Historical Retrieval

I’ve never had much success in breaking up with Thai girlfriends. After I patiently explain that things are over between us, they never fully exit my life, continuing to send occasional emails or text messages. I suspect this behavior, which I find endlessly irritating, reflects the nature of Thailand, where everything from relationships to ATMs are in a state of flux. Few hard and fast rules beyond saving face. And who knows what tomorrow may bring in the shifting kaleidoscope of a Thai/Western relationship? No harm in trying to stay on the radar of an admittedly soft-hearted guy who might someday change his mind.

My old flame Sontaya was a prime example of Thai perseverance. After our first go-around foundered on the usual cultural misunderstandings (see My Final Thai Girlfriend), there was no vindictiveness on her part. No SMS texts with four letter expletives. When I told her I was done supporting her and suggested she resume working in a bar, that’s exactly what she did, with no further requests for money. Interestingly, she ended up at one of the drinking establishments near the entrance to Nana Plaza just down the street from my apartment. As I passed by on my way home in the evenings, I’d sometimes look for her and offer up a friendly wave. On a couple occasions I stopped in and we’d have a drink together while bringing each other up to date on our lives.

Two years passed. Having failed to make a Western-style relationship work with Sontaya, I contented myself with playing the field, avoiding new entanglements. Catching even a whiff of seriousness would see me retreat as if from a medieval plague. My ex in the meanwhile continued at the bar, waiting for the next boyfriend to magically appear. It turned into an education of sorts for her. When Sontaya had made her initial foray into the Bangkok bar scene, it only took a couple of months before she’d landed a Kiwi who ended up paying support for some three years. Shortly after that ended, yours truly showed up. Now she would learn that those early relationships were essentially a form of beginner’s luck — which had in my opinion spoiled her somewhat — and that decent guys were not an everyday experience.

What ended up getting us back together again was, ironically, an online dating site called Thai Friendly. I had ventured into this in search of a “respectable” Thai companion only to become quickly disillusioned. The first woman I contacted turned out not to be interested in any Westerner who had previously consorted with ladies in the entertainment industry — which eliminates some ninety percent of the expats in Bangkok. The second one would not agree to a simple luncheon date unless I foreswore making any sexual advances, as if the romantic ambiance of the Golden Arches was going to drive me into a frenzy. For whatever issues I’d had with Sontaya, she’d never made me feel like a leper, which is why one evening shortly afterwards I moseyed down to her Nana Plaza bar and brought her back home, we still being on good terms. This time, I vowed, I would not make the same mistakes as before. No more eager-to-please Mr Nice Guy, for one thing (a persona Thai women don’t have much respect for). I would be calmer, more confident and build a relationship (v2.0) that was pragmatic and straightforward.

Our first go-around had lasted almost three months. This time we nearly made it to two.

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