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An Ordinary Life – Part 6

An Ordinary Life Part 1 — Setting the Scene
An Ordinary Life Part 2 — The Bad Years
An Ordinary Life Part 3 — Her Point of View
An Ordinary Life Part 4 — Aftermath: The Effect on Family
An Ordinary Life Part 5 — Aftermath: New GF, Good or Bad?

This is Part 6 — Some Other Thoughts

A reminder of the characters in the story.

Ian Yours truly; in my late 50s; an honourable man, but apparently a complete bore
Dawn My ex-wife; a Thai national; 3 years younger than me; a "good girl"; a university graduate
Peter First born son; just turned 21
Paul Second born son; just turned 18
Mary I don't have a daughter but if I did she would have this name
Mitch The husband Dawn should have chosen
Udang My current partner
John Udang's son; 15 going on 16

As far as I'm aware no one knows who I am and I want it to stay that way. I have carefully avoided stating my nationality, where I live now, the companies I have worked for or the industry in which I work. My two sons weren't a mistake but I do think they were the result of a lie. I want to be anonymous because I don't want to plant the thought in their minds they should have a different mother or father.

In Part 5 I said I'm emotionally damaged which is the reason I'm willing to accept so little from the relationship with Udang. That's one of the keys to these posts — I wanted to explain how I arrived at this point (perhaps even to myself). I started my adult life as an innocent guy who wanted a wife, family and lifelong commitment. Even with all of my negative experience, that person still exists somewhere deep down inside of me, he's just hard to find these days. Looking back I was perhaps in love with the idea of marriage, not necessarily in love with Dawn. I didn't get what I wanted and now it's too late — I can't get that back. I'm not going to meet the perfect partner at my age; I won't meet "the one", my soul mate; you only get one chance to do that and now it's gone.

Because my work has taken me to many countries I only have limited living experience in the west but I generally agree with the opinions expressed on this site that western women are unenticing, unattractive and have an attitude that's full of entitlement; I find it hard to imagine I would meet a woman in her 50s who would be both physically attractive and good company. Dawn was my one chance for that and it didn't work out.

What I'm left with is women who've had a rough ride in life and are therefore willing to be looked after by an older man. Does life after divorce mean an emotionally damaged older man joins forces with a similarly damaged younger woman? As many scribes on this site have pointed out, no-one, from Thailand or anywhere else, grows up with the goal of having a partner who is much older than them and in some cases old enough to be their father. They're looking for security, and that's the practical agreement between me and Udang — I will look after her financially in return for her looking after me physically and emotionally. It turns out I'm 3 years younger than her father. She clearly hadn't prepared him before we met and I saw the surprise in his eyes for a split second before he recovered himself. It was an interesting moment that told me a lot about both of them. For as long as I'm in this relationship I will remember his surprise (or shock).

I was married for 20 years. I wanted it to last a lifetime but it wasn't to be. I won't be able to share stories around the kitchen table about Peter or Paul when they were young, the memories I expected to share with my wife. One of my friends said to me long ago when you're old you want to reflect on the past with your partner and it's distressing if you're in the situation where you say "remember when Peter went … oh, no, that wasn't with you, was it?" I really do think 'til Death Do Us Part is the best way to go. I have Dawn to thank for being in this position. She told a lie that lasted 20 years, robbed me of my innocent dreams, left me emotionally damaged and humiliated me by the events surrounding the divorce (Part 4).

Divorce is never easy. At worst it's all out personal, emotional and financial war. I was lucky because mine was relatively civil. I lived outside of the country so our interactions were infrequent. I offered a more than fair financial settlement so even though Dawn felt cheated (not sure how she can, but that's what she said) everyone around her told her she was getting a great deal. However, on the few occasions we met she managed to get in a few zingers. One was telling me I'm not fit to live with anyone. She said I deserve to live by myself beause I like to be alone. While she said that with the intention of hurting me, the comment has some merit. I don't "deserve" to be by myself but I'm reasonably happy this way. Here's that acorn thing again — like my father (in Part 2) I can now do what I want, when I want and how I want — it has advantages. When I first met Udang I wanted more interaction with her — I thought that would be nice, but I knew we couldn't live together because I work overseas and John goes to school in Thailand. I wanted constant interaction and instant responses to messages. As I said in Part 5, Udang isn't wired that way. After I got over the initial excitement of the relationship I accepted a lower level of interaction and even appreciate that now. I don't spend lots of time on the phone or have to respond to her messages the instant they're sent. Some guys have to answer straight away or they're accused of not caring or even cheating. I don't have that pressure and I've grown to appreciate it. Udang and I exchange a WhatsApp message every day and more frequently if we have something to talk about. But we don't sit on the phone for hours on end or even an hour a day chatting about inane things. With the new-ness of the relationship having passed I've happily migrated to her point of view — we're close but don't crowd each other. The one thing I had to determine before I committed was she's not using that freedom to carry on with someone else. Now I'm convinced of that (see Part 5, using WhatsApp as a detective service) I'm pretty happy with things. In fact, I can say that contrary to Dawn's zinger I'm happier interacting with Udang this way than having no one.

It doesn't concern me if Udang doesn't offer much in terms of emotional commitment, at least she's honest in what she wants. She's not looking for love but someone to take care of her. I can do that. If I live to 80 then I'm now 3/4 of the way through my life and I might as well make the last 1/4 as happy as possible. It's different to what I imagined when I was younger but if I do things that make me happy, support people I care about and help them where I can that's as much as I can hope for. This doesn't apply just to Udang and John; Peter & Paul are my own flesh and blood, they always come first. My only goal in life is to be a good person.

