Sunday, March 29, 2009

Let's Get Real

As usual, I scanned the obituaries this weekend. Many of them reveal interesting and fulfilling lives. Others however are sad or strike a nerve. One that bothered me was for a woman married to a U.S. diplomat. She lead a remarkable and generous life. However, I have to assume that whomever gave the obit writer information on the woman is responsible for an off-putting statement: "Mrs. So-and-so avoided the pool-side-and-tennis social life she might have had as a diplomat's wife." My cousin Hallie is a diplomat's wife. Her married life has been spent everywhere BUT pool-side or on a tennis court. Stationed in Panama during Noriega's reign, she had to take cover when shots were fired at their home. She also barely survived a deadly infection. When she and her husband were stationed in one of the newly re-established Balkan republics, their lives were constantly in danger. Diplomatic spouses are expected to take on duties in their host countries to serve the interests of the United States. They are not paid. While the paid, professional spouse is, say, off answering tough questions in a panel discussion, the unpaid spouse might be leading a volunteer effort to pick up litter on the shores of a river. How glam can you get?! I'm sure there are spouses who do lead more glamorous lives -- those whose appointments are political. Career diplomats -- the trained professionals -- take the tough assignments. There's little time or opportunity to lounge by a pool or play tennis when water is rationed and electricity is available a few hours each day. Sand storms, flooding, extreme heat or cold, and civil unrest are among things that can make the diplomatic life far from glamorous.

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