Readers' Submissions

Children of Paradise in the Land of Guile



When I was a few weeks into my Thailand sojourn, I was witness to a conversation in which somebody labelled the Thai personality as basically childlike. I found this an awfully condescending attitude and considered it to be callous and uncalled for. Years earlier in a working office environment, a room had been set aside for the specific purpose of hardware and software testing and because it was a shared facility, it took on an appearance of being cluttered, sloppy and quite disorganized. One of the nerds who spent more time in this facility than anybody else put a notice on the door that stated: Your comments that this room looks like a pig sty are rude, insulting and absolutely correct. Sometimes the truth hurts, but that doesn't negate the validity of the observation. Now five years later, most of it spent residing in Thailand, I find that the most accurate understanding of the Thai persona fully requires not only an acknowledgement that a disproportionately large number of Thais are childlike, but that failure to keep this observation in ongoing focus is not only a window to misunderstanding life here, but it is also a dangerous oversight.

Right up front, I'm not unwilling to acknowledge that by the standards of my homeland I'm at least a bit of a misfit. Conventional Western values would dictate that I would have developed a stronger work ethic along with a more politically correct outlook in regards to women, the value of organized religion, the usefulness of formal education. Yet I don't think that I vary greatly when using the measurement criteria to assess the values considered to be the hallmarks of a well-developed and mature adult.

Honesty, integrity, punctuality, an ability to compromise, sacrifice and plan for the future, to look beyond a superficial image and get to the meat and the heart of the matter.

All my life I've listened to explanations of why somebody was late to work, for a doctor's appointment, for a dinner date. But fundamentally, there really is only one reason. And that is this person's word is no good. Am I a saint? Am I never late? Of course at times I've been late and undoubtedly at some point in the future, I will be late again. But I sense a profound difference between someone who apologizes, who admits that he fxxxed up. The Thai attitude, manifested in the notion of 'saving face' is to not accept responsibility for one's self, to prevaricate, to pile lie on top of lie. Like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, the Thai will go to great lengths to convince you that it wasn't his hand, he doesn't even like cookies…

One of the most memorable experiences for me as a young adult was the very simple yet profound realization that when I caused an accident, was late for an appointment, was absolutely mistaken regarding a factual matter, that I admitted that I had erred, screwed up, been wrong when I had thought I'd known what I was talking about. Although on a global scale it seems to have continually diminished during the course of my lifetime, I seem stuck in a time warp with the idea that telling the truth and accepting the consequences for my actions is the proper way to go through life. To me a man's word is his bond and I wonder how many people, to include all too many politicians, lawyers, businesspeople and bargirls can look at themselves in the mirror. But they can…

It doesn't require an advanced degree in anthropology to know that for hundred of generations and throughout recorded history, people have been in a fairly close consensus as to what constitutes moral behaviour. And one of the precepts is the prohibition on lying and bearing false witness.

I do not make the case that my notions of moral value are superior to those of many Thais I meet whose moral sense to me appears to me to be "I want and I should have". I do make the case that profoundly different moral values should be red flags regardless of how attractive the lady or how great the sexual relationship. So-called 'good girl' or bargirl, I've been forced to the conclusion that there really isn't much of a meeting ground for farang / Thai relationships if you are seeking a curious and intellectual equal. To say nothing about shared values and morals, in a rational frame of mind, (i.e., when your dick is flaccid) I no longer harbour any notions about the likelihood of finding a lifelong partner in Thailand.

When reading Stickman submissions, sometimes the author is straight-up about his situation and confesses to what occurred and this is why he is writing what we are reading. Many other times, we are forced to read between the lines. Because I create my submissions to Stickman for the education and entertainment possibilities, I must now relate my latest attempt at a relationship with a Thai woman.

OK, maybe this girl wasn't different, but the relationship was. I had never partaken in such a roller-coaster ride of emotions with drama and breakups and makeups. Although I had always stated that this was the antithesis of what I wanted in a relationship, it was during the breakup phases that I eventually came to understand that life would be awfully boring without this bad girl. And although I knew that there was no future for me with a mercurial emotional Thai lady like this, I continued to play with her. Financially it was inexpensive to have her as a playmate. And I couldn't deny how much I enjoyed her company aside from the sexual arena.

She did waffle for awhile but eventually did stop working at the bar where I'd met her. And it continued to be rather inexpensive for me, probably because I'd promised her a prize down the road: a house.

We spent more nights together and the drama diminished and at times it was even possible to imagine a future together. The house stayed down the road because her rural village is so backward and superstitious that she explained that construction could not commence until November arrived, as the prior months were unlucky.

I'd seen rural villages in SiSaket and Udon Thani before, but her existing house was an Isaan award winner in material discomfort and deprivation. For the many readers here who have never seen rural Isaan villages, it is a real eye-opener. This house, although sizeable, was literally a roof covering a 2nd floor that was one large room. I suppose we could call this the master bedroom. The ground floor was just open space and pillars supporting the roof and second floor. I'd previously bought a home for a woman in Meuang Khon Kaen (the city of Khon Kaen) and we remain good friends and I have no regrets about buying her a home. I'd rather see my money do some good while I'm alive rather than leave it to some charity or distant relative. But I am not about to jeopardize my comfortable existence in doing so.

