Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fall in love at your own risk


DO NOT fall in love with the first go-go dancer who comes over to you. Despite the warning, which appears in websites on Thai nightlife, that is what a guy – usually a white heterosexual male – visiting Thailand for the first time will do when he goes to a go-go bar.

“The guy does fall in love with her. He gets laid!” Bangkok expat Dean Barret wrote in “He then has an affair with her lasting for a few weeks or maybe even longer.

“It might end happily, but as he hasn’t bothered to learn any of the language, culture or history of Thailand it mostly likely ends in disaster.”

The farang (Thai for Westerner) can’t help falling in love because he has “not seen anything like it”.

“He walks into a go-go bar full of gorgeous women – with perfect body, long black hair, light brown skin and almond eyes – and they welcome him with that beautiful Thai smile and make him feel like a king,” he explains.

The relationship, however, ends in a disastrous marriage, notes Barrett, a 65-year-old American writer who authored books such as The Go-Go Dancer Who Stole My Viagra And Other Poetic Tragedies of Thailand and Skytrain to Murder.

The farang (usually in his 50s, 60s and 70s) discovers his wife (usually half his age) actually has a Thai husband.

Or he spends half a million US dollars on a huge tract of land (which must be under her name – in Thailand, farangs are only allowed to buy condominiums) to build a marital home and she later kicks him out.

The classic horror story told over and over in go-go bars as a tale of caution is the one where the go-go dancer has a Thai boyfriend and they have a sinister plan to kill the farang husband for his money.

“This happens quite often in Pattaya. You read in the Pattaya Mail about a guy who falls off the balcony and the police call it a suicide. But the article mentions that the man has his hands tied behind his back and a black stocking over his head,” Barrett relates.

The marriage ends in disaster because these guys do not speak Thai, make any effort to learn Thai history and culture and the psychology of Isaan women (most go-go dancers are from Thailand’s north-east).

“For these women, the mother is number one and not the husband as she owes her mother her life. And she will do anything to provide for her mother,” he explains.

But if the farang speaks enough Thai and understands the psyche of a Thai girl, he is more likely to meet the right girl and have a good life with her.

Asked whether the farang who marries a go-go dancer faces the stigma of marrying a prostitute, Barrett said: “No, because they are nothing like a prostitute.

“In New York City, where I lived for 14 years, prostitutes are these pathetic creatures who huddle in the cold at Holland Tunnel trying to catch the New Jersey guy going home after work to his wife who he is bored with.

“Those are hookers and they are not particularly friendly. It is not like that in Thailand. They are much like a girlfriend even if you pay her money.

“And she'll wai (a respectful Thai greeting) you in the morning.”

The feminazi (who Barrett describes as a fat, white woman who constantly complains she's invisible in Thailand because no farang man pays attention to her) thinks otherwise, accusing Western men of exploiting the go-go dancers.

“But the girls have told me: ‘What do they (feminazi) think when I work in a factory outside Bangkok hunched 12 hours a day over a machine putting little electronic parts together for a fraction of what I earn in a nightlife establishment'?” he says.

Feminazi lashes back in Thai-based Internet forums, saying a 60-something farang only has access to her beauty and youth because she wants access to his ATM.

“Just say the feminazi is completely right,” Barrett argues. “But if they (the old man and the go-go dancer) are happy with their relationship then that is their business.”

(Published in The Star on May 3, 2008)


Thai Girl said...

Dean Barrett's is only one view of relationships between young Thai women and older foreigners.

But of course there's another side to the story, though it's less sensational.

Philip, you've been to our home in the village in Surin to visit me and Cat and you've seen that these relationships can be very rewarding. You've also read my book, "My Thai Girl and I" that tells our story. (See I didn't meet my wife Cat, in a bar but so what.

Perhaps you're now guilty of reinforcing a sad stereotype of Thai women among your many readers in Malaysia.

So you should write another one focussing on the happiness and economic benefit, both personal and
naional that these many successful relationships bring to Thailand. (In these difficult times, we long term tourists do not run away.)

I look forward to your next article!

Andrew Hicks