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 = ????
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!!