Sex and Love in Late 1960’s Asia
A few months ago I woke up in the early morning hours, hot and sweaty, and unsure of where I was. I was thinking that I had slept through the alarm clock going off, and would miss the 11:00 PM curfew for getting back to camp. It took a few seconds but I quickly realized that there was no mosquito net over the bed and that I was re-living a memory from 1969. In 1969 I was TDY (temporary duty) to a military base in northeastern Thailand and was spending the evenings with my Thai teeruk in a bungalow about a kilometer outside the base. It is apparent that I have been reading too many Stickman submissions when Thailand starts cropping up in my dreams. I got started reading Stickman when I was doing an internet search on R&R and turned up the 2012 submission where the author claimed he had several 2 week long R&Rs in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Well, me and probably several hundred thousand other fellows that took R&R in Bangkok are pissed off because my memory is 5 nights maximum. Since then I have been tempted to tell my own story about R&R, (also telling the story of my later Thailand experiences).
The Service’s approach to sex was to try and scare the hell out of the troops. In basic training a little lecture was given telling how two Sergeants got caught in bed having anal sex and both got bounced with dishonorable discharges. Upon getting into Vietnam a film was shown illustrating some grotesque growths on male and female private areas and the new troops were informed that some versions of VD were now incurable. As part of the same presentation a warning was given about the small physique of Oriental women and the danger of injury to them from sex with a Caucasian. Not that any of this really worked; as when you just might die tomorrow; you will take what pleasure you can get today. (What some people have called the aphrodisiac of war and what I see as the instinct to pass on your genetic material before you die). In Vietnam we had one Jeep driver that as soon as he got over one dose of clap, and was no longer restricted to base, went downtown and caught another infection. Most of the other troops were not that bad and some married men never went downtown. Back in basic training any two party sex was absent due to the fact that it was policy to only let the best ass kissers go to town on pass. Everything was go, go, go, from morning to night with no time to oneself even on the weekend as there was always various details to keep the troops occupied such as cleaning up the area, KP (kitchen police) etc. During AIT (advanced individual training) there was more opportunity to go into town on a pass but the bars where not cheap and most of the women around were old enough to be my mother or really looked rough. Any younger woman was the center of attention by a group of GIs. Reminded me of a bunch of male dogs around a bitch in heat. All this made it easy to remain celibate.
Vietnam was different and the possibility of your genes never being passed on also became greater. There may have been a lot of old hags around but the young women with their long black hair, their ai dai gown, and their umbrella were breathtaking. Of course these young women were untouchable but a person learns to make do with what is available. (Meaning the ladies between these two extremes that made a living out of selling their bodies). My standards on what made a beautiful woman began to slip. There were few round-eyed women around and the nurses and donut girls (Red Cross) were unapproachable even if none of them were beauties. It could have been sour grapes but the round-eyed women started to seem to be too large in the rear, more than a little chubby, have noses like a hawk’s beak, and breasts that put me in mind of dairy cows in need of milking.
The first time in Vietnam I got a pass to go into town I went with a squad mate who had been in country for a while. We only got into town a little distance and we began to see young boys standing by many alleys holding their hands down with the tips of the index and middle finger together. (An obscene gesture in Vietnam). The occasional youth was making a circle of the thumb and index finger and moving the middle finger from the other hand in and out. As we walked by there was a constant refrain of “boom boom GI” from these kids. (except for the kids selling dinky dow cigarettes) (marijuana) We picked an alley at random and followed the boy back to a shack with several partitioned off rooms. We each picked a lady and went to one of the small rooms which really was not that private and definitely not soundproof. Despite the distractions I was ready to go in about 15 minutes and went looking for my buddy. Knowing no Vietnamese and the ladies little English it took a while. Finally one of the girls went to a cubical and pulled back the curtain and there on a bed was my squad mate trying to make another go at it doggy style with the girl. I said ”what the hell aren’t you done yet” and he replied “they robbed my wallet when I wasn’t looking so I am staying until I get my moneys worth”. I left him to his misery and went back to camp. I found the back alley whorehouses more than a little off-putting and kept away from them after that. A person could likely disappear in those places and your body would never be found; not that I stopped keeping an eye out for boom boom.
