The Stalkers Among Us

 

Beware: A menace currently prowls in our otherwise idyllic neighborhoods, threatening to infiltrate our lives and disrupt the social structure in our communities. Once these prowlers take up residence in our localities, we cannot avoid them. They emerge like swarming termites in search of fresh pulp to sink their pincers into.

These vermin are relentless. They follow us to school, they approach us in the commissary, they ring our doorbells.

Who exactly are these pests, you might ask? No two are the same, but they all have something in common: They just PCS’ed here and are desperately looking for new friends. Yup, it’s true. The Newcomers are here.

Every summer, military families pack up, vacate housing, and move on to their new duty stations. The rest of us wave good-bye to our friends and resolve to sadly but persistently plod along without them. Just when we think we are managing just fine in our established social circles, it happens: Throngs of new people move in, unpack a few boxes, then creep out into our neighborhoods to trespass on our social territory.

Truth be told, I was one of these pestering new people just a couple years ago. After saying good-bye to family and friends back home, we plunked down into Germany without so much as a familiar face to greet us.

Our first few weeks in the base hotel waiting for housing were surprisingly enjoyable. Like a little girl playing house, I challenged myself to come up with creative ways to make a family dinner in the room’s tiny microwave. I proudly served up canned soup and egg salad sandwiches made from the hard-boiled eggs and bread we had pilfered from the hotel breakfast buffet. I reconfigured the furniture to create a place the kids could make a fort. I memorized the unfamiliar TV channels while ironing all of our shirts, pants, and underwear.

By the third week, the novelty of our life at the hotel had worn off. I found myself chatting with the hotel clerk, the commissary baggers and anyone who got in an elevator with me, to combat the solitude of spending days with my suitcases and AFN.

After five weeks, we finally moved into base housing. I scanned the neighborhood for potential friends while walking the dog, taking the trash out, and schlepping the kids to school. I would make eye contact with those who looked approachable, and offer a friendly smile in an effort to initiate an interaction.

But for some reason, nothing seemed to work. In fact, I started to get the feeling that people were avoiding me. Women seemed to avert their eyes when I glanced at them. Moms pushed their strollers a little quicker when they noticed I was behind them. As I walked by the stairwell patios, groups of chatting ladies got a little quieter.

As desperation set in, I made some rash choices. Despite the fact that I have never really enjoyed the sport, I joined the Ladies Bowling League and paid for a full year commitment. I made a pledge to volunteer every week in my daughter’s third grade classroom without considering my general exasperation with other people’s kids. I promised to sub for a bunco group that was affectionately referred to as “The Screamers,” due to their habit of emitting blood-curdling squeals after landing any mildly-beneficial roll of the dice.

In the end, it was my dog, Dinghy, that saved me from total social ambiguity. A 110-pound “labradoodle” with an explosion of dirty blonde hair, he was far more popular than I was. Kids and their mothers stopped to pet Dinghy, which required some interaction with me. In due course, people realized that I wasn’t as nerdy and pathetic as I appeared, and I made a few friends.

Now, in the third year of our tour with more friends than I need, I see “The Newcomers” skulking around with that same pitiable look in their eyes that I once had. But do not despair, you throngs of pathetic loners, your time will come. Like the circle of life, these cyclical social stages are inevitable. For now, use whatever skills you possess – your kids, delicious baked goods, your irresistible dog – and one day you will be the one running from the stalkers among us. 

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Comments: 38

  1. Anonymous August 31, 2011 at 9:29 pm Reply

    This made me laugh! And then I cried because right now, I am a stalker… Since my older two children are t the age where they do NOT want Mom hanging around with them and their friends, and my hubby won’t let me get a dog until we retire, it looks like I’m gonna have to start parading the three year old out and about. Since he’s all boy though he tends to drive the wedge between myself and would-be friends. oh! How I long for the days of sewing circles and play dates… Last month seems so far away….

