Western Society and the White Guy
Around the time I hit the age of around 40, I noticed that I had evaporated. For the most part, I simply did not exist to most of the general public. Having grown up in the U.S. of the 1960s and into the early 1970’s, I had personally witnessed
a societal revolution that (although I was scarcely aware of it at the time) now profoundly impacted me—and would continue to do so particularly as I aged. The hierarchy in American society had changed from one of white male dominance and
deference to one where white males were largely viewed as responsible for the ills of western society, were viewed as having been historically vastly over-privileged, and were gleefully relegated in societal status to a level below that of women,
minorities and children. Yes–the bottom rung as it were.
Of course we white guys retained a large part of our earning ability and (although slowly diminishing) our place in the corporate, religious and judicial hierarchy. However, if we had not already capitalized on what had been the remnants of a white male power structure (and many of us had not), we awoke one day to find that we were no longer on even footing with the rest of western society, and what gains we might have made in the past were slowly eroding under a “progressive” mindset gripping our society that had failed to include us in their plans for that progression. We were merely being tolerated. We were no longer fashionable.
Added to this, a few years ago, having turned fifty, my appearance, although pleasant, was unremarkable. I was easily viewed as someone’s husband, uncle or possibly golf buddy. I wanted so much more. Having lost my youth, I was aware of being viewed as a non-entity to those of the feminine persuasion who I desperately wanted to take notice of me, to reassure me of what I had hoped remained of my desirability as a man. My hair had thinned and I had gained some weight, but I was still not fat. My height of just over 5 ½ feet tall left me at a competitive disadvantage with women in a society where a man’s height was emphasized and over-valued. I did not register anymore. I was one among a sea of other unremarkable middle-aged white guys. Women who passed me on the street would glance at me before looking away, hardly ever meeting my eyes.
On the plus side, in my early years, I had buried myself in academia, and together with a youthful driving ambition, had become professionally and materially successful. I had a loving wife of 25 years who respected me, no children, and I possessed all of the creature comforts that I wanted. However, I felt a desperate loneliness and a sadness that I carried with me always. This was my lot in life, and I had grown resigned to it. My youth had perished, and I was now merely passing time. Then Thailand entered my life.
When I first went to Thailand five years ago on a business trip to meet with company representatives of a supplier with whom I was doing business, I went with few expectations. To me it was an interesting trip to break up my life’s monotony. I planned to do my business, a little sight-seeing, sample their food, and go back home. I had of course heard and read about the stories of Thailand and its women, but expected to be received as indifferently there by them as how I had grown accustomed to being received at home. I was wrong.
As soon as I cleared Customs and arrived in Bangkok, I was no longer invisible. It seemed everyone noticed me. People, and better still, young women, often acknowledged me with a nod, a friendly gaze and a smile—a smile that would remind me of how one can warm your heart. I would pass people on the street, and they would not immediately look away, but would seek out my eyes. Many would approach me and seek to engage me in conversation. I had not experienced such attention since I was a kid. I realized that this human interaction was what I had been missing and longing for. I had re-materialized.
What was the most startling and overjoying to me was the way in which I was treated by Thai women. These Thai women were not only relatives of my colleagues and their employees, but also women I would randomly encounter on the skytrain, in stores, restaurants, and on the general public. They treated me not as indifferently as I had been used to be treated at home, but as though I was genuinely attractive and desirable. They noticed me, often seeking me out, and they spoke to me, treating me respectfully. As a bonus, given the average compact height of Thai women, my “short” height by western standards did not seem to really leave me at a disadvantage there. Whether it was true or not Thai women not only knew I existed, but found me to be an interesting and worthwhile man.
I did experience the bar scene, and understand the money motivations of the bar girls that cozy up to you, and while I fully understand and appreciate why my fellow farangs find mongering to be so enjoyable, I for one (despite a sampling or two) did not find the BG experience to be one that I would adopt as a lifestyle. I do however, think it is wonderfully refreshing that this pastime exists for those who wish to avail themselves of the many pleasures that it offers.
After a thoroughly delightful month in Bangkok, I felt an emptiness in the pit of my stomach as my taxi took me back to the airport for my flight home. Once I was comfortably seated on the plane, and realized that I was now again surrounded by many westerners, I felt myself instantaneously evaporate. I was again invisible, as that short, middle-aged, balding white guy that western society find so uninteresting and unremarkable.
After that first trip, I have been back to Thailand twice a year for one month visits each year for business / pleasure. I live for those visits. I have many times performed the evaporation and re-materializing cycle when transitioning from western to eastern societies when doing these trips. I am a western man who finds the recognition, acceptance and welcoming I crave not in my homeland, but in a wonderful foreign land thousands of miles away from home. Thank you Thailand.
I think many can relate…