Gene’s Midlife Crisis
Gene’s sitting at the bar kitty-corner from me and nursing a glass of vodka and telling me for the fourth or fifth time that the reason he finds himself living in Saigon for the last three years, a place he just loves, is that when he was forty-three
and living in Dallas he took a forty-one year-old divorcee to dinner one night and the dinner for the two of them cost him $50. And all she did during dinner was talk about her teenage son. Nothing more, just ramble on about what he was doing
in school and what he liked and a girlfriend he had and that kind of stuff. On and on and on, nothing about me or us. This, Gene says, was his “epiphanous” moment, and his “midlife crisis.” He just couldn’t handle
listening to a woman who he had taken to dinner, a dinner costing him the princely sum of $50, talking incessantly about her teenage son. It broke him. He had to find a new life.
Gene’s now forty-seven and he’s another one of these “teachers.” Teaching is what everyone in the West does in Thailand and Cambodia and Vietnam and probably every other country in Asia when they’ve had
a midlife crisis or their second or third marriage has gone south or they decided it was time to retire because they were tired or they’d had enough of fat feminazi western women or they had to get on the run from something they’d
rather not talk about. All these teachers, almost all of them teaching English, have never gotten any degrees in teaching and they’ve never been in a classroom before becoming a teacher and a good many of them don’t have university
degrees, and in truth they don’t have a f@#$ing idea what teaching is all about. But they’re teachers, and you can’t believe the great life they’re living in Saigon and Hanoi and Bangkok and Phnom Penh because of all
the money they’re making. They’re making, invariably, about three thousand dollars a month for about twenty hours of work per week, a job without benefits, a job in which they can be fired or let go without notice or reason, a job
in which they take shit all the time from bosses who barely speak English and go by the rule, If I say this is how things are to be done that’s how they are to be done. Teaching is for Gene and so many of these resident expats just about
the only job they can get in these Asian countries unless they’re working for an international company and have been posted for two or three years to Saigon or Bangkok or increasingly somewhere in China, in which case they’re making
at least three or four thousand a week and with all kinds of benefits and perks.
One of the first things that expats like Gene want to let you know is just how good their life is making $36,000 a year, if they’re making this much. It’s just so cheap to live in these countries, they’ll tell you. As
long as you’re okay with not having a car and not having anything more to get around on than a small motorbike and having a minimally furnished apartment and drink but don’t drink too much and don’t have medical insurance
and can’t save any money and don’t play too much with women who want to be paid a good price for their accommodating one night services. It’s all Nirvana in Southeast Asia for young and middle-aged and old men who…well,
you get the idea. The idea of course is that some people have magical ways of convincing themselves that going job naked among the exotic natives is way better than being more or less fully clothed and with a safety net to cushion the inevitable
fall, even if you find yourself now and again paying fifty dollars for a dinner and listening to a woman carry on endlessly about her teenage kid. Which is pretty much what all mothers would do wherever you find them.
Once in Saigon or any of these buzzing Southeast Asian Nirvanas the next issue after getting the ideal job teaching that allows you to live like you could never live in Dallas or Portland or LA or Peoria is to find that Asian girl who will
become your every dream girlfriend or wife. The first and most important criterion in this search is the easy one: getting someone who’s young and beautiful and more than just okay when she gets in bed. The next criterion or rather set
of criteria that one has to deal with is, well, not so easy. Finding that young and beautiful and more than okay in bed girl that’s not going to be ripping you a dozen ways daily for money, and more money, and all that money that you really
don’t have being a teacher is not that easy. There’s never a demand, or much of a demand, in the beginning; but after you’ve bought her that first blouse or dress she’s got you on a spinning wheel with words like Need
and Demand that grow faster than one of those two-week start to finish high rises that are popping up all over Beijing. The day comes when the teacher more or less wakes up, enough to be able to say: No more money, I just don’t have it.
And that then proves to be the day that the young and beautiful and more than okay in bed Vietnamese girl says: Well, then bye, bye, I’m still young and beautiful and there’s another teacher two floors up in this same apartment block
who will give me more than you’re good for.
Gene, reminding me yet one more time of his shattering epiphanous moment—he likes the word epiphanous almost as much as he like the words midlife crisis–has a long list, a very long list, of friends whose relationships with young
and beautiful Vietnamese women went south, and it didn’t take long, because they just couldn’t stay on the escalating ladder of demands and needs. But there’s a solution to this near universal problem, and Gene’s got
some other good friends as examples to prove that it’s a good solution. The solution is to get over your primary need for someone young and beautiful—meaning no more than twenty-five and without kids among other things—and
find a woman who had her own midlife crisis, though not exactly calling it that and not having a clue what a word like epiphanous could possibly mean no matter how many foreign English teachers she has had around her. This kind of woman had a
Vietnamese husband and he cheated on her and he beat her up and he didn’t provide for her and he liked to drink and then he left her, and with a kid or two to care for on her own. And now she’s in her early or mid-thirties. She understands,
Gene says. She understands that what she needs is some stability, and she has lower, much lower, expectations than she might’ve had if she were young and beautiful and everyone was chasing her, especially all these foreigners in midlife
crises who are teachers. Yep, that’s the solution, Gene says peering through his designer frameless glasses that are starting to show their age. Definitely, he says. Find the abandoned or divorced woman and you’ll have a successful
relationship, I now know that much now.
The bar is nearly empty and it’s closing in on one in the morning. Gene’s musing out loud that he’s got to get serious about finding that thirty something woman who’s been hurt and knows limits, and, he doesn’t
say, will find out soon enough just what those limits are when she hooks up with a teacher making $3,000 a month, with not much left over at month’s end even when the teacher’s living alone.
I’ve had enough for the night. I wish Gene good luck in his search for the Vietnamese woman that’s not going to give him a second midlife crisis, another rending epiphanous moment that springs full blown out a fifty dollar dinner
$3,000 a month? It would horrify you, Mr. Korski, to learn that if he is indeed making $3,000 per month, as far as teachers go he's in the top 10%! Many earn around, or even less than half of that.