  2. Catherine September 16, 2010 at 4:53 am Reply

    I was a military brat so I know the experience you have described here, only as a kid experiencing it in a new school. And wow, how I miss AFN. As I kid, I finally took the approach that each move was a chance to reinvent myself, to test my skills in making new friends, to start over again and again. I really enjoyed it. But part of me now, having lived in the same city for seven years, yearns to start over again. But how long can one person live like that – if there is no real purpose to move around (like being part of the military)? I loved this post, brought back so many memories.

    And your other commenters make a really good point – Facebook, Twitter, etc, have made it so much easier to stay in touch. I wish I had that growing up. But it has sure been fun reconnecting with friends from all over the world, and seeing where they ended up once their military travels were over!

  3. Laura Sims September 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Lisa, I love the photo. It makes me miss living in the stairwell a bit more, to be honest.

    I got a new ‘Long Tall Sally’ catalog in… do you want it? :o)

    Laura

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm Reply

      Thanks Laura – we miss you here too. You can keep Long Tall Sally, just let me know when you get Short Dumpy Frumpy….

  4. 36x37 September 12, 2010 at 5:59 am Reply

    You know, this story could actually relate to blogging, too. When you first get started, it’s hard to get your bearings, and for a while you just need to sit back and try to observe and figure out who is interesting enough to meet.

    Loved this post. Very well written.

    Thanks for stopping by 36×37 on Thursday. Happy blogging!

  5. sayitinasong September 10, 2010 at 6:40 am Reply

    What an interesting post about the military life, thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

  6. Top Posts — WordPress.com September 10, 2010 at 1:18 am Reply

    [...] The Stalkers Among Us   [...]

  7. Dana September 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm Reply

    I loved this post! After a recent PCS I am definitely feeling it! Recent? LOL It’s been 4 months and I’m not even attempting to meet people here after the first round of psychos I met…EYES DOWN! lol Seriously though, you nailed it!

  8. i really am grumpy nowadays September 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm Reply

    I moved to another country to be with my boyfriend, when I collected my luggage at the airport I must have picked up a spare head at the same time. The looks people give you. I hope ‘my time will come’. I miss having ‘my own’ friends!!!

  9. Jornal do Whisky September 9, 2010 at 12:04 pm Reply

    8O I liked your WordPress template, inspires me to change mine :idea:
    http://jornaldowhisky.wordpress.com/
    Cheers!

  10. Thilophian September 9, 2010 at 11:05 am Reply

    Nice post, I liked it.

  11. Yasmine Wael September 9, 2010 at 3:33 am Reply

    I don’t see them as stalkers,It’s normal to start cultivating relationships when you’re new in town or in school.Making a small eye contact and smiling to people is an act of friendliness,and its a shame that some people cannot appreciate that.

  12. isreal September 9, 2010 at 3:23 am Reply

    Wow good stuff keep it going!!!!

  13. Modern Funk September 9, 2010 at 1:57 am Reply

    Wow…I absolutely loved this piece. Hilarity sprinkled with humanity. And your dog’s name…priceless!

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. zmanowner September 9, 2010 at 12:04 am Reply

    Great post…as a Navyman i totally understood this and even at times reading this thought about the stays in the NavyLodge (hell on earth) and making new friends…i hated the neighbors that thought they were in the Navy 24/7 and insisted on saying something to you at a party on friday night when everyone was hammered already…got 2 yrs left til ret…whew has is been that long….great site….zman sends

  15. jenkline75 September 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm Reply

    I have friends living the military life, I’ve always thought how hard it must be to pack up and leave their life and friends behind but never really thought about how hard it was when they got to where they were going. Nice post! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  16. carl September 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm Reply

    Question — how did you get the photo under the post title and tags? Also, must the main headline be the url?

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm Reply

      Carl — When posting text, there should be an option to “insert” photos, videos and links into the post. I just insert my photo first, which automatically puts it between my tags/title and the text of my article. Also, you can edit the url, just under where you type in the title, look for a button that says “edit.” I am a bit technically challenged, so don’t rely on me for anything major . . . Good luck!

  17. mct88 September 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm Reply

    I’m looking for my social circle. Kinda funny since this has been home for 22 yrs minus 4yrs when I went to college. Which so happened to bump me out of any social circle.

