What Are Riches? #baffed twice in one week

Image credit: http://michellejoni.com/vajazzling/

Image credit: http://michellejoni.com/vajazzling/

When I was in bed on Sunday, recovering from my fabulous social exertions, I read an article in the NYT about v wealthy wives in NYC who don’t have jobs and are basically, the author writes, “a lot like mistresses – dependent and comparatively disempowered”. I found it pretty interesting because I too am a glamorous SAHM and, like these women, I have had a ton of education, I don’t have a paid job anymore, I am extremely well-maintained, and I have kids and help. Don isn’t a billionaire, though, so maybe we’re not totes similar. But I do get annual bonuses, and why tf not?? Equation as follows:

Don gets bonuses
> we’re married
> half of what he earns is mine
> he gets a bonus
> I get half of it.

Problem = ????

#baffed

As dear readers will know, I wanted to be an expat wife like my mother before me, her mother before her, her mother before her, and her mother before her who I’m not sure about, but did v little with her life. But that doesn’t mean that I have not made sacrifices for the good of our family. Yes, I gave up my career. I am schooled in English law, not Singaporean law. And Don’s job just happens to be in a field that is more lucrative than mine (oopsy, my bad as those nice Americans say), particularly given the opportunities for German motorway-like overtakings offered by a spell in Asia. We can’t all be experts in money laundering. So that’s totes been a sacrifice on my part.

As dear readers will also know, I have considered taking a job (though that would mean giving up my position on the board of the Singapore International Women and Trailing Spouses Association, which does wonderful charitable work throughout the region), and have simply not had the time to follow through. One of the reasons I was thinking about getting a job is that a whole bunch of other Expaterati women seem to have them all of a sudden. Sometimes it feels as if we’re dropping like flies, we brunchers, lunchers, and ladies’ nights goers. If I had a job, I would at least have an excuse not to spend most waking hours of every day of every week of every year with the irritants, like Don has. The excuse would be that if I had a job I’d have money and power, and those are the most important things, right? Obviously, because that’s what the author of the article said, and hers was an anthropologicalised study and therefore thusly truesome.

I was running all of these ideas through my mahusiv, thoughtful brain today during my vajazzling session. Michelle, the owner of the Vajaz salon, came over to say hello, and we got chatting. (We’re sort of friends, and abso nothing happened with me and her hus, as you know.) I told her about my whirlwind weekend of awesomeness, and about how we might be repatting. While I was saying how deva’d I feel about leaving Singers she made this little choking sound and told the vajazzler lady to go and check the schedule for the next customer. “I’ll take it from here”, she said.

She got in between my legs, and silently resumed the careful, decorative placing of Swarovski crystals. I felt droplets of liquid falling onto my fanny area (British fanny area; I don’t presently have the American fanny area done as I am concerned about sit-down-age), so I looked up (thankfully my honed stomach muscles are such that I can raise my head quite high) and saw that poor Michelle was crying into my said fanny area.

“Babes!!”, I exclaimed, being the spectacularly empathic person that I am, “What’s the matter?? It’s ok, I’ve done a six-month counseling course, so I’m completely non-judgmental. Feel free to talk to me. I’m listening.”

“We’re relocating!”, she said with a sob, “And that should be fine because I should be used to this after so many years of being expats, and Will has been offered a really great role, but this time… This time I finally felt happy that the kids were settled, and I could go back to work. So I opened this place, and I’ve worked my ass off to make it what it is today. Of course, I’m not earning anywhere near what Will is, so sure, it makes sense to go to the next job where he’ll earn even more. But everything that I’ve invested – not the money – I mean the time… the relationships… The relationships with my staff and my customers… All of that… Gone. Zero. And it’s not like Will even loves his job! He’s just grateful for the next step up, like I’m supposed to be grateful about him earning more money.”

“But, babes”, I said, super-sympathetically, “Him earning more money equals you earning more money! It’s a win-win!!”

