Thailand : One SEXagenarian’s Experience
Long time lurker, first time submitter. Finally, after 11 years of reading Stickman and wintering in Thailand (now up to 7 months a year, including some additional stints now in the Philippines), I am getting around to penning this piece, thanks to some gentle prodding from my friend Gary. There are many writers on here I enjoy reading and this forum has been a valuable source of prophylactic information that has kept me from wandering too far off the safe track over here. Otherwise, I might have bitten off more than I can chew and could now be staring at some bleak landscape in Issaan wondering how the hell I got there and how to get out with minimal additional damage to whatever remnants of my heart and wallet might still be intact.
Perhaps my reluctance to post a submission had something to do with a fear of being unable to measure up to the high level of writers’ craftsmanship on display here. Nervous about being properly skewered / corrected by the formidable Korski? Or mercilessly lampooned by Dana? Out-metaphored by Phet? Even the crisp, italic comments of The Stickman himself can sometimes sting. Dunno, but here goes anyway.
A little about myself first. As the title suggests, I am now on the dark side of my sixties, that particular decade (much of it) spent over here. I still consider that period absolutely the best decade of my life, even though others have been pretty good too. Upon early retirement (56) I looked around for warmer winter climes, bouncing around Mexico and Central America, looking for that new Fountain of Youth place wherever it might be. I speak a couple of other international languages well enough but was not so interested in travel per se (having done a fair amount of that earlier), but rather in creating some kind of other life outside the narrow confines of my own culture. I also have a pretty good life in my home town the other 5 months too, but I only mean “confines” in the sense that one is always so “grooved” by one’s own culture, whatever it is, that we risk leading a somewhat event-starved life if only because we have ironed out all the interesting kinks and wrinkles, ironically the very things we seek when we travel! As Oscar Wilde said:
“There are only two tragedies in life:
one is not getting what you want,
the other is getting it!”
I first came to Thailand on the suggestion of a friend who was well-versed in Thai life and he showed me the basic ropes here. I remember vividly a few images that stuck in my brain that made my decision to stay and return easy. One was this: I was on my rented motor bike zipping around the old moat road in Chiang Mai (which curiously somehow reminded me of the small town I grew up in, and hey! – don’t we all just want to be 12 again?). Used to bikes, I thought I was motoring around at a pretty good clip, when these 2 helmetless young office girls zipped right by me on one bike, nicely dressed in white blouses and dark skirts, the one on the back perched precariously sideways, nonchalantly munching with chopsticks on something in a box. She flashed a piano smile at me that I will never forget, that gorgeous long black hair floating wildly in the breeze. Wow! Right then and there I knew it: this is the place for me! That casual nonchalance, that carefree insouciance perched on the edge of danger and catastrophe at 50+ clicks – absolutely exhilarating. It carried that powerful message: “You can be a bit of an outlaw here and maybe have a lot of fun too!” (And ain’t that just what a lot of us old geezers really want in our twilight years? Go see that movie Cocoon again or better still, just make your own over here!) The shock of merely being acknowledged by a winsome lass a fraction of my age was not lost on me either, believe me! As we all know, in our sanitized western cultures, you pretty much become invisible to the younger set once you’re over 60…hmmm…make that 50 unless you’re rich, handsome, or both?
I would like to try to stake out some middle ground between the hard core Pay4Play folks, which in its extreme can lead to cynicism about relationships and the calculating, scheming nature of Thai gals, and the other extreme suggested in a recent piece by Shady about the ready availability of nice regular gals who are happy to hang out with clean cut young gentleman and are more than up for carrying their share of expenses. We will get back to all that in a moment, but let me digress with some personal observations first.
Each human animal is a very complex quadratic equation, which is constantly factoring in an almost infinite number of variables – age, size of paunch and/or wallet, manners, attire, available options, immediate need, being but a few. Stickman is of course correct to wonder if age and status has a lot to do with what options we are able to carve out for ourselves at any given point.
Whereas I struggled in high school algebra to tease out the results of but one simple equation, I am sure I am not the only one to note that many Issaan gals can make these elaborate and complex calculations in a few nanoseconds and can structure their behaviour accordingly to maximize personal gain, all the while stroking some intimate body part of yours and hypnotising you with an innocent, endearing gaze you had not seen since you were about 16 years old. Personally, once I learned the ropes here (and how to dodge the main pitfalls), I still find such behaviour totally enchanting. Give them their due: these quickly learned survival street smarts are as often a sign of a practical intelligence rather than evidence of a duplicitous schemer (OK, maybe a bit of both sometimes too.) But who taught them to be like that anyway? Hmmmm…could it be our own duplicitous “Manworld” behaviours (e.g. “I come back…sure”, or: “No! – Not butterfly now that I know you” or: “I go Pattaya business only”, etc.) I taught in a small alternative high school with some pretty smart kids who were pretty good at finding and exploiting the angles, but many of ‘em wouldn’t stand a chance up against Noi or Nok or Nam. Seductive charm wins out over aggressive displays of cleverness and wit every time. (Another thing learned over here.)
