Seeing my daughter write her letter to Santa made me think about who I would write and what I would ask if I had the chance. In my situation, very realistically speaking, Santa, is my husband’s employer. He’s the almighty. He decides WHEN we go, WHERE we go, if they approve our choice of house we’ll live in, if I’m allowed to work or not, and how much money we’ll get. We probably shouldn’t put all this responsibility on one institution, but it’s like that in our job. I won’t send my letter officially, I don’t want to be the crazy wife everyone talks about at the department (don’t say I’m already that one), but I know they are always watching over us, so here is my letter to them:
Dear Ministry of Foreign affairs,
I’ve been good this year, very good. I’ve gone to almost a hundred of receptions to represent Belgium. I’ve smiled all the way even the bad days. I’ve made a lot of connections and spread the word about lovely innovative Belgium all over the Emirates. I praised our chocolates, beers, construction skills and medical innovations. I even made some little white lies when I had to… to cover our flaws (like why we haven’t had a government for almost a year now).
I’ve also been a good wife. I let my diplomat (over)work all year round. I didn’t call him during the day not to distract him and wasn’t too mad all the times he missed diner, kids bath time or basically seeing us. I’ve accepted the job and done my best to help him with my social, organization and cooking skills, not to forget my diplomatically correct jokes.
In consequence, I have a couple of requests that would be nice to fulfill.
First, I’d like to access my husband’s agenda. How simple is that? Apparently not because you already denied my request. But you don’t get it! Here meetings and receptions are decided very last minute (if you’re lucky two days before the event). Add to that the fact that my diplo is very busy, easily distracted, forgets to mention things sometimes (often). As a result, we arrange the planning for the week and then he comes back home Sunday night with a “We have to leave in 30 min. We have an event in Dubai”. We have two kids and they are flexible but still enjoy some planning. And me too.
Moreover, sometimes I get very stressed because I have to contact my husband and he’s out of reach! While I’m imagining he was rolled over by a Nissan Patrol, or electrocuted at the office (embassies are not safe anymore, or maybe just not the Belgian one, but yes, they will move, eventually). In fact, he just had a last-minute meeting with one of these embassies or institutions where they take his phone away for multiple purposes. I know the diplomat’s agenda is pretty secret and have to be encrypted and everything, but hey, I’m kind of sleeping with your diplomat for almost 10 years now, I’m pretty sure this gives me the right clearance level.
Secondly, I would like to stay in Abu Dhabi for 4 years in total. I know the plan was to send us to Qatar for one year after 3 years here (for the World Cup 2022) but seriously have you thought about it? UAE and Qatar aren’t exactly best friends anymore. In fact, you can’t even go directly there from here, you have to stop somewhere else first (although it’s very close). Same for our whole container! Everything has to be packed here, shipped to Oman, unpacked, repacked without any UAE label and shipped to Qatar. Timewise it’s probably equivalent to sending our stuff to Australia but with double “the breaking things” rate.
Also, it seems harsh to send someone out just for one year. I have nothing against Qatar but in one year, you just start to settle. I wonder if it’s even possible to make friends if I say, “I’ll leave in 6 months”. Anyway, I’m sure that if you can’t change that one my husband will be over the moon to be a part of the World Cup and so will be his friends. Me, less. I may have to take a leave of absence on this one.
And finally, although we don’t have an official national dress in Belgium, I think we can promote our designers. I might look pregnant (according to some ugly cow) but I think I’ll do justice to a nice Diane Von Furstenberg dress with a Delvaux bag. Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Elvis Pompilio, Martin Margiela, … could we give them justice for the love of these fashion gods? We could promote Belgium with something else than chocolate and beer (the best of the world by the way)! We have much more to offer and our creativity should be valued. Every national day reception I see all these women in their gorgeous national dresses, the Fins, the Indians, the Filipinos, the Koreans, they show up for their country. Belgium, nothing. I’m pretty sure designers would be up for a discount knowing you’re having a tough time financially speaking. It’s 2020 and influencers are the new advertising gurus! The brands know it better than you. Do you think the German Ambassadors drive a non-German car? In the world, your ambassadors, your diplomats, their partners are the best influencers Belgian designers can have! They usually meet with people with influence, wealthy people, people who can afford those designer pieces. Diplomats and spouses can promote or taint the image of Belgium! You don’t want to be the country known for its badly dressed diplomats and partners, right? Don’t get me wrong, we do our best, but why is my husband dressed in an overpriced Italian suit and I in an overpriced dress from UK when we have such designer wealth? Worst case, diplomats are cheap on clothes and you’ll end up with representatives being dressed as 80’s hipsters. Think about it for a minute, don’t reject the idea so quickly. Especially here. The market is huge! I’m pretty sure if I have a nice Delvaux bag I can influence at least 20 women per year to buy one. I’ll be a good saleswoman in another life. I’m not asking for diamonds, although every single person I meet mention we are famous for them… next year maybe.
Thanks for reading my requests. If you do this for me, if you do a little bit more for all of us partners of diplomats, I assure you we’ll be grateful all year long. We work in the shadow. We live suspended to your decisions (like a Ministerial visit during a weekend which results in kids never getting to see their parents… it didn’t even cross your mind, right?). And could you please, please, please explain to your brave minions in Brussels, weekend falls on a Friday and Saturday here!
We are seen by others either like “followers” or “lazy opportunists”. We deserve a little bit of consideration and help in the job that is ours too in the end. You are a good Ministry compared to many other in the world, you really started to consider us and we know you try your best. But there is always room for improvement. I didn’t marry a diplomat. But he became one along the way. I’m happy with this amazing life, but please my dear Brussels, stop thinking we live a permanent dream and don’t deserve anything more than what we already have. Please don’t neglect our requests, most of us are easily satisfied. If we’re happy, you’ll have a bigger chance to manage a flock of hard-working diplomats. Our job’s not that easy, come and get a look by yourself.
I’m not threatening you to start being undiplomatic next year if I don’t get what I asked, I’ll never do that. But hey, it’s worth a try, right?
Happy desperate diplo wife