“It isn’t, EJ, it really isn’t. Because I go back to square one, though at least with the experience I’ve gained this time, so I am grateful for that. But he continues on his trajectory. And if he decides one day, like we see so often over here, that marriage isn’t much more than a social construct, how stupid was I to prioritise his career over mine? Or how stupid was I to accept that him earning more was better for our family because more money meant more opportunities for our children?”

“I don’t know”, she continued, as my stomach muscles began to tire, “If he was a great artist who passionately loved his work and made the world a better place, maybe that would be worth the sacrifices. But he’s just a slightly rich person making other very rich people even richer. And those people don’t give a crap about us or anyone. So in the grand scheme of things, really, where is the meaning in all of this? I’ve found meaning in my day-to-day work with satisfied staff who have perfected their craft, and clients who leave here feeling better than when they walked in. Ok, so it’s not rocket science, and it’s not deep, but this is a place where people can get together – yes for the purpose of intimate adornment – but also to talk, and share, and relax. And that’s important. Forget power and money, what we do here is about relationships. And that’s worth something! That’s meaningful!!”

#baffed again, but because she seemed so upset I just nodded, and let her continue talking.

“And now…,” she went on, “Now I have to close this down, say goodbye to it and move on again. To the next place. Do all of that settling in stuff again. And once we’re in the next place, what then? I start again, set up another salon, and yes, I will do that. But all the time I’ll know that sooner or later, it’ll be over again. More goodbyes, more endings. It’s just tiring, you know?”

“Babes”, I said, “I do know. And it’s been so lovely that you’ve shared your thoughts with me. I totes appreciate that. But I have to run now because I have a late lunch, and then I have yoga. So why don’t we just go out for a drink some time, with the girlies. A few glasses of Veuve Click can do wonders with goodbyes and endings… Oh wait, argh, so sorry I totes forgot that you’re a recovering alco. Doh. Hashtag awkz!! How’s that going by the way? Actually, I’d better go before I’m late!”

I pulled on my clothes and ran off to pay. Busy busy busy!!

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Do Expat Wives Heart Alcohol Too Much? (& if so, WHY?!)

FullSizeRenderI’ve been reading a super interesting new weekly series on women and alcohol by an awesome health and fitness guru hottie here called Aimee Barnes. I personally don’t have a prob with the devil drink, as you know, but I am told that it’s not unusual for excess drinkage to occur in our Expaterati community. It has shaken me up a bit though because I thought only alcoholics shouldn’t drink in the morning. Aimee’s point in last week’s piece is that “alcoholic” shouldn’t even be how we’re thinking about this. And now that I apply my massive brain to the matter, I’m thinking, actually like, yes Aims babe.

As you also know, I’m not one to say no to a beverage on a night out with my Expaterati girlies, or at fabulous parties, and occasionally I do like a bit of Veuve Click on the roof terrace. Purely at times of celebration, of course. Or commiseration, of course. Or, when all else fails, because all else has failed, of course. Apart from that, I can totally take it or leave it.

I have, howsoever, known some Expaterati ladies who are far worse than me, and the thing is, as long as you know at least one person who’s worse than you, you’re good to go. Aimee didn’t exactly say that (at all), but I’m putting my own expert spin on this. Otherwise I’d just re-blog her stuff, right?! And what would be the point of that??!!

The v sad thing about said drinky-ers is what Babe Barnes writes re lost potential. I believe that’s a majorly good point because when I think about the expat boozers I have known – partic the ones who gave up their careers to become trailing spouses – it makes me wonder about what they’d be doing with their time, in the absence of alcohol. That said though, therefore thusly, they are often having an amazebobs time and tons of laughs, and I am v much in support of that.

I think.

This evening I was thinking about all this over a few glasses of NZ’s finest, and I got myself into a bit of a pickle. So if it’s true that expat wives like a drink a little too much, but it’s making them feel happier than they would be otherwise, what exactly is so wrong about that? I decided I needed to speak to cousin Clara the psychologist, even though she told me quite categorically not to contact her at work. It was just a quick question or two.

I Whatsapped her, saying, “Babes, soz, just a quickie! It’s kinda important for expat wives everywhere. EJ x”.