At the other end of the scale, I take my hat off to those young fellows with regular (paying for themselves) ladies. Good on ya in that group. I was once in it too and did just fine without much cash outlay. I also pay tribute to the real heroes – the guys who marry, raise kids, learn the language, stay faithful pretty much, grow rice or sugar cane on a farm in Issaan and remain happy and fruitful. These are the toughest cross-cultural things to do and I salute those with success in managing to factor out that most complex of quadratic equations. I equally salute those few couples I know back home who have achieved stable longevity with a loving mate, solving the problems somehow of wanderlust and too much familiarity, content enough to trade unknown excitements for stable security and warmth. The wise ones give ample latitude to their partners, plus an occasional blind eye I am sure!
Back to that middle ground I was talking about. What about the rest of us, those wounded warriors of the dating & marriage game, now somewhat past our “best before” date, maybe not quite in the great shape we would like to be (and lacking the discipline to get there), nor possessing those Pattaya Gary chick-magnet traits so aptly described by Dana? Is there hope for us in this minefield of S.E. Asian charms?
You bet there is!
I think there are ways to find not just sexy romps with nubile young things, but also romance and fulfillment in that middle ground, even if paying for it. Back to all that in a moment.
I firmly believe that I have not tired of the bar scene after all these years (something I was expecting since so many others talk about it) mainly because I keep those romance and relationship doors open at all times and maintain a sense of balance by cultivating other kinds of relationships at the same time. For example, I was fortunate enough to meet in my early days here a young woman (first hired as my first Thai teacher) who has become one of my very best friends. She lost her parents at a young age, and for all intents and purposes, I have literally become her “Dad” and her entire extended family has adopted me as such with open arms. (And yes, fortunately I learned very early the wisdom in keeping my naughty life separate, even though she herself knows everything about me). This grounding in a normal, middle-class Thai family has helped me enormously to keep things in perspective, and to see that there is general good will here and lots of it, without any of that scrounging for dough and favours we hear so much about. And thanks in general to my more “normal” life with my local posse in Chiang Mai, which includes things like tennis, music, nice restaurants with pals, cycling around those same roads that Mr. Caveman likes, etc. That young woman, who now has her own fine farang boyfriend, has virtually become my daughter, one that I am extremely proud of and grateful for. She recently spent 3 months with me in my home country, cooking up a storm for me every day. What a treat to have her around! I seem to collect other “daughters” as well in various places and enjoy them all!
In our home cultures, well mine anyway, it seems to me that there is great pressure (all the more powerful because no one exactly articulates it) to conform to the monolithic view of the supremacy of the LTCMR, the Long Term Committed Monogamous Relationship. All other lifestyle options are deemed to be at best secondary and/or questionable, at worst evidence of being a loser, an emotionally challenged cripple, a second tier male, or (if it is found that you are frequenting Thailand) a perverted sex tourist. (Ladies get a pass and a much nicer label as “romance travellers’ – lucky them!)
One of the most refreshing experiences for me in Thailand was to discover that there are many different lifestyle options available, and a far greater level of tolerance (which is not quite the same as acceptance) for your choices, whatever they may be. Ageism seems to melt away, tall ladyboys consort with short old men, 3somes or 4somes on up casually engaged in by whoever feels so inclined and has the cash, tomboys hang out with their galpals, all of which leads you to wonder sometimes who is who (and what is what). In short, gender roles and lifestyle boundaries seem generally relaxed, if not downright blurry. How refreshing! Yes, I know that Thai smile does not always convey acceptance and they do love to gossip, but I am just thankful that I do not feel a bunch of Miss Grundys hovering over my every move hoping to catch me in some cultural or sexual faux pas or other. (Well, except for those occasional disapproving gazes from newly arrived Western women, but I now relish those!)
We appear at least to have the green light to punch in the data from our own personal equation and explore our particular natural proclivities (within reason) without much fear of social reprisal, provided we learn the road-map of observed norms, which is not too difficult. Having flopped somewhat at various stabs at the LTCMRs, this apparent openness is a godsend for those of us looking for a second chance with different rules and no pre-judgments. Suddenly it seems to be OK to be just who we are, and obviously the whole Stickman Support Community (well deserving of those caps) is there for guidance and knowing nods from many other fellows in the same boat: Brokenmen looking to be repaired! (Thank you Phet for that taut encapsulation!)
