Your true emancipation is a fantasy'
‘It is a problem of expat life’ a friend of mine concluded thoughtfully, cigarette smoke emphasising the significance of her statement.
I don’t know, I said. I think it is maybe our age. And a different stage of life we are entering.
Think about it. Before, it was all about dating. Then weddings. Then baby showers. Now it is clearly a divorce stage. And well, you know what stage comes next, right? Funerals.
In less than a couple of months recently, a number of girls I know in Doha went through a sudden breakup of their marriages.
All came as a huge shock, all done in bizarrely similar way. The easiest, most convenient way for expat men here, in Doha. Go home, honey. Take some time off. Let’s see how it goes.
I have been thinking about this. It is not something you can plan for, or anticipate when you are making this expat life choice. Splitting up is possibly the last thing on your mind when, one day you make a decision- as a family, as a couple- to move abroad for a few years. Very often a trailing spouse, which is what most of us women here are, quits her (often a good one) job back home. She accepts that sacrifice as part of their future together. She maybe leaves her pretty house with wisteria, her close friends and ageing relatives and follows her husband someplace where suddenly, he is totally and utterly in charge. And at the first glance, it is all picture perfect. We don’t have to worry about finding a job, commuting and often even washing up, as maids will take care of that. But, who knows? Maybe it is the macho environment and the unwavering power position the husbands suddenly find themselves in that adds that bit of explosive powder to the midlife crisis sleeping volcano.
Here’s a deep note for you. (Every now and again, I can be quite philosophical. Fortunately, it does not last. ) We come here for what we originally anticipate to be a short period of time, a few years, at the most. And suddenly, something so major and significant happens, something that can alter our whole lives, right here, in what we considered to be a temporary place.
‘You’d better behave yourself’, Husband announced, as we chatted with another couple over dinner. ‘Or you will find yourself on that plane to Baku in no time!’
‘ Excuse me, I laughed, I am a British citizen, I think you’ll find?! You can’t deport me to Baku!’
‘Well…’, our friend added thoughtfully, ‘it depends on the price of the ticket, doesn’t it. If Baku is cheaper than London…It makes perfect sense! In fact, I say send her to Bahrain! ‘
Ha-ha. Very funny, I thought. Only it isn’t.
‘So what happens if you are being naughty, not me?’ I asked Husband. Hypothetically speaking.
And then I thought about it. What does happen then?
Well, I of course, will have a choice. I could leave. Go back to London. Or Bahrain. ‘But children would stay here’, Husband announced casually.
Not my ideal scenario, clearly…But, what power would I have in that situation? None, whatsoever. Will I have my own money to hire expensive lawyers to fight my case? No. Will I be able to take my children out of the country without his permission? No, that is kidnapping. Will I have money to live on? Buy my own place? No, no, no….
So basically, I would be utterly and fully f***d.
Oh God, my close girlfriend said to me- I have not slept all night worrying about this, in light of all the crap happening around right now?!
Don’t be silly, I said. With a fine arse like yours you are definitely not going to Bahrain. But…
I have seen some fine arses getting shipped home recently.
I guess, nothing is predictable or reliable in this life, and that, in a way, is a good thing. Husbands are not predictable. Their behaviour, often calm and obedient on the surface, could suddenly change. They are like Dobermans. You get them as cute puppies, you house train them…you teach them to behave, to not piss on the floor or tear up your clothes…and then suddenly, one day, some switch just flips in that brain of theirs and boom! They turn around and bite you. And in some cases, you think you have got yourself a Labrador. Only he turns out to be a Doberman at some point in life anyway.
Of course, relationships anywhere in the world, are not predictable either. And that is a good thing, too. And people fall in and out of love all the time. Shit happens. It is just that, as an expat wife, you have to be prepared for a situation where, should your Doberman husband suddenly go crazy, or find another bitch, you can’t just pack his bag, cut up his shirts and kick him out. In fact, it might be you who has to leave everything behind. Not just your marriage. But your home, your friends…Maybe even your children.
It might not be your decision to leave. Like a toy that had lost its shiny appeal after a few years, you might just get thrown away. Not fair, right? Well, life usually isn’t. It is just that, in some places, it seems more unfair to us girls than the boys. Wait a moment…What am I saying, and whom am I kidding? In almost all places, in all cases. Anywhere in the world.