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by Lawrence F. Farrar

From the Officer Evaluation Report on the work performance of Foreign Service officer Peter Hempel.  Mrs. Hempel, an attractive young woman, is the mother of three small children.  She is a gracious and charming hostess. Her poise, conversational ability, dignified reserve, and subtle sense of humor make it obvious that she is a credit to the Service.  

From the Officer Evaluation Report on the work performance of Foreign Service officer Frank Barnes.  Mr. Barnes is assisted in his work by an attractive and intelligent wife who is an accomplished hostess and is active in local affairs.  She serves as the social chairman for the Wives Club, a position which requires her to make extensive contact in the local community. In addition to the attributes already mentioned, Mrs. Barnes is fully versed in the social requirements of the local society.  


A large-faced woman with a conspicuous chin, Patty Troutner wrapped herself in the mantle of ambassadorial privilege.  Like her husband, Ambassador Charlie Troutner, she devoted no thought to its derivative and temporary nature. Before the presidential election, Charlie Troutner, a successful Indiana furniture manufacturer, reminded party officials and Washington insiders he had been generous man.  He could be more generous—but first he wanted to be considered for an ambassadorship. No point in pussyfooting around.

Patty felt terribly let down when London went to a detergent manufacturer.  Then Rome was entrusted to a failed senator from New Jersey with an Italian name.  And Madrid became the beneficiary of the president’s college roommate. The Troutners had shifted their hopes to Buenos Aires when a White House caller proposed Tokyo.

When Charlie shared the news, Patty cried.  But, with the possibilities fast slipping away, she said, Yes, take it.  Soon after, the new president swore Charlie Troutner in as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.  Patty became the wife of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. She relished the role.

 The Tokyo Residence especially pleased the ambassadorial pair.  Sited on a hill just above the Chancery, it mirrored the vaguely Spanish architectural style of that structure.  A stucco wall surrounded the white two-story residence and its spacious grounds. A crew of gardeners meticulously maintained the azaleas; the ginkgo, maple, and dogwood trees; the roses and wisteria; and the lawns and walkways that graced the garden.  The garden, in turn, enclosed a long, ornamental pond, where water lilies, their flowers white, yellow, and pink, floated serenely in summer. For diplomatic functions, attendants guided vehicles up a long drive lined with cherry trees.

A self-appointed docent, Patty reveled in showing the place off.

“I think the government got its money’s worth,” she told a dozen wives from an Indiana bankers’ delegation one spring afternoon.  “This place says something. Says we’re a country that counts.”

She shepherded the visitors through high ceilinged, large and small dining rooms, reception areas, and a grand room where two hundred could gather for receptions and musicales.

“When the weather’s nice, we swing out the big glass doors, and people have their drinks by the pool.  I think it’s just a lovely place for parties. The other diplomats and Japanese are always impressed. Don’t you agree, Amy?”

Amy Cresswell, wife of the ambassador’s deputy, Sam Cresswell, nodded.  “It’s a lovely place; everyone says so.”

“You see.  If anyone would know, it’s Amy,” Patty said.  “Amy is one of our regulars. She and the other embassy ladies are real troopers, always ready to pitch in.”

Amy, a petite brunette with dark eyes, smiled.  Stationed at Patty’s side, a step back, she appeared both appreciative and embarrassed by Patty’s considerate words.

Patty paraded the women into the foyer.  On one side, a sweeping semicircular stairway led to the second floor living quarters.  When they hosted parties or receptions, the Troutners counted it a nice touch to wait until guests had assembled and then, like collateral royalty greeting their subjects, descend the staircase hand-in-hand.  Two-thirds of the way down, they would pause to smile and wave to those waiting below. Patty dubbed it “our grand entrance.”


Although they employed household help before coming to Japan, for the first time the Troutners now superintended a staff.  It included a chef, a major domo, four maids, a chauffeur, gardeners, a protocol advisor, and immediate access to additional servants, as required.  Mr. Sasaki, the chauffeur who piloted their black Cadillac through Tokyo’s streets, quickly gained top place among Patty’s favorites. “He is,” she declared, “so polite and accommodating.”  In other words, he did whatever she wanted.

