Can Take The Girl Out Of the Bar
Allow me to offer a contrarian tale: I met my wife in Nana Plaza in 1997. Our story initially offers very little that differs from the usual older-farang-meets-young-gogo-dancer. I am tall and twice her age; she's short, smooth-skinned and pretty. Looking up at that perfect smile, that superb body, and those splendid pelvic thrusts I fell in lust instantly, etc.
Noi was by no means my 1st bargirl — my first trip to BKK was in 1978 — but I had a special feeling about her very quickly. Within four days of meeting her I proposed in a hotel room in Chiang Mai. Noi thought I was nuts but I was adamant and on Day 6 we were in her village near Udon meeting the family. Day 8 saw us having the traditional wedding ceremony with a $1,200 dowry, lucky strings on wrist and head, and betel-stained biddies clucking and counting the cash, which turned out to be $200 short (those women may have lost their teeth but not their calculators).
In exchange for $400/month, Noi agreed to stay in Udon when I returned home to process the fiancé visa. This was of course a lie. She returned to BKK to work as "a seamstress" but really returned to the bar while maintaining constant phone contact with me and
cashing my checks.
On my next trip back we went to her old bar for nostalgia's sake; big mistake on Noi's part. One guy got a little cosy with her, said something shockingly bad to me when I interrupted, and I decked him. Noi got me out of there before the police arrived and back to the hotel where we had a colossal fight. I smelled a rat and before long the whole story (or as much as I was going to get) was out: she'd gone back to the bar to get money for – what else? – a pickup truck for her mother. Eventually she'd shacked up with an expat for 20K baht/month. The guy I decked wasn't the expat but Noi's former best customer.
Icing on the cake: my former friend, whom Noi did not know, had visited the bar ostensibly to check on Noi for me but instead he barfined her. She only found out his identity when he tried to do it again and another bargirl tipped her off.
Beyond rage, I told Noi to piss off. Over the course of an evening she tearfully persuaded me to give her another chance. It was all very emotional. I later found out that during this heart-tugging drama Noi was pregnant from the expat and aborted it a few weeks after. Like I said, the typical story.
It took nearly six months to shove the fiancé visa past those incompetents at US Immigration, who "lost" the paperwork at one point. It was the most agonizing period of my life, knowing in my heart that Noi was cheating on me. When I finally flew to BKK, steered her through the embassy interview (surprisingly easy), and brought her to the US, our customs agent, a middle-aged Hispanic woman, showed us what to expect. When I jokingly referred to the thick size of Noi's visa package, the woman looked at me with scorn and said, "What do you expect, sir? Look at her and look at you." I wisely bit back the reply, which went something like: "So who am I supposed to marry? A fat bitch like you?"
Things went south pretty fast: My teenage daughter hated Noi. My Thai ex-wife owned the house I rented and put a "For Sale" sign up when I flew to get Noi – a real estate agent woke Noi on her first morning in America to show the house to a couple.
The local Thai mafia (Thai women married to American men) saw her as a threat and told Noi I was too old and too poor. One even added that I was sterile, which caused a small scene because I'd agreed to having a child. (It's difficult looking sincere when you are laughing so hard.) The mafia even offered to buy her a return ticket.
My limited social clique of 40-somethings reacted the gamut from envy and bonhomie (men) to frozen courtesy (women); one of the women branded me a "criminal." Another who taught ESL befriended Noi the student and used every opportunity behind my back to badmouth me.
Later my ex-wife employed Noi briefly at her restaurant and regaled her with tales of what a selfish no-good SOB I was. As the story went, I was a penniless panhandler in BKK the day she met me and she just took pity on the poor oaf. Also some uncomplimentary items about my sexual habits and personal hygiene.
Noi didn't speak English and was totally dependent on me, which got old fast. We were uncomfortable at first being seen in public because everybody was staring at the huge old farang and the tiny young Asian. A brother dubbed her my "puppy."
Of course her bargirl origins were immediately known and brandished by the Thai mafia as a social weapon, ironic as most of them were former bargirls themselves.
She got homesick. We had some pretty big scenes, lots of tears, and she almost left a couple of times.
Well…somehow it worked out. She got a job, a driver's license, joined our softball team. Our beautiful daughter is now almost two. Last night we celebrated our 4th anniversary at a dance club in San Francisco. It did my old doggy heart good to see guys half my age checking out my shapely young wife (she still knows how to shake it). Then we returned home where she f***** my brains out and told me how much she loved me. And you know what? She means it too. I'm a damn good husband.
Why did we succeed where others have failed? I believe there are many key reasons: 1) I speak passable Thai, essential to communicating with a bumpkin like the younger Noi. 2) Noi had been a working girl only a few months when I met her so she was not yet hardened. 3) I hate to say it but her father is dead, eliminating a likely very bad influence. (Agree 100% with this one – it is HUGE! – Stick) 4) Her mother is a saint interested more in her daughter's happiness than $$$. 5) I got her out of Thailand and away from family and bargirl friends ASAP. 6) I am a pretty patient person, NOT the jealous type and I do NOT insist upon traditional roles (I help with housework). 7) She quickly adapted to the US, to the point where she now refuses to consider moving back to Thailand. 8) Although I'm not perfect, I'm honest, so Noi has learned to believe me over all the nay Sayers. 9) I encourage my wife to try new things and praise her when she does well. 10) I am stubborn and do not give up easily – this has been essential for reasons stated.
While the jury is always out on a marriage, I think we are over the hump. I am happy and she is too. We enjoy going to parties and playing sports together, and talking about everybody and everything after (we are both closet gossips). No we don't discuss Camus or world headlines but I did not marry her for that. I am not rich – in fact I'm poor by American middle-class standards. We send a modest ($150 per month) home to mom in Thailand per our agreement before we married.
Some of the clique women softened considerably after my daughter was born. The Thai mafia – perhaps realizing it does no good to throw stones in glass houses – has welcomed Noi as a member. My teenage daughter and Noi reached a truce, although no love is
It's been a long time since I felt shy walking with Noi – in fact the memory of that feeling now itself seems odd. We are as comfortable together as old shoes. Dare I say "made for each other"?
Sometimes at night Noi tells me that although she didn't care much for me at first she did feel comfortable with me, as though she'd known me before. So maybe there is something there for you Buddhists. I'm an agnostic myself. But you gotta be an optimist to try what I did, that's for sure.
Always nice to hear of such relationships that have worked out. Your patience and tolerance seems to have been a key here. Me, as someone who worships the truth – at least so my current girlfriend says – I would have been unable to overcome the flagrant dishonesty and cheating that went on while you were back Stateside. But yo have bee rewarded for overlooking those indiscretions.