My specialty required me to go TDY to other units quite often (out in the boondocks where It was often dangerous to visit the ladies) but I did get downtown a few more times. A month later my squad had a task to do in the business section of the city and two of us walk by a noodle shop with girls sitting at a table eating. It’s not just a noodle shop and we are informed by the ladies that boom boom is available. My girl appeared to be about half Caucasian and was nice looking besides being taller than the average Vietnamese. It’s a shame she had to earn her living doing what she did. I found I felt sorry for the prostitutes and never looked down on them. The cubicles in the back of the shop were just created by hanging blankets. In ten minutes we were back on the street and no one questioned our absence.
A favorite scam was getting your truck washed at one of the Vietnamese truck washes. Of course just about all of these had a shack or two next to them with available girls. The one time I went I remember the door was not that good and there was a single cot and a wash-up pottery jar in the room. I hope I actually took off my trousers and didn’t have them down around my ankles but my rifle and gear was under the cot and I kept one eye on the door the entire time.
Further opportunities for sex were pretty limited. After the Tet offensive nobody got to go anywhere for a long time. My last opportunity for sex in Vietnam was when I was on guard duty with troops from a unit we were attached to. One of the men went down to talk to some women by the perimeter wire and came back up to the bunker with three of them. I was on guard duty for all week and the women came back for a number of those days going down the row of bunkers servicing the troops. Once they came back with a sandbag full of unwanted C-rations. I hope they got more than that for their efforts. There were only three cots in the bunker and the troopers not standing watch slept on those cots. To get sleep the girls cuddled up in a spoon position with a GI on the 30-inch wide cot. (To those of you judging GIs in Vietnam having sex with teenage prostitutes; well you weren’t there so who are you to judge. As I see it both the GIs and the prostitutes were just making the best of a bad situation).
A few words about the nature of my military service. I served a little less than four years in the military with most of that time either being in Vietnam or Thailand. Like about 90% of the troops in Vietnam I was in a support MOS (military occupation specialty). Yes one of those REMF. (rear echelon mother f****rs) I was not proud of ducking the infantry but no one was bombing my home and raping my sister so I put just as much into the military as was necessary to continue to live with myself. At least I was not hiding behind a student deferment, in the national guard, or across the border in Canada. I did have cause to get rather anxious once in a while. Knowing that the mine sweep boys, on the road you were taking tomorrow morning, hit a mine or took fire during their sweep today was not reassuring. In all the time I was there; units I were at got mortar fire three to four times, and a few times bullets came by me close enough to be heard. Nothing, except the bullets, came close and except for getting down very fast I was not overly bothered by the occurrences. I know I said something like f**k, s**t, or J****s, but the word was finished when I was on the ground. I think that a person in a hazardous environment suppresses fear or goes crazy. Besides things were usually pretty peaceful. I kind of had the feeling that I could very easily die in this place but it was just a low level anxiety most of the time. Of the about 35 dead Vietnamese I saw (most during Tet) only one was still warm. I saw no dead Americans (at least not up close). I never fired my rifle at anyone during my service.
I was in Vietnam long enough to qualify for two out of country R&Rs. I took both of them in Bangkok. I am not sure of the exact amount of time I spent in Bangkok. I think we were allowed a week for R&R including travel time. I stayed in the same hotel on New Petchaburi Road both times and hooked up with the same girl for both R&Rs. I bought the usual overpriced souvenirs the day I got to Bangkok and that night walked to one of the nearby bars. A mate from my squad took R&R with me the first time. He picked a pinch-faced little girl with permed hair from the bar and stuck with her for the duration. Except for going to TIMLAND with him and the girls that’s the last I saw of him until the bus arrived to take us back to the Bangkok airport. That night at the bar I ordered a Singha beer and a fair-sized girl, skin the shade of most Italians, with nice long black hair (but lips that were very like those on the only black girl in my high school) sat down and asked “buy me a drink?” She soon started to look more Oriental but definitely looked different from the Vietnamese I was used to. (At that time I felt that Vietnamese women were better looking.) Her English was fair and we talked for a while as she sipped on her drink. She said her drink was either flavored water or tea. I had another beer and I tried dancing a bit but the floor was crowded with GIs and girls and all I could do was just about a shuffle anyway. I asked her to go with me and gave her money to pay the barfine. Once back in the hotel I found out most of her hair was a wig or a fall connected to her own hair by a band and hairpins at the front to make it look natural. Her haircut was basically the schoolgirl length which after my initial shock I saw as better as it could mean she was new to the R&R companion game. We became better acquainted that night and we agreed she would stay with me for the entire R&R.
