My relationship with my husband having become long-distance again, with snatched phone calls that are invariably interrupted or overheard by my entire family, imagine my surprise when he told me today that he’d made his travels plans and would be here on Saturday.
Good news, indeed. I’d really love to see him – and he can bring over the spare pairs of shoes for the boys that I completely forgot to pack.
It’s great timing, too. We’re having a big family get-together on Sunday and, while he may not have factored this event into his plans (I kind of sprung it on him on the phone), he’ll be here for the whole day. This will mean the members of my family who haven’t seen him for absolutely ages can reacquaint themselves with him and will come away reassured that I do actually have a husband. My brother and sister-in-law have only seen him twice in the past eight years, you see, and one of those occasions was at our wedding. As for my seven-year-old niece, she doesn’t even believe he exists.
This is the big drawback of expat living: the years roll by so fast and getting everyone in the family in the same country, let alone under one roof, is actually quite tricky. When I come home with the kids for our annual vacation, DH has to stay in Dubai to work – last year, he joined us in England for a week; this year, he’ll be here for two days.
These prolonged summer separations are part and parcel of the Dubai lifestyle. Over the long, hot summers, UAE stay-at-home mums have traditionally always taken the kids back to their home country for six to 10 weeks to reintroduce them to green grass, grandparents and wellies. A decade ago, there was very little to do in Dubai over the summer months and plonking your offspring in an unchilled pool in August is the equivalent of boiling them in a slow cooker.
This is changing as there’s a lot more to do in the desert over the summer now and not as many wives leave for the whole summer holiday. But each year, there are still large numbers of husbands who are left to their own devices in Dubai. Now, I know for a fact that there are some who use this time for some extra-curricular activities. Temporarily released from domestic life, they can live it up at Dubai’s bars, perhaps even install a girlfriend in the family villa or enjoy ‘maid service with a happy ending’ from the Filipina housemaid.
On the other hand, as I discovered in July while I was working, there are, thankfully, an awful lot of husbands who use this time to catch up on work, do odd-jobs they’ve been too busy to do, and go to the gym. The guys in my office who’d been temporarily abandoned were really missing their families and worked late because there was no one to rush home to. There may have been one or two all-night benders – which, I can see their point, they only get to do once a year – but, for the most part, they were having a very quiet time, existing on beans-on-toast and slumping into bed with their BlackBerries.
It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that post-economic slump ‘summer bachelor’ is far more likely to spend quality time with the family dog over July and August than with those dreadful skinny, pretty women with no morals who, given the chance, would prey on our husbands in our absence. The minority of husbands with alley-cat morals – who consider getting a girlfriend over the summer to be the same as getting a hire car when their own car has been sent to the garage for servicing – are a dying breed.
And what’s more, with more women staying in Dubai over the summer, either because they choose to or they’re working themselves, the chances of a serial cheater getting busted are much greater. At the very least, he’ll find himself, come September, cornered at a cocktail party in the Ranches in between his beloved and his summer substitute.