In a sense, the entire embassy complement could be viewed as the Troutners’ staff, and it had not taken them long to adopt that perspective.  Patty easily embraced the long-prevailing view that the wives of diplomats doubled as obligated members of the embassy team.  During her Washington orientation, she latched on to the idea that those wives were expected to provide uncompensated representational (entertaining) and other kinds of support to help promote American interests abroad.  

When not carrying out such duties, the wives stayed home, tended their children, and pursued no separate careers of their own.  A former ambassador alerted Patty to the fact that, with a diplomat and his wife, you got two for the price of one.  Naturally, she assumed, as the embassy’s most senior wife, she’d had a mandate bestowed upon her to ensure the other wives performed appropriately.  Patty’s high regard for herself and limited sensitivity for the needs and feelings of others prompted her to exercise her assumed authority with a firm hand.

Before departing Washington, Patty failed to hear (or avoided hearing) that not all wives felt comfortable in their perceived roles.  Indeed, many, especially younger wives, influenced by the sweeping social changes of the 1960s, were not at all contented. They did not want to host—or even attend—representational events.  And an increasing number wanted to pursue their own careers. As the ’60s Dylan song had it, the times they indeed were a-changing, and critics increasingly challenged the notion of embassy wives as unpaid diplomatic adjuncts.


Amy Creswell glanced up from The Japan Times when her husband, Sam, came through the door that evening.  He was brown-eyed, tan, and fit-looking and, despite his gray hair, she found it difficult to believe he was closer to fifty than to forty.

  “How was your day?” he said.

“Well, this morning I had to trail after Mrs. Troutner while she gave a tour to a bunch of bored women from Indiana.  Then, after lunch, I endured another meeting of the Embassy Wives’ Club.”

“Fun, huh?”

“I’m really tired of flower arranging demonstrations.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Then we had this long discussion—should we visit the Opama orphanage or the Shizuoka leper home.”

“Didn’t you go to the leper home last year?”

“Oh.  And I agreed to pour at the Tokyo International Women’s Club tea.”

“I suppose your pal, the Dragon Lady, was there, too.”

“Oh, Sam, if it weren’t for your career . . .”

She knew he understood exactly what she meant.  Foreign Service lore spun out story after story about demanding, self-important ambassadorial wives like Patty Troutner.  In the year since her arrival, Patty had traveled a long way toward establishing herself as one of the most notorious.

As First Lady of the Embassy, she regularly strained the limits of what people could tolerate.  She decreed no wife could hold an outside job. If invited to an embassy function, wives would attend—no exceptions—and, let there be no confusion, they came to work, not as guests.  If servants failed expeditiously to pass food platters or empty ash trays, wives picked up the slack—or heard about it later. Participation in volunteer and charitable activities became mandatory.

“I told you she was going to do it.”  Amy’s voice reflected her irritation. “And now she’s done it.”

“Done what?”

“Put her dress code in writing.”

Sam shook his head.

“Mimeographed sheet.  Hose, heels, a proper dress, and—preferably—a hat.  No shorts, slacks, or casual footwear outside the housing area.”  Amy plucked a sheet of paper off the sideboard and waggled it in Sam’s direction.  

“You know what she said in the car coming back?”

“I can’t wait to hear.”

“She said, ‘Amy, you know how the ambassador and I feel about our image here.  As the senior wife, after myself, I hope you will speak to the problem cases.’ She specifically mentioned Mavis Benedict.  Apparently, she spotted Mavis at the base exchange in slacks. In slacks.”

Sam sighed sympathetically.

“Now she wants me to go shopping with her at Yokota on Friday.  What could I say?”

Patty frequently invited Amy to accompany her on day trips.  Along the way, Patty nattered endlessly—about her daughters, about the burdens of ambassadorial office, about the quaintness of the Japanese—Why, the foreign minister’s wife looks just like a little China doll—and about any gossip she had scooped up.

“The problem,” Amy said, “is that you have to listen to her.”

