How I Accidentally Landed in a Viper’s Nest

“Join the board,” they said. “You’d be great!” they said.

There I was, an innocent little baby-wife minding my own business when some of the more senior wives zeroed in on me and suggested I sit on the newly formed board for our Spouse’s Club. Sure, why not? I don’t have anything better to do and I was a little flattered besides. Of course if I were a of a suspicious mind, it almost seems obvious in retrospect; recruit the new and impressionable one with no social capital or ties of loyalty to challenge those in charge. Thank goodness the real reason I was nominated is because I’m such a charming and witty individual who brings so much to the table.

I don’t know how the situation is with all Spouse’s Clubs, but here at least it seems like jumping into a pit of viperidae is part of the job description of joining the board. Not even officially eased into the role and already I’ve been cornered with a round of phone calls from various people wanting to speak with me and clear the air and so many hurt feelings! Good lord, I haven’t been subjected to this much so-and-so-said since high school–and that was only hearing it second-hand from the popular girls who seemed incapable of airing their grievances in any other place besides public hallways (apparently I was never cool enough to have friends back-stab me first-handedly).

Maybe having missed all of this in high school and college with my own female relationships, I’m socially under equipped for navigating the adult world of inter-wifery-politics. At any rate, it makes me a bit uncomfortable as I attempt to find a safe path to plant my feet without squashing a viper or getting bit myself in the process. To make matters worse, I already bungled myself right off the bat when a mildly-lewd (but topical!) joke I made during a meeting was deemed Not Funny by a Very Senior Wife. Apologies for making you uncomfortable, Very Senior Wife, but I’m still going to chuckle at my own joke (hey everyone else laughed!).

It could be that I am simply “hyper aware” as my former therapist once put it, but growing up with a Borderline Personality Disorder mother tends to give one a crazy-radar as a consolation prize, and let me tell you, mine is starting to ping. Not full blown stage-5 blaring, but you know, a warning ping.

Here’s hoping I’m just “reading into things” (as my sister would say)!

Orders to Iwakuni!

A couple weeks ago we found out that the Mr. got orders to Japan. At the time it was Okinawa. Still exciting, but not our first choice. Just found out a day or two ago his monitor was able to change the orders and send him to Iwakuni instead. In the words of an overly excited anime character;

YESSSSA!

Iwakuni was our top choice for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m not really a beachy, tropical island kind of person. For another, we hear it’s a pretty small base. This is good because he and I have had a lot of conversations about cutting down the workaholic-ness in his life and also because we would like to live off base and immerse ourselves in the culture without too many obviously jaded people who hate military personnel because they have to put up with their constant crap. Thirdly, it’s a helluva lot closer to Tokyo than Okinawa is. Since one of my main goals is to conduct as much family history research as possible, the closer to Tokyo the better.

I do have some concerns about making enough friends. Sometimes out here in the desert I feel rather isolated as it is, and I’m surrounded by English speakers. How am I going to fare with only a handful of English speakers and minimal Japanese? I mean, I would love to make some Japanese friends when I get there but how does one even go about doing that without coming across like a creeper?

I’m considering upping my usage on italki to maybe make some friends before I get there. At least improve my language skills, right?

My First Encounter with Rankism

When I first got married, I had some worries about cliquishness and rankism that I was loathe to encounter upon joining the milspouse community. From the way some bloggers and online communities talked, quite a few spouses seemed to have their feathers ruffled over spouses “pulling rank” on each other or exclusionary behavior. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I survived high school didn’t I?

I was relieved to discover that so far, almost everyone I met was perfectly lovely and nice. It did seem strange to me that socializing didn’t pick up much within our unit once the guys deployed, but I chalked it up to a combination of many wives living in the next town over, and another large percentage that simply went home.

For Easter I was invited to a brunch in the next town over. I carpooled with one of the wives in our unit, whose husband happens to be my husband’s boss. On the way over she talked about how it was important that I don’t “pass things on to my husband” that she might share with me or I might hear, because of our spouses working relationship. Well, that conversation was a little awkward because she continued in that vein for almost the whole car trip, but I did see her point. I do understand that between her and I specifically because of the boss/underling relationship we can’t be as open as we might like with each other, but that was never news to me.

