Monday, June 25, 2012

Thai Romance

Want your bad romance

Lady Gaga’s visit, a couple of weeks ago (May 25th--now a month ago), to Thailand shook the country to its core. Everyone was glued to their TV screen. I, on the other hand, was merely a spectator to all the commotion. Most Thais tend to be very conservative/proper in their social interactions and mannerisms, I believe that Gaga gives Thailand’s youth an opportunity to put tradition aside and act like a “little monster” (this is the term Gaga uses to refer to her fans).

(Side note: I’ve now been attempting to write this blog post for the past 3 weeks and have been very unsuccessful for one reason or another. Primarily, I am trying to make GRE studying a habit/priority. Today, I have been blessed with insomnia and that is why this piece is coming together. I think the insomnia is due to my friend’s grandmother’s house lack of AC--it’s so hot in Thailand...I used to think people exaggerated-until now! Also, I took an accidental nap after my “app nahm”/shower. And to top it off I had coffee at around 4pm in an attempt to stay focused during GRE studying time).

The adoration for Lady Gaga came at a time when I could not stop noticing the “farang” (white) older men parading around Khon Kaen (and other parts of Thailand) with Thai women (often times many years younger). One night after the Khon Kaen soccer game, my host family invited me to Khon Kaen walking street. On the way back to the family van, I pointed out the “farang” and the Thai woman walking a few steps ahead of us. He said, “it is an Isaan thing. Isaan women tend to go with farang men. I think farang men want to be with Isaan women because they can get treated well by them.”

Through my observations, I have noticed that Isaan women tend to be considered inferior to other women in Thailand because of their (supposed) darker skin and less educated background. I did not further discuss the topic with my host father, but my entire host family was amused by my observation of the farang husband and Thai wife.

My fellow Fulbrighters and I have discussed many times the concept of the Thai wife and farang husband. We have always concluded that the Thai wife is largely obligated to be with her farang husband because of the monetary advantages that come with being with a white foreigner. (Side note: I specifically say white foreigner, because you never see any other type of foreigner with a Thai woman). We ask ourselves:
  • What do they talk about? 
  • What do they have in common? 
  • Can they speak the same language?
  • Is it a purely physical relationship? 
  • Does the Thai women's social stance change? Or is she shunned by other "proper*" Thai women? 
*The proper Thai woman has a Thai husband. She wears neutral colors and never calls too much attention to herself (i.e. in her speech, mannerisms, attire and otherwise). One will never catch her singing, dancing, or laughing too loud in public. Essentially, she is Lady Gaga's anti-thesis.

When I catch myself staring at a farang and his Thai wife, I try to repeat to myself that their relationship is none of my business.

Most people in Thailand confuse me for being Thai. I am often greeted by people speaking rapid Thai, but to their surprise I am neither Thai nor can I speak the language. There have been times when I have been around white males and wondered: "What do people assume of me? Do they have the same thoughts I have about other Thai women? Do they think I have essentially sold myself for my financial well-being?" And when my thoughts start dancing away, I try to stop myself and think to myself that I am not Thai and I have no idea what drives Thai women to do the things they do. As an outsider, I can only observe what is in front of me and develop relationships with people that will someday allow me to answer my questions.

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