Despite such annoyances, Amy played her role extremely well.  She exemplified the image of the ideal Foreign Service wife that held sway in the decades after World War II.  Amy dressed in conservative good taste, if not always stylishly; was immaculate in her grooming; and consciously comported herself as a representative of the United States.  She did what was expected of her, no questions asked.

A veteran hostess, Amy could orchestrate a dinner party for eight or a reception for one hundred with equal aplomb.  The crystal would sparkle and the in-season centerpiece would catch the eye. The linen would be crisp and the food nicely presented.  She would search out the best fish and vegetables the market had to offer, organize and supervise the help, remind the bartender of his duties, greet and introduce guests, make small talk, guide the ladies away while the men had their brandy, ensure a spotless cleanup, and tally the accounts.  Although she received no monetary compensation, her diplomatic wifely duty obliged her to do these things—again and again.

Foreign Service life had not been easy.  Amy had cowered alone in their Beijing house while soldiers rampaged through the courtyard; awaited household effects that never showed up in London (pilfered during transshipment in Hong Kong); been punched by a drunk in the Madrid train station; experienced gut-wrenching fright during Richter six earthquakes in Tokyo; packed and unpacked every two or three years; and always been subordinate to someone’s wife.  

Everyone knew the pecking order.  As your husband moved up, so did you.  Moreover, it was an article of faith that a wife’s performance, commented on in her husband’s annual evaluation by his supervisor, could influence the husband’s career, for good or ill.  This—and the need for some kind of payoff for all she had endured—pushed Amy on.  Yet, she harbored serious doubts about the fairness and effectiveness of the system that would yield her that turn.  She sought to suppress those doubts, but they were always there.


Dealing with Patty Troutner had proved no easy task.  And it got no easier. A few days after Amy had vented her feelings to her husband, her phone rang.  “I’ve told my assistant to summon the wives to the Residence at 1:30,” Patty said. “I want to discuss their performance at last night’s reception.  Make sure they’re all there. No excuses. It’s quite important.”

The wives gathered by 1:15. They sat primly in the great room on chairs and sofas arranged as if for a musical performance.  Chatting quietly among themselves, they waited. And waited. At 1:45, her personal assistant and Amy in tow, Patty strode to the front of the group.  She did not look happy.

“Ladies, I’ll come directly to the point.  Last night, some of you—unfortunately, too many of you—let us down.  Both the ambassador and I were quite disappointed. Quite disappointed.”

Some of the wives exchanged quizzical looks; others appeared to pay devoted attention, waiting whatever words would issue next from Patty’s lips.

“I don’t know where you were, but several times none of you were there to take guests off the receiving line.  I’ve spoken to you about this before. I hope this will be the last time I have to do so.” She peered at them over her half-frame glasses like a headmistress addressing a clutch of errant school girls.

No one spoke.  No one asked for clarification.

“Also, several times I noticed some of you talking to each other and not looking after our guests.  That simply will not do.” She fixed her gaze on Lisa Bibbins, a timid young woman married to a first tour officer in the economic section.  “I don’t mean to single anyone out. But I must say, Lisa, I’m not sure you and Mavis ever pried yourselves out of that corner to chat with any of the ladies from other embassies.”  

Of course, she meant to single someone out.  Lisa’s face reddened; she looked stricken, as if she had been struck a sharp blow to the solar plexus.  In her first weeks at post, Lisa had already heard about the wisdom of avoiding Mrs. Troutner’s wrath. Now she had become its direct target.  Her nervous husband, struggling to find his own way, had earlier offered her the less than helpful advice to try not to make mistakes.

“I’m sure I won’t have to bring this up again,” Patty said.  Then, like a pastor expounding on the sins of the congregants, she rambled on for another fifteen minutes cataloging the collective shortcomings of the women there assembled—among other things: failure to introduce guests to each other; inappropriate attire by some of the junior officers’ wives (Patty did not care if miniskirts were in); and, inattention to moving overstaying guests toward the exit at evening’s end.

“I had to encourage them to leave myself.  Some of you even left before the last guests.”  

