Mangoes Are Not The Only Fruit
Apologies in advance for the likely majority of the readership here for whom the literary allusion of the title falls on stony ground (hint: look up the works of Jeannette Winterson and you will get my drift). I was intending to write this kind of submission for a while now, prompted by recent events and encounters in my otherwise sheltered life but today I happened to come across a cob-webbed, ancient thread from Stickman himself, extolling the virtues and attractions of the university uniform worn by female undergraduates in Thailand, written well over a decade ago. Time to share then.
Life moves on but apparently the dress code in these august institutions does not, as I note with considerable pleasure as I drop my newly-wedded wife off at university each morning in a small but cracking town several hours from Bangkok. She’s just returned to restart her university education, cut short last year by family events while I am at the other end of my academic career, desperately trying to reach the finish line of my own PhD. All before I retire. Yes, there is an appreciable age difference and no, I haven’t the slightest issue with it, thank you very much. Moving on…
To the point….it has always intrigued me, the nature of the relationships between the ‘average’ Thai (read Isaan perhaps) maiden one meets in such up-and-coming locations as Pattaya (reference Stickman, 23rd June 2013) and her friends. I had always noted how they roomed together, generally hunting in pairs and always kind of looking out for their ‘sisters’. A few times I had tried to bag a brace but always fell at the second, more often than not the first, hurdle. Clearly those days are behind me now but it has left me wondering – aside from whether that chap who was staying in Nok’s room in On Nut back in 2009 really WAS her brother – what the true nature of the affiliations and preferences of younger Thai ladies really are?
Many a submission suggests that most if not the vast majority of ‘working lasses’ are supporting a drug-addled, lecherous Thai boyfriend. Some of the less terminal cases may be watching you tonight when you venture out into the wonderland that is Soi Cowboy, Nana or Somewhere-by-the-Sea… acting as ‘security’ perhaps in the same bar where their other, female half shakes the money machine. But to what extent is the ‘pink-on-pink’ (to abuse a military term) trend taking hold here in Thailand I keep finding myself asking?
It came home to me most markedly when we were sat on a plane out to Malaysia, doing a visa run. The Thai person next to me was chatting throughout across the aisle with their girlfriend, a comely wench indeed. They then wandered off the ‘plane hand in hand and out into the wonders that Penang offers. It was only later that my wife pointed out that my erstwhile seat companion was one of these increasingly ubiquitous ‘Toms’ that I realised I’d been fooled. Completely. Utterly.
Now I know that these submissions are meant to be pure and clean and to avoid all elements of smut. I will endeavour to do so, to groans of disappointment no doubt. But I thought it was about time I asked for an in-depth explanation of the ‘Tom’ phenomenon that as I said, seems to be more and more prevalent in Thailand, not just in the cities but across the whole country. Who better to ask than my darling wife of course?
She now has a classroom full of colleagues of similar age and gender and not too long ago – thankfully legally long ago – was similarly disposed at an all girl school. Now though, her university companions are all either girls or ‘jocks with cocks’, to coin an unsightly phrase. The lady-boy phenomenon is well documented and understood and whilst I can’t claim first-hand (or any other important part of my anatomy) experience thereof, the extent of the cross-dressing fraternity is well-known. Indeed it was a lady-boy cousin (genuine, not imagined) of my wife who encouraged her to join me for that first, fateful glass of beer some time ago and said ‘she’ is desperately hoping to save up enough to have breasts by the time we do the Thai version of the nuptials in the New Year. ‘S’He is actually quite a decent sort as far as I can work out, just with a strange predilection for wearing women’s clothes and heck, as they say, as long as it doesn’t scare the horses, who cares.
No, it was the ‘Tom’ thing I needed an answer to. My darling little Princess had let slip on our wedding day that she herself had had a couple of girlfriends in that category… indeed it was the evening after the ceremony when I was showing her the full glory of married life, playing pool with two male friends and as it was our special day, allowing her to keep the score. The admission – admittedly made when she looked positively stunning – when I shared it with my pool partners was a game changer and I don’t think they won a game afterwards, they were too busy disappearing off to the gents for a spot of light relief. Clearly, that imagery puts a certain kind of chap off their game.
But why ‘Toms’? She is a good looking girl and has no end of attention when we go out together – aside from people helping me across the road of course or asking where my daughter goes to school. Why then did she feel the need to bat left-handed for a while? Was it just a phase? Were there any pictures? She considered this all for a minute and then simply said, in her school there was really no option. It was a traditional Thai school, single sex and clearly little or no opportunity for the normal, co-ed intermingling we see in Western society from the age of ermm… well I was a late starter but you know what I mean. After school it was straight home and back to Mum and Dad.
Thus for her, living at home and in this rather closeted environment, it seemed a standard choice. She added chilli to the chocolate for me when she mentioned that her best friend, a sweet lass we sometimes take along with us for her company, had also been of the same persuasion more than once. It was that commonplace. Now, before you also need to wander off, I will say I have tried to get more details of the mechanics and logistics of the whole affair – these to date have not been forthcoming and I suspect that will remain a chalice I shall never attain.
But I did find out that it is generally the ‘Tom’ who makes the running and that the competition can be fierce and sometimes just as combative as with chaps and lasses. Fights are regular occurrences and ‘tributes’ (money) is very forthcoming. Indeed, the way she explained it she thought she had the best of all worlds (until she lucked out with me) and thus had a chunk of the local town both male and female courting her not inconsiderable charms. I called a halt to the debate when she told me that some of her five hundred plus Facebook ‘friends’ were in fact girls, and one or two were ‘ex-s’.
So take a look around you next time you frequent one of the seedier haunts and see if you can start to see what I think is a coming trend. For example, the ‘chap’ doing the bat at what was once my favourite Soi Cowboy bar – think Winchester ’73 and you’ll be close – is actually a chap’ess. They are more and more prevalent and indeed are starting to outnumber us poor, deluded male mongers.
Don’t get me wrong… whatever floats your boat is fine by me and don’t read homophobia (not sure that is at all the right term) into here. But if it wasn’t hard enough competing with Somchai and his vertical quiff, the fact that there are more and more ‘girls’ out there who look and smell a whole lot more appealing than I (and likely you) ever did or will again chasing the same decreasing population of lovelies is hardly a good thing, now is it? There is an old joke about how homosexuality has moved from being a sin, then a crime and now to being widely accepted – I really hope it stops there before its compulsory. Just a thought. Time for bed, said Zebedee… college in the morning. Booooooing!
Stickman's thoughts: The tom situation is real in Thailand. I have never given it a great deal of thought but often thought it comes back to loneliness.