Second Chance In Life (Part 2)
I had signed up with a marriage agency to meet respectable Thai women interested for marriage to a foreigner and wrote an article about it. At first, it seemed promising and I was hopeful that I might just meet someone special who could be my wife. I had just gotten divorced so my mind wasn't thinking properly and it sounded good to me at the time. In the past, I had always wondered about these type of agencies and whether it could actually result in a successful happy marriage.
After meeting a few women in short meetings at the agency office, I meet an attractive slim woman in her 30's with a child who seemed very nice and sincere. Not too young, a woman with a job and responsibilities, a person who was known by the agency to be a good honest person who works hard. Lets call her Lek, just to give her a name.
She was actually the second person that I went out with. The first woman was also in her 30s, slim and attractive and showed some interest in me or so it seemed. But apparently I wasn't quick enough with my wallet as we went shopping at the local night market and by the third date, she told me that I couldn't take care of her and she was no longer interested. No money, no honey, apparently.
Anyway, back to Lek. On my first visit to Thailand, we spent a week together, including a few days in Bangkok, and generally, I enjoyed my time with her. Her limited English concerned me but both of them had Thai-English dictionaries and we managed to communicate somehow. We held hands as we walked and it felt like a real boyfriend / girlfriend relationship.
Still, when it was time for me to go back home, Lek didn't seem too sad that I was leaving. Oh, she is shy and reserved, she tells me later. We did sleep together a few times and, as I would expect from someone living up North who is not bargirl, she was conservative in bed and her lack of passion was a bit disappointing. Still, I thought maybe she would get better once she knew me better.
She worked in a factory and only had a high school education. I am a professional with an advanced degree. The differences in educational levels and income levels, and her limited English, concerned me but, oh, I thought, love conquers all and she could pick up some English and I could brush up on my Thai.
Could this work out? An attractive slim woman hanging out with me back home was definitely a better deal than my current situation at home where I struggled even to get average-looking, older, overweight woman to go out with me, let alone sleep with me.
Well, I had five months between trips to see whether we could keep the relationship going. We kept in touch via Skype and the conversations were short and simple due to language barriers. As the months passed, the telephone calls highlighted the lack of common interests between us and the inability to converse about simple matters other than how we were doing, what we were doing and the weather. Doubt crept into my mind as to how this type of relationship would work, particularly as time passed. Maybe it works for a few weeks, but how could it work for a few years or more?
Still, maybe seeing each other again in person might ignite the fire of passion or so I thought. I had a picture of her on my desk and her beauty kept me interested.
There is an old saying that Thais don't travel well. Her lack of English worried me in terms of being able to function and perhaps work in America. During the five months that we spoke, her English didn't improve very much, and worse, I did not sense that she was excited to talk to me or missed me.
And then, as some of you would anticipate, there was that request for money. When you get involved with a Thai woman who has little money, it is sometimes only a matter of time before eventually you get that request – but you will get that request. It is always a matter of how much and what she says the reason is. Sometimes it is just friends and family telling her that the Western man has so much money that it is only fair that she should ask for a little to help pay for [fill in the blank, e.g., medical bills, rent, school supplies, etc.]. With the request, you get a nice little background story that makes sending some money compelling. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it is not. In the end, it doesn't matter.
I was expecting that request for money but it was disappointing nevertheless. When we were together in Thailand, she didn't ask me to buy her things or ask for any money. I knew it was make or break time and it might have a test of whether I could "take care" of her. Either I send the money and continue the relationship or I don't send the money and the relationship is over.
It was a significant sum for a person in Northern Thailand but it was less than two days wages for me. I decided to send her the money but as soon as I did, I regretted it because it changed the nature of the relationship and I started to doubt that this type of relationship could work out. Or as some would say, "A fool and his money are soon parted".
By the time I was ready to return to Thailand to see her again, I had low expectations about the relationship and whether this was the type of person that I should be thinking about marrying. Shouldn't my wife-to-be be excited that I was coming to see her again?
When I landed in Bangkok and was getting ready to fly up North to meet her, I called her from Bangkok to let her know that I was in Thailand. She didn't seem excited to hear from me and I sense some hesitation as if she wasn't sure about the relationship either.