Appropriately chastised, no one spoke, no one that is other than Mavis Benedict.  Rumor had it that, before marrying her diplomat husband, Mavis had been a habitué of Haight-Ashbury.  Or maybe it was a commune. Or both. Whatever the truth, Patty frequently characterized her as a “hippie.”

“Both our kids had the sniffles, and we needed to look in on them,” Mavis said.  “I’m sorry I left a little early, but . . .”

Amy monitored Patty’s reaction.  She displayed a quick flash of irritation.  Patty regularly described Mavis as a bad influence.  Planted all sorts of ideas in people’s minds. Patty considered Mavis to be too aggressive, too independent and, surely, too uncooperative.  

Patty ignored Mavis’ comment.  She simply said, “We’re all on the embassy team.  I’m sure your husbands agree. Remember, the ambassador and I are counting on you.”  With those inspirational words, Patty Troutner marched out of the room.

Afterwards Lisa Bibbins approached Amy, who had stayed behind to discuss an invitation list with the protocol officer.  Her large, innocent eyes cast down and wringing her slender hands, Lisa said, “Mrs. Cresswell, one of the others suggested I talk to you.  I’m from a small town, and I’ve never been overseas before, and I . . .” Tears welled up.

“Don’t worry, Lisa.  It’s always a bit difficult at first.”

“But, Mrs. Troutner looked right at me, and . . .”

“You’ll get the hang of things.  I didn’t even know how to boil water, let alone tell the difference between a Bordeaux and a Riesling.  And we had to host a dinner for twenty my first week at post.”

“A Bordeaux?  Oh, surely, I won’t have to . . .” The prospect of organizing a dinner party whelmed and then overwhelmed the young woman.

“No.  I just meant it’s something we all go through,” Amy said.  “You’ll do just fine.” But, Lisa, in fact, struck her as unusually worried, almost frightened.

“They say if you don’t do well, it can hurt your husband’s career.  I’d just die if I did something to . . .”

Amy had encountered dozens of new wives over the years, most of them nervous to some degree.  But, Lisa seemed especially vulnerable, especially apprehensive. She would bear watching. It was not an easy environment.


The following morning, Amy joined Janet Mullins and Laurie Barnett for their weekly coffee.  They were “old timers,” like Amy’s husband; their husbands occupied senior embassy positions.

Janet, a blonde lady (lady her preferred term) from Mobile, Alabama said, “Mrs. Troutner was absolutely right.  I don’t know what this world is coming to. These young women . . . where do they get these attitudes?”  She bit into flaky little cookie.  “Hm. These are good.”

“There’s all this talk about change, but what about plain good manners?” Laurie said.  Laurie was a sober looking Bostonian, much concerned with protocol and good breeding.

“I guess they just don’t care about their husbands’ careers,” Janet said.  “It’s sad. I can’t say I like it. Not one bit. What’s going on in the States?  Last time we were back on home leave a crowd of women was picketing the White House.  I have no idea why.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s beginning to show up here,” Amy said.  “I have to admit that sometimes I can sympathize with them.” Of late, that sympathy manifested itself more often than sometimes.

“Oh, come now, Amy,” Laurie said.  “I suppose I’m for women’s rights. But, this is getting a little out of hand.  I mean we have obligations. We’ve always accepted that.”

“I don’t think these younger women even knew what Mrs. Troutner was talking about,” Janet said.

“Oh, I think they do.  They just don’t accept it,” Amy said.  Laurie refilled Amy’s cup.

“We’ve had to put up with so much over the years; but when we came into the Service we knew it was the right thing to do,” Laurie went on.  “There was a consul general’s wife in Alexandria who was just impossible. And her husband was worse. But, here we are. I did my job—kept the home fires burning, took care of the kids, and still found time for volunteer work at the hospital.  I’m sure it was all part of the reason Bob got promoted.” Like veterans of the same campaigns, they regularly shared such war stories.

“I heard some of these young wives back in DC are pushing hard to make sure they’ll be allowed to work overseas.”

“How much do you suppose we’d get if they paid us?” Amy said.  They all laughed.

Amy envied her friends their certainty.  But, nagging doubts about where she really stood plagued her.  

