Stickman Readers' Submissions September 10th, 2007

Making It Work

A few weeks or months ago I wrote a submission called The Way It All Began, which described not only what led me to make my first visit to Thailand, but how I met the girl who would become my wife. That drew several positive comments. Recently, while responding to BKKSW in a thread on the Schoochers forum when he asserted that only idiots would get married to someone they only knew for two weeks, the positive outcome after I did exactly that resulted in a request for more information, which I supplied. I have decided to expand on that response.

The girl who would become my wife shared an apartment with a girl who ran an introduction agency, and hanging around the office one day N persuaded B, my future wife, to make a video just for fun. I picked out that video, and a meeting was arranged on the 4th, B’s birthday as it happened. I was staying at the Wall Street Inn off of Suriwong, so we went for a meal at the Ramada across the road. B had a degree in political science, and was working on the information counter at Tokyu Department Store at Siam Square at the time.

He Clinic Bangkok

She was quiet, so much so that when I suggested a second meeting I expected a negative answer. But she said yes, and asked if N could come as well. We all went for a meal at the top of the Baiyoke Tower (the small one – the big one hadn’t been built yet), and the far more outgoing N did most of the talking. Anyway, things went on from there, but I knew that in around 10 days I had to leave for some work in California. The embassy naturally turned her down for a visa, twice, and so I said, 'Look, we'll probably get married sooner or later, let's do it sooner'. So we did. Decided on the Friday, got married at the Bang Rak office on the Monday, the 18th. I was 42 and she was 29. And we have been married now for over 16 years.

A quick sidenote. I had been married once before, to a girl I married when she was about 17. It only lasted for three years, as she grew up and grew away. Maybe that plays a part in why so many marriages between farangs and Thais fail, because the girl is often too young for marriage. Just a thought.

There was no mention of sin sot. I’d never heard of it anyway, of course. Her family, no doubt a little shell-shocked, came down from Kalasin. We had dinner, they went home. And a couple of days later we flew to California. The embassy had a totally different attitude now, wishing us good luck instead of showing us the door.

CBD bangkok

Why B decided to give up her job and suddenly travel overseas with someone she really hardly knew, I have no idea. I probably never will. She wasn't really looking for a way out of boredom and poverty at any price. I'm sure it also wasn't just the prospect of travel, and I'd describe myself as nothing more than average. A mystery, as Thai girls rarely take such decisions lightly.

So why has it worked? Probably because I decided she had to live in Thailand to be really happy. A familiar story, which many farangs who take Thai girls back to wherever they live don't always appreciate. I was lucky in that I travel the world as a tennis journalist and broadcaster and can base myself anywhere with an internet connection. By a beach would be perfect, but Bangkok will do nicely. And you don't get sand in your computer as I did working across the road from a beach in Florida once.

I live my life by one golden rule. Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. Sometimes that can be difficult, and sometimes you have to give up quite a lot, but I stick to it pretty rigidly. That’s the way I have dealt with being married. You compromise, even if you might disagree on a path to be taken. Okay, that means sometimes your life isn’t your own, but in a partnership it isn’t anyway, is it. And marriage is a partnership. If you can’t accept that then you probably shouldn’t have got married in the first place.

Am I tempted by the gorgeous-looking women around? Of course. I’m male. Would I be led off the straight and narrow and dump B for one? Absolutely not. She has dedicated her last 16-plus years to me and that just wouldn’t be fair. Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. No compromises.

wonderland clinic

For the first 18 months of the marriage we travelled all over North America, Europe and Australia together. But there were two drawbacks to that. One, it was expensive to buy two tickets instead of one, and two, I often work very late hours. Finishing at two in the morning is not unusual. That can get very boring, soul-destroying even, for someone left in a hotel room. Sure you can sightsee, but it isn’t that great by yourself, and there is only so much you can see. There were one or two occasions she would be in tears, and I decided things had to change.

So we based ourselves in London for about a year (I’m a Londoner), at a house belonging to a friend of my sister who spent much of the year in Spain where he runs a business. That was okay, but she still only knew my sister while I was away. So at some stage, and I’m not sure exactly when but probably around 12 years ago, I decided we had to move to Thailand so she could be close to family. It wasn’t a difficult move for me, because I had already spent several years travelling and staying as little as three months a year in the UK. There were no longer any strong roots.

We lived at first with a sister, who had gone to Japan and as a waitress (at least, that’s the story) found a boyfriend there who bought her a house in Bangkok, and a car. Nice. We left there suddenly when the sister one evening accused me of attacking her baby daughter’s ankles. You read that right. She was under a great deal of strain at the time, rising before dawn to run a small cafe, and it wasn’t going well. I believe she was exhausted and fell asleep by the baby (maybe a year or two old, I can’t remember) and dreamed it. In fact, I was merely sitting on my bed at the time waiting for B to finish her shower before retiring for the night. Whatever, she did the Thai soap opera thing, screaming and shouting and packing my videos and records and whatever and saying I had to leave there and then. We packed as many clothes as we could and fled to a hotel that night, and within a couple of days found a house to rent where we have remained until this day. It’s amazing to think I was ready for bed as on a normal day, yet an hour later I left the house never to return. To her enormous credit, B supported me over her sister, which is not the usual way things work here.

I still travel, about six months of the year including a 10-straight week period, so to help pass the time B has been doing a BA in English. That way she has met a great bunch of friends (including two ladyboys and all considerably younger than her of course), and they take picnics in a park or a day trip to Pattaya sometimes as well as study together. Nice for her. I’ve met a couple of them, including one girl who has just one more exam to pass before gaining her degree, but who cannot understand me when I speak and can barely make conversation. Yet she will soon have a BA in English that allows her to teach others. She’s really sweet, but Jesus!

There are countless submissions in the Stick Chronicles relating to the frustrations of living in Thailand, almost all of them true and some of them mine, and I sometimes despair at living here. But, somehow, you just have to bite your lip and find tolerance sometimes for some of the weird thinking here, or the ready acceptance of mediocrity. Not to mention the sheer incompetence and stupidity. But most of the time things are fine. I recognise that the duty of a farang, of any husband, is to provide, and she did once say that if we had no money she would have left. We are not well-off, but comfortable enough, and I have bought her a decent house and land near her home village. She's still waiting for a pick-up, but that will not happen until we move from Bangkok to Isaan when we’ll actually need one.

B has adapted well to western ways, and now even sometimes complains about bad service here. That’s a major breakthrough. She likes western food, although not as much as som tam, and loves the British sense of humour. I in turn like Thai food, although I draw a line at fermented fish, and mix up my diet with both farang and local stuff. Her English has always been pretty good and, now she has been doing a degree, what she knows is way over my head. And I’m a writer! But she’s learned all kinds of technical stuff that I never did.

Our plans for the future are to modernise the house I’ve bought her, bring it up to western standards, and hopefully in two or three years we’ll move up there. She loves the buzz of the city and thinks I’ll be bored in the countryside, but actually I’m looking forward to the clean air and friendlier people. As long as I have satellite TV and access to the Stick Chronicles, I’ll be happy. She’ll maybe teach English at a local school, perhaps at the one she attended as a kid, and possibly I’ll give the occasional English conversation lesson in between putting my feet up and watching the huge DVD collection and reading the collection of books I have been gathering for when that day arrives.

Stickman's thoughts:

Ah, another “and they lived happily ever after story”. Such are always very welcome.

I wonder how important your good lady’s English is to the success of the relationship?

nana plaza