The two R&R episodes tend to run together in my memory. I know the next day we went to see the Thailand in Miniature site (TIMLAND) with the shows of classical Thai dancing, Thai boxing, working elephants etc. and at least once I went to the bungalow where she lived. Wooden shacks with raised plank walkways to them over the mud. We went to a Disney movie which she really enjoyed. (Blackbeard’s invisible ghost knocking out the bad guys had her in hysterics.) Stood for national anthem etc. She left the hotel before the bus picked the troops up to go to the airport. A lot of girls were at the bus. Most had elaborate hairdos and heavy makeup, (a typical bargirl look). I survived R&R okay only suffering from bad sheet burns on my knees and toes. Whatever I ate it did not bother me. Some of the other guys spent a lot of time in the toilet. One staff Sargent was said to have suffered from explosive diarrhea and when he did not make it to the toilet in time at a local bar had to be hosed down. I did write to the R&R girl and once sent her $50 when she wrote that she was too sick to work. Odd things during my second R&R such as when she left to take care of personal business for a day; the young Thai man at her bungalow that had a lot of questions about what I did; and her asking me once “you marry me?”. Of course the answer to the last question was “I’m heading back to Vietnam; the military is not going to let me marry anyone.” But; three months later I had transferred to Thailand and I sent her a letter asking if she wanted to set up housekeeping with me at my new duty station.
Strangers in the Early Evening
I was in Thailand at my new post a couple of weeks and was staying on base instead of checking out the bar scene. I was waiting for a reply letter from the girl I had stayed with during the two R&Rs I took while stationed in Vietnam (as I did not want to complicate matters by having multiple girlfriends). This ended when I got picked for night duty just because I was available during a weekend. The next weekend I grabbed my pass and headed downtown to the bar area. Not being much of a beer drinker I was drinking coke on ice and after visiting a few bars was freezing to death from being full of cold soda . (one cold GI looking for a hot woman).The first bars I stopped at were busy with all the tables occupied and way too many people. My samlor driver tried to go though a section of town that was too dark for comfort and I yelled at him to stop and got off where I was and paid him. I walked over to a bar that was all by itself and went in. The place was dead. This chubby girl comes up to me and says “GI sit here”. There was a fairly nice looking (cute but not beautiful) girl at the table she was at so I readily agreed. I’ll call this cute girl “Swat” (Sawat) (supposed to mean happiness in Thai). I got another Coke on ice from the chubby girl and was slowly sipping it (since I was really cold by then) and was eyeing the other girl. She finally has enough of that and says “how you look me”. Of course all I could come up was “koon suay”. She had straight hair down below her shoulders and nice eyes almost Caucasian in appearance. Nicely shaped face a little longer than many Thais. She had the typical wide nose and full lips, B cup breasts (big enough but not oversize) and all in all was very decent-looking. While not frowning she mostly maintained a sober expression and did not smile. She later told me that too many men see a smile as a come on. We started talking a bit. Turned out she worked in the base cafeteria and was not supposed to be in the bar without a VD card. I told her I would walk her back to her bungalow but she said the streets were too dangerous. She would go to a hotel though.
