Readers' Submissions

I Have A Problem



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok


I have a problem. It is very far from unique among Stickman readers, and especially those who live in Thailand, but it is a problem nevertheless. I am married but want to spend the rest of my life with a bargirl (pause for groans from around the world to recede).

I am now in my mid-sixties and have been married to a Thai for close to 22 years. There isn’t an enormous age gap between us, by local standards. She’s 50, and we have been living in Bangkok for about 20 years with my supporting her. I bought her a decent house on some land which happened to be for sale just a couple of kilometres from the village where she grew up and where she still has an extended family.

She has a few other modest pieces of land mostly given to her by her parents, a couple of which are used by one of her sisters to grow rice. We grew eucalyptus trees on another site with the intention of eventually making money from them. That failed when we sold the trees after several years and the profit was all but taken up by the expense of having to clear the land of the roots. She has a pickup and well over one million baht in the bank that has built up over the years from some of my earnings I have given her. So, she’s been well taken care of.

But, in common I suspect with most long-married couples, we are more friends now than anything else. We get on fine and rarely have any serious arguments, but a couple of years ago I was reminded of what a relationship could really be like after I stepped into a bar while working in Pattaya. I saw a dancer there, and when the customer she was with left and she passed by where I was sitting we had a few words. She wasn’t a stunner but I liked her demeanour, she has no tattoos and friends that have since met her think she is delightful. But I was just leaving with a friend then and said I’d return.

I did a day or two later, and took her to my hotel and was stunned. She was the most affectionate girl I had met since I was a teenager. We spent several evenings together that week, and I have spent time with her ever since. Right from that first evening at my hotel I have had a very strong feeling that we would always be together, as if it was destiny. Irrational, but undeniable. The affection I experienced two years ago is still there and it has baffled me why that should be. She is in her mid-twenties, forty years younger than me, yet she has shown a quite extraordinary desire to spend time with me often at considerable inconvenience. I have never been particularly generous. We have only ever had long-times together and I have never paid her what would be considered a long-time rate.

During the first year we kept in touch but saw each other infrequently due to my marital situation. But when my wife was away visiting family or on a trip with her university friends (she studied and has earned a degree to teach English) she would come up from Pattaya to see me. Once, she even came down from visiting her family in the North-east just for one night with me.

I saw her again for a full week a year ago and decided I would try and help her get a more ‘respectable’ job, something she was happy to try, and she agreed to leave Pattaya and come to live in Bangkok so we could see each other more often and more easily. She also has a cousin and a brother living in the city, which no doubt was an incentive, and in fact she shared a room with the cousin and got a job in the same company, Body Shop. As her salary was less than she got as a dancer I subsidised her with 10,000 baht a month which included any ‘taxi fare’ whenever we met.

Later, she had to give up that job when her mother became sick and she had to go back to her village for several weeks to help her father look after the sugar cane farm, and to take care of the son she had been left with after the local she was briefly married to, in typical Thai style, did the usual layabout womanising thing and she threw him out. She then returned to Pattaya rather than Bangkok where she couldn’t settle in and got a job at KFC, until her son had a serious cycle accident and she had to return home again.

By now, around three months ago, the economic situation had began to take its toll and I could no longer afford her regular payments, and we both acknowledged that she would have to return to dancing. She has returned to the same bar, so I guess nothing was acheived in trying to turn her in a different direction.

In the middle of this year one of my wife’s sisters was killed in a motorcycle accident when a dog ran out as she passed and she came off the bike and broke her neck. That sister was the one who had been taking care of the elderly parents, and in fact she had been on the way to see the mother in hospital when the accident happened. As an aside, absolutely nothing happened about the accident as, again in typical Thai style, everyone in the area denied any responsibility or knowledge of the dog or who owned it.

My wife then took on the role of caring for the mother, who still lived in the village, and her father who lived in our house that we were not yet otherwise using. They’d split a few years earlier but she’d often come over and potter around growing cotton and other things in the garden, something she didn’t have herself. She was old and frail though and had a pacemaker, and she died two weeks after the sister. Her father is also frail and forgetful and needs constant watching so apart from a couple of very brief trips to Bangkok my wife has stayed up-country.

