Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 207
Well, you've only got two chances when it comes to conclusions. Correct conclusion or incorrect conclusion. I guess the title should be 'INCORRECT CONCLUSIONS' because the word wrong refers to a moral imperative, but heck; everybody knows what I mean. And maybe, now that I think about it; the 'moral' part isn't so off base anyway. So what am I talking about? I am talking about the judgmental couple that was sitting next to us. Who was us?
I have a 7 p.m. appointment to meet an expat from Bangkok. He is driving up from southern Thailand where he has been on a photo shoot so we decide to meet in Pattaya for dinner. He picks me up in front of the steps of the A.A. Hotel and we end up at the new mall opposite Soi 13/0 on 2nd Road. The plan had been to go to the fabulous and tasteful New Orleans restaurant run by food impresario Steve on Soi Pattayaland 2 but my dinner companion made some negative remarks about the neighborhood (Gee, I thought it was a great red light district) so that was nixed. Anyway, we ended up at the brand new mall on 2nd Road. Neither one of us has been to this new mall before but we discover Shenanigan's restaurant on the second floor. It is a very nice restaurant. Big, western standards, and a nice menu.
I go Irish and have liver and onions–I do this because it is a guarantee foodwise. It is impossible to screw up cooking liver and onions. I also order liver and onions because I delude myself into thinking that it will function as some sort of nutritional counter balance to my normal diet of Swenson's Ice Cream (I always order Chewy Chocky Fancy), and chicken breasts cooked over toxic hibachi coals. Lately, because of nervousness about how well the chicken is cooked; I have taken to lifting up the wire screen and putting the chicken directly on the coals. This usually causes the Thai cook to flip out but I insist. So now I do not have to worry about undercooked chicken meat, but it is probably even more full of poisonous charcoal fumes. Thailand. You can't win, all you can do is party.
Anyway, I have happy memories of Shenanigan's when it was in the basement on 2nd Road next to the Marriott; but this is even better. No loud band that makes conversation a chore. And for me, to be across 2nd Road and outside my briar patch – well; I almost feel as if I am on a date. Normally, I don't leave the Pattaya red light district except to get a bus back to the airport and Boston. Jesus, I feel like I am having an adventure. A couple of hours without bad girls. Amazing.
The photographer expat and I have never met before except for Internet contacts. He asks me if I would like to see a photo shoot on his laptop of a modeling session. Who is going to say "No" to this? Pretty soon the laptop is on the restaurant table; and he begins to walk me through the pictures of a woman. There are many pictures and we scroll through them. Each picture is slightly different, or more than slightly different because she is posed, or facially expressive in different ways in each picture. Lots to look at, and lots to remark on, and lots to think about.
The screen is mostly facing me. No one else can see the pictures except me and my photographer friend if we move it a little bit. So it is private thing. He talks about the things he knows about; the business, and the professional social parts of the photographer model relationship, and technical stuff. I talk about what I can talk about; which is aesthetics, and reactions to each shot, and other more generic stuff. I am not a photographer. A camera coming in contact with me is a death sentence. It is only a matter of time before I throw it away. I have no interest in model photography either; in fact if I had to take photos of beautiful women I would probably die from boredom, but this is a one time thing so it is fun. We are both having fun. Scrolling back and forth through the pictures and making comments. The model herself? A father's daughter. A wonderful salt of the earth Thai person who does not deserve anything but respect. She is having fun having her picture taken. This is her idea. She is smiling. She is involved. She is an adult. A beautiful young woman reveling in her youth, at ease with her beauty, and excited about her life. The kind of person the world needs. A happy person. Emotionally stable and fun.
So who is the judgmental couple? Next to us. Next to our table was a farang couple. Looked like husband and wife and probably from the States. And you could tell: I could tell, and then later outside the restaurant I found out that my friend had also noticed, that they were disapproving of us. Through body language, and face language, and eye language they were communicating that they did not approve of us and what we were doing. They could not see the pictures we were looking at and remarking about on the screen, but they knew that if two adult males are having fun talking about a woman, and looking at pictures of a woman; it must be wrong. Fifty percent of the world's population is female but apparently it is wrong to ever look at one, or remark on one if you are a man. Funny, I must have missed that meeting.
So what did I do? What did I do when I noticed that we were getting disapproval? I didn't do anything. I did not alter my part of my life in any way. I was not doing anything improper. What did my friend do during this fun dinner in which he was enthusing about a part of his professional photography career when he saw that the man and the woman at the next table were disapproving of us? He did not do anything. He did not change, or alter, or disguise, or retool his self or his life or his fun or his enthusiasms in any way. He did not have to. We were not doing anything improper.
So if you are from another far away place and you decide to come to Thailand: be careful about making judgements. And do not make too many assumptions about your ability to influence. Thailand is a tough gig and only the tough survive. We are not going to pay any attention to whether you approve of us or whether you do not approve of us. We have left the need to defend our selves, and our needs, and our actions, and our enthusiasms behind. We are finally free. You are not a part of the equation for any one of us.
Did I have any regrets about this dinner date with my friend of accomplishment, and talent, and style, and education, and character? Only one: I kind of wished one of these stupid people at the next table had said something. Something aggressive, and public, and disapproving about what they thought we were doing. Then we could have turned the laptop around and shown them what we were looking at. And we could have said in unison:
"Be careful about reaching the Wrong Conclusions."
Excellent! There are heaps of judgmental types in Thailand, unfortunately. There's nothing worse than a busy body. And hell, why of why do they have to listen in to your conversation anyway? I met one of the more prolific submission writers a few weeks back and at one point he surreptitiously indicated that we had a pair of ears at the adjacent table tuned in to our (quite innocent, but still very interesting) conversation.