Without further discussion we started for a local hotel. With her leading the way we meet a few GIs walking through a dark and narrow alley and one of the GIs decides to cop a feel. The girl whirls around and gives a solid kick to his shin. It is obvious I will have to be a little careful around this woman. We check into the hotel (false name on the register) and go up the stairs to the basic room (a double-sized bed and with a shower and toilet behind a partition). Without really talking about it and never mentioning money (to offer money would mean I thought she was a prostitute) (If she asked for money then I would know she was).we proceed to go to bed and become much better acquainted ( in the biblical sense). After a shower we lay in bed in a spoon position with her firm backside against my groin area and my arm over her breasts and we talked. She basically tells me the story of her life. I was her third American boyfriend. The first one got her pregnant just before he left the country. Swat miscarried early in the pregnancy. The second boyfriend said he would send for her as soon as he got things organized at home. Well it had been a few months and his letters did not seem to be too promising. So I was her third try at bagging an American husband. I myself had been thinking about an Oriental wife since the girls were looking damned desirable and not just for a roll in the hay. That night the inevitable happened a number of times and it was several hours later that I was completely drained and we finally got to sleep. The next morning we went back to her bungalow and we renewed our friendship a few times. I had to go on TDY the next day and I asked her if I could see her again. Unfortunately I had admitted to asking the R&R girl to set up housekeeping so she said “if you with her you cannot be with me”. (little payback for being too truthful) I told Swat I had not gotten a reply to my letter but would like to be with her if I could. With that I left for a week TDY at another base in Thailand. I needed that week to heal since my member was more than a little sore. Swat later admitted that she was in somewhat of a similar state at that time.
When I got back to base at the end of the week a letter was waiting from R&R girl saying she could not leave her family who lived in Bangkok. (of course her family could have been the young man with all the questions who also could have been her husband) With my dilemma resolved I headed downtown. No one was home when I got to Swat’s bungalow so I left and had a beer at the bar where I met her. About an hour later I am back and she comes walking down the alley carrying a very cute little luk kreung girl and with a wide grin on her face. (Swat later told me that she was sure we would marry when she saw me that day because I had kept my promise to come back to see her) My first thought was she has a child. My second was but she has no stretch marks. The child was that of the chubby friend from the bar. We took up where we left off without any talk of love or money. (It was all euphemisms such as coming to see you or staying with you.) Things went fairly smoothly with just a few hiccups. I headed downtown to see Swat every night and weekend that I did not have duty. We went to a few movies and ate out a fair amount but most of the time was spent in her bungalow. Even a sex-starved GI can do only so much in bed exercise so with no TV we talked a lot.
About a month into the relationship we are in a movie theater when her hand wanders over to my groin area. Trying to make a point about what people will think I whisper “ying so pay nee”. (woman of the street) She jerks up straight in her seat and turns into an instant ice maiden. I apologize again and again saying “I don’t want people to think badly of you.” Her only reply is “no one see nothing”. The next morning we are walking to the bus that goes into camp and I am almost literally groveling. She says “I no want to see you anymore”. I am in full white knight mode thinking if I don’t take care of this girl she’s going to wind up with a bastard child and working in a bar. (not that I did not have the serious hots for her). Finally just before the bus comes she says “you can see me again but never talk to me like that”. (Much later she tells me she had no intention of breaking up but just wanted to teach me a lesson.)
A week later she asks me “are you going to marry me?” My response is “ah, err, I’ll see what is needed to get permission from the military.” The next day I bring the forms to her to fill out. Since I’ve been trying to get her pregnant for the past month maybe I should marry this girl. Another week later I am looking at her across a restaurant table and feeling that she is just about the most lovely and desirable woman I have ever seen. Total infatuation took me six weeks but cuddling after sex will do that to you. My mood soon changed from a warm glow to that of a very worried man. My rational mind crawls out from all this emotional garbage and I think, boy are you in bad shape. She has got you hooked good. I have a number of worries. What if I cannot get permission to marry before I have to rotate back to the states? I will have trouble getting money for her to fly to the states paying for me to come back and get her is almost impossible, (I knew what happens when a teeruk stays behind in Thailand) what if she is denied a visa? What if Swat is sterile and we cannot have children? (a big point in staying away from bargirls) For some reason I never suspected her of cheating on me and I kept away from all other women not even having a massage during all the time I was in Thailand. We went to Bangkok on a few days leave to get her police check started and a few days later I have to go TDY again. A week after I get to the other base I am just sitting down to a sandwich at the PX (Post Exchange) when I am told a woman is asking for me at the gate. I tell my squad mate he can have the sandwich and head for the gate. Swat has followed me and plans to stay there in town until my TDY is over. She flags down a baht bus (song taow) and we head into town to find a hotel. Given the low roof on the truck I keep my hand on my head to cushion the blows to my head every time the truck hits a little bump. We don’t pop any buttons getting undressed but some may have been loosened a bit. Later that day Swat rented a bungalow near the camp and I started spending my evenings there going back just before curfew. This takes me back to my dream of a few months ago.