I’ve also made a couple of trips up-country, but basically I have been living in Bangkok alone and have seen my girlfriend regularly once a week, mostly with her coming to Bangkok where we spend the night together. It is always good and she is wonderful to cuddle up naked with and she is not averse to giving me a ‘massage’ to start me off the next morning. Other than that, we do not have sex. I’m getting a little too old for that kind of thing and she says she isn’t keen on sex with anyone too. I do question that from someone of her age to be honest, but I guess sex isn’t the be-all and end-all for everyone. But if we got together would she wander in search of satisfaction? Who knows.

I have questioned her several times on why she likes being with an old fart like me and she always says it is because I am kind and take care of her and don’t get drunk like most of the people she meets in her line of work. She calls me her boyfriend and we talk or text every day. She even calls me sometimes in the early hours after work and tells me how her evening was and how many drinks she had bought for her. She tells me she has only had one long-time so far, just after the New Year and for a couple of days, and even then she sent me a text apologising. We both know it is what she has to do, although obviously I don’t like it.

Maybe she likes the guy, maybe not. It really is just work for these girls, most of the time. It’s difficult for westerners inexperienced with what is still essentially the Third World to understand just how desperate these girls are to get by. So very many have been left with kids to care for, and there is absolutely no financial safety net. If you don’t have money then you simply don’t eat and perhaps have to live in awful conditions. If there is a kid and parents to help out, as there so often is, they feel an obligation to do whatever they can to survive. There really isn’t much choice.

Not all become prostitutes of course, but for anyone with little education and people other than themselves to support, life is lived on a knife edge. If you are more or less independent then you can get by on a basic wage earned in 7-11 or elsewhere. For those with dependents it’s far more difficult. There is also the quite ridiculous situation in Thailand that you need a university degree for almost any job. My girlfriend is very bright and her English is even better than that of my wife, an English teacher. She should be a secretary for a company director or work in a five-star hotel, but those jobs are closed to her without what is often a useless and irrelevant degree.

I am not a fool and know my girlfriend has to spend time with customers and I have no doubt she keeps a few phone numbers as ‘insurance’ for if I move on or things don’t work out with us. That’s normal. But she says these are ‘ships that pass in the night’ (my term) and I have little doubt that I am her one consistent and serious relationship. When she has been short of a couple of thousand baht now and then it is me she calls, and it is I who has paid the modest deposit so she could get her own room instead of sleeping on the floor with three other girls. I’ll also be able to stay with her when I go to Pattaya instead of us using an hotel, so that’s an investment of sorts.

My problem is that I want to spend my life with her and take care of her and her son properly. She has said she would like that and to leave a business that she and the majority of the girls in her profession do only out of necessity. It is something she says she has often discussed with her mother, but they are worried about my wife.

Now, my wife has really done nothing wrong to justify my leaving her, so I can’t just walk out. However, it is clear that she is very comfortable living up-country surrounded by family and friends, and the two or three times she has come to Bangkok have not been primarily to see me. She has had things to attend to, or has met up with a cousin.

Deep down and if she was really honest, she would probably be quite content without me. She is set up quite nicely, and has earning potential at her old school nearby. One of her friends is married to the director and in Thailand connections count above all else, even though she is very well qualified. She has also talked of giving private lessons at our house. So, I think she’d be okay. The problem would be in convincing her of that. I’ve dropped hints a couple of times by suggesting exactly that, but she hasn’t taken it seriously.

But what about me? I’d be giving up a comfortable house up-country, to probably live in a new environment in her village with at the moment who-knows-what amenities. Another thing for me to consider is that, although we are always comfortable together, she doesn’t say very much and you never know with women anywhere in the world what they are really thinking. So there’s a risk there too. I’m really in a lose-lose situation. If I stay with my wife I’ll regret not being with the girlfriend, but if I do move over to the girlfriend I lose everything I’ve built up in Thailand over the last 20 years.

At the moment my plan is to spend another week with her in Pattaya and soon after that I want to try and surreptitiously go with her to her village and look at the setup there and meet the family. I know they already like me for having taken such care and for showing such interest in their daughter. It’s going to be an interesting 2013.




Stickman's thoughts:

Not an easy situation to be in at all. I have no real suggestions other than to seek advice from those you know and trust. Personally, I would be reluctant to change the status quo, but as it's not me in that situation, I can't know how it really feels… Good luck!