A Few Final Thoughts (each paragraph is an independent thought)

The most significant outcome of this whole story is my little family split up and all too soon. I don't talk with Dawn any more — so there's a positive. I only see Paul a few times a year when I visit Bangkok. Because he's in boarding school I only get to see him for lunch or dinner and need to make an appointment even for that. He and I chat every now & again using WhatsApp which is nice. He's the one member of the family to show gratitude for what I do. Peter is closer to his mother and rarely makes contact. I mentioned in a previous post (Part 4) that he's OK with life as long as he has a roof over his head, food in his belly and clothes to wear. He never calls, doesn't write, rarely responds to emails and does not use WhatsApp; he has LINE but doesn't allow (or encourage) me to use it to contact him. The only time I hear from him is when he needs his university fees paid. I like to receive gratitude for what I do and Peter doesn't provide it, which is disappointing. I can understand he's closer to Dawn because he lives with her and is therefore exposed to her point of view but I'm disappointed he doesn't interact with me. Dawn has paid a high price. She takes care of Peter but I know she gets frustrated with him and she's lost Paul who appears to have only perfunctory interactions with her. Despite her efforts she hasn't been able to meet another special man and I'm told she's a bit lonely these days. (That affair she had when we separated appears to have ended.) I have no sympathy because she's done this to herself — if she doesn't like it who should she blame?

We all have a personal belief system. About a decade ago I read a lot about Near Death Experiences. Many people said when they died their life flashed before their eyes but they also said a part of the process was experiencing the feelings of people around them. It provided them with an understanding of why people reacted the way they did in the circumstances. I've incorporated that into my personal belief system. It's unfortunate we experience that when we die and not when we're alive. I'm sure it will happen to me and, by extension, to others as well. When Dawn dies she will see I was a genuine guy, never against her and only tried to protect her from making mistakes. She'll realise she was wrong about me. It will be a bit late (!) but at least she'll know how I felt. I expect I'll get a surprise, too. My guess is I'll be surprised by her rage for many of the years we were married. And I hope to learn the meaning of that wedding gift, the recorder made by Yamaha (in Part 3).

I'd like to offer a point of view on the discussion about the cost of services in Thailand. In my life I've found the price of almost everything doubles every 10 years. That means prices go up by 7.5% pa. I don't care what the carefully managed government CPI figures tell us, I've found prices double every decade; let me call it the iCPI (ian CPI). If you get a spreadsheet and put 100 as the starting number then increase it by 7.5% each year you'll see after 10 years the price has doubled. In another 10 years it has doubled again (i.e. 200 has become 400). If prices go up by 15% pa it means they double every 5 years. Most prices go up by 7.5% pa; education costs seem to go up by 15% pa; medical costs tend to be the same. When I was a kid a milkshake cost $0.20; the same thing now costs around $5.50; using the iCPI it should cost $7.50, in fact according to my spreadsheet it's only 4 years behind schedule and considering that covers 50 years it's pretty close. I'm getting the same product (you could argue the volume has decreased so I'm getting less value) but paying a lot more. On the other hand my income is more than when I was a kid — or more than my father earned. My spending power isn't governed by price increases, it's governed by whether my income stays above the annual price increase. If I apply the same logic to the price of LT in Thailand, in 1984 it cost Bht 500 in Bangkok and Bht 300 in Pattaya. Apply the iCPI and last year it would be 4,300 in Bangkok and 2,600 in Pattaya. That's pretty close to the prices I remember last year; it would mean 4,700 in Bangkok and 2,800 in Pattaya this year. I don't reminisce over what things cost in the old days, whether I'm referring to milkshakes or ladies, I calculate what it costs using the iCPI. When thinking of LT prices, my income has grown since 1984 and in 2015 I'm still a bit ahead when comparing costs and income. However, my income hasn't gone up substantially for a while, and it's unlikely to grow further, so in the near future I'll be on the losing end of the equation — it's just the way of the world.

The End

My life story covers more than I've written here and features more about my professional life. This story is mainly about my marriage, which only covers 1/3 of my life, but I'm sure I've written enough. I thought about changing the title to "My Ordinary Marriage" but decided against it because while I mainly cover the marriage I talk about the aftermath as well. Besides, that title sounds a bit demeaning.

In Part 3 I mentioned the butterfly effect. Everyone has to react to what happens around them because there's a lot in the world we can't control. I had no control over Dawn going to the US for work experience, meeting Mitch when she was there or that they would have such a strong relationship. Yet those events had a devastating impact on my life. Nor could I control that Dawn couldn't get over him even though I tried really, really hard to be a good husband, father and provider. That fixation must be hard wired into her personality and couldn't be predicted by "rational thought". Her discontent with me, her failing to show even a modicum of appreciation for everything I did, her latent desire to be a party girl and resentment of me suppressing her ideas (her view, not mine) are things specific only to her. There is nothing Thai-centric in the failure of my marriage. Dawn could have been from any country and the marriage would have failed — her shortcomings are built in to her personality, not her nationality or her culture.

I've come to the end of the story. Thanks for reading about My Ordinary Life. For those of you who managed to get here — that's it, I'm finished. I'm no literary master. I've managed to write over 24,000 words covering 32 pages of 10 point, single spaced text in MS Word, hitting my keyboard over 127,000 times which is a remarkable effort for me, Mr Brevity. I probably hit the keyboard another 73,000 times considering how much I reviewed and edited each of the posts. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope it was interesting and the style hasn't been too difficult. I don't have the writing skills to attempt character development, instead I write in short, concise sentences so it must have felt like you've read a 30 page telegram. I complement you on your tenacity for reaching the end. I'd normally have someone review my work but this series is so personal I didn't want someone reading it knowing I'm the author.

I mentioned in Part 1 I'm a fan of Douglas Adams. In keeping with that I'll sign off by quoting the dolphins in the fourth book of the trilogy. So long and thanks for all the fish.