She sought to reassure herself she supported the prevailing system.  She wanted to believe her contributions and those of other wives facilitated the diplomatic work of their husbands and that their representational activities promoted a favorable image of the United States in host countries.  Concomitantly, she felt there had to be some reward—promotions, perks, influence—for all her efforts. She feared that, after her many years serving as the unpaid half of a two for the price of one pair, that reward might just go a-glimmering.

At the same time, in many respects she empathized with the women who challenged the system.  Social currents were changing course, a circumstance reflected in a growing divide between older wives and younger wives.  Like the younger women, Amy had always chafed at being described as a dependent.  And she didn’t like being exploited, not for the first time either, by someone like Patty Troutner.  Even living thousands of miles away, her feelings mixed, inchoate, unarticulated, Amy sensed the stirring generated by the women’s movement back home—and she vicariously shared in that stirring.  Her friends might not understand. Patty surely would not understand.   


 The following week, Patty invited a group of embassy women to a luncheon for the wife of the new economic counselor.  Eight women sat at a round table in the Residence’s small dining room, among them Lisa Bibbins. Lisa stared down at the place setting before her.  Initially, Amy assumed the young woman simply wanted to avoid eye contact with Patty. Then it struck her; Lisa was studying the cutlery and the glassware arrayed before her, studying them with trepidation.  Touching it tentatively, Lisa seemed especially perplexed by the fish knife. Amy silently encouraged her. Come on, Lisa, just watch the others.

Wine glass in hand, Patty said, “Well, ladies, I want to raise a glass of welcome to our new colleague, Inez Murray, who has come to us with her husband, Edward, from what must have been a most difficult two years in the Middle East.  I hope she will find . . .”

Amy groaned inwardly.  Lisa, apparently thinking the toast completed—or perhaps beset by nervous anticipation—lifted her glass to her lips and gulped down her wine.  Patty was still speaking.

Realizing her error, Lisa looked helplessly about, clutching her glass in two hands.

Patty elevated an offended eyebrow, and then concluded her remarks.

Poor Lisa, Amy thought.  Someone’s going to have to mentor her.

But poor Lisa’s lunchtime ordeal had not ended.  Before the meal finished, she knocked over a water goblet, inadvertently took a roll from her neighbor’s plate, and, as if it had been foreordained, employed the worrisome fish knife to butter that roll.

“Amy, I expect you to deal with this young woman personally,” Patty said once the others had gone.  “She will require firm guidance. Firm guidance, indeed.” Patty did not smile.

In the following weeks, Amy tried to counsel Lisa and to guide her.  Nonetheless, Lisa’s sins, at least sins in Patty’s eyes, multiplied. She missed the bus for a Saturday outing to an orphanage in Chiba (she’d got the time wrong); she unwittingly led a visiting congressman’s wife to a department store that had already closed for the day; and, according to Patty, her performance at the Fourth of July reception could only be described as awkward.

More troubling than any of these faux pas, Lisa’s cardinal sin, it seemed, was to have fallen under the influence of Mavis Benedict, a woman who questioned the need to attend functions of the Embassy Women’s Club, a woman reluctant to prepare representational dinners for foreign guests, a woman who talked about finding a job.  In less than confidential asides, Patty derided Mavis, not only as a hippie but as “one of those women’s libbers,” a virtual subversive. Most of the older wives more or less subscribed to Patty’s assessment. Why did these young women challenge the sense of obligation and purpose that had guided Foreign Service wives for decades?  While accepting the benefits of diplomatic life, why did they demean the very real contributions Foreign Service wives had made on behalf of the United States for generations?

Twice, at Patty’s instigation, Amy had a little chat with Lisa about what was expected of her.  However, the once frightened young woman now seemed resistant to Amy’s advice, even feisty.   “Mavis—and it’s not just Mavis—says we don’t have to do these things. We’re private people; we don’t work for the government.”  Coming from Lisa, the sentiment seemed suspect, more like false bravado.

