet to really join in the Military Spouse club, but I'll let you know how it goes when I do!

  5. You're in great company here in blog world! That sounds like most of the coffee recaps I've read about. I know it pretty much sounds like my first coffee! Don't give up on Army/unit events because you will find those spouses who are more like you. They do exist! Promise! =)

  6. I think the conform or die part is untrue. There are lots of women I know who don't conform and their spouses are of all different ranks. The military is as much of your life as you make it.
    Just take care of yourself and your family and make friends with like-minded people. It's all good.
    And as food for thought:

  7. I'm the same way. Granted, I'm not married to my guy and by the time we ever are, he'll be done with the Army, but I barely fit in with a lot of the girlfriends/fiances/spouses I've met. He'll be deploying in a year or so (if not sooner, ugh) and I would really like some sort of support network, but I'm awkward & don't really fit with other girls in my situation.

  8. Yeah that doesn't sound like much fun at all. I've never really done the spouse meetings thing. I've never heard good things about them and they're always so clique-y (not all, obviously). I think the easiest way to make friends in a new place is to just start with dinner with one of your husbands friends and their spouse/significant other and go from there. And its never a good sign when spouses are all about their husbands jobs... those types tend to "wear" their husbands ranks and that's never good. I'm sorry, but it doesn't matter to me what rank your husband is, if we click and we're friends, that's all that matters... ya know? Good luck finding friends; that's always the hardest part about a new duty station.

  9. Ugh, I can totally relate. Pete made me go to a wives' coffee before we were even engaged. I felt awkward from the moment I got there. But don't worry, it'll get better. Some of the women are really great and trust me, you'll want a support network if/when Spike deploys.

  10. haha! We sound like the same person! I hate those events! As soon as people start talking, it's all, "The battalion commander is this guy and he's new and his wife is blah blah," and "My husband does this and blah blah blah number 245, division 3, company blah blah." I started to think that I was just disinterested in my husband's job or something because I didn't know which hand he wiped with while at the office, but I don't think it's that. I have respect for my husband to do his own thing, his own job, and I'll let him tell me what's important about his every day, not all the dramatic details that these wives seem to be consumed with. At these parties, no one asks you anything about yourself! You can find a couple nice gals who are normals like you are, just hang in there and try different mediums, such as facebook to get to know who you will click with and who you won't! Look forward to reading more!


  11. Heh. Either they don't have spouses meetings in the Reserves, or my husband kept them a secret because he doesn't trust me to place nice with others.

    Oh well, they don't sound like much fun anyway. Awkward!

  12. I just saw your comment on my blog and had to come read and say hi!! So, hi!! :) I'm sorry to hear about your first experience with the coffee group. Ours was hit or miss. When we first got to our current unit (omg...almost four years ago, we've been here FOREVER!!!), the BN CO's wife was heinous and the coffee group was a bunch of snarky biatches. Then we got a new BN CO...and his wife was amazing. She is one of my favorite friends to this day, despite the fact that when I met her, I was a 2LT's fiancee (the shame! not even married!) and she was a LTC's wife. Our coffee group turned into a monthly get together where we drank too much wine and socialized. It was an awesome group of friends, not just a bunch of wives thrown together by their husbands' jobs. It has since deteriorated, and frankly, I have nothing to do with it any more. Which stinks. I just had the most welcoming and amazing experience. But units change and the composition of the soldiers (and therefore their wives) changes all of the time. I hope maybe the chemistry gets better for you!

    Are yall living on post or off? Some of my best friends were also my neighbors...

  13. d.a.r.--We're on post (I suspect the same post you guys were/are at, not that' I'm trying to be a creepy stalker). And best friend so far is our next-door neighbor--we walk around the nearby golf course almost every day. Haven't been to a coffee group event since this lamentation of a post, but I'm hoping the chemistry will change, since as you say, there are new people coming and going all the time! Thanks for the encouragement!

    And FYI, the Renaissance book you reviewed on your January list is now on my Kindle to-buy list. Looks like one I'd devour.

  14. Ha! If you are walking up by the golf course then you are likely living in my old 'hood :) Too funny! We aren't on post anymore (living about an hour or so away for my job).

    Hang in there! Hope you find some awesome girlfriends soon. Some of my very best friends are from our years there!