Some time during the period we are applying for permission to marry we have to get blood tests at the base and the Chaplin talks to us separately about the difficulties of inter-racial marriages. (I had actually asked my mother, when I was home on leave from Vietnam, what she thought about me maybe marrying an Asian woman. She had said “it’s your decision but an oriental wife might have a lot of trouble adapting to life stateside”.) I told my parents I was seeing a Thai woman after we were already married and admitted to being married shortly before I went stateside. It takes a while to get approval for marriage from the military. I am getting the afternoon off because I was on night duty the previous night and the CO (commanding officer) hands me the approval to get married. I change into civilian clothes and catch the bus down town. When I tell Swat she throws her arms around my neck and kisses me hard enough for our teeth to clash together. Two hours later we leave the Amphur’s office with wedding certificate in hand. None of Swat’s family knew we were going to get married until after the deed was done. The one sister that lived in town knew it might happen but her father and other sister lived elsewhere and did not know about me. I met the father and other sister for the first time when they came for short visits just before we left for the States. Swat wanted an American style church wedding instead of a Thai Buddhist style. We had approached a minister at a local mission about this but he said Swat would have to become a Christian and instructions would take 6 months. Swat was agreeable to being baptized as she did not see that much difference between the teachings of Buddha and Christ but we did not have enough time for this before I got out of the service. Once we got stateside the hometown minister was much more accommodating and Swat was baptized into the Christian faith. We had a Christian marriage ceremony a few weeks later. Swat still prays every night. I do not ask her who she is praying to. I myself did not attend religious services in Vietnam and probably only said a prayer when I figured I was about to get killed. Once I met Swat I started praying again. I suspect I figured my life or death in Vietnam was god’s will but to live with a Thai woman I really needed some divine help. (sometimes marriage to a Thai woman can be very much like balancing a broomstick vertically with its top end on your middle finger.) We still had to get a passport and visa for Swat. Too many Thai women, trying to marry Americans, were depending on others to do the paperwork. Most of these women got nothing for their money and had to go to Bangkok and do the paperwork themselves at the last minute. We did not have any great amount of difficulty. We were in Bangkok three or four times but somehow never got to any of the tourist attractions. I did not get to see the inside of a Buddhist temple until years later.
A number of times I have wondered about my chronic case of Asian fever. (I think that starting a sexual relationship with a Thai woman and then marrying her might have been somewhat of a rebound affect from the stress in Vietnam.) Also I did spend several years in the orient where Caucasian women were very rare so I started to see many Asian women not only as attractive but more attractive than most Caucasian women. The smaller size of Thai women causes a man to feel more protective. I have always felt a Thai women is just the right size to have sitting on your lap as it puts your faces at the same level. Sometimes when I look at the picture of my wife at age 20 she looks like a 12-year-old schoolgirl. The childish face of many Thai women could be why so many people think most men with Thai teeraks or wives are latent pedophiles. I do not think I was looking for a submissive or servile wife. Swat does not fit this category at all. She started working at a factory at age 15, lived on her own from a young age, and has a lot of self-confidence. She is not a woman to be pushed around. My relationship with her was probably peculiar compared to most GI -Thai women relationships in that the initial sexual attraction very rapidly turned into the unspoken understanding that both of us were looking for marriage. (something like the first night). Although if Swat had not popped the question I might have dithered for months before I asked her to marry me.
