By Randolph (from the USA)
My Thai girl story starts fifteen years ago when I was a single, fun-loving, 32 year old man. Much less having never been to Thailand, I had never even eaten Thai food. So when it was suggested by friends that we meet up at the new Thai restaurant near work, I went with hesitation.
The food itself was an Americanized version and largely forgettable. The waitresses – well they captured my attention for good right then and there.
It wasn’t long before I was finding reasons to eat, often alone, at that restaurant two or three times a week just to see those visions of loveliness. As a frequent visitor and owing to the seemingly open friendliness of Thai people in general, it wasn’t a stretch that I became quite friendly with several of the waitresses. We’d have a laugh and share stories. Many of them were quite revealing with stories of their personal lives and adjusting to living in America. All of them had come to the United States to go to college. Some of them graduated and returned to Thailand and others stayed and tried to make a life in America. All of those Thai girls came from what I assumed from their descriptions as the upper echelons of the Thai social hierarchy, yet seemed to want – if not need – to work as waitresses in this trendy Thai restaurant to get extra spending money.
Of course there was one girl that had me particularly enraptured, and she is the main character in my Thai girl story. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid my eyes upon (as if you haven’t heard that before). She was absolutely gorgeous from head to toe, but surprisingly had little idea of just how stunning she was. I knew from some of the other girls that they were jealous of her looks, but she always seemed to be able to find fault with herself (skin is too dark, nose isn’t pointy enough, eyes not round enough, etc) and wasn’t able to accept compliments on her beauty. She wasn’t the most outgoing girl, but had a way of speaking that made you feel like you mattered, and we were confiding secrets that only the two of us shared. I will say that she didn’t always seem like the happiest person deep inside, but she was generally pleasant to be around.
I still remember the day she struggled to approach me with a smile, but it faded quickly into a battle to fight back the sobs. I had never seen her like this before. I quickly learned through her tears that she had caught her boyfriend, a waiter at another Thai restaurant, in the act with the female bartender at the same restaurant. Tears and cheating always feature in any self-respecting Thai girl story, and it appears that this one is no exception!
She was distraught. She had so many of the typical questions – how, why, what was she going to do now – which had no answers. Over the next few weeks the tears faded, but the sense of sadness stayed. But the event did allow me the opportunity to discuss even more personal elements of her life such as feelings, relationships and future desires. And of course this led me to ask the eventual question of whether she would ever consider a relationship with an American man.
At the time I was quite surprised to hear that she would never ever consider such a thing. She cited reasons such as the culture gap for Thai women being too much to bridge and the fact that she could never feel truly a part of the society in America and always desired to return to Thailand. Side note: After reading through the pages of your very informative website, I am now wondering if the feared perception of other Thais – that she must have met an American man under less than respectable conditions – played a part in it too (Guru - yes, I think that it would have played a part for a respectable Thai girl all those years ago, but not so much these days).
She continued to work in the restaurant and at her studies and eventually received an undergraduate degree. It actually took her more than twice as long as most students. Not because she wasn’t smart or had language issues (she spoke English quite well as she had been educated in wealthy private schools in Thailand), but because she didn’t have a real drive to finish.
She didn’t drink, but did enjoy socializing and shopping with her friends far more than she liked dedicating herself to her studies. She did confide in me that while she never felt comfortable in America, and had kept herself insulated in the local Thai community (I was the only American she said she ever talked with), she felt ashamed to return to Thailand because it had taken her so long to get her degree.
She told me that her uncle had criticized her father for sending her to America for college as she apparently had a reputation for never seeing things through to completion and to return to Thailand without a degree would have been a disgrace to her family. Being overly worried about the perceptions of others was a concept I couldn’t always grasp, but I learned that the concept of ‘saving face’ is extremely important to Thais.
Eventually she met another Thai guy who was a waiter and had graduated from an American college. He claimed that he had difficulty finding a more career oriented job because he lacked US citizenship, but also enjoyed the cash on hand that being a waiter provided – and he was a bit of a big shot in the local Thai community. When I first heard of this guy she told me that he had expressed a long secret desire for her besides the fact that he was seriously involved with another Thai girl.
He was, apparently, the former best friend of her previous boyfriend. He was constantly calling her and offering to pay for things for her (like car repairs, rent, etc.). He was from an extremely wealthy family in Thailand, but she found him annoying and claimed no interest in him at all. That is why I found it so odd when she told me two weeks later that they were dating. I asked if this was the same guy she didn’t like and found annoying – at which time she denied ever having had that conversation with me. I didn’t push the issue as I didn’t want it to be an embarrassment, but I found the denial (well, outright lie) odd.
This new boyfriend even started paying for her to take classes at an online university to get an advanced graduate degree. And this is when she and I seemingly started to become even closer as friends. I will admit that in the back of my mind my more carnal desires for this lady were ever present, another vital ingredient in any Thai girl story, but I had to settle for being a close friend.
She was in over her head with the advanced course work. A couple of requests to review a written assignment turned into helping her write it. A few weeks later she would just send me her homework questions and ask for help. Looking back on it, I probably should be the one with the advanced degree as I believe I did most of the work. She would also come to me for help with any other written or legal request, such as paperwork for her US citizenship, visa applications for her siblings or a car loan.
She never asked for money (I assume her Thai boyfriend had that covered), but she was not shy about asking for help with schoolwork and such. Now I know that I should’ve seen that my efforts were being taken for granted (and in the back of my mind I’m pretty sure I did), but I rationalized that if the roles were reversed and I was in Thailand, it sure would be nice to have a local girl like her to assist me with dealings and processes with which I might not have been familiar. Whether or not she would have gone to the same lengths that I did – well, we will never know the answer to that question. And let’s be honest, she was just too beautiful and enchanting for me to say no.
Thai Girl Story Part 2 – things get weird