The Bottom Line
Jean-Paul and I are sitting on a very comfortable couch. It is hot outside. Much hotter than 12 hours ago when we left Europe with just 4 degrees Celsius. Our flight was a little earlier than usual and we are now in the air-conditioned lobby of our hotel somewhere in Sukhumvit and waiting for our rooms to be ready. I am killing time with my crosswords, but I could do with a relaxing shower. Jean-Paul is a little fidgety and wants some water. I seek the attention of the nearby bellboy and ask “Khoo naam noi daai mai?”
A few moments later two bottles of water with two glasses filled with ice cubes are brought to our table. Jean-Paul gulps down his glass of water and then, a little bored, he starts browsing the internet on his tablet. With the corner of my eye I glance at his screen and spot the unmistakable white font on a black background of a popular Thai-centric website with us foreigners. The text is interspersed with the odd photos, but I pay no further attention until Jean-Paul decides to share some details of something he has just read. It relates to an American married man who apparently volunteered to share his story involving his own feelings towards a 20-year-old young lady he had befriended on a dating site. At the end of his holiday he had decided to reward her with several gifts and he had added 30,000 baht in cash and was now asking for advice on whether he should continue this newly found relationship.
Jean-Paul and I are two professionals now in our 50s who have travelled to Thailand many times over the past decade. We have both witnessed and/or heard such stories several times but Jean-Paul seems most amused by the story he has read and I ask him why. He is dismissive at first as he thinks that it is such a huge arrogance to fall in love with someone after such a short time and there’s too much of it around and he concludes that men will never learn.
I offer that other readers have probably come to a similar conclusion and he informs me that, as a matter of fact, some have wasted no time putting their opinions in writing. Judging by the comments, they have not been too kind and Jean-Paul agrees with them.
I ask him whether he thinks that he’s being a little cynical and he replies by saying: “It always ends up in tears as the burden of happiness can only be relieved by the balm of suffering. I know this by my own experiences.”
If you happen to think that there are significant cultural differences between the West and the East, you may be right and if you have come to accept that through these polar-opposite diversities there is actually a level of harmony, you may also be right. Arguments have been put forward that just like the differences between sun and moon or day and night are self-evident, in either case the existence of one is enhanced by the presence of the other.
That is what I think but I do not tell him. Instead, I retort that the fact that he does not believe in love is not sufficient reason for dismissing those who still do even though their approach may seem naïve to him. On further reflection, I concede, however, that there are some events that no matter how hard we try, they remain a mystery. For example, the irresistible pulling power some members of the opposite gender may have and which some men feel compelled to explore further until it becomes uncontrollable – just like a freshly scooped ice-cream must be eaten before it melts!
My comparison brings a smile to Jean-Paul’s face and he remarks that only an Italian could draw a comparison between women and gelato.
You should know that too, I say, after all you are French but on a more serious note we both know that the difference is that a reckless passion for the opposite gender or a lack of discretion can lead to undesirable troubles.
Jean-Paul admits that he found parts of the American’s candid account quite endearing but he also points out that his benevolent views are unlikely to be shared by others. One of the readers, for example has even suggested that, and he quotes,…before you fall in love with any Thai woman have her checked out first.
I reply that everyone has a right to express their opinion but that does not automatically give them the right to be entitled to the facts. I ask Jean-Paul to lend me his tablet. I type something in the search engine and ask him to look at some data.
According to a recent demographics report the population of Thailand accounts for over 68 million people. Of those, over 97% are Thai with nearly 5 million being women aged 15 to 24 and over 16 million are aged 25 to 54. That amounts to well over 20 million women, some of whom, one could reasonably argue, may be offended by a vetting process as suggested above.
For the sake of parity, if, as suggested, potential partners had to be checked, what measuring standards should be considered and should the same method be applied to Western men or men in general? If we all had to be vetted, what kind of profiles do you think would come up?
Jean-Paul gets the point and justifies his view by explaining that it is perhaps no great surprise that, as we men get older, we are more likely to want to date a younger woman. It is suggested that younger women make us, older men, feel younger and desired and willing to massage our ego.
At the word massage his eyes change expression and I wonder if that is because of biology or is the urge of proving power and virility nothing more than a lack of confidence?
