Changing Someone’s Life
So many of us are familiar with Thailand’s legendary nightlife that draws many thousands of people to Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and elsewhere every month. And this site is crammed with tales of the good, the bad and the ugly which result from those
visits. But it is rare for a Thai girl to give her side of the story here or anywhere else, and most people have no idea of what lays beneath the surface. There is very little real interaction or understanding between the two-week tourist who
boasts of having 25 women in 14 days and the girls they have ‘employed’. The tourists and the girls might as well live on different planets. Few think about or even care why their plaything is where she is, where she came from, where
she goes back to after the drinks bill is paid or why she is providing the service that she does. Even the expat who might have a regular ‘friend’ he visits rarely has any real idea of the girl’s background and circumstances.
A great many of the girls are there because of the stinking culture of raising boys as spoiled princes and condemning women to the role of second class citizens. One of the frequent consequences of that is, if a boy makes a girl pregnant, instead of sharing the responsibility of their child he ups and leaves and is allowed by Thai culture to do so. That is why so many thousands of girls in the tourist nightlife industry have a child at home being cared for by a parent while they try and earn money to support not just the child but her parents too. That is another part of Thai culture. It is often the girl that is expected to provide for the family. Usually poorly educated and in a society that demands a university degree for even the most mundane of jobs, she is reduced to working in a factory for long hours to provide for them. Or she can try her luck in the nightlife industry where not only is the basic wage pretty good by comparison but the rewards are potentially much higher if they link up with a foreigner. Of course the potential for disaster is also there – alcoholism, drugs, the loss of innocence that can never be recaptured. Plenty has been written about that, by Stick and others, in recent months.
So, there are some, many, girls who enter the business reluctantly. Some take to it like a duck to water, loving the party life atmosphere of the bars. Natural enough, as they are young and looking for fun. But it is almost impossible for us to imagine what it must be like to have sex with someone you really don’t like very much, just to be sure of putting some food on the table. More than one girl I’ve spoken with has told of crying after the first time they had to open their legs. This is a tale of one such girl who caught my eye several months ago walking in Soi Cowboy. She has no problem in looking or acting like a temptress, but she has never enjoyed working in the bar where she danced. It was a means to an end and, like many, she had plans to leave as soon as she could. Many have said that and stayed, but I have recognised in this girl a genuine ‘good girl’ streak. She has played the game a little, emailed for money, but she has never felt comfortable doing what she has done for, she says, much less than a year. So, I have been encouraging her to turn her life in a different direction, and that has begun. This is the Tale of Shorts, nicknamed that because of the tiny shorts she wore when I first met her.
Life with Shorts is often an adventure, and the weekend was no exception. She met me pretty much on time on Saturday evening and we proceeded in an orderly fashion and without incident to Tawandang, a very popular Thai restaurant that provides entertainment on a large stage. It was something she had looked forward to for weeks, until I had the opportunity to take her, and she enjoyed it. I had booked a room for us at the City Lodge on Sukhumvit 19 as a treat and a step up from the usual short-time hotel. Now, a problem. I had earlier checked in without Shorts, but she had lost her ID card in the last day or so and would be going on Monday to get a replacement. Nothing underhand here – I had seen the card recently. But no ID meant no entry to the hotel. My protests that I had booked for two and had known her for ages was received with understanding but no compromise so I checked out.
Now homeless, I decided we might try the Hollywood Inn at Nana. It looked nice from the website and I had been interested in testing the place out, so off we went. There was an unavoidable problem, however. To reach it we had to pass Mandarin Table Dance, from whence I had left the previous evening with Lights Out, someone I have known for some time who is delightful but a bit, um, vacant. The staff tend to spend periods hovering outside, and of course a waitress recognised me. I said hello to her, and no doubt within seconds Lights Out had been informed of my taking a rival into the Hollywood Inn. Not a big problem, because Lights Out has only been an occasional takeaway and never a serious item, even though I had transported her and another Mandarin employee to Pattaya for a few days last year.
