Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Awkward is Better than Lonely: Five Ways to Find MilSpouse Friends

Find someone to hang out with.  Photo credit:  C
When I fell in love with an army guy, I was very much looking forward to the social aspect of military lifestyle.  Friends were a huge part of my pre-Echo life- I spent a lot of time in groups and rarely ate meals, worked out, and I always had a crowd to celebrate special occasions (or free time) with.  Somehow I had the impression that milspouses also ran in packs so I figured I'd be greeted by a group of insta-friends as soon as I set foot on post.  I have no idea where...

Long story short, I had a difficult time finding common ground with the MilSpouses I met...

Some potential friends were too busy with kids to hang out.  Some were not interested in working out- ever.  ome were openly hostile to me because they got the impression that I had the wrong political perspective, religious persuasion- or worst of all- attitude.  It's true that one can make friends with Faux Newz types- if Bill Maher can do it, so can I.   But sharing common interests adds a level of comfort that kind of greases the wheels, which is huge when you only have a short time before the next PCS.

Of course all of the 7th-grade nonsense got to me after a while and I got all hermity for a while.  Since I was the wrong kind of MW, I stood no chance of making friends on post and focused instead on the rest of my life- which wasn't a terrible thing, but it was lonely.  My friends who have more limited exposure to the military lifestyle are perfectly empathetic- and some are pretty well informed- but they just don't always get it. They also can't use the on-Post gym, which throws a wrench in the let's-do-this! works. Kinda important.

And then I randomly met Bravo and Kilo, thus confirming long-held suspicion of mine:  I was not the only child-free progressive badass clawing my way around Fort Anonymous.  Having them at my side made official events more fun, and we could compare notes about our successes in Driving on Post While Liberal. Plus, our husbands are friends, pretty much.  They certainly spend a lot of time together.
what are those rascals up to, anyway?  photo credit: c
You too, can meet some like-minded folks, and to be honest, that needs to be your priority right now.  Listen up, dear reader.  We're only going to tell you this lots of times.  You are not the only progressive spouse in your area.  There are others.  If you're new to the spouse thing but familiar with the area, or new to the area but have already gotten some partnered miles under your vintage belt, or found yourself moved, married, and clueless all at once, your first priority is making friends.  Seriously.  Writing thank-you notes for that awesome wedding swag and unpacking those boxes goes a lot faster when you have someone to drink with afterwards.  And we're all about time management, here.  To find your very own flock of an offbeat feather, try the following:

Join Stuff.  Strategy is key here- stay close to post and choose your groups carefully.  Smaller groups doing more specific types of activities that offer lots of opportunities for conversation are your best bets, here.  Feminist Travel Book Club will probably attract a group of regulars, giving you a good format to get to know folks with overlapping interests.  On the other hand, Girls Night Out-type events are often attended as a one-time thing by pretty much any Girl who wants a Night Out (who doesn't?), and less possibility to bond.

Do it with a Group.  Your regular routine probably includes several solo activities that could be enjoyed in a social setting.  (TWSS) Get your mind out of the gutter and drag your hermit ass and yoga mat to a class, for example.  Our friend at SpouseBuzz learned that group fitness classes on post attract a group of women who have common personal goals as well as spouses who wear uniforms, and that learning something together is a bonding opportunity.  We would add that other types of classes also provide opportunities to get to know folks- when you see the same people each week, you can get to know people gradually and step it up with a coffee invite when you're ready.

Get Involved.  Volunteer with a local progressive organization- we have found that political campaigns and environmental causes tend to be the most social.  In our experience, conservative communities tend to have pockets of very friendly activists who enjoy going out together after a night of phone banking or canvassing.  Don't like phone banking?  That's okay- no one does, but we guarantee you will find people to hang out with while helping out.

Be Inspired.  Check out local faith or philosophic communities that reflect your world view and attend a few services or activities.  If you are not religious, look into secular organizations or activist groups that meet regularly.  Chances are, the congregation, association, or fellowship will include several MilSpouses who are looking for community.  As a member of a non-mainstream religion, I have found this to be especially important this time of year.  People who share your world view and your lifestyle can provide a unique kind of support when you're the only person who is not all fa-la-la about the Christmas Tree Lighting on post.  Why have a War on Christmas when you can have a Party on Solstice?

Stay Open.  Building up your existing circle of friends took time, and if you think about it, you probably have at least one unlikely suspect among them.  A major difference in age, parenthood-timing, education, political affiliation, etc is no excuse to write someone off as a potential friend.  In fact, if you're reading this blog you are probably smart enough to realize that asshole is a mutual subcategory for pretty much any demographic.  Your friends from the Girlyman fan club chapter you started (good for you!) might love genderqueer folk-pop bands, but they all eat meat so you enjoy yourself some Curry Tuesday with your vegan neighbor who drives a guzzler with a Romney sticker on it.  After all, your upcoming PCS is to a foreign country where she just spent three glorious years...volunteering at a phone bank and baking treats for the Feminist Travel Book Club.

How about you?  Did you turn over enough rocks and high-five enough frogs to find your MilSpouse BFF?  Tell us how...we're so curious.

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