Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Wiflomat ©

Diplomats are taking same-sex companions to postings abroad, the title above should read spouselomats but we can give up being all PC all the time and stick to the above. How does gender matter anyway, right? I could also go with diplomates, but it somehow conjures up an imagery of a man in a black suit, Mont Blanc cufflinks, saluting his flag and his wifey winking to the camera with bunny ears and a bushy tail.

I was thinking of writing how one chases spiders away and how difficult it is to come to a first world country and adapt and all of that, but people before I, wives before me, have already  done  a good job detailing that kind of stuff . Also, I never did have to train cheetahs, or kill snakes, or rig up electric wiring anywhere I've lived – YET. So how do I write about my experience?

First, the thing about being married to a diplomat – mediocre or awesome – is that he (I am the wifey remember) is connected to something big. Very big. His/her work is about billions of dollars in trade, changing or maintaining political borders, helping earthquake victims, writing global environment laws, etc. The job is omnipotent, all encompassing, self perpetuating and basically like sand in a ruched swimsuit. It gets into crevices that you didn’t know existed. Or at least that's what most spouses feel at some point or another. We see our spouses on TV, their names in newspapers, they are key-note speakers in conferences and they address local communities all the time. We, the wiflomats, we're their number one cheer leaders, their groupies (we do sleep with them), their PR person and their event management specialists all rolled into one. We facebook their successes, watsapp their images, tweet their sound bytes, bask in the reflection of their glories and yet surprisingly, soon enough we're at the helm of their photo ops. We make our homes fancier than we care, we dress to impress, our jewelry makes bold statements, our children are polished to their eyeballs and yet we're not our spouses. We can try and overshadow them socially with our wit, charm, beauty, elegance and warmth and yet, it is they who hold the office. So we go squirreling in our career drawers and talk about our careers and qualifications, we think of what we would have been or we would have had, had we not taken up the role of a trailing spouse. A medical practice, a dance troupe, a CEO ship in a company, our own NGO – the truth is, we will never know. We chose this.

We wiflomats are not revered like Army wives, nor are we pitied like the wives of travelling salesmen. We are seen as intoxicated spoilt beings who live in a continuum of soirees and coffee mornings. No one realizes that we, in effect end up being single parents too, with our husbands working non-stop or traveling incessantly.  We don't moan, we don't complain, we do what needs to be done. We make sure the children do their homework, the house is clean, we learn those 20 recipes even though we've long misplaced the books that held them, we learn to knit if winterwear is expensive, we learn to swim if there's water aplenty, we learn 13 languages, we learn to ski if the mountains are cold enough but the most important thing we learn to do is s-t-r-e-t-c-h our money.  We learn where to buy the cheapest table cloths, the most original fakes, we learn to buy gifts in bulk, we learn never to spend our money on chocolates, we learn how to decorate with leaves from our gardens and steals from the antique store, we learn to bake without baking powder if need be, and we learn the exact international shipping costs of Victoria's Secret stores if we have ample bosoms and can’t procure our nether garments locally without losing an arm or a leg (or some boob).

No matter how many phone calls we make, we truly never know what awaits us in a new post. We just go in good faith, ready to tie our apron strings and wear the gardener's belt and don the hostess' pin. There are plenty who put their foot down and refuse to be trailing washerwomen, but most of us are bitten by the gypsy bug and we have an itch to pack our bags. Not bags exactly, more like 400 boxes and then reach another destination and unpack them. Often ourselves. We are driven by the force of the next handmade trinket we'll own. The next 'best kept secret travel destination' we will visit. The next best opportunities our children will experience. The next bunch of memories we will make. The next food we'll try and most importantly the next chapter we will write. For, we all have a  book in our head. A different book. Unique. Just like us and the lives we make. And they're not all about chasing away spiders.

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