‘Wanna play?’ What military life taught me about fear, friendships and foursomes

‘Wanna play?’ What military life taught me about fear, friendships and foursomes

by Lisa Smith Molinari
The Meat and Potatoes of Life

The tires squealed as I careened into the parking lot of the local nine-hole golf course. Leaping out of the driver’s seat, I popped the trunk and heaved my golf clubs and pull cart out onto the pavement, looking around to see if there were any other latecomers to the Tuesday Morning Ladies’ Golf League.

Uh oh, only cars in the lot, which meant the rest of the ladies were already beginning to tee off. I hoped there were incomplete foursomes willing to fit me in.

I’d signed up for the local ladies’ league five summers ago, right after my husband retired from the military. I thought it would be a way to meet friends in our new local community, where we had bought a house and planned to stay.

After three years on the wait list, I knew it had to be rigged. Obviously, you had to “know someone” to get picked. I wrote the league off as a lost cause, but in the fourth summer, the league organizer invited me to play in the league’s end of season charity tournament.

Although I repeatedly sliced drives, lost balls, whiffed, hit worm burners and talked too much during that tournament, I was miraculously offered a spot in the league. But I was a rookie, a newbie, mere filler to these veteran lady golfers who had been playing with each other for years. They weren’t necessarily interested in meeting new people. I’d have to play by their rules and bide my time.

As a military spouse, I’d felt this way a million times before. Every time we moved, I turned into a desperate middle school girl, jockeying pathetically for new friends. Deep down, I feared rejection. Feeling unworthy. Not fitting in. Military life taught me that new friendships are not an entitlement. In the school of milspouse hard knocks, you had to work at it.

When in a rush, setting up a collapsible golf pull cart is like figuring out how to split an atom. In my nervous haste, I pushed, pulled and popped until the tangle of metal bars and hinges somehow took its intended shape. Strapping in my clubs, I shuffled hurriedly to the clubhouse hoping that I hadn’t been kicked off the league for tardiness.

As I suspected, the cart path was lined with several groups of ladies garbed in moisture-wicking pastel polyester and golf shoes, waiting to be called to the tee by the starter. I looked down the first hole, and saw two more groups — one on the green and one in the fairway.

Soon, the waiting ladies noticed me standing there awkwardly alone, grinning goofily as if to say, “I’m new, but please let me play with you! I promise I won’t be boring! I’ll ask you about yourself, compliment you, and act like I need your advice! I’ll be witty! I’ll buy you a drink in the clubhouse! Please?!”

Despite my silent pleas of desperation, the women glanced away, avoiding eye contact. The next sixty seconds seemed like an eternity. I wondered if cobwebs were forming at the corners of my frozen mouth.

“Are you here to play in the ladies’ league?” asked a passing elderly woman with white hair that matched her cotton sweater. I nodded and explained that I’d been late. “Well, I’m Pearl, and you can play with me,” she offered sweetly. Pearl and I took our place at the end of the long line of foursomes. Soon, we were joined by another latecomer, Rita. We three were the stragglers, the leftovers, the misfits, the rejects, the unwanted, last in line to tee off.

That morning, I put in the necessary work, asking questions, complimenting, soliciting advice and feigning wit. I learned that Pearl was 85 years old, played a respectable golf game, talked too much like me, and was nearly deaf. Rita was my age, had a career as an accountant, cared for her Portuguese mother with Alzheimer’s and didn’t like playing with Pearl because she never shut up.

It’ll take time, but I’ll get there. The key to success in golf, friendships and military life is the same — You don’t get what you wish for; you get what you work for.


Read more at her website, and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com

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