Taking The Plunge With A Thai Girl
When I first started reading the submissions on this site, I was expecting to be amused by a lot of good old-fashioned misogynist rants by hardened whore-mongers. Yet after following it for a few months, I realised that you guys are all really just a
bunch of sentimental saps. While some guys complain about the rising prices of prostitutes, most seem to be whimpering about their broken hearts. In a twisted way, it's almost romantic. Shakespeare might approve of the content, if not the
grammar and spelling.
However, the submissions paint a grim picture of relationships with Thai girls. Bitterness is a great inspiration for writing and there are a lot of sad stories on this site. Happy guys don't have time to write – they're too busy being blissed-out by their foxy wife / girlfriend. The result is the site is very heavily weighted towards the negative, and it doesn't accurately reflect reality. So, I thought I'd better put in a word for the happy guys.
I met my girl at Nana Disco. I was dancing with three or five girls at the time. Apparently, my dancing style had her and her friend in hysterics. She was convinced I must be gay, while her friend disagreed. They laid a bet and she came over to find out the answer.
She is drop-dead gorgeous with a brilliant smile that almost eclipses her generous breasts (which definitely eclipse the rest of her slinky body). So naturally I assumed an ulterior motive. I don't know whether I am good-looking or not, but I could not imagine a reason for a girl of her beauty wanting to talk to me, other than to get money.
I sat down and she proceeded to bounce up and down on my knee while laughing her ass off. It was completely dorky and not sexy at all. If she was trying to seduce me out of my money, she was doing a really bad job of it. I began to have the funny impression that I would really like to have this girl as a friend.
We ended up at the Grace Hotel coffee shop with another couple we'd met. In the somewhat quieter atmosphere I told her that I was not interested in sex that night. Yet somehow (or rather, of course) we ended up at my place. I stuck by my resolution not to try anything with her, but she jumped my bones and it happened anyway.
In the morning she absolutely refused any money. I was still sceptical but she'd begun to get under my skin. We started seeing each other and over a period of weeks, I checked my bank account and noticed (gasp!) that she'd been saving me money. Whenever I offered to buy something or take her somewhere, she always insisted we take a cheaper option. I was spending about half as much money with her as I had been on my own.
I inferred from this that this girl's agenda was long-term. She was saving my money as if it was our money for the future. And the more time I spent with her, the more I could see myself fitting into a long-term agenda.
She went back to Isaan for a month and I had some time to myself to mull things over. I did that, and in anticipation of a more serious relationship I got a little debauchery womanising off my chest as well. By the time she returned, I was ready for her to move in. I checked my gut feeling and it told me that not only was this girl sweet and beautiful and funny and real, but that I might search the rest of my life for another opportunity like this and never find it.
Where a lot of guys fail is in not following through on their gut feeling. You're a man, not a child, and you've been alive for at least a couple decades. You should be able to listen to your gut feeling and know when it's right (or know when the little voice is actually coming from somewhere just below your gut). If you think that you've got the right girl, you'd better go for it. Sure, there's risk, but failure is not nearly as pathetic as regret. Or in the immortal words of the Texas punk band, The Butthole Surfers, "It's better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven't done."
One risk that concerns a lot of guys is that many girls – certainly not only bargirls – play several guys off against each other, taking money from all of them while she bides her time searching for the right guy. Can you blame her? Look around Bangkok. Have you seen the one-legged guy pushing his plastic begging bowl up the street on his belly like he's climbing a horizontal cliff? In Western countries hitting bottom is not so bad because there are (usually) some decent government agencies waiting to help you get back on your feet. In Thailand, there is no bottom; no limit to how far you can fall. And for women, that goes doubly because there are about a tenth as many jobs out there for them, with a fraction of the earning potential.
So, you've found a girl and you're not kidding yourself that you're the only one. She's probably got three to five other guys on the line. Still, she otherwise has a heart of gold and treats you better than you've ever been treated. Very few girls are silly enough to think of the bar scene as a long-term prospect, and most would be willing to ditch those other guys at the drop of a hat if she could believe that you would take care of her for the rest of her life.
Of course there are the career hustlers who have chosen to make a living out of juggling eighteen men and never falling in love, but I submit that these girls are actually insane. You'd have to be. Choosing to make a living by your looks is like thinking of bomb disposal as a long-term career. As Judge Judy, an American TV personality, said, "Beauty fades, but stupid is forever." The girls know this.
So they throw several fishing lines into the water. They pull in a few fish and throw them back, waiting for the big one. They test each of their boyfriends for a willingness and ability to take care of them in their old age.
This usually requires an outlay of cash, which can really put off a western guy who is used to dating western women that can support themselves. But if the girl is worth it, it's a small price to pay for a life-long partner. Yet there are smart and stupid ways to handle the giving of money.
Maybe the girl asks for buffalo money. You know she's lying about the sick buffalo and it hurts that she would lie to you. But from her perspective, lying to you is much better than losing face to you by admitting that her father is a drunk and he'll
never allow her to marry you unless he thinks you'll pay for his habit. In this case the girl is really stuck. She wants to get away from the abusive family forever but in the meantime, she's got to play their game because they're
the only family she has. Once she is your wife, and her financial future is directly tied to yours, she is going to be a lot more stingy with your money and the family requests will be as much an annoyance to her as to you.