I suspect many GIs started a relationship with a Thai woman just to have regular sex and then decided to get married only when their rotation home date approached. Of the Thai women I knew stateside at least one third of them were up to five years older than their American husbands. I have no idea of how many wartime Thai-GI marriages worked out but there were a number of romances on base between airmen and the younger Thais working in the cafeterias, offices, and as house girls. Some of the guys also had steady girls that had worked in the bars. I do know there were a fair number of children born to Thai women, whose GI fathers deserted them when they went stateside. A good friend of Swat was married to a GI and had a child with him. He promised to send for her as soon as he go out of the military. She never heard from him again and neither the military nor any US government agency would help her. She finally had to divorce him on the grounds of desertion and later married another GI who brought her stateside with him. (When I started the marriage permission application I was told that early on the Thai marriage was not recognized by the US government and that the government changed the law because too many GIs were getting married and then deserting their wives. This made for a bad image for the US military.) (No idea if the story about U.S. policy was true).
I really only had a faint idea what I was getting into with marriage to Swat. There is something to be said about not thinking too much when considering marriage. Any man that really thinks about what he is doing would likely run for the hills. After we were married Swat said she was attracted to me because I was older (23 at the time) and more mature than all the kids (barely out of high school) on base that were hitting on her. (it also could be that Swat saw me as a fresh from the farm unspoiled farang. A farang ripe for the picking one might say.) It helped that I had not been drinking that night. Swat still wrote to her last boyfriend up until we got married. I wrote down what she dictated to me for at least a couple of letters. I had no idea if she could cook. Twice she prepared a dish which was pretty good but everyday food was bought on the street. (Swat turned out to be a terrific cook). Sex of course was good; (not the amazing sex so many sex tourists say they find but the good sex with someone you care for and you believe cares for you.) Her education ended at the sixth grade but she is smart. I never considered education a measure of intelligence and considering she speaks two languages, and I make a mess of one, who am I to feel superior because I have a college degree. Hell, as a child she used to mix up gunpowder for the family musket. Show me an American lady that can do that without blowing herself up.
For some reason money was never a problem between us. Swat got about $40 a month working on the Airbase and that more than took care of her needs. When she left with me for the United States she gave all her savings to her family. Swat mentioned milk money once (sin sot). I told her, “I have no money for that” and she finally said “my mother is dead and no way would I give money to my stepmother”. The subject never came up again. She more or less came from the Chiang Mai area having moved around a lot because her parents divorced when she was a baby and later after her mother died she lived with her father and stepmother. She said her mother had some Chinese blood and there was possibly some Meo on her fathers side. I never could figure what ethnic group she looked like (since few Thai in town looked like her ) but her skin was lighter than mine. (I’m Swedish / German ancestry but spend a fair amount of time outside). She first saw farang men when her mother and stepfather were living in a camp for road construction and she was impressed by the easy life the farang’s women had. At the age of 10 she declared she was going to marry a farang. The fact that her sister’s husband regularly lost all the profits from their noodle stand at the horse races and her sister got beat up when she attacked him did not give Swat a good impression of Thai men as husbands. When I showed up she was considering herself an old maid at the age of 20 and the Americans about as unfaithful as any Thai man. Swat did not drink (didn’t like the taste or the feeling it gave her), did not smoke, and did not gamble because she saw how gambling by both her sister and her sister’s husband just about ruined them. I seldom drank, did not smoke, thought only fools gambled, and we both were looking to get married and have children so we reached an accommodation. Somehow love also sneaked aboard. I actually do not remember telling her I loved her until she was pregnant the first time and I would call her from work (although I must have said so numerous times before). Of course when we were in bed she would say “I want to have your baby.” As my rotation date approached Swat began to pressure me to re-enlist so I could stay in Thailand. My answer was “in 6 months they will have me back in Vietnam and you will wind up a widow.” Then she wanted me to get work in Thailand. Jobs for a farang were about a common as hen’s teeth back then and I told her I needed to go stateside to finish college. Then she wanted us to adopt her friend’s daughter but it was too late to get paperwork done. With time we would probably have been able to get a fake house paper saying Pom was her daughter. The day before I was to take the flight stateside I put Swat on a plane to the twin cities (Minneapolis- St. Paul, Minnesota.)
