The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

46 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL There are many types of singles—the young, unmarried, gay entry-level officer; the specialist with a Member of House- hold retired parent; the middle-aged entry-level officer; the divorced or separated mid- or senior-level officer, with and without children; and other combinations and permutations. Each type and, indeed, each different personality tends to have a different view of their situation. As one senior-level FSO sees it, it is more “difficult emotion- ally, socially, logistically—and also less safe—to be single in the Foreign Service. You have to be a braver, heartier soul.” That is a broad statement, but there is certainly some truth in it. Speak- ing for myself, as a single person in the Foreign Service I feel most acutely lonely when I’m left alone in my new home. The best way I deal with this is to have internet connectivity so that I can Skype, WhatsApp or email with my family and with my friends, who are like family. To explore this issue I asked a few dozen colleagues from different agencies and bureaus and of various ages and marital status to share their thoughts. What follows is a compilation of some of the responses I received. Comments have been edited to protect privacy and for clarity. Meant to be neither compre- hensive nor definitive, they offer a variety of perspectives on the unique challenges and joys of being single and serving at a U.S. mission abroad. On Developing Relationships I joined the Foreign Service single in 2002. My wife and I met in A-100, but didn’t start dating until she was in Bogotá and I was in Mexico City, about 10 months later. We dated long distance for two years, then went to Baghdad; the only reason we went there was that we wanted to be posted together, but didn’t want to get married after only dating a year (when we were bidding). After that, we got married and had kids. My wife has done an out-of-cone assignment and been on leave with- out pay for five years cumulatively out of the past 15 in order for us to be posted together. –Mid-level management FSO Most of my friends here, I think, would agree that PSPs (pri- ority staffing posts) are not the hotbed of romance people often think they are. Due to the gender imbalance, this might be a little different for women. It can be easy to meet people in the Foreign Service, as that is often part of our job. But due to how often we move, it’s often hard to find a partner, as you have to meet someone fairly quickly once arriving at post to have enough time together before you move on. People who are in relationships but not actually married fall into a sort of gray area where they aren’t really single, but they also aren’t married in the department’s eyes. Being LGBT or a woman can add another layer of challenges due to the conservative nature and cultural norms of a lot of countries where we serve. –Political officer Singles Have Families, Too, Just Not at Post Some posts put a lot of resources into keeping EFMs and kids happy and entertained, and exclude singles from things like giving input to creating commissary wish lists (often, single people do not put their personal email on the ‘spouses’ list, so they do not get asked what they might want at the commis- sary). Or they conduct Community Liaison Office events like cooking classes or hospital visits when single working people can’t take off. Preferences go to families to take vacation during the holidays (when, if the most important thing is to be “together,” it can be even more important for the singles to travel to be with their families, as those who have family at post have each other). Posts focus on families having good schools for their kids or families having housing that they “deserve.” For the State Department, single officers with no children are not as expensive. They do not have as many allowances. –Mid-level USAID FSO When I worked in the management section, I watched the morale of my post closely. Being single, I tried to make sure that other singles felt like part of the mission family, so I organized outings around the city, making sure to include the singles at post without excluding the non-singles. I was surprised to see that for Christmas, both years, the single entry- level officers were denied leave. That said, some of the singles who were left at post over the holidays organized an “orphans’ Christmas” for the rest of us. The best part of being single in the Foreign Service is the free- dom to go on this adventure alone. –Mid-level FS specialist