Or maybe the buffalo is sick. Either way, why not go and find out? Have you ever seen a sick buffalo before? Isaan is a cool place and it would be an unforgettable experience. It's amazing to me the way some, maybe most, guys just hand the "family money" over without question. It's not only foolish, but it's insulting to the family. I bet a Thai suitor would never do that. He'd take the request for money as an opportunity to go and meet the family and ingratiate himself to her parents.
So go see the sick buffalo. If it really is sick, go get the village veterinarian and pay the bill in person. What a cool experience. Far more memorable than sitting on the beach and yelling at pesky massage vendors. If they need a new buffalo, go buffalo shopping. How cool would that be?
If the buffalo isn't sick and there's some other, more embarrassing problem, you'll find out long before you get to the Isaan homestead when she realises you're actually serious about going out and helping in person. There will be tears and admissions of deceit, but stay cool. Tell her you knew she was lying because she didn't want to look bad in front of you, and that you respect her for having the strength to admit it to you. OK in actuality, you're pissed as hell that she lied to you, but think long-term. By being cool about it now, you're telling her that she can be truthful with you and you won't blow up. Maybe next time, or more likely the fiftieth next time, she'll just come out with the truth. Little steps.
Now that you know the real problem, go deal with it. In person. Whoever needs the money for whatever it is, the money should never touch your girlfriend's petite yet calloused hands. If dad is a drunk, it's going to be a sticky situation, but buy him a case of beer or three and crack one open yourself (but only one). Leave his fridge full of beer and he'll love you like a son. More importantly, the rest of the family and the neighbours will think that he should love you like a son. Use peer pressure and face-saving to your advantage.
On my first trip out to see my girl's family, I noticed Mom cooking all meals over a stone barbecue. The smoke gave everything a great flavour, but I thought about her always having to collect wood to cook. Next time I showed up with a gas range and a tank of propane I picked up at Tesco Lotus on the way for 2,000 baht. Mom was the envy of the neighbourhood. The "cousins" came snooping around and some of them asked if I'd bring one for them on my next trip. I drew the line here and turned their request into a joke, saying, "OK. But you have to give me one of your daughters." Of course they didn't like it but they were forced to laugh it off. All this wasn't lost on Mom and I could see her beaming at their obvious jealousy.
The point here is that if you're the guy who goes out to see the family in person and shells out 10,000 baht for Dad's sore tooth and Mom's new eyeglasses, you're miles ahead of the guy who sends 50,000 baht a month from Belgium. The guys who send money from afar are showing they have money, but they're also showing that something back home is more important than being with their girl. And if you can't tear yourself away from work or whatever to come to Thailand long enough to establish a relationship with a girl and her family, you should reconsider how much you actually want or need a Thai wife. In that case a quick week in the bars might be the better option.
However, if you've found the best girl you're ever going to meet – and you're a big boy now, you should know – then don't drop the ball. If you want her to erase her mobile phone address book for you, you've got to show her that she can trust you to support her. This includes not fooling around, by the way. She knows what it means to have no money in Thailand and she needs security like no Western girl ever will. If she thinks you're with other girls, that undermines the whole concept.
It's a big plunge to take in an alien country with alien rules. You're on a bridge with a bungie cable tied to your ankle and the last thing you see is the word "trainee" on the instructor's polo shirt. But if you want to have a Thai wife, you have to know beforehand that there will be special difficulties. Not just cross-cultural misunderstandings, but a huge gap in the perception of the value of money. Money keeps you out of the gutter. But the gutters in the West are almost drinkable compared to the ones in Thailand. Have you smelled the klongs on a warm summer day?
If, on the other hand, you find yourself reluctant to take these steps for your new-found sweetie, then it's an obvious sign that she's not the one. Then it's time to follow Dana's example and stick to short-time relationships. You won't be doing yourself any good by prolonging things, and if you truly care for her, you'll cut her loose so she can get on with finding her real Mr Right.
I got lucky, maybe. Or maybe I just read the signs correctly and made the right moves. My girl dropped the other guys. I knew because we moved in together and when I was working, she was working. It was increasingly plain to both of us that we were heading for a marriage, so she was stingy with my money from the outset. I'd give her 5,000 baht a month to supplement her income and she'd send some or all of it to her parents, depending on her mood.
The parents themselves were great. I think they could see how happy their daughter was and they were careful not to mess with that (their daughter can get pretty noisy when messed with). I always showed up at the family gatherings with intelligent gifts and a mutual respect developed. I bridged the communication gap with Lao-speaking Dad by helping him in the rice fields. Two guys working together communicate volumes without saying a word.
The dowry was returned but I'm going to build them a house with most of it. I'm happy to do it because, not being rich, I've never had an opportunity to do so much good for people I care about. The house will be nothing too extravagant, but a place I can use as a writer's retreat when I'm ready to write the great American novel.
We've been together going on two years now and I can say I have no regrets. Perhaps my tune might change in the future, when I realise I've lost some of my most productive years in a third-world economy. But at least I will be regretting something I *have* done, not something I was too afraid to do.
Very nice indeed.