Monday, August 12, 2013

Tradecraft for Trailing Spouses

To be a professional in any occupation, one must acquire the skills and tools of the trade and in this respect the Trailing Spouse (TS) is no different.  The skills taught to a would-be TS are known as "tradecraft". It is a set of rules or standard operating procedure. These are diverse, and include thrashing the maid, going to the gym, having lunch with inappropriate persons, and a multiplicity of other practices. 


E.G. Russia and China

Equipped with these tradecraft skills, the Trailing Spouse enters the underworld of his posting. They must operate in a hostile environment, among people of different cultures, faiths and beliefs. It is a world most people never see, never hear of, but it exists. The lives of many are in constant danger. The rules of a posting are cruel and haphazard.  A modern TS must blend in, live with disgusting foreigners, speak their language and befriend and exploit them at every opportunity. 



All Trailing Spouses have some form of basic domestic training. This involves learning how to operate a variety of household appliances, daytime boozing and resistance to interrogation should they get caught with someone who is not their wife or partner. After basic training, some are trained in the art of lunching, others become fitness instructors, but by far the most dangerous job is that of the Flirting Officer (FO).  One vital role of this TS is to recruit local people to use to his or her own advantage. Finding such people is the key to success in any posting. First and foremost, the FO must identify the right person, someone who is in a position or has the skills to carry out dirty work. An FO will be responsible for recruiting and running several people at the same time, none of whom will know of the others' existence.



The Trailing Spouse relies on his wits and uses logic to understand things. He adjusts his attitude to the situation and reacts before he thinks (E.G. when drunk). The TS listens to his "spider sense" and gut feelings.


This is how a Trailing Spouse thinks: 


A TS is always charming in a social situation, because he can not guarantee that the host or guests will be.


The TS knows his own strengths (sport) and weaknesses (showing off). 


He knows his own territory (pubs) and its inhabitants (regulars).


It is better to be known than to be a stranger to the area and its inhabitants.  The TS has a cover story to protect him ("I was in the khazi with Dodgy Roger").


He knows when to get out of parties and always has an escape route planned at official functions.


When the situation goes pear shaped and the TS gets sussed out as an underemployed hack who lives off his wife - he never gives up.  


The one thing that must stand up in the world is the cover. The TS must be who they say they are, and when working in a foreign country, be able to prove their identity. The best cover story is always as near to the truth as possible, details such as age, place of origin (Liverpool), his education (Holland Park comp), and his likes (Girls!Girls!Girls!) and dislikes (ugly people). In doing so, the TS does not fall into a trap when an enemy starts a background check.   



There can be very few careers where the dangers far exceed the possible rewards. Being a Trailing Spouse is one of them. No profession requires so much from those who pursue it, few careers bring so much danger, denigration and death. Why do those who have been a part of it, and who have learnt with bitterness what it is really like, still try to play a part in it again? Can it be that trailing the spouse, like fish and chips, is addictive? 



To certain types the business of trailing has a very definite intellectual and psychological appeal.  The Trailing Spouse is seen as operating in secret, gathering information which other people do not have.  The TS is set apart from people in general, not necessarily by society, who may not be aware of his activities, but by his own consciousness of what he is doing.  In his refusal to accept the norms of behavior and morals by which the majority of people live he not only sets himself apart from them but also, in his own mind, above them. 

if we can get away with that, we can get away with anything


The other two classes who have followed this line of reasoning over the years are criminals and artists.  They create considerable resentment in the minds of ordinary people, based, it would often seem, on envy as much as on genuine moral indignation. This quality of envy is particularly noticeable in the case of the Male Trailing Spouse because he is believed to be committing moral mayhem - in that, although he is acting against the norms of society, he is secretly supported by the Establishment. He represents licensed wickedness, the enviable ability to sin and waste with automatic absolution.  No wonder the Male Trailing Spouse has become the centre of an ever growing fantasy world expressed in novels, films and TV shows. 



To the professional spouse, actively engaged in the business of trailing, the fantasy world is as remote as is the world of the average citizen. The TS who survives to carry out his job on a day-to-day basis is a professional in the same way as lawyers, doctors and lapdancers. The TS will have had thorough training, will have served an arduous apprenticeship and will daily have to meet exacting standards that never grow less stringent. These standards do not have the element of ethics that exists in the case of the doctor and the lapdancer, but they are working standards calling for an excellence of performance on a continuing basis.  If the TS fails to measure up to these standards, the result will often be imprisonment, extreme physical discomfort, or, possibly, death.  


The professional TS must always be fully aware of his purpose and of who he really is, often while living with conviction the life of a completely different person with another purpose.