The payoff was getting closer as November approached and I intended to fulfil the promise I'd made to her. But she couldn't muster the self-discipline and patience to get to that point. She'd had a very wealthy customer and although he was married, the allure of a 5-star hotel room and 5,000 baht a night was irresistible for her. It didn't take much mental acuity for me to suss out what she was doing.

And thus began the lying phase of our relationship. Lies accumulated like piles of manure in a cow pasture. The makeup sessions were great and promises from her were more far-fetched. "I swear on my daughter's life that it won't happen again." But it was quite apparent that her honest intentions were non-existent and I could spit farther than I could trust her. Hell, I can piss further than I could trust her. And my prostate isn't what it used to be.

I suppose that bargirls use the ruses that they do because they use the weapons that they possess. They don't use guns or knives like an armed robber does. They can't embezzle money from their employers lacking the means of access and the knowledge of how to do so. They choose the route of the con-man, the grifter, the swindler. The con-man gains your confidence over time and after they part you from your money, they disappear promptly. In many regards, I have higher regard for the armed robber or the pickpocket. They take a calculated risk and suffer the consequences if they choose their target poorly and fail to escape. The scheming bargirl takes refuge behind her lies and the weakness of her gender. If you caught her snatching your wallet or phone, she'd likely find herself the recipient of a few well-deserved punches and kicks.

Maybe it's my old school values, but I cannot believe that good girls get turned into bad bargirls in the space of a year or two. Sure some do, but there seems to be something lacking in the Thai culture, be it the education, the religion, the family upbringing, the pervasive corruption that breeds the notion that these are acceptable means of carrying on. And as I've stated in a long-ago post to this site, Thais do not reserve this treatment for farangs. They'll fxxxover other Thais in a heartbeat. I cannot help but wonder what goes through a bargirl's mind as she visits her local wat (temple) and prays. I have to think that her thoughts are much closer to those of a 5-year old sitting on Santa's knee than they are of a devout Catholic in confession.

But I digress. The ex-bargirl wanted to return to her village and sell what passes for medicine in less learned people. It was her business dream. The fact that she could only sell the medicine for 10 baht more than she'd bought it and would have to transport it from Bangkok didn't enter into the equation. So sure, she could return to spend time with her 2-year old daughter (who had never met her father and likely never would) and her mother and find out how long her meagre savings would last her. In her village, they take pride in eating local snakes, frogs and backyard fish; sustenance that doesn't require a monetary outlay. But that would be boring and lack drama and so a new element was introduced to the pathos. She'd wanted another child and her wish had been granted and she was now a few months pregnant. That she didn't have any certainty as to who the father was of this child was of no great matter to her. I'd consider this to be the epitome of a grand fxxxup. As bad as owing more money to people than you could ever repay and whose names ended in vowels. As bad as finding yourself behind bars in a facility where you were afraid to take a shower. A monumental problem from which there was no easy way out.

But then as has already been pointed out, we don't always see things in the same light as a Thai. In an idle moment I sent this pregnant lady a text message asking if she had any clear preference as to who the father was. I suggested that possible considerations could include the father's physical appearance, the amount of wealth either man possessed or whatever was important to her that perhaps I hadn't sussed out yet. But her text reply was a memorable and humorous anecdote amidst a tawdry tale. "It my baby. Have sex. Win!!" (Her exclamation points.) It reminded me of a drunken / vagrant I'd witnessed being sentenced in court to a week in jail OR a $50 fine. "I don't care, it don't matter to me." Little Miss Bad Girl could give a flying-continental-fxxx who fathered her child!!!

She did return to her village and I heard very, very little from her or of her. It is said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. It was reasonably clear (as anything could be in the murky Thai flood-waters) that she had gotten what she wanted and gone home. She didn't hate me and perhaps she enjoyed some of the time and countless nights we'd spent together. She'd squandered a chance at a million baht or more to be used for a house even though she'd spent hours poring over internet sites full of Thai home layouts and design. (I'd suggested to her to hire a local architect.) To have actually acquired that home would have required certain traits that were not part of her makeup; self-discipline, patience, an ability to plan for the future. Essential elements for what we see as adult behaviour. Granted I'll never understand her actions, but attributing them to a childlike nature is as close as I can come.

I'd had too many episodes with Thai girls when they were being unfaithful to someone else and had come to observe that they weren't malicious and trying to inflict pain on their partner. I don't condone or justify their behaviour but saw that like a spoiled child, they were incapable of controlling themselves. A leopard cannot change its spots. Late in our relationship when Miss Bad Girl felt me slipping away she asked me if I didn't want to be with her anymore. I wasn't loud or abrasive or even angry when I replied to her in my unscripted comment that "No man can have you; you're a wild animal."

Perhaps the most meaningful realization from my years in Thailand was my thought adjustment about believing that I'd understood people reasonably well in the Western nation from which I came. But that after too many years trying to understand Thais, it eventually hit me that people were too unique for me to ever understand anyone, anywhere.


Stickman's thoughts:

Lying is a massive problem in a place where honesty has *much* less value than reputation.