The Art Of Courtship
My great-grandfather was a sailor in the British Navy, back in the days of sailing clippers – and I remember my maternal grandmother relating to me how her mother (my great-grandmother) had arrived in Australia from County Armagh, Ireland, on a merchant ship that was crewed by this man who was to become her father (my great-grandfather). Oh, he was a real smooth operator, this guy. My grandmother related how her mother was sitting on a log in Creek Street, Brisbane, just minding her own business – when she was approached by this man from the ship and he asked her if she would marry with him. She refused – so he pulled out a pistol and said "If you don't marry with me I will blow your brains out". How's that for a good start to a romance?
Every time I recall that story that granny told me as a kid, I can't believe it happened – but it did and it still makes me laugh. Anyhow, he got his cummupence by spending his declining years in misery, as the woman he married turned out to be a real harridan – and his last working years were spent as a deckhand on a river dredge. The inhospitable environment at home drove him to seek companionship in the company of barmaids, where he spent most of his earnings, further compounding the harsh environment at home because his "loving wife" was forced to take in washing and do cleaning jobs to maintain food on the table for the 6 children (2 boys and 4 girls).
So, how do you like them apples? Compared to the problems that many of us have encountered in Thailand, we were really in Paradise, don't you think? At least, most of us had control over what was happening – well, so did great-grandfather if he hadn't been such a silly bugger – at least we did have the card for the ATM and we normally don't carry pistols.
Great-grand pappy did exhibit some paternal duties at home (on the rare occasions when home was a hospitable place) by disciplining the two boys if they had misbehaved. His chosen method was to tie each of them to the clothes-line posts by their wrists and thrash the living shit out of them with his razor strop across their bare backs. This was a little trick he learned from his days in The British Navy.
But getting back to the art of courtship, how do you think great-grand pappy's approach would work today when a bar girl refuses to go long-time with you for 2500 Baht? Good luck with that one – you're sure as hell going to need it. Can you imagine if the above scenario with my great-grandfather had happened if his ship had made port in Bangkok and he went ashore and tried the same "smooth proposal" on a Thai woman? Well, language would be a problem for a start – but I suppose they could have gotten by with hand signals or semaphore – perhaps a few grunts or wheezes, face grimaces etc – and maybe a blow or two to the gonads from his "object of desire". I doubt he would have been successful – pistol or not. He would have dropped that in the mud after the first kick to the gonads. Remember also, there would be no such thing back then as testicle massage. That didn't come until the Japanese arrived, quite some years later. And assuming they overcame the language barrier and she had been receptive to his proposal, can you imagine his reaction when she mentioned Sin Sod?
OK, put yourself in great-grandfather's place – what would you do (assuming, of course this happened in Bangkok of the past)? What's that? You'd beat a hasty retreat back to the ship (limping in agony) and try to find the ship's doctor? Sorry about that – no doctor on board ships in those times – although they sometimes did carry a "surgeon". However, we all know that surgeons of those times loved to cut things off (well, in most cases there was not much choice). I doubt you would want the gonads to be removed. It was a wise move crawling back to the ship, as you would have got precious little sympathy at the scene of "the proposal" – and, boy-oh-boy, I bet all of your shipmates gave you a good "ragging". The best you could do would be to find somewhere to hide until the pain subsided and the swelling went down.
Dear great-grand pappy wouldn't have been the smartest knot in the rigging, would he? How was he intending to execute the marriage and consumate the union? He wouldn't have been able to stay in Bangkok with her (even if he could afford the Sin Sod) because his ship would not be tied up for very long (Thai wharfies were very fast workers) – and how did he intend to support the "object of his desire"? remember also that, if he abandoned ship, he would be a marked man – drummed out of the Seaman's Union and, possibly, hunted down and murdered before the ship cast off her lines. They'd all say "He was a bloody awful sailor anyhow".
So let's do a lap-dissolve to the present and examine if much has changed at all in the approach to romantic involvement. Well, most of you can forget about the pistol, as that would ensure a quick trip down to the little monkey house and a good thrashing around the head by a couple of The Boys In Brown with very-thick telephone books, to ensure there was little or no evidence of any malfeasance. And don't forget that would merely be the pleasant part – there is Court yet to face – and, if you don't have the dosh, you will be going to the big monkey house. Even Thais are not legally-allowed to walk around (normally) with concealed weapons unless they are licensed. Of course, most Thais would observe that law stringently – so don't imagine a mere Farang will get any special treatment by floutung Thai laws. Sorry about that – but it's best you know before trying any of great-grand pappy's smooth moves.
So, have I talked you all out of using pistols, knives, threats of blowing out the brains of the "object of your desire" – any threats of choking or other nasty little words of persuasion? Good – I'm happy about that – as I would hate to see anyone end up in a Thai monkey house. Mind you, there could be worse outcomes. For instance, if you played by the accepted rules of introduction and courtship – then marriage – you could end up like thousands of other men who go home and do the "right thing" by sending regular remittances to "the object of their desire" by Western Union. You would scrimp and save, living each week like a pauper in your home country – to only be able to share a few weeks with her once each year. Still, you would say to yourself "It is worth it – one of these days we will be together always".
But the horrible truth eventually descends like Murphy's barrel of bricks – and you find out on Facebook that "the object of your desire" also has two other suitors in other countries who are also supporting "the object of your desire". Hmmmnnn … what to do? "I know – I will write to Stickman Readers' Submissions and there will certainly be people there who can steer me in the right direction".
Yes they can – it has been said a million times already – if only you had been a regular reader of the website before you went to Bangkok. The lesson here? Don't be as dumb as dear old great-grand pappy – and for God's sake read Stickman Readers' Submissions well in advance, before going to Thailand.