Readers' Submissions

A Calibra Fan

  • Written by Anonymous
  • April 8th, 2005
  • 7 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I have recently returned to your site after an absence of a year or more, I now live and work in Chiang Mai. There is a serious point further down this piece, but may I start by saying I am still reeling from the sheer vile bile of the Calibra post. I was wandering for a long while how any one individual could be a vessel for so much hatred, prejudice, bigotry, racism (having a wife of a different race is no defence against the charge of racism – after all, look how many sexists are married to women!), snobbery, superiority, lack of self-awareness… there I was, ready to advise him of one of the few true pieces of wisdom that I have learned from the monks here: the traits which you profess to hate most in others, and the ones you are most intolerant of, are the ones you actually possess, but repress, in yourself. So I felt very sorry for his wife.

But then it dawned on me: of course it is not possible for any one individual to possess so much hatred, prejudice, bigotry, racism etc. etc. with the possible exception of a handful of a few historical tyrants and dictators. No, Calibra is none other than a brand new comic character, and I can only speculate as to his provenance. Harry Enfield springs to mind, but it is a little vicious for him… Ben Elton has long ago sold out to pen musicals with arch-tory Lord Lloyd Webber… Gerry Sadowitz perhaps? Anyway, a brilliant satire in the genre of “Loadsa Money!” on the classic inferiority complex of the repressed, bigoted, racist, insecure product of the British public (i.e. private boarding) school system who was spanked and buggered into a state of sexual confusion from an early age and now has to vent his vitriol and envy on those who actually enjoy life to the full. Excellent stuff! Hilarious! Can’t wait to see the character on TV!

Take this bit for example:

" Do you sandal wearing white tree trunk legged gut bursting sweat dripping twats not see the women sniggering behind the counter in Carrefour, or just out of sight behind the clothes rack in Robinsons, as you clumsily stomp around with your tattooed sun blackened whore from Nana."

Good stuff! (should be a question mark there, mate…)

No, but seriously here, as Stick said, the general tone of the email completely negated some fairly reasonable points: the one being a favourite of Stick himself: get yourself a nice Thai girl, not a bar girl, as a long-term girlfriend, otherwise you will have many problems, not least that when you take your girlfriend/wife out with you into polite Thai society, everyone will know her background and feel embarrassed, putting both your wife and the others in a very awkward situation.

A few days ago I met a couple in a bar in Udon Thani; him, farang, nice guy, no formal education but rich through the UK property market. Casually but smartly and appropriately dressed – just jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. Her: demurely dressed, a little tasteful jewellery, possibly a touch of make-up. Very polite, quiet, and respectful, but still a sparkling personality and good fun, good company. They met in a bar in Pattaya, where she was of course ‘working’. There is a reasonable 10 years age difference between them.

In the excellent book in the ‘Culture Shock’ series on Thailand, it says (and I paraphrase) ‘Prostitutes display a brash disregard for Thai social norms, and almost completely leave the Thai community [during their working years]. Prostitutes lose face and status, but they also make a great deal of money, which can eventually rebuy much of the lost respect’.

Thais value and respect politeness, respectfulness, a smart appearance, and (especially) wealth. I see no reason why this couple should not be able to mix with other middle-class Thais: sure, they will be able to tell she is from a poor Isaan background, but the big house and Merc should make up for that, and in the right circumstances Thais are awfully good at ignoring what they find distasteful – in this case her past – to them it can cease to exist. (The only barrier to this acceptance became clear as soon as this guy spoke to his wife – in ridiculous bar-girl pidgin English. He was gobsmacked that I could actually have a simple conversation with her in Thai after just 18 months here!)

A flip-side story (and I will get to the point soon!): an Aussie friend of mine has a very unusual Thai girlfriend: she is educated and from a respectable family, has her own money and always pays her way. But she has chosen to ‘display a brash disregard for Thai social norms, and almost completely leave the Thai community’, some sort of familial rebellion I guess. The way she dresses, sits, behaves means that all the other Thais assume she is a bar girl. One day the two of them were waiting for me outside my apartment building, she in her shorty-shorts and little strappy top, and they were sitting there actually snogging in public (and in case any of you didn’t know this, it is TOTALLY unacceptable behaviour in Thailand). The very polite and greng jai apartment owners were excruciatingly embarrassed, and in a very round-about way implored me to warn my naive friend about the ‘bad’ girls of the city.

My point is this (Hurrah!! At last!!) In a way Calibra is right in he passage above, although I abhor his choice of words. And in some ways, Stick, I think you may be too harsh on prospects for taking the girl out of the bar. The reason that you will “see the women sniggering behind the counter in Carrefour, or just out of sight behind the clothes rack in Robinsons” is probably because the guy is dressed for the beach and the girl is dressed for the gogo bar. I myself am horribly, excruciatingly embarrassed when with my Thai friends we see some old guy (and sure the older the guy the worse it looks, but this goes for any age) in short shorts and a string vest dragging a pretty young girl in hot-pants, a bra and high heels down the street in broad daylight: it is not their relationship that is embarrassing but there appearance. So as an aside I would implore all you guys (and girls – you farang girls wandering around the city in hot pants and bikini tops, just DON'T), please dress in a way acceptable to Thai society! And once you have got your bar girl out of the bar, buy her a new wardrobe! Sure you want her to look sexy, but sexy need not equal slutty, surely!

My girlfriend is indeed a middle-class Thai girl, graduate etc; inevitably when we go out with my male farang friends a lot of their partners are, if not bar-girls, then professional girlfriends from poor families. These fall into two groups – the ones who have given up on Thainess, and just shriek around foolishly in their own little world effectively devoid of all manner and culture, and those who have retained enough to be pleasant, polite, respectful, greng-jai etc. And she has no problem with the latter group: obviously like all Thais she is acutely aware of social status, but that is not to say she is a snob – so she will respond in a pleasant and polite way such that no-one need feel embarrassed or 'inferior' (although I know that not all Thai women would refrain from looking down their noses, but I have no time for snobs).

So maybe if a farang/bar girl couple form a long-term relationship it is possible to gain respect or acceptance from Thai society, if they genuinely try to re-integrate. This is meant as a speculation rather than a diatribe – what do you old-handers think? Oh, and Calibra, please can we have some more of your excellent satire soon? I can’t wait…

Stickman's thoughts:

I'm in NZ at the moment, so no silly comments from me on submissions for a week or two…