Amy felt uneasy.  Given Patty’s dogmatic adherence to her conception of wifely duties and given the swelling undercurrent of dissidence on the part of several junior (and a few not so junior) wives, Amy worried something bad could happen.  She felt obligated to support Patty, but her sympathies increasingly ran toward those who challenged the system. Tasks needed to be performed, but by whom?  (Amy had recently discovered the Japanese government paid the wives of Japanese diplomats for their representational activities.)  If a representational dinner was in order, why didn’t the officer husband host it at a restaurant?  Why did his wife have to do everything?

Soon after her most recent session with Lisa, Amy learned from Sam that, on instruction from the ambassador, Lisa’s husband had been summoned by his boss and “spoken to” about his wife’s substandard behavior.  Ditto for Mavis’ husband. Both men had been reminded the annual evaluation reports would be prepared soon. Like an all-too-obvious puppet master, Patty manipulated the participants.

Sam had long bridled at including comments on spouses in the reports.  He seemed both irritated and relieved the ambassador had by-passed him and made his pitch directly through the economic counselor.  “I’m the ambassador’s deputy after all,” he declared over pre-dinner martinis. “Probably thought I’d try to talk him out of it. Which I would have.  I’ve never heard of such a thing before, at least not this blatant. The performance of the two officers has nothing to do with whether the wives please Her Eminence.”  He sipped his drink, and then put it down. “But if he told me to deliver the message, in the end, I expect I’d have saluted and done it; I mean, it is the system.  At least, I didn’t have to . . .”    

“I guess Patty didn’t think I had any influence on Lisa,” Amy said.  “Next thing, we’ll hear is that my ‘next to senior wife’ performance hasn’t measured up.  Frankly, Sam, I’m getting fed up with the whole business.”


It did not take long for word of the chastisement of the two officers concerning their wives’ deportment to circulate in the embassy.  The story, soon confirmed, had it that Tony Bibbins had been shaken by the criticism of his wife’s alleged shortcomings. Visibly nervous, he had failed to defend her.  Indeed, he had agreed she wasn’t performing well.  He said he would straighten her out and promised she would do better.  

Over lunch at a soba shop near the embassy, Sam told Amy about Bibbins’ reaction.  “Damn, it,” Sam said. “He’s young. And worried about his job. But, he should have stood up for his wife.”

“That’s right.  I’ve been thinking about all this, Sam.  What somebody’s wife does or doesn’t do, shouldn’t impact anybody’s career.  It’s what you always say, Sam. It’s the kind of job he does that matters.”

“It’s stupid,” Sam said.  “The whole businesses about the wives is stupid.  And I’ve been party to it, filling out those damn evaluation reports.  What are you supposed to say about somebody’s wife? It’s all hot air. I don’t even know some of them.  Still, I write this stuff.”

“I’ve done my share, Sam.  I bought into the system.” Amy paused to pursue an evasive noodle with her chop sticks.  “You know something, Sam? I hate receptions. And I hate working at bazaars. And if I have to sit through another afternoon of bridge with Patty Troutner, I think I’ll scream.”

“I know, Amy.  It hasn’t been easy.  But, maybe you’re just worked up over this business with Lisa and Mavis. I’m sure things will work out over time.”

“I’m not so sure, Sam.  I’m not so sure.”


It seemed everyone in the housing compound had witnessed the ambulance roll out the gate.  And the news swept through the embassy that, carted out on a gurney, Lisa Bibbins had been taken to the hospital.  Stories flooded the community: she had suffered a nervous breakdown; her husband had struck her; she had fallen getting out of the shower.  But, in short order—the embassy nurse could keep little to herself—the truth emerged. Lisa had ingested a handful of sleeping pills—not enough to kill her as it turned out, but enough to make her very sick.  People knew Mrs. Troutner had targeted Lisa, some said relentlessly. Apparently, it was all too much for the young woman, especially after her husband was called on the carpet. It was a view widely held.

The following morning Amy stopped by the hospital, where the doctors had decided to keep Lisa for another day or two.  When Amy entered the room, the young woman sat propped up in bed, an abandoned magazine opened across her lap.

“How are you doing, Lisa?”  

“Okay, I guess, Mrs. Cresswell.”

