Friday, June 17, 2011

"Social" Security: It's A Dime-A-Dance World

Eugene O'Neill said "When you're 50 you start thinking about things you haven't thought about before. I used to think getting old was about vanity - but actually it's about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial."

Financial insecurity is a major bugaboo for many folks heading towards retirement, but even worse are emotional desires and the fear of growing old alone. Thanks to our assorted media far too many of us subscribe to the fallacy that your look defines your desirability and social worth, and any mirror will remind us that time, indeed, marches on. Some confuse that very social worth with desirability, and there are countless examples of that as older folks - primarily men - chase the company of the youthful as though proximity will help stay their own inevitable slide. I was going to say "decay," but that's closer on the horizon than wise to joke about.

Clubs in Thailand are full of (primarily) male customers willing to pay to fuel the illusion of affection and/or desire from the employees, both female and male. Without going into detail today I feel it's acceptable for the sake of argument to say that less than 10% of the "pay-for-play" industry in Thailand is gay; most of it is men seeking the attention of women somewhere near half their age. Not being familiar with that side of the fence I can't vouch for it personally, but I've spent enough time passing through Soi Cowboy (and Soi Yipun) to have a pretty good idea that we're safe to make the estimate.

Being past the glow of youth myself I honestly don't feel I'm being overly judgmental here. There's a great deal of wisdom to the childhood comeback "it takes one to know one", and the lure of escaping the feeling I'm not the age I truly am is a shiny bauble indeed. However, being realistic and honest with myself (and reality) usually keeps me in check, thank goodness.

That said, I find it's endlessly interesting to watch the mating rituals of assorted specimens of Preening Farang on their migratory voyages to attract a temporary - or more permanent - younger mate in Thailand, and there are great flocks of them flying in on a regular basis. More in the colder Western months, but some with the means have landed longer term in Thailand and adorn their nests with attractive accoutrement.

Some drape themselves with gold chains that lay among the white hair on their chests, unbuttoning their shirts a couple of extra buttons to show what they believe others want to see, while in reality if I want to see a set of less-than-youthful male breasts (I tend to call them man boobs, or "moobs") I only have to look while drying myself off after a shower. Nevertheless, there "the boys" are, drooping out of shirts as their owners sit in the open-air clubs and wave their beers around, regaling all and sundry nearby with their tales; their Thai companions smiling while graciously trying to understand a language they weren't raised speaking; glancing at their watches or cell phone screens in an attempt to stay awake.

It's entertainment for these guys, and while it's cheaper to go to a movie than spend an evening like I've described above, what's even more unfortunate is that far too many of these migrating folks fool themselves into believing that the arrangement is more than what servicemen and others during the World War era would know as the "dime a dance" club arrangement; you pay the fee and the person you select from the line-up accompanies you onto the dance floor for a while. In the case of most in the Thailand clubs that usually involves dancing in a horizontal position someplace private, followed by a tip before parting company.

The bottom line here today is this: it's the rare occasion where a visitor walks into a genuine relationship based on their encounters while on holiday, as my UK friends would call it. I know a number of stable long-term Farang/Thai couples of various stripes, so it most certainly is possible, but it's a challenge for a variety of reasons: age, culture, religion, etc., and only a true fool would think otherwise.

Make friends, but be realistic - especially when speaking of your