Married Life in the States
I had sent my new Thai wife stateside alone since she was not allowed to travel on military transport. My sister and her husband met Swat at the airport and 2 days later I was out of the service and we were together. We took a Greyhound bus downstate to my parent’s farm and the first thing my mother did was to look at Swat’s stomach to see if she was pregnant. (she had figured I got Swat pregnant and married her for the sake of the baby.) My parents had a farm with a moderately sized beef feedlot operation. (In bad years it did not make much money so my dad worked part time in town too.) Swat seemed to be okay until after about a week on the farm. In bed one night she tells me “I’m homesick I want to go back to Thailand”. OK; I shed a few tears, tell her she is my whole life etc. She finally says “I cannot live here, the smell of the manure from the feedlot and the flies coming in the house are dirty.” Well I wasn’t planning on staying on the farm but Swat was not sure about that. Two days later I have a eight-year-old used Ford car and we are headed to a medium sized city near Minneapolis, St. Paul. We live with my sister and her husband for a few days until we can get an apartment of our own. Swat still wants a American style wedding so after she is baptized we have a religious ceremony and a small reception for the immediate family in my aunt’s back yard. Funny seeing my uncles eyeing Swat and my aunts eyeing my uncles. One uncle had a Japanese girlfriend during the occupation of Japan but his mother told him “you will bring one of those people into my house only over my dead body” so that ended that. With the exception of one cousin the family was friendly to Swat or at least civil. The cousin had been a heavy equipment operator in Vietnam and hated Orientals. He would have a few drinks and ask Swat questions like “did you marry to get a green card or did you think all Americans were rich”. I had been close with this cousin in my younger years often going hunting and out to the bars but I cut off most all contact after that. His behavior got worse after his wife (whom he had met in a Minneapolis bar) cheated on him and divorced him after 20 years of marriage. My mother really appreciated that Swat pitched in and helped in the kitchen when we visited.
Finances were a bit rocky for a while. I was working at temporary jobs but none of them paid well. After a few months my brother in law helps me get on at the factory he worked at and Swat is vomiting her guts out 6 times a day. After trying for over a year she finally got pregnant. Maybe there is something to heat keeping the sperm count down. Swat let me manage the money. Probably did not like the idea of writing out all those checks every month. There was not much money to manage and any major purchase was discussed to death. After we were married about two years one of her sisters asked for money so she and her husband could expand their noodle stand into a regular restaurant. Although it was a problem I got an advance from my credit card and we sent them $1200. (20 baht to the dollar at that time) (I was making about $7000 a year then.) A year later the sister asked for more money. Swat sent her a letter telling her “if you need money leave your husband and go find yourself a farang to take care of you.” No more requests for money were received. Money was tight for a number of years. I started going to night school and basically used the GI bill education payments as a second job. After I finished college and got promoted I started giving Swat $200 every month to spend as she wanted and I had the same amount for whatever I wanted. This was money just for silly things. I still bought her clothes, jewelry, the groceries etc.. (I now give her much more money which she just saves up).
As I said earlier Swat is a wonderful cook. Never having baked in an oven she taught herself to make cakes and pies and various American style dishes. She made mostly Thai food for herself and American food for me. I had mailed several bottles of fish sauce off before we left Thailand and they had arrived safely. After the Hmong started moving into Minneapolis there was a lot more oriental stores and Swat was able to get more of the ingredients she needed for genuine Thai dishes. I generally eat anything she makes as long as it has no more than a little fish sauce. As for the smell of fermented fish, durian, etc. I refused to think the odors were objectionable so they never bother me. After renting for three years we had our first home so no more worries about the landlord or the other tenants complaining of odors.
Swat became a citizen a little over four years after getting stateside and had her driver’s license around the seventh year. While not good at reading and writing English she had a terrific memory and memorized all the questions and answers. After nine years and three girls Swat said “enough children” and had her tubes tied. There are things it is better to not argue about and I do now have grandsons. About six months after the last child was born Swat went back to Thailand for the first time. Her sister took her to see all the relatives and kept giving her money so she came home with more than the trip cost. The restaurant was doing very well. (this sister also took care of giving their father and other sister extra money). When the last child was in school Swat insisted on going to work. I had started giving her extra spending money as a bribe not to work but she was determined. The money she earned went to buy extra things for the house and to help the kids when they were short on money. She worked on and off until I retired. She has sent money to Thailand to help pay for funerals and of course there had to be gifts for the family when she visited them but she likely got more money from her family than she ever gave. I sometimes accuse her of not really being Thai since she often does not behave like they are supposed to. Except when she is cooking up some scenario to get her way on something; I don’t recall having ever caught her in a lie.