“Ok, I have 15 mins before my addictions group”, came the reply.

Once we were speaking, I put my first question to her: “Why do expat wives drink, if indeedy they do?”

“Alright, Emma-Jane, I’ll do my best to answer your question this time, but please, in future, stop trying to contact me at work unless it’s an emergency.”

“Yes sure, babe, but it kind of is an emergency because it’s quite an important issue, don’t you think? There are like a bajillion expat wives who need clarification on this, and I’ve Googled it and Bing’d it, but not much comes up, you know, so we need answers, and fast!! I need to get to the bottom of this!”

“Ok…”, Clara did the long pause thing, as these patronising psych people are prone to do, and then finally said, “In answer to the why, you could equally well Google alcohol use disorder in general, and then apply it more specifically to the population you’re talking about. The issues are the same: unprocessed or unmanageable loss, anxiety, and sometimes also past trauma. In the case of expat spouses, those issues can be compounded and re-enacted with each transition, when very real losses occur and recur. So you know as well as I do that if there is a transition every few years, that equates to a potentially serious build-up of unprocessed material, which in turn becomes increasingly unmanageable. It’s particularly difficult if the person is a parent, because then they’re likely to prioritise their children’s emotional wellbeing over their own. And you also know that expat marriages can be more challenging than those among stable populations, given the upheavals, uncertainties, frequent separation, and the fact that the couples really only have each other as the consistent adult presence along the way. So whilst that can have a strengthening effect in many cases, it’s still a significant source of anxiety, and it’s common that one party will end up carrying the anxiety on behalf of the other.”

That last bit made sense because I was feeling extremely anxious on Saturday, and Don just seems to be going about his business, totes relaxed, like he always does. I told Clara about that (she doesn’t read my blog because she’s too busy, which is like completely fine), and said that could be why I had maybe a little too much to drink after my turbulent emo journey with the Angelina Jolie looky likey.

“But”, I added, “That doesn’t mean that I have alcoholic usage disorderedness, right, because I was going out anyway, and I had a really great time with my girlies. So, you know, having a really great time made me feel a ton better, and we all had a lot of fun, and just because we were drinking… I mean… So ya, we got a bit tipsy and stuff, but it was a laugh. What’s the big deal, really? That’s kind of my other question: if it makes you happy, why the hell is it so bad??”

I heard what sounded like a sigh from Clara, but she’s all upset about the election result, and about how the National Health Service is going to be destroyed, yada yada, so it was probably about that rather than about our chat. I can’t understand why people don’t just get private health coverage, like in America. It works great there, right?? Oh everything is better in America. My turn to sigh LOL!!

“Emma-Jane”, Clara said, “I have to go and do my group now – while there still are groups available on the NHS for people who need so much and get so little – but I hope I’ve answered at least part of your question. Alcohol use, or use of any mood-altering substance or behaviour, is a way of managing difficult feelings. I like to see it as the psyche striving for balance, albeit in a distorted way, which unfortunately takes its toll on the individual and everyone close to them in the long-run. So if you take nothing else from our conversation…” –

I was v interested in what she was saying, but at the same time there was a Mega Thread happening on RSEW* in the form of a hashtag anonymouspost by a lady whose hus (presumably a FMAWG) had run off with a petite Asian girlie and wanted nothing more to do with said her, so I couldn’t completely concentrate on Clara’s words. I tried, believe me that I did!! But with every passing second there was a new and exciting comment. OMG, people were all over it!! I used to watch pay TV with a glass of wine, but here, with the Facebook groups, I can sit back in my roof terrace jacuzzi pool and see great drama unfolding for free!!

I got so caught up in the thread that I only realised I was still on the call with Clara when she shouted, “Emma-Jane!! Are you there? I have to go now!”

Argh, these psychologists can be so precious about their time.

“Ok, babes,”, I said, mostly wanting to return my full attention to the Mega Thread, “I’ll let you go. So interesting and I think you’ve really nailed it there, sweetie. But I need to run too. Speak soon! And babes, ffs cheer up about the stupid government stuff!! That’s my advice to you! You’re welcome!! Byeee!!”