The Hollywood Inn rooms are much, much smaller than I had thought. At least ours was. But it was clean and surprisingly quiet considering it looked out over towards Spankys etc. Before we settled down for the night Shorts wanted to show me where she was going to work next. Because as from this weekend she was leaving her go-go bar job in Soi Cowboy and will now be a waitress, where she cannot go with customers and cannot drink, in line with her promise to me that she would, well, not go with customers or get drunk anymore. When she gets drunk she tends to irritate me in little ways, nothing major and she is very ‘outgoing’ towards me, but she needs more controlling. To make the move she is dropping her wage from 10,000 to 6,000 baht, plus her share of tips, and she will work 7pm to 2am, timing that will also allow her to return to university next month so she can get some qualifications and get a decent job. So, she is making a genuine effort to get her life in order, with a lot of encouragement from me. Where is she going to work? The Mothership! She has landed a job, via a friend/grapevine of course, at Liquid Nana. It is possible that she might instead work at a restaurant a friend of hers is opening near Cowboy. Anyway, we had one drink there, met her waitress friend, and returned to Hollywood Inn. We had a decent evening, with music from her phone and sharing a bottle of red, the first time she had had wine. I don’t think she enjoyed it much, but she said it was better than whisky for her and she wants to repeat. Then I did what a man has to do and we slept, sort of, until morning.
Sunday was for finding her a room, with air, something she has never had before in her entire life. She’d heard of rooms in the Suk 22 area for around 6,000 baht a month but also had the Phra Khanong area in mind as it would be cheaper, so we went there first, to On Nut BTS and breakfast in McDonalds. They do now actually serve breakfast! Got the expected stares as she was still in her short black dress from the night before. You can imagine. That, actually, is the next stage in my upgrading of her, to get her to not look like a bargirl (as, indeed, she no longer is). She has a photo of herself when she worked in an office so I know it isn’t a lost cause, even though I’ve rarely seen a girl who screams ‘bargirl’ as much as Shorts does. A couple of phone calls to numbers she’d spotted on banners advertising rooms got us nowhere so we went back to Suk 22 and I took her to where a previous girlfriend, nicknamed The Mouse, lives. A few twists and turns off of the main drag, but I’d escorted the Mouse back home several times and managed to find the place again in daylight, which isn’t always easy. I know the rooms are decent, because I’d been up to the Mouse hole there to do what a man has to do. And lo and behold, they had a sign saying they had rooms for 4,400 baht available, but it was now 10am and the woman she called wouldn’t be there until 3pm. We had plans to return, but as we left a motorcycle taxi driver asked about our mission and Shorts explained. And he knew of somewhere else not far away where she could do an immediate deal, so off on a couple of bikes to there, not far from Asoke.
We saw a very nice lady there who spoke good English, and looked at a couple of rooms. My impression was that they were not quite as nice as at Mouse Mansions, but the difference was marginal. The price was 5,000 baht, with wi-fi (!) and cable TV. I was a little grumpy because I just loved the idea of Shorts maybe living next door to The Mouse, but Shorts preferred this place because it looked clean and fresh outside. So we said yes and we’d be back. Then we went to see her daughter who was staying with her mother and a much younger sister. Shorts had been living in Bangkok with her mother in this place for seven years, but had rowed with her about working in a bar and she now wanted to find somewhere else. She had told me that it was a very poor place and she hadn’t wanted to take me to see it before because I might leave her. The tiny room, little more than about half the size of a one-car garage where she had bedded down with her Cowboy go-go bar friend after she had rowed with her mother was bad, but this was as basic as you could get. The taxi turned into what could only be described as a demolition site. Rubble was everywhere, there was a lorry repair place, and a couple of ramshackle houses of the kind that construction crews live in and demolish when they move on to another job. One of those houses was where Shorts lived.
