The city of Pattaya where I’m staying had its origins as the Sex Capital of Thailand forty years ago when there was an American air base nearby as part of the Vietnam War effort. One of the more popular drinks in the bars here is in fact called a B-52. If we’d served the Viet Cong with a few of these concoctions early on, we’d have won that conflict.
Relationships here (if that is the right word) are very easy to find and not as formal as in the West. A popular saying is that you do not lose your girlfriend, you just lose your turn.
Yet I am finding the transition from sensitive Seattle guy to Thailand gi-golo difficult. Three years of auditioning for an often difficult audience on the internet dating site Match.com, trying to prove that I am caring, responsible, sensitive, etc. has left me with lingering habits that are prov-ing hard to break. Witness my first street encounter with a slender, long-haired lady who struck me as being on the shy side:
(Working her gum): “Hello. What you name?”
“Scott” (they have trouble pronouncing my real first name).
“Where you from?”
“A–me–ri–ca. You like A–me–ri–ca woman?”
“Yes. I respect the way they can hold challenging jobs and yet are able to maintain their independence despite…”
(Interrupting) “Where you stay hotel? We do boom-boom!” (This is the Thai slang for sex.)
“First let’s talk and get to know each other better. Communication and trust are important parts of a relationship for me.”
(A lengthy, confused pause) “No boom-boom? Maybe want ladyboy?” (Ladyboys are cross-dressing Thai men who are usually disturbingly con-vincing looking.)
“Er, no thank you. Excuse me…I have to, ah, go clip my fingernails.”
And with that classy exit line, I made my escape, barely avoiding getting sideswiped by a tuk-tuk as I stumbled off the curb. The brief, pseudo-friendly chat had left me reeling. I was completely out of my element and vowed to avoid similar humiliations in the future. Which I did — for al-most twenty-four hours.