Sunday, 11 March 2007
"The Lightness of Being Unbearable"
Abducted by sirens yet again!
Don't jump... they're wonderful really!
It’s sometimes said that Thai women are feminine through and through, that they are Venus personified with never a hint of Mars, and that their only aim in life is to please their man.
Sad foreigners with a limited grasp of reality soon fall amorous when they first come to Thailand. They go through a temporary phase of self-delusion akin to a mental illness, the main symptom of which is that they think they’ve gone to a heaven filled with honey coloured angels.
Unfortunately for them, once hooked and with an irreversible addiction to their lady, her purring pussy cat phase may not last very long and they face some serious reverses. It’s always a shock for them discovering that their pussy cat is in fact a man-eating tiger and they can sometimes be seen at the end of the pier and of their tether, thinking of ending it all there and then. Rarely do they do it though as invariably they’ll come back, begging for more of the same.
Let me first stress that despite my feline imagery, none of what I’m going to say in this report on the psychological strategies of Thai wives that follows, in any way relates to my own wife, Cat. To write of her even in a veiled way would be an unfair breach of her privacy and might consign me to a nasty incident with a meat cleaver. No, in fact she’s always been perfectly reasonable and even-tempered. She’s never known for slagging me off for always losing things, for buying a stupid thirty year old jeep or putting her name on a contract for crap satellite internet that hardly ever works. In the face of considerable provocation, her good mood is in fact always exemplary.
Just as this study is not based on Cat nor on any other personal experiences of my own, I also deny having myself done any of the empirical research into the erratic behaviour of Thai ladies. Throughout my academic career, I have always made exclusive use of research assistants. In this case I've benefitted from the expert opinion of many an expat on bar stool and beach who can be relied upon to expatiate ad nauseam about what makes their ‘Thai girls’ tick. Their findings are many and various but their general regret is that while a time bomb usually ticks, Thai women give them no warning and only ever smile. It’s therefore impossible to have any idea what they’re thinking. As they’ll never give you a straight answer on anything, there’s no hint of the pyrotechnics to come.
By way of an aside, it’s noteworthy that the Thai language has no single word for ‘yes’ or ‘no’, only for ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’.
In Bangkok I stay at a unique hotel at the door of which there’s a big sign saying, ‘Sex Tourists Not Welcome’. In this study I have excluded contact with any such informants, though it’s not always easy to avoid them. Once at a small Chinese hotel in Penang, I was having breakfast with two Swedish men I had reputably met at The Atlanta hotel in Bangkok, when a middle-aged German came and sat down with us uninvited. He insisted on telling us that his favorite place was Patong in Phuket and that there he had had assignations with over two thousand girl friends. While I would acknowledge his generous contribution to rural development, I would not rely on his judgment about Thai women for the purposes of my research, as the depth of these relationships must be relatively limited.
On a more personal note, as a young man I always used to try to remember my girlfriends’ names, if not always their birthdays, though perhaps the German had dispensed with this nicety.
To briefly summarise our research findings therefore, we reliably conclude that out of a cloudless sky, lightening can suddenly strike. The Thai women that were the survey sample, all partners of farang men, can at times be moody, capricious, fickle, mercurial and volatile and can explode without warning. On a whim and without rhyme or reason they change their minds on an agreed course of action and wax furious when their man protests. While at one moment, butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth, suddenly they can behave in a manner that is utterly unbearable.
This is not of course my experience, and as I say, mindful of the meat cleaver, I’m simply reporting the empirical findings of my research team. Nor do I in any way imply that these men are lacking in judgment in their selection of a partner. Even so, when any of them express a grievance about their experiences, I put it to them that if you choose to ride a roller-coaster, you must take the consequences… there’ll be downs as well as ups! In Thailand though the clouds quickly roll away and the sun always breaks out as sweetly as before.
That’s of course why these besotted foreign men always come back for more. It’s also because even when their tirak is being utterly unbearable, she does it with such style and flair, with such charm. Who other than a Thai woman can be so awful, but with such a flashing of eyes, with such detachment, such poise, such cool… such lightness. It’s all calculated, an insidious manipulation that leaves her farang in a state of gibbering anxiety and dismay as he staggers backwards in shock, grabbing instinctively for his wallet.
After the sweet success of my novel, “Thai Girl”, I’ve been urged to write another one. I think it’s going to be about a farang who has a stormy relationship with his Thai lady. She sees him reading a book in a café where she’s a waitress. She follows him to his room and moves in with him, but while he’s nursing her through a bout of dengue fever, she becomes fearful he’s being unfaithful with other women. This is morally unacceptable to her as he must be spending loads of money on her rivals that he should be spending on her. She rages at him every nights and tells him that if she catches him at it, she’s going to cut off his nearest and dearest and throw it to the ducks.
The plot then follows the male protagonist as he freely philanders, leaving the reader in tense apprehension as to the continued safety of his threatened equipment. The emotional point of the story though is that despite all his dalliances, he always comes back to this woman because he loves her for being so awfully, so exquisitely unbearable.
I’m trying to think of a title for the novel and I’ve come up with one that has a certain ring to it. How about, “The Lightness of Being Unbearable”?