Gentlemen, when you see these ladies of the night, these femme fatales in their glamorous dresses working the bars, it is often one of those illusions that are so much a part of Thailand. You have absolutely no idea of the life some of these girls live and where they go back to when the neon is turned off at the end of the night. Some share a room with several others above the bar, others rent a small room often with two or three others. They have no privacy, little space, no chance to turn off and grab some peace for an hour or two alone, nowhere to bring a boyfriend back to for a moment of intimacy. And that is often why they are desperate to make as much money as they can from you. In the West, being hard up means not being able to afford a new car or a holiday overseas this year. In Thailand it means having 100 baht in your purse and not knowing if you are going to eat tomorrow. You cannot even imagine what it is like to have that heavy cloud constantly over your shoulder. The fact that when they do sometimes get a little bit of money they do not understand the concept of putting it away for later is not really their fault. It is a cultural and lack-of-education thing, and they pay the price for that. So, we often have these sexy and glamorous girls who look comfortably well off, but when the lights inside the bar are turned on at closing time they return to a life that few of us have experienced and would certainly not want to endure. Some of them have to turn their money over to lowlife Thai husbands or boyfriends who are happy for their partners to sell themselves and live off their earnings, but many are doing the job to provide for elderly parents and often a kid that they had with a Thai boyfriend who refused to accept any of the responsibility that entails. Shorts is one of those. She is 21, and her daughter is seven. Think about it.
The house, the shack, was small and rickety and much of it had open walls to catch any breeze that might pass through. There was no bed of course, just a mat on the floor. In fact, the only furniture was a couple of cupboards for clothes and other items. Shorts’ entire belongings were kept in a small bag in the corner. Her entire life belongings in a bag. Think about that too. I asked if I could take a couple of photos so I could show you the conditions that some of these girls have to endure, but she was too ashamed. She had taken weeks to bring me there, afraid I might flee in horror. But now, today, things were going to change. We left with her daughter, the cutest and most delightful kid on the planet who was staying with her for a few days instead of with grandparents in Lopburi, to Tesco Lotus because I wanted to buy Shorts a cheap TV and DVD player for her new place, to give her something other than silence in her room where she would live alone. At least with Shorts changed into, well, shorts, and a shirt, and with a kid with us, the bargirl image was gone and we actually looked like a family. Once that was done we returned to her new home to sign the papers, with the owner saying that within the next few hours the room would be cleaned and painted and her new TV linked up to their cable system. A table for the TV was to be provided free. This is a good place run by someone who cares for her tenants, not always easy to find here.
So now the next stage of her life begins. I have paid her room deposit and am paying the rent for her and 1,000 baht a month on top, and have given her a welcome gift of the TV and VD. She knows that is the limit of my sponsorship. She wants me to go there and for us to sing karaoke together, a daunting prospect. There is really very little in this for me. I am married and have no intention of leaving a wife who has done nothing to deserve that, but she is happy that someone genuinely cares about her and I have taken satisfaction in helping to remove a girl from the go-go scene she disliked, encouraged her to return to study at university, and provided a decent place for her to live for the first time in her life. Hopefully I have turned her life around and she will now have a real chance of going on to get a decent job away from the nightlife.
There is a postscript to this story. I visited Shorts late on the first night of her new job with the intention of spending time with her when she finished work at 2 AM and found that, rather than working as a waitress, she was drinking with a customer who appeared to have accumulated quite a number of drink receipts, and a Thai ladyboy. After an initial friendly greeting and fetching me a drink she then pretty much ignored me. Which would have been fine if she was really waitressing, but instead she was flirting with the customer and then took the ladyboy outside to talk. When I challenged her on her having told me that she was not allowed to drink but was doing so she became very abusive and told me she didn’t want to talk with me. Shortly after, she stormed out of the place. She has a very short fuse, like many Thais, and I’m pretty sure she was drunk yet again.
I emailed her to tell her that enough was enough and I was breaking off our relationship, but before she read that she wrote to me and said that paying her 6,000 baht a month wasn’t enough and she needed 20,000. Of course she needed more than 6,000, but my intention was that she would also help herself. Obviously she has no intention of doing that and I will not see her again. Unless she can find some other sponsor, far more generous than me, she will now have to lose her nice room and return to who knows what, but that is a problem she has brought upon herself. Obviously I am very disappointed that I made an effort to improve her life and she did not respond, and that I spent a decent amount of money in doing so. I liked her a lot too, but in the end I’ve just had to accept that she is a lost cause.
This is a story that a lot of readers, especially those new to Thailand's nightlife, could really benefit from reading. What a terrible shame it is that you made a genuine attempt to assist her and she has essentially availed herself of the benefits and chosen not to show any gratitude at all. I hate to say it but I have seen first hand or heard reports of this sort of thing hundreds and hundreds of times.