I suggest that when an older man can provide, among others, resourcefulness, financial support, empathy and a healthy lifestyle, the allure for a younger woman can be equally powerful and yet could it also be that older women may be kichwa ngumu?
Jean-Paul thinks that it is not just older women who may become complicated. In his opinion it is only men of moderate to low success and/or modest to no experience who find themselves caught up with this issue.
I tell him that I disagree as I happen to think that there is a wider spread. Jean-Paul looks at me quizzically and asks me where the data is to support my assertion.
As an example, I remind him of the recent announcement that Jeff Bezos is to divorce his wife of 25 years MacKenzie, the co-owner of his Amazon empire worth an estimated £137bn. The reason, it would seem, is that he has fallen in love with news anchor Lauren Sanchez, who at 49 is one year older than Bezos’ wife. Given the very substantial finance issues linked to this divorce, my question is: what made this former Princeton graduate who is a talented technology entrepreneur, investor and also philanthropist abandon caution and leave his wife and four children?
Jean-Paul immediately answers that it is down to the forbidden V shaped delicacy or as he calls it, the bottom line.
On reflection, I continue, he is not the only man to have sacrificed a life to reach the pinnacle of success in his chosen field to then inexplicably put either his reputation or accumulated wealth at risk.
Among other notable examples was the unforgettable uproar which surrounded Bill Clinton for alleged perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Of no lesser profile, French president Francois Hollande was caught while arriving and departing from a Paris residence on a scooter to spend nights with actress Julie Gayet and which led to his 7-year relation with Valerie Trierweiler collapsing shortly after.
Woody Allen’s 12-year partner Mia Farrow found nude photographs of her adopted daughter Soon-Yi in Allen’s home. Eventually Woody Allen ended up marrying Soon-Yi.
Arnold Schwarzenegger divorced Maria Shriver after 25 years of marriage after he admitted having fathered a child from another woman 14 years earlier.
Meanwhile Mel Gibson divorced his wife Robyn about ten years ago and with whom he had fathered seven children after photographs were released showing him on a beach embracing pianist Oksana Grigorieva.
Jean-Paul stops me saying he understands the point I am making now and I sense that he wants to add something of his own.
When I was 14, he begins, I hoped that one day I would have a girlfriend. I had seen a type of south east Asian women on a travel documentary and I liked the look of them. I fantasised that one day I may have a girlfriend looking just like that. I was just a kid and these were just dreams.
When I was 16 I got a girlfriend but there was no passion, so I decided I needed a passionate girl with a zest for life. In college I dated a passionate girl but she was too emotional. Everything was an emergency, she was a drama queen, cried all the time and threatened suicide. So I decided I needed a girl with stability.
When I was 25 I found a very stable girl but she was boring. She was totally predictable and never got excited about anything. Life became so dull that I decided that I needed a girl with some excitement.
When I was 28, I found an exciting girl but I couldn’t keep up with her. She rushed from one thing to another, never setting on anything. She did mad impetuous things and made me miserable as often as happy. She was great initially and very energetic but directionless. So I decided to find a girl with some real ambition.
When I turned 30, I found a smart, ambitious girl with her feet planted firmly on the ground so I married her. She was so ambitious that she divorced me and as you know she took everything I owned.
I look at Jean-Paul and ask him, is that why you keep coming here? What do you hope to find?
He smiles and quips “I am older and wiser now and I am just looking for a girl with big tits.”
The bell-boy arrives to take our luggage. Our rooms are ready. Jean-Paul and I resolve to get some rest and to meet later for dinner. From tomorrow, he will be patrolling the golden mile and the surrounding bars in lower Sukhumvit. As for me, Mrs Smith has confirmed that she will arrive by car in the morning and we will continue our onward journey to our holiday home. The tea will be brewing in the tea pot and we will sit by the water side to reminisce what has happened in the past few months.
On reflection, my question to Jean-Paul was a rhetorical one. To all intent and purpose, as with most people, he is here because he is just escaping from a reality that no longer makes sense to him. To some degree, he is also here to escape the loneliness that occasionally envelopes our minds and time has taught us that hope is the last one to die. By the same token, given that hope has no conscience, it can be cruel. In that light, would it not be a mistake to rely solely on hope?
The author cannot be contacted.