Thursday, January 24, 2008

The "In" Crowd

When I was young, I wanted nothing more than for my mom to go to PTA meetings. I didn't know what happened at PTA meetings, I just know that all the moms were there, and my mother was not. Never mind that she had anywhere from 3-6 other children (besides moi) at home to take care of, I wanted her to be part of the "mom crowd." Maybe just hang out in the parking lot after school? "Come on Mommy, there's ______'s mom, don't you want to go over there and talk to her? Maybe she can fill you in on the PTA meeting you missed." My mother is not a joiner - far from it. The more I wanted to assimilate, the more she stood apart from the crowd. This is not to say she was uninvolved in my school life. It's just that when she gets involved in an activity, the sheer force of her personality and abundance of talents usually has the gravitational pull of Juptier. Like when she volunteered to help us create a school newspaper in 8th grade. Under her tutelage, we invited over 10 schools for a valley-wide catholic school seminar on how to interview, write articles, proofread, layout, art direct (all taught by her). Then, all the students went to lunch, and she went to Kinko's. 2 hours later, she had 200 copies of our finished product ready for the kids to take home. Mom does not need committees. Jupiter works alone.

However, priorities in my juvenile and insecure mind always came back to assimilation. I didn't want my mom to be different (although, admittedly, better), I just wanted her to be the SAME as everyone else. It disturbs me how much I used to want to just fit in, just be like everyone else. Maybe this is how most young girls are? As destiny would have it, I've turned into my mother (shocker) and I avoid "joining" like the plague.

And here we've arrived at our current problem. There is one group open to me on this island, and that group is "wives." It's actually my group by default, I have no choice but to join. We were at a restaurant the other night and I asked one of John's female coworkers "who is that woman" and she said, "oh, that's a wife." Like that's all she gets to be. She does not have a job in the military, therefore, she is just a "wife." I never realized what a feminist I was until I entered a situation where my identity was defined so completely by my future husband's place in the world. I had my first "JAG wives luncheon" at the officer's club today. Yeow. It was actually not the fantastic, blog-worthy disaster that I would write about in a novel someday. (Sorry kids, I know you were hoping for Stepford Wives meets Army Wives.) The women were very nice. There is only one other woman (besides myself) that does not have a child, so birthday parties, grammar school supplies, and crying babies were definitely hot topics. They all live on base and prefer it that way (meaning, why be immersed in Japan when you can live in an American enclave?) They move every two years. They are all very conversant in the acronyms of military life that are as foreign to me as Japanese. One of the wives is actually a licensed lawyer. I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking her how she gave it all up to follow her man to Japan.

And here I am again. Same girl as the 8th grader, although my knee-jerk reaction is to separate myself from these joiners. "I am actually not a military wife, I actually take Japanese, I eat with chopsticks not a fork, I am still earning a living while I'm here, I have no current plans to procreate.....(thankfully I fought the urge and did not say this out loud.) From where do I get this insecurity? Needing to "define" myself as NOT a joiner is just another form of caring what people think about me, isn't it? I often wish I could visit my 13 year old self and say "chillax girlfriend... your mom has the right idea, just go with the flow, stop trying so hard to fit in." What will my future self wish to say to me? "Hey, you So-Cal Liberal Feminist know-it all.... why don't you shelve your opinions and take it all in before deciding who THEY are so as to define who YOU are not." That's the funny part of being a Californian... we are sooo open-minded and yet can't understand how the rest of the country lives the way they do. And yes, sometimes Californians do need a reality check. And maybe I could use some friends the likes of whom I would never meet at home?


Tracey said...

It's funny, I think the culture shock I've felt from different sub-groups within my own culture (like moving west coast to east coast) was harder to deal with than culture shock of being in another country. Maybe because when something is totally foreign, you're more prepared to be open-minded. Anyway, I know the feeling... (Btw, I eventually learned to be more accepting of Boston culture, but it took like 7 years for me to stop constantly saying "In California...")

mae said...

Jen, daughter of Jupiter... you're a force to be reckoned with, too.

I love your blog, BTW. I read it every few days.

JP said...

Hey guys! thanks for the support. I can't even get john to read the blog, so I'm glad I am writing with any audience at all. Hope I get a visit from you two!

mae said...

If we don't go to India this year, we'll go to Okinawa... I "check in" with you guys thru your blog every so often to see what you're up to. I'm trying to get Sean into the habit too. I wish I had the cajones to move someplace exotic and learn a new language. It's downright inspiring.

meredith said...

Randomly stumbled across your blog. I identify with this post in eighteen different ways. I came here very worried about how to find my place and found some of the grooviest people. ANYWAY, I like the way you write. I like your thinking. I'd love it if you would, um, JOIN in on our blog. No pressure. We're looking for writers but we'd also love to link you if that felt comfy OR nothing. As you wish. Whatever it takes to catch your stride here. Just an option.

Contact me, Meredith, at



meredith said...

Oops. Our site is