When we finally met again in person, she was very low key and reserved and didn't seem that happy to see me. From my past life, I remember seeing my favorite bargirl after six months, and when she saw me, she jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest hug and a big smile. Well, Lek is no bargirl but a reaction like that would have been nice.
We sat down together at the marriage agency where there was an interpreter. We talked about expectations and my concerns. Marriage is a big deal and I really wanted to be with someone who liked me and would be excited and happy to spend time with me. But when the question was asked as to what she was looking for in a husband, she said she was looking for a good man who can take care of her and her family, and that was it. I told her that I wanted more than that, a woman who wanted to be with me because she cared about me. She said she was shy but she did like me.
Still we were together and I had two weeks in Thailand to sort things out with her, and she could know me better. And I thought, maybe the sex could get better too.
She then went with me back to my hotel and we sat on my bed. I was thinking that we could get to know each better that night but she told me that she had to go home to take care of her son who was sick but would see me the next night after working.
She showed up the next night with her sister who I had met before. We all had dinner in a very nice restaurant but she spent most of the time talking to her sister in Thai. Then she was on the phone a lot for some reason. I thought she would spend that night with me, but instead, at the lobby, she said that she had to take care of son that night. Then she said I should call the agency tomorrow and they would tell me something. And so it ends. Two weeks to Thailand, five months of phone calls, two days into my trip and my potential marriage partner is bailing on me.
The next day, I called the owner of the agency for the obvious news. He told me that she said there was no electricity between us and that was it. Apparently she was on the phone with the agency that night and told them her decision. I have to give her credit for being honest and ending the relationship early enough in the trip so that I could perhaps meet someone else. Still, the fact that she asked for the money even when she wasn't that interested in me bothered me. Wasn't she supposed to be a sincere, respectful Thai lady screened by the agency and not a gold digger or a scam artist?
During the next few days, I would meet two other women but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was the same for the other women. No great interest in me but an interest in a man to take care of them and their family.
Was this surprising? In hindsight, of course not. It is difficult to find true love (or something resembling it) in a week or two. It is even harder when there is a language barrier and a wide disparity in both age, income and educational level. I suspect that many, if not all, of the women who seek out Western men for marriage are looking for someone to take care of them and their family and whether or not they truly like the guy is a secondary factor if he can provide for her and her family.
There was a recent article titled "Dear Farang" about the farang / Thai relationship that rings true to me and how you will
never be high on the Thai woman's rankings of people that she truly cares about and when the money runs out, the "love" runs out.
The agency has a good track record and they have produced many marriages. So a marriage agency can work, I think, for an older man who is lonely and wants an attractive younger woman to keep him company and make him happy and take care of him as he grows older. For many men, that is enough and they don't ask for anything more.
In exchange, the man should expect to financially support her and her family and not complain about sending an appropriate amount of money on a regular basis to her family. If both parties fulfil their obligations, both parties can be happy with the deal and each gets what they want.
In the last few days of my trip, I gave up on trying to establish a relationship with a Thai woman for possible marriage. Instead, I went down to Pattaya and had a few nights of heavy drinking and sleeping with attractive bargirls. It is a straight forward business deal. There were no illusions of love or a long term relationship just a lot of fun. The bargirls definitely know how to perform in bed.
Where do I go from here? Well, now the notion of marrying a Thai woman and bringing her back to America has passed for me. It is a risky proposition. It takes a lot of time and effort to get that marriage visa and if the marriage doesn't work out, the consequences would be costly. Instead, the notion of retiring early in 10-12 years and moving to Thailand or the Philippines is starting to appeal to me (as it does to large numbers of Western men).
Was this whole marriage agency thing a waste of time and money? I think it was worth it to get it out of my system and to see how it doesn't work for me. It also helped me in thinking about what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life and how retiring early in Thailand or the Philippines can work out for me if I plan it right. Maybe that's my second chance in life, retired early, on a beach with an attractive Thai woman by my side, sipping a drink…
I am cynical when it comes to introduction agencies in Thailand. I think there was a time when they were useful, back when Thai society was much more judgmental about relationships between local women and Western men, but times have changed. I personally feel that long-term relationship success between Western men and Thai women is tough and when you throw in a woman from a poor background and a modest education the challenge becomes even greater. Of course there are happy couples out there, but I maintain that they make up a relatively small minority.