Entering the scene, a younger guy, in wonderment as to how it will play out. Dancing girls you’re really not all that interested in, or even all the attention that comes your way, but you ask why not explore something touted as so much fun? If anything it’s for stories to tell, and to satisfy a thirst inadequately quenched elsewhere.
You meet a friend, someone like-minded but an old hand at this; you drink a couple of beers somewhere quieter at first. Where’s the legendary hotspot? Delivered by taxi, where you walk, then walk a little more, and then a decision is made. You hit the sweet cold air inside and take your place. The women join you, and you are questioned. Your name, where you’re from.
An interesting night is taken in your stride. And again next weekend? Yep, yep. Bring rum this time, pre-drinking is cheap at home. We go again. And then again next weekend, and twice the next. Sometimes two-thousand baht changes hands, but fun was always had, and some risks taken.
A month later, you are alone for the pre-drinks and are still alone when you hit the streets. Flying solo, three-quarters full and your senses dull. Walking from place to place, the small talk is all too familiar by now; next you see the buildings fly by from a taxi window as she provides directions. Her place has no furniture. She has just started working, she says.
When you awaken you know something isn’t right and hasn’t been right for some time.
Three more weeks, three more outings. You are well recognised here. You take a seat and she asks where you’ve been; you have no satisfactory answer, you top up on alcohol. You are now struck silent. The tide is too strong and you haven’t the energy to swim against it for the first time in months. She holds your arm but you have nothing to offer. Incapable of reciprocating, not so much unwilling, but the motivation tank is well dry.
It is re-examined the following weekend. This time with a pal, you enter full of drink and occupy two seats, the favorite spot. Again you are afflicted by silence, and now your friend is being queried for it. “Why he not talk?” she asks. Your eyes are full of candy, but you are completely uninterested and largely lost.
The first reason coming to mind to explain your arrested speech is that the honeymoon period has drawn to an abrupt close. Perhaps, but really it’s something more. Your sense of fun and adventure remain, it’s just that the purpose for which it is directed no longer holds meaning; it’s not sustainable. Things will never be the same, it is finished.
You watch the guy a few tables from you, he’s late forties, eyes fixed on the stage between drink orders. Is he a first-timer? Or on his yearly visit? On one of the chairs at the far back in a dimly lit corner sits a man in his sixties, a glass of orange juice before him. He doesn’t need to drink to have a good time, doesn’t need friends, and is not here for the live shows. In these two men, do you see yourself in 10 years, and again in 30? It is true you’ve known the scene for 6 months only, but why should that not be long enough? Will you pull yourself up in time before a slide into the giant inland lake? They say women acquire permanent change from repeated and lengthy exposure to bar and street work; I believe most men succumb to not only a variant of this kind of permanent change, but one which accompanies heavy justification and guarding.
The long-standing John defends his lifestyle and it is futile to engage him with criticism on the matter. But it has to be said that there is likely an underlying and undeniable lack of accomplishment and fulfilment in the long run from this approach. Staring at the silver pole and the woman attached to it is entertainment sure; transactions are made which permit short-term fantasies that may not otherwise be experienced. Marriages can eventuate from these scenarios but the success rate is very limited indeed. For some, a wedding is not even an option but the ongoing distancing from reality is the choice alternative.
One speculates if this existence is a kind of purgatory without purification, it's neither here nor there, a dilution of integrity to yield watery, insipid soup. There may be pleasure spikes but the remainder is overwhelmingly gray. I believe some can live with it on a permanent basis without a second thought. I also believe that for others it becomes an enduring mix of flesh fixes and the horrible morning-afters, where the mirror reveals new lines on their face and the eyes looking back at them disclose a soul that has underachieved, operating at one tenth its capacity, and ponders why it ever came to this.
The industry destroys lives – both the guys' and the girls'. Anyone who disputes that just doesn't know the industry.