“I never want to be one of those people,” I recall saying to my husband, approximately 1,000 times. “Let’s never live on base. Let’s never get too involved with the military bubble.”
To that version of myself, who existed barely a year ago, I can only laugh.
I’ll preface this by saying that, in every respect, I am still a VERY new military spouse (read: go easy on me, guys).
I’m not pretending to be a seasoned pro. I’m still very much in that freshman stage; the military life is still largely intimidating, occasionally hilarious, and I’m still trying to wiggle into my own awkward comfort zone within it.
I married my husband in 2014, fresh out of college. We lived a sort of dream life in southern California that summer: We had little money, and all the time in the world, which we used to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and take road trips.
We’d go out to the coast at night, dangle our legs over the pier and pretend we were in space.
We clung to the college days, in a sense, with all the PBR and the beer pong and procrastination.
We were acutely aware that that summer was our last “free” summer, and we took full advantage.
We still smirked softly when we called each other “husband” and “wife.” We were 22, and we relished our freedom.
That changed with the start of active duty for my husband. The movers came and packed up our few piles of belongings — sets of plates, side tables, a random armchair — and took them off to the other side of the country. We rented an apartment, the first that had ever been officially our own. He donned his uniform and kissed me goodbye, while it was still dark outside.
While he spent long (often arduous) days in training, I was naively enthralled with the idea of making new friends. I’d spent the ENTIRE summer with my husband and his rag-tag gang of guys; naturally, I was itching to get out there and meet some other women to fan out the lingering tics and grievances that came naturally with male roommates.
What I didn’t prepare myself for was myself.
I’m a social fraudster and I know it: Extremely socially introverted and generally adept at covering it up.
Strangers, acquaintances and even good friends of mine would be surprised to hear me say that I’m woefully, cripplingly introverted, but there it is.
Thus, spouse events, so full of feminine energy and small talk and the smog of perfume, left me floored.
It was like starting college ALL over again — every gathering so peppered with overt niceness that it was difficult to establish a genuine connection with anyone.