“You gave us quite a scare.”

“I’ve made a mess of things, haven’t I, for my husband?”

“I’m sure he’ll do just fine, Lisa.”  

“I think Mrs. Troutner didn’t like me from the beginning.  I couldn’t do anything right, could I?”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s that, Lisa.  She just has certain ideas about . . . Expectations are changing for everyone.  You just got caught up in . . .”

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Cresswell.  I’ll be okay. I’m going home, you know?  To the States.”

“Yes.  I know.”

“Tony’s leaving early too.  He’ll have a job in Washington.”

“Keep your spirits up, Lisa.  This will all soon be behind you.  

“Thanks for your understanding, Mrs. Cresswell.  Maybe I should have listened to you more.”

Amy stayed on for five minutes.  When Lisa nodded off, Amy squeezed her hand and, closing the door behind her, went out.  She lingered in the corridor. The problem didn’t only involve Lisa, Amy thought; she was just more vulnerable than most.  Many of the things the wives were asked to do were useful, matters of simple hospitality and civility, if done spontaneously.  But, as it functioned, the system was terribly flawed; the expectations it created excessive, the burdens it imposed unfair, the demands it produced too often carried to extremes for the ego gratification of others.  

These ideas had increasingly transited the landscape of Amy’s mind.  Having so long accommodated herself to the system and having so long immersed herself in the old Foreign Service culture, rejection of that system and that culture came freighted with great difficulty.  Yet, Lisa’s ordeal and her frightening response to it served as a catalyst. Amy realized that, intellectually and emotionally, she felt more in league with Mavis Benedict than with Patty Troutner.

When Amy returned to the apartment, the maid told her Mrs. Troutner had called twice.  Amy poured herself a Scotch on the rocks, kicked off her shoes, and made a call to the Yamada Trading Company, a call she had been mulling for some time.  Then she called Sam and lastly got back to Patty.

“Thanks for returning my call, Amy,” Patty said.  “Did I understand your maid to say you’d gone to the hospital?  I hope you aren’t ill.”

“No, I just dropped in on Lisa Bibbins.”


“It seemed the right thing to do.”

“Well, I suppose.  It was all very unfortunate.  The girl was in over her head, and clearly not a quick study.  I must admit, I was quite disappointed your mentoring just didn’t . . .”  

Amy detected not a modicum of sympathy, not a hint of responsibility.  “Perhaps we expected a bit too much from . . .”

“Nonsense, Amy.  She just didn’t fit in.  Not one of the team. Charlie agrees with me completely.  Says she brought her problems with her. Anyway, the reason I called was to make sure you could come early tomorrow for a lunch I’m giving for Congressman Finnerty’s wife.  I know it’s short notice, but I might be a bit late getting back from shopping. You know how the traffic is.”

Amy drained her glass.  “I’m sorry, Patty. I won’t be able to make it.”

“But, I just assumed . . . is there some emergency?  Has something come up? I hope it’s nothing terrible.”

“No.  It’s just that I have an appointment at the same time.”  Cradling the phone between her shoulder and her ear, Amy retrieved the Troutner dress code from a side table where she had left it.  She crumpled the paper into a ball and let it flutter to the floor.

“An appointment?”

“Yes.  I’m interviewing for a job as an English instructor for executives at the Yamada Trading Company.  It pays quite well.”

A long silence.  Then Mrs. Troutner said, “This is quite unexpected.  And, I must say, Amy, quite distressing. Charlie will be very disappointed.  You know you’ll lose your diplomatic status.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Are you certain you want to do this?”

“I’ll still be around to help out when I can.  But, yes. I’m certain.”

Mrs. Troutner hung up.  Amy expected only minutes would pass until Sam would be called to the ambassador’s office.  He would not be surprised.

Amy peered out the window.  “It’s a beautiful day,” she said to the maid.  “I think I’ll put on some slacks and go for a walk in Shinjuku Park.”


In 1972 the State Department issued an instruction to all posts stating that Foreign Service spouses could no longer be required to perform uncompensated services, nor could any comments about them be included in an officer’s evaluation report.