Stickman Readers' Submissions May 30th, 2014

Notes from Farangland – Part 4 – Thai Women

It was one gloomy late Sunday afternoon in the National Gallery in London that I decided I was done with Thai women. For ever. We were standing in front of a giant Seurat, and my Thai girlfriend’s phone went off for the third time. I say girlfriend, but it was only our first, and last, date. You aren’t supposed to use mobiles in the National, but you try telling that to a Thai girl. My date, Nat, had her back to the security guard, who headed towards her, looking annoyed. I quickly hooked my arm firmly under hers and steered her, still chatting away, towards the nearest exit before the inevitable scene.

She was oblivious to what had just happened. What she was also oblivious to was the fact that having been to Thailand on a number of occasions, and with a couple of Linguaphone courses under my belt, I was able to understand most of what she was saying. At least, enough to know she was on the phone to her Thai boyfriend in Bangkok, swearing her undying love, affection and fidelity. I’d heard it all before.

Outside, in Trafalgar Square, I grabbed a take-away coffee from a nearby van while she continued her conversation. The coffee was so weak I could piss stronger, but it was hot and wet, and the caffeine was helping relieve the first pulses of a migraine.

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This time I was really done.

Of course, I’d said the same thing a few months back with my previous Thai girlfriend, Chayanun. Our relationship had started promisingly enough with her declaration that she was not like other Thai girls. I never really understood what she meant by that, and she never elaborated, so I didn’t push it. She was a Master’s student, 32 years old, studying Marketing Communications at Westminster University in London. We spent lazy Saturday afternoons cruising down the Thames on the water bus, the tourist guide giving the same old Cockney patter, the same old jokes, that he gave on every single trip. I felt like I’d heard it all a million times before.

After, we’d hole up in a great little restaurant I knew in Chinatown, where Chayanun could get something close to the food she so missed from home. It was the highlight of her day. My highlight was when she snuck me into her dorm room, a small but cozy throwback to my own student days, and suddenly I felt 20 years younger. The following morning we’d breakfast together, and chat with her fellow room mates, who must have wondered what the old guy with the flushed face was doing there. Was the old geezer one of the lecturers? I was only 40, but to them I must have seemed ancient. Those 20 years hadn’t gone far.

At first, the hints about Chayanun’s student fees didn’t really register with me. But then the requests became more strident. I played confused. In the end she laid it out for me, plain as day. Can you help me pay my fees, I don’t have any money. Now the real agenda was out in the open at least. Part of me was disappointed. Part of me said you should have known better.

But it wasn’t just the money. I never tell Thai women I can understand a bit of Thai, and it’s surprising what you can pick up from overheard conversations. It wasn’t like I’d sneaked about trying to eavesdrop, she’d just assumed I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I’d heard enough to put together her back story – she was a mia noi, the bit on the side of a married hi-so TV sport presenter. He wanted her to come home to Bangkok, and she wanted to finished her Master’s in London.

I concluded Chayanun, despite her claims to the contrary, was in fact, the same as a long line of Thai girls I had known or dated or been in a relationship with. In fact, it was scary how similar those Thai girls had been. When it came down to it, aside from looks perhaps, it was like they were all pressed from the same giant cookie cutter. From the sunburnt Isaan girl who makes her living pointing her toes skywards, to the china-white Bangkok office girl with a Master’s degree who adds up a column of numbers. They are just Thai girls.

Back in Trafalgar Square Nat’s voice droned on in Thai. I drained the last of my coffee and crushed the cheap Styrofoam cup. Don’t they say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result?

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I looked up and over Nelson’s shoulder at the grey sky. It was starting to rain. I turned up the collar of my coat and headed to the nearest tube station.

Nat was still on the phone.

Stickman’s thoughts:

I can soooooo relate to this!

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