    I should probably get a cute dog!

  18. Acai September 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm Reply

    Oh my gosh I LOVE your post!! LOL it is so wonderfully relate-able. Being the new girl, whether in school, work, neighborhoods, is never fun. You are so right, use what you have to work with. I love that you made dinner in your microwave! Too cute. Keep up the great writing.

  19. The Ignorant Bystander September 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Ahhh AFN. I can almost hear the commercials now, referencing little known historical facts about the battle of Gettysburg or the civil rights movement. Things in the military never really change do they? Get out while you still can!!! jk. http://theignorantbystander.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/all-the-things-ill-never-see/

  20. Azure Finch September 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm Reply

    Although I’ve never lived in base housing, my dog, a 60 lb Boxer, was my ticket to meeting new friends when I moved into an extremely dog-positive town. Dogs really are (wo)man’s best friend!

  21. Sunshine September 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm Reply

    I can relate to this so much! We moved country when my elder son was a toddler, and I found myself in the same position as you did – anything for social contact! Eventually I made friends and forgot about those days, but I do still recognise – and SO relate to – that look in others’ eyes.
    Sunshine

  22. sylviangirl September 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm Reply

    My mum has a labradoodle and I swear we get stopped at least once every 5 minutes when we take him out by people who think he’s so adorable and want to know what kind of dog he is etc! Dogs can be such big conversation starters.

    http://sylviangirl.wordpress.com/

  23. generationnext September 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm Reply

    I’m telling you, this describes me perfectly when I move to a new place! LOL I definitely use my cute little shitzu/Maltese to win the hearts of many neighbors. ;)

  24. She.Is.Just.A.Rat September 8, 2010 at 4:39 pm Reply

    This was so funny! I think it’s a shame that a person who lives in the circumstances you do (aka the cycle of neverending changing neighbours) tend to step back from trying to make new friends…simply because they know the chance of them not being around in a year or two makes it seem not worthwhile. The important thing to remember is that no matter how long someone is in your life, they can always make a significant impact. So it’s a good idea to meet these people…you never know what they’ll bring to your life!

  25. raisingable September 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm Reply

    Dogs are one of the best ways for people and families to connect. Ruff, Ruff!

  26. barrycyrus September 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm Reply

    funny post here! :)

  27. Gomathi Reddy September 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm Reply

    Wow! I really enjoyed this one, Lisa….can’t stop smiling. :)

    Gomathi

  28. Kelly Hay September 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm Reply

    I love how dogs are always conversation starters. My dog is more popular than me too!

  29. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife September 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm Reply

    Oh, that’s gotta be tough. Hopefully you’re welcoming those new people better than others did for you. Nice post!

  30. Lenore Diane September 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm Reply

    I’m still looking for the ‘perfect’ social circle, and I’ve lived in the same area for 8yrs. We may have to look into getting a “labradoodle”.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari September 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm Reply

      Yes, Lenore, acquiring a labradoodle is a proven strategy to win friends, but even if he won’t get you out of your 8-year slump, he will be better company that most people anyway!

  31. sarahnsh September 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm Reply

    I think that having a dog definitely will get you into social situations… especially a cute dog which is pretty unique, and I think a labordoodle would be pretty rare there. It is hard going through those socially awkward situations, like working at a new place, no one wants to let you in right away.

  32. lifeintheboomerlane September 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm Reply

    Military, State Dept, general (dis)location issues. And yes, pets help assimilate into a new group. As do children. Thanks for the post!

  33. Janet September 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm Reply

    gotta love that circle of military life…..

  34. Candy September 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm Reply

    LOL! Too funny… starting out, I thought this was gonna be about bedbugs. Phew!

    I kinda like all the newbies, and I don’t mind being a newbie too much either. It’s a good chance to make new friends, and we tend to hold onto our friends from past bases, so it makes the separation a little easier.

    And thankfully, we have Facebook, Twitter, etc. to help us keep in touch with old friends!

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