Readers' Submissions

Would Be Academics Pigeonholing Sexpats and Bargirls Again?

  • Written by Stick
  • September 8th, 2003
  • 9 min read


Would Be Academics Pigeonholing Sex-Pats and Bar Girls Again?

Anonymous Submission



I read recently with interest some of the reader submissions which highlighted a connection between the expat – bar girl relationship failure rate and the incidence of mental disorders attributed to both parties. The particular disorder mentioned as being common among bar girls was Borderline Personality Disorder paraphrased in one article as, "she's a psycho bitch". Whilst I acknowledge that there are indeed some very damaged people interacting within the bar scene in Thailand (and I don't exclude myself from this category) what I question is the helpfulness of drawing the conclusion that all involved with bar girls are damned to a life of purgatory. There seems to be a lot of clever academic research to support this hypothesis. We have the likes of Cohen and Mullder (anthropologists specialising in Thai culture) who have devised all manner of clever and complicated terms and expressions to describe behavioural patterns between farangs and Thais in bars; Cohen for example uses the phrase "open ended prostitution" to describe the uniquely ambiguous relationship that can exist between prostitute and client in Thailand. Stick you advocate, that in the case of English teachers, the bar girl girlfriend phenomenon is merely a phase that should be grown out of as quickly as possible and replaced with the more enlightened phase of going out with a "nice" girl who works in Big C or Robinson's. (Please let me know where I said this as I believe am being misquotedStick) If a teacher is truely enlightened at this stage he may then graduate on to dating an even "nicer and perhaps independently wealthy middle class girls". I know I'm being a bit flippant here and perhaps misinterpreting what you actually said, it's just the tone of yours and some of the readers submissions smacked of some sort of cultural superiority or elitism.

If what you and others say is so, maybe it is possible to pigeonhole me as some sort of sort as yet unenlightened "stuck in phase two or phase three" sad case. I'm not going to pretend for a moment that I, in common with many other men who have sought solace with bar girls, haven't been deeply unhappy at times in my life, or that at times that this unhappiness in itself wasn't in part caused by the bar girls themselves. Perhaps the reason that I continue to hold out hope that I will one day meet the right bar girl and have no desire to proceed on to the dating "nice girls" stage is that I, over the the years, since 1992 when I first visited Thailand, have come to appreciate and recognise personality qualities that are I think peculiar to quite a lot of bar girls. I can't allude to what exactly these personality qualities are and they are by no means universal to all bar girls, for there are most certainly some "psycho bitches" out there, but maybe it comes down to a generosity of spirit I have found it hard to equal elsewhere. It's a kind of understanding and sympathy that can only be borne out of someone who has experienced the sort of intense life a lot of bar girls have. Their rural upbringing and culture is an important factor in their make up and I believe in many cases it acts as a steadying influence which helps prevent many of them losing it (especially for those who understand Buddhism beyond the ritual and ceremony- a Western monk who ministers to prisoners in the UK once told me that it's often those that have been the most acutely aware of suffering in life that are able to be the most pragmatic about it and also compassionate to others).

In your article about the English teacher's phases of social development, you did concede that even having reached the final ultimate stages of teacher enlightenment- membership at the golf club and a nice wife from the right family that it's acceptable for our by now intrepid stream entry candidate (well on the way to teacher Nirvana) to hang out with his mates back in his old haunts in Nana etc. The thing is are his mates now exclusively other farang teachers or now that he can speak pretty good Thai and probably a healthy smattering of Lao or even khmer, learnt from his early days playing with fire with "psycho bitches", is it possible that some of his best mates are in fact the very same bar girls that he now considers himself above. People like to pidgin hole other people and it is possible to generalize about certain sections of the community. In the case of bar girls I've experienced every conceivable type of person imaginable. I've been beaten up by a deeply disturbed alcoholic who I was deeply in love with and who I must concede did take me to the cleaners financially, but on the other hand I've also lived a pretty frugal life with a girl who would do anything for me and made every effort to help me save money.

It's unfortunate however, that many of us who are attracted to bar girls have got "knight in shining armour syndrome" and rather than settle down with the more stable girls we tend to fall for the severely unbalanced ones. Perhaps because we have been unhappy ourselves and perhaps because we have had little control over this we are often desperate to help other unhappy souls, we therefore tend to be disproportionately attracted to them in the first place. This has been my particular problem in the past and I recognise it as not being healthy. I don't think it is fair though for anyone to simply write these type of women off completely; as for myself I now recognise the type slightly better and I make an effort to be there as a friend for them. Along the way I've also met a lot of people who've made the effort to do the same for me; I've received e-mails, letters and phone calls from bar girls in Bangkok and Pattaya who just want to know if I'm all right. The fact that we communicate exclusively in Thai is a great help, but more important than that is the frankness with which we are able to speak. I can't imagine having the sort of deep raw conversations that we have about life with a Thai woman who wasn't a bar girl. I sincerely hope that one day nature will take it's course and one of my friends and I will fall for each other. In the past I've attempted to be with one of my friends on the rebound from one of "the psycho girls" in the hope of a stable loving relationship, but the attraction just wasn't there, fortunately and this has happened a few times my friends have always been big about it and we have been able to maintain our friendships. I was desperately unhappy about them having to go back to work again, but fortunately they went on to get married to decent men who have treated them well.

There are some happy endings out there and I hope one day it'll happen to me. The statistics aren't good I know, I've got quite a few big sister ex-bar girl friends here in England some of whom due to gambling addictions or family demands are still having to sell themselves. Only last week I heard of a 40 year old Thai woman getting her collarbone broken by a abusive husband. Whether he was provoked or not there's no excuse for that. Two years ago a woman from Korat committed suicide because she was unable to satisfy the demands of her family in Thailand, perhaps her husband didn't understand the importance of filial devotion in Thai families or perhaps they were just a very greedy family, who's to know – there are always two sides to every story. Whatever the statistics for the success or failure of relationships between farangs and bar girls maybe, the statistics for everyone else are pretty poor because we live in a far more permissive society than that of our parents, expectations are higher and there is far more selfishness. Everything including relationships are disposable at any given whim. We do have to acknowledge sometimes though that we are but the sum of our experiences and if your life and understanding of Thailand has been shaped by talking to bar girls it seems pretty unreal that you should turn your back on the very people that helped you appreciate Thailand at grass roof level. So those of you who are up to level six or whatever can have your pretentious "khun phee kaa's" with their nationalistic views on life and fondness for looking down on all and sundry (he's me doing some pigeonholing of my own) and I'll soldier on with those "nice" Isaan farmer's daughters who in all probability could turn into "psycho whores" at a moment's notice – I know I have been warned, but **** it I'll stick with what I know, besides I'd miss the course humour and the rustic rasp of the Lao lilt too much or indeed the ability to have a girlfriend I could gossip with in a language central Thai's can't understand. I like being able to turn the table a bit.

som owy chok jeeah srey koat dung oh! (Both Stickgirl and I have NO idea what this means. It is Lao or Cambodian, perhaps? – Stick)

kor hai puu-ying haa gin chok dee tuk khon! (I wish every working girl chasing money good luck! – Stick)

Stickman says:

First of all, I think you have misquoted the author of a recent reader's submission, the author of which was NOT me. The odds of the relationship working with a non-working girl are much higher than with a working girl based on my experiences and the many emails I have received about this. My views on this subject are known so other than stating my usual mantra – DON'T LOOK FOR LOVE IN THE NAUGHTY NIGHTLIFE BARS – I'll leave it at that.