Now back to romance and fulfillment. How to find it within the “naughty nightlife” so that you end up with more than just a bunch of notches in the belt, all the while avoiding the pitfalls of yet another marriage?
Like all things that are worthwhile, it does not always fall in your lap, but when it does you certainly know it. That elusive GFE (girlfriend experience) is no doubt harder to find, but still there. (For some reason, I am now finding it much easier to find this in the Philippines, but that is another story for another sub some day.)
I think it may sometimes be an advantage to be an older man in this respect. (Yes, yes, I know – they all say “Me like old man” hoping to secure access to your fatter wallet and an early exit as you are more likely to fall asleep after the 10 o’clock news rather than pound the SanMigs …and her! all night.) R.I.P. to the unfortunate gentleman with his lass in a Pattaya hotel last week whose sleep a few days ago ended up being of the permanent sort. We can only hope he had a smile on his face at the end.
Respect and kindness can go a long way. I prefer to visit someone several times before even taking them out, and go out of my way to please them and put them at ease. While some encounters end up being brief ones (OK, make that quite a few) I am always ready to cultivate something a little more with repeat visits if I can find the seam of pleasure that seems to whet their appetite. That may be letting them talk about themselves (learning Thai has helped enormously, although I still struggle), or a nice suitable-for-mom & dad photo-collage that flatters their best attributes, or a special seaside dinner, or congratulating them for being so attentive to their families. Another time for me, that seam was found watching another “daughter” of mine selling her cell phone service on the street, and then giving most of her earnings away to passers-by less well off than herself, at that time a poor student. No sex ever with her, but wow – she sure stirred my heart strings that day!
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
In other words, find the seam, and (forget the easy pun here) keep your eyes open for those cracks – which are quite often not where you expect, and never the result of asking for a menu of services. Then let the light pour in and flood your soul with the healing balm that so naturally exudes from some of these delightful young women when relaxed, pleased and reassured of gentlemanly, caring conduct.
I often tell these ladies, some as poor as church mice, that for me they are the truly hi-so ladies of Thailand, and I mean it! I believe in general Thai ladies display a level of reserve, politeness and femininity that is truly remarkable. Or perhaps they just remind me of my English grandmother (from those good old days when manners really meant something) whose dignity, politeness and repression of her own ego made a lasting impression on me. Another thing re-learned over here: greng-jai – consideration for others first, and always. We could all learn from the Thais about ego and entitlement repression – sometimes a good thing!
Even if all these strategies fail to produce additional levels of romance and personal involvement, I still enjoy the experience anyway. Even if the sensual flounders, I can turn the event into another language learning opportunity and be quite content with just that. Thailand has more than any other place driven home to me the truth of that old saw:
Rather than trying to get what you want,
learn to want what you get.
The more surprising thing to me is just how often such careful attention has led to higher levels of romance or sensuality. Certainly not every time, but frequently enough that I am constantly startled by my own success over here. I would characterize such experiences as Sudden Serendipitous Honeymoons (SSHs…don’t tell anyone else, OK?) They may last an hour, a day, a few months or even longer over several visits. (Pal Gary seems to have figured me out in that staying on the move, Zorro-like, through a few chosen cities, possibly helps to maintain these fragile bubbles, which I admit, eventually do burst.) Fleeting as they may be, should we not remind ourselves that fleeting is the very essence of romance?
In short, I am not a fan of the “it’s all about the money” attitude, and I do believe it is possible to successfully play a kindly sugar-daddy role with one caveat: Do not go overboard! If I sense gold-digging or failure to ignite interest and/or gratitude, it is just so easy here to gracefully move on. (I hope our friend Phet gets back soon to this more fertile ground over here so that he does not have to keep bending over backwards for demanding local Asian lasses on his home turf!)
Am I an old fool? Just being scammed by these quick-thinking young ladies, expert at turning on the love genes while deftly securing access to that fat wallet with an unseen hand? Maybe so, but I do not believe that is always the case. But even if it is sometimes an act, I say give ‘em all an Oscar! As another Oscar said:
“Illusion is the first of all pleasures”
A couple of examples follow of why I think certain things work very well over here, both in the sensual/sexual domains, and in terms of romance as well. There are others, but I consider these two representative of my experience.
Example #1: The kiddie boxing analogy
Remember those boxing matches they would set up for little kids? They wear those really big gloves so they can flail away at each other without getting hurt. Much better than a bare fist schoolyard brawl where somebody might really get hurt. The young lads get to vent their feelings of aggression in a safe environment (the ring/arena) with a judicious referee present to make sure things don’t get out of hand. The bell rings to signal it’s over and all shake hands, applauded possibly by their supportive pals or even parents.