 

 

 


* Real Singapore Expat Wives Facebook group. Over 8,000 members since last Autumn, go them!! The original group, Singapore Expat Wives, from which the RSEW admins were expelled, must be quaking in their 11,000 member boots. Hahaaa! As exciting as the Melbourne Cup and fox-hunting all rolled into one!! Thank goodness sanity will hopefully prevail on the latter when Cameron brings it back. I really don’t get what all the fuss is about! It’s just a bit of fun!!

Hey Expat Wife, Don’t You Mess With My Chi!

Today, after my placenta neck treatment, I had lunch with Michelle. Flo said last week that Michelle wanted to hook up with me, so I wasn’t too surprised when she sent me an iCal invite to meet at my local PS Café, at the Paragon. That’s pretty much roll-out-of-bed territory for me, given that I live five minutes’ walk away, and I’m always up for anything on their menu or amazebobs specials. I don’t care who I go there with. I just love going there.

I have to confess that I was a little nervous because I’ve had some weirdo-mundo flashbacks involving her husband, Will, and I see now that actually something did happen. I knew, though, that I am a master of affect-regulation, so I accepted the invitation, just to have an excuse to go to PS Paragon.

So I was totes relieved when Michelle stopped twizzling the straw in her lime mint soda and said, “EJ, the reason I wanted to see you today is that I want to say that… I’m sorry.”

(What now, now???)

She continued, hesitantly: “I’m in the twelve-step program now, and part of that is saying sorry to people… You probably don’t know this, but I used to talk behind your back. I said some awful things about you – that you’re stupid, ignorant, pretentious, a wannabe… And so I want to apologise to you. It was awful of me to have said those things, and I am truly sorry.”

Being the mahusively magnanimous person that I am, I totes forgave her, saying, “Hey no worries, babes, that’s utterly cool, no worries.”

(Pretentious?? Moi?! Where’d she get that crazy idea from?? The drink has obvioso addled her brain.)

She then proceeded to bore the bejingies out of me by talking about her recovery, and her new job. Apparently, after she dried out, she found herself some employment. So she blabbed and blabbed about her job, and how great it is to feel “useful and relevant in the workforce again” having spent so many years raising her children.

When she talked about her job, a little voice inside me said, “Hey, you used to have a job… You used to be independent…”

But then I noticed that I needed a gel pedi, and that the Givenchy 40% off sale was about to end, and that my Hyatt membership was for renewal. Stuff to do!! I don’t have time for a job, particularly as a stay-at-home mother. The helper wouldn’t be able to cope without me.

So I silenced the annoying little voice, sending it back to that corner of my brain full of things that aren’t true, and then reaised the real reason that Michelle had wanted to see me: she has always been jealous of me, and she thought that by getting a job, she could rub it in my face and thereby thusly have one up on me. Ha! I don’t think so, sweetie!!

We finished our lunch, and as we said goodbye, Michelle went all doe-eyed. She gave me a hug (I’m not a fan of hugging in hot climates, let’s just stick to air-kissing please), saying, “Honestly, EJ, I am so very sorry. If you ever need someone to talk to, give me a call and we’ll go for a tea. Just reach out. Any time.”

I concealed my utter bewilderment – why would I need someone to talk to?! I’m not the recovering alcoholic with a philandering husband! – and said goodbye as sweetly as possible, despite her pathetic, unnecessary compassion assault.

When I got down to Givenchy to try on the dress I’ve been admiring for ages (only $2,400 now, with the 40% off!), I reflected that Michelle had really done a number on my chi. Grrrrrrr. She staged this whole clean-up and get a job thing just to piss me off! I stood in front of the mirror in the dress. I looked stunning. Yes, I thought, maybe I will reach out to her for a cup of tea and a chat-ski. I could tell her all about the many times that her husband has come on to me. That would burst her bubble. She’ll go flying back to the booze. You messed with the wrong chick, honey.

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