I think Thai women do not deserve the reputation given them by many of the postings on the internet. Of the three divorces in the nine Thai-American marriages I have fairly good knowledge of; two of the divorces can be blamed on the husband and one divorce is where the Thai wife cheated. The wives in the first two cases had been bargirls. The fact that they could not have children probably had a lot to do with the failure of those two marriages. I do not know about the background of the wife that cheated but one of the ex-bargirls got her started on going out to the bars in the States. Husbands did not discuss where they met their wives but almost all of the women loved to play cards and about half were smokers and drinkers. Most Thai women I have known work their backside off as soon as they can land a job and do not waste money. (Yes, they also sent money back to their family but it was usually money they earned.) Of course these were women from a completely different generation and I am sure that like the young Americans of today there are a lot of Thai youth looking for everything to be handed to them without them having to earn it.
One of the points that often comes up in Stickman is the claim of no intellectual interest on the part of the Thais. I have only known one Thai even half well but that woman is always trying new things. It could be said I also lack intellectual interest because I would rather hear about her collecting mushrooms, greens, and bamboo shoots in the national forests and the stepfather going hunting with the black powder musket than discuss the latest gang shooting in town or global warming. As to geography, and history etc. I’m sure the average American has forgotten almost everything they learned in school too. I never discussed my work with my wife because being of a technical nature it had no interest to her. (Its bad enough she gives advice on my do-it-yourself projects). Like most married couples we talked about future plans, the children, etc. I learned not to talk politics because she becomes quite heated about some things that are going on. (she claims her political beliefs are the same as mine though). My wife does not speak English well (if I believe my daughters) but I have always listened to what she says and not how she says it so I am largely unaware of it. My knowledge of Thai is virtually non-existent.
I have only alluded to the subject but I know that condom use is a big issue for a lot of people. Well I used condoms in Vietnam but not in Thailand. No excuse except I probably was leery of the black clap in Vietnam. (No HIV in those days). The Thai women I saw more as girlfriends and neither I nor any of the Thai women ever brought up the subject of using a condom. If I fathered a child in Thailand I would just take care or it. (Hell I was young and I did not have really high hopes of a long life nor could I claim to have high morals.)
Regarding Thai temperament sometimes my wife is full of it. She goes into a snit about things, is impatient, and is very sensitive to criticism. On occasion she is upset at something but pretends that something else is the problem. Yet she is the most caring and loving woman I have ever known, has never gotten violent with me, and usually soon gets over whatever is bugging her. I early learned to not show anger and to wait out her moods (plus I do really sincere apologies). I would discuss problems but refuse to argue even if I was right. For her to have an argument with me is like her punching a pillow. Unless an issue was life-changing, if she will not let go, it was often easier to just gradually give in. If she was depressed I would comfort her, try to find out what the problem was and work to resolve it. I have been married to Swat for 48 years and I still love her the same as that day I looked across that restaurant table and thought how lovely and desirable she was after knowing her only 6 weeks. Some people might say I am pussy-whipped. It could be but I would be the last to know or care. I believe the special things me and Swat do for each other is because the love and respect we have for each other. A few years ago while shopping with my wife I met a friend that I had seen little of since he remarried after the death of his wife. He had been married to a Thai woman but was snatched up quickly by an American bitch soon after his first wife’s death. After only a few words his new wife informed him “Fred, I want to get going”. He jerked like a dog with a choke chain around it’s neck and quickly left. His wife has ended any contact I, and all his friends that knew his first wife, have with him. Apparently Thai women and their husbands are seen as a threat by her. Thank God I married a Thai woman.
The author of this article cannot be contacted.