Consider the analogy with the bar girls. The gogo bar provides a relatively safe climate with well-defined parameters. The mamasan serves as the ref and primary screener, making sure nothing gets out of hand, keeping some of the bad actors at bay. The time frames are spelled out in advance (ST / LT), as are the costs. There is an extensive coterie of sisters for the girls so they can keep tabs on each other and help and support each other as needed. Communication between all participants is assured by the ubiquitous mobile phones.
Sexuality is a very complex issue, often so open-ended that it can be terrifying, or at the very least cause participants to go into emotional vapour-lock. (“Will he call me tomorrow?” “Will she expect me to be her boyfriend after this?” etc.) Working within such well-defined parameters, I believe these young women, often bursting with their own burgeoning sexuality, are sometimes able to really cut loose and enjoy the romp – and yes, even some romance – because they intuitively grasp the protections that are forged by the way the event is circumscribed. I have personally experienced this a number of times, being actually startled at how much fun both of us seem to be having, as evidenced sometimes by requests for more from my partner!
It is true, that after the event, they may quickly revert to a prim and proper young lady demeanour, their urges (and their customer) satisfied, and be ready to leave. Nevertheless, such an event can be mutually very satisfying, and I believe – healthy! These circumstances very often provide both parties with a safe arena for the healthy expression of that fundamental need for sexual expression, with minimal risk to the heart.
To be sure, just as there is corruption in the boxing biz, so too in this biz (and many others) bad things can happen and much harm may occur. Checks and balances break down and supports are not always the best, but generally, I find the approach in Thailand, at its best, ends up very often being a win-win situation for all concerned, and far better than more repressive regimes which try to drive this business underground, often making things much worse. Notwithstanding economic pressures, ladies here do have a choice to leave the game if they wish, possibly the most important safety factor of all.
Example #2: The Older Woman / Gik Experience
While my first example could be entitled “Sexuality Unchained” this one illustrates a more mature and complex set of circumstances. It certainly helps to be retired and available in this situation, but it is part of that equation which definitely adds a measure of balance to my life here.
I have quite enjoyed meeting and maintaining ongoing relationships with women in their 30s or 40s. Sometimes they may have a foreign farang boyfriend who can only visit them occasionally due to work commitments elsewhere. And sometimes they are unsure of promises made, even if receiving sponsoring funds from abroad. The Gik role (somewhat like the mistress/lover role) can also be a very enjoyable one to play, since one is protected from the more scary LTCMR by the presence of this additional admirer abroad. Nevertheless, with all that time alone waiting, interesting moments can develop, and – dare I say it – sometimes the sex in these situations can be incredibly powerful, since both know it has limitations and the bell will eventually ring on this as well. Obviously, discretion and respect for each other’s circumstances and obligations is the key here, but I have enjoyed such situations more than once and have even developed what I consider to be genuine friendships carrying over from year to year. Unfair to the other fellow? Possibly, but another reason to exercise caution when trying to maintain relationships over long distances and through long absences.
In conclusion, I think my dominant feeling here in Thailand is one of gratitude. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to finally shed or trim some of my old good-boy Presbyterian roots, input my own variables into my own complex equation and come up with a totally new approach to life, sexuality and simple enjoyments, all of which have made me the happiest ever. I urge others to factor out their own particular equation, which will no doubt be different from mine.
Gentlemen: Enjoy these charming beauties, these delicate, colourful tropical little fishies, darting amongst the jagged coral, dodging the sharks and other poisonous beasties, changing their camouflages and subterfuges to survive, gleaning whatever crumbs or feasts they can, while they can. Forgive them their instabilities, thank them for their delicious deceptions and half-truths, and delight in their ability to infuse you with youth and vigour. And be happy for them if you see one getting comfy in the momentary protective custody of some big whale…like me.
One final thought. I thank my friend Gary again for introducing me to the bounties of the 2nd floor at Pattaya’s Baccara. I can be quite content to just spend time there in my ringside easy chair (sometimes admittedly profiting from his inevitable surfeit of ladies) watching the energy on display in this marvellous parade of youthful energy and pulchritude. I so enjoy observing not just the casual, delicious shedding of those tantalizing schoolgirl blouses, but also their determination to create a sunny life out of virtually nothing but their own bodies and the admiration of others. Add to that their total commitment to their families, and they seldom fail to stir the loins and strum the heart strings at the same time.
My second time there I spent 3 hours just enjoying the show, heeding these wise words from Winnie The Pooh:
"…although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it
which was better than when you were"
I think you have a great attitude and I really admire you for the positive way you are able to look at things! It has been my experience that people with such attitudes are often the happiest and I think that's ultimately what most of us want – happiness.