Lessons With A Twist
After reading through most all of the contributors’ pieces, I have decided to send mine. Not because of the amount of bargirls bedded, or even about the many bars. I think my experience will speak for itself.
Lesson #1 – a Thai meal has more than food.
When I was 51 years old I found myself divorced for the third time and living close to where I work. I live in California, and because the weather is nice I walk to work each day. Each night I would go to this little Thai restaurant to have my one meal for the day. There was this cute waitress who seemed to take extra care of me. As things progressed, we became friends and I looked forward to visiting with her each day.
About six months later she came to me and said that she was going to Thailand for about a month. I was saddened by this news, but I have no claim on her, we were just friends. Right?
Each day, while Anee was away, I found myself missing her. Then one day she was in the restaurant greeting me with the biggest smile I have ever gazed upon. Anee said, “I so happy you here today!” My heart was soaring. She brought me a small gift from her homeland and I was really impressed. Undeserved kindness, I thought to myself.
One evening, I suggested to my female roommate (platonic) that she should go have dinner with me at the Thai restaurant. I introduced her to Anee and we had a nice dinner. When we arrived back at the house, my roommate lowered the boom. She asked me if I knew that the girl at the restaurant had a crush on me. I told her that I thought Anee was very beautiful and that I was attracted to her, but, Anee is 23 and I am 51. My roommate asked what I was going to do about the crush and after discussing it with her I decided to go for it and see what would happen. I can hear everyone’s reaction. Yes, I do see the red flags flying in the air and the referees crying — “foul, out of bounds!”
Lesson #2 – Uncle? WTF?
Anee and I had many long conversations. She asked me, one day, what I wanted her to call me. I am not familiar with Thai customs. I was born and raised in California and the only country I have visited is Mexico, so my cross cultural experience is extremely under-developed. I asked what she would like to call me and she said Uncle. Again, because of my ignorance, I took her word and put it in the cultural framework of California. No self-respecting person in California would want the girl of his hope / imagination to call him Uncle. I told her no, that Bob was fine. I later found out that she was just trying to recognize me as someone close to her. I was more than an acquaintance.
Shortly after this time we started sharing our feelings for one another. I was very up front with her about my attraction to her and about the age difference. She said that she too was very attracted to me and that the age did not matter. Then I started to get to know her more fully, and things started to get somewhat more complicated.
I know that at this point many of Stick’s readers are thinking. “Oh brother. Here it goes. Another sucker taken by some bargirl or single Thai mother”… or any number of issues that seem to recur in the contributors' section. Well hang on ‘cuz the ride gets bumpy from here!
Here are some things I discovered about my tii rak; she is a nice Thai woman, 23 years old and never had a boyfriend. She was always too busy with school and work. She was here to enter a Master’s program and she was working at her aunt’s restaurant. By this time I wanted to have Anee go on a date with me… that is right, we have not even been on a date. When I asked her about going out, she informed me that she could not because I have not been introduced to her family.
Thai lesson #3 – Thais express anger. But, they express it differently than farangs.
This kind of thing went on for about 4 months. We were talking and emailing, but not dating and no closeness. At one point I became frustrated and told her that we should just be friends because we cannot pursue a relationship. Anee became mad at me. I did not even know she was mad. All I knew was that she did not refill my tea as quickly as usual. Even through her anger, she was able to ask me if it was too late to fix the ‘plopblem’. I said that we could still have the relationship. I explained my frustration and she seemed to understand. Then Anee told me that she would need to go back to Bangkok to take care of some family business. She would be leaving next week.
Thai lesson #4 – “Up to you” WTF?
This is probably the hardest concept for me as a westerner, to wrap my mind around. I think this is a defensive move to save face when discussing something of great importance or consequence. Here is how it works.
Me – Anee I feel that you are not feeling the same way that I am about you.
Anee – What you mean?
Me — I am falling in love with you.
Anee – I know!
Me – How do you feel about me?
Anee – Up to you!
Me – (to myself) WTF?
It has taken almost a year to try and understand what is happening at this point. Sometimes I think I get it, and then, I do not. The only correlation in Farangland would be when you and Farang-ette are going out for a little entertainment and you ask her where she would like to go. She says to you, “It’s your decision.” At this junction, every red-blooded farang male knows that what Farang-ette is saying is, “It is your decision. But, god help you if you make the wrong one!”
Thai lesson #6 – Testing, testing, this is only a test.
One evening I arrived at the restaurant feeling a little put out because we had not been able to go out on a proper ‘date’. I asked my tii-rak why have we not been together? Was she lying to me? Was she just being polite? Anee assured me that she shared the same feeling that I had. Then she said something that shook my world. Anee reminded me that she was Thai / Chinese and therefore she and her family were traditional. My little one then informed me that we could not go out until I was introduced to her family. Ok, Ok — I had read about this, somewhere. And then she put the screws to work. My little miss innocent says to me that we are in USA, “Do you think we need to introduce?” My mind was whirling. If I say no, then maybe we go out. Maybe I cause her to dishonor her family and that would be bad if we marry. If I say yes, we do not go out, but her honor is intact for her family. I have always preferred honesty and therefore said that we should tell her family. She will not say but I believe this was only a test, one of may to come.
Thai lesson #7 – Thais have a high regard for time and its passage. It is just that their clock operates at a different pace than farang timepieces. The end result also has a different interpretation to Thais.
After Anee left, I missed her tremendously. I would go to the Thai restaurant and pine away for the affection of my little Thai girl. Anee left in November 2003. While she was gone, we started a regular email campaign. She said that she was planning on returning by Christmas . . . then by January . . . then by Valentine’s Day of February 2004. Now we are writing and calling via phone card on a daily basis. Now I have risen (or sunk – depending on your view point), from friend to good friend to boyfriend to talking marriage. All right, enough is enough. Now it is time to put some Yankee determination to the task. Where is my visa? One flight to Bangkok coming up!
To be continued.
There are two cultures involved in your relationship. While you have to respect hers, so too does she have to respect yours…