Once we got to the house, I was glad to see that I had met almost everyone before at various events. In fact they were all people I thought I might like to get to know better. I was just thinking about how nice it was that we all could come together because I hadn’t seen some of them in a while, when a turn of conversation left my mind racing to figure out why I felt like a chunk of puzzle was missing. The group began discussing a low key “party” they were throwing for a friend of mine. Now this friend of mine is probably the only spouse I have seen consistently since I got here; maybe once or twice a week we’d get together. Needless to say, we were pretty clued in on what was going on in each other’s lives, so it seemed odd to me that this group of women was planning this party for her and I had not heard a word of it before now. I thought maybe it was a surprise party, but no, it wasn’t. And then they were talking about all these other get-togethers and times they had hung out and suddenly I had the strangest sensation of no longer being in the room anymore, but being rather like a light fixture or chair.

I realized they had been hanging out without me for months.

I took it a little personal at first. It became very clear that this was “their” group and they were very tight and not looking for any new members. It seemed that I had been invited as a kind of sympathy gesture, because I had no where else to be on Easter, not as a “hey we like you and would love to get to know you better” thing, which was what I assumed.

I was still trying to process everything on the ride home. I was still genuinely surprised about the fact that I had not been included in any of their past social events. Our husbands were in the same unit, they were deployed together, and we were all “on the same side of the fence” when it comes to general rank division. I was starting to think that it must be me. The wife of my husband’s boss took the opportunity again to reiterate the difference in position between her husband and mine, and their working relationship (which I previously acknowledged to her I understood) for most of the ride back. I thought it was a little unnecessary by that point. That’s when it dawned on me.

She was telling me that I needed to be socializing with spouses of my husbands rank.

I thought back to everyone present at the Easter brunch and sure enough, everyone in that close knit group was the same rank. I thought back to those wives I counted as friends within the unit, and they too were that same rank. With the exception of one wife who moved after the unit deployed, I couldn’t think of anyone I was friends with who was the same rank as my spouse.

This was not something I had previously considered. Yes, I have always been generally mindful of the friendship divide as far as befriending those on the same side of the general fence, but I kind of felt like beyond that it was overkill and kind of a non-issue. Especially because the rank difference is not even big. At my husbands next promotion, he will be the same rank as all these other people. It just seems overboard to me, especially during deployment.

I went home and decided that I would create my own group of friends. I asked my husband to send me a list of all married guys in his unit of his rank. The list was very small. As I scanned the names I became a little angry. I knew maybe two women from the list, and both of them had moved away for deployment. The rest I had never seen show up to any events. They either didn’t live here, or were the type that liked to stay away from spouse networking. Well, no wonder I wasn’t hanging out with the “right” wives!

Oh, the cherry on top is that after I got home, my husband’s boss’s wife bombarded me with several texts along the same line of what she had been talking about in the car the whole day, as if over an hour and a half in the car hadn’t been enough. I mean, I get it, she has a bit of a controlling worrier personality, but the whole thing just seemed very unfriendly even though I know she’s a nice person.

As for my friend, I didn’t say anything to her about it for a while because I knew she was probably in a tough position. As luck would have it, the topic naturally came about later and she admitted to me that she has been having a hard time not letting me know about the gatherings. You know, I get it. But the kicker is that she felt restricted because my husband’s boss’s wife had actually said something to her about hanging out with me! I personally feel like that’s going too far, especially when my friend’s husband is not my husband’s direct boss.

What I suspect is really going on is that her husband is complaining about my husband to her, and she shares it in her group of friends. This is nothing new. My husband is quite an acquired taste, to put it politely; I’m not stupid. I understand her need to vent to people for her husband, but I don’t know if her subtle attempts to diplomatically say “stay away from my friends” is the way to handle it.

I never interpreted choosing the right spouse friends as meaning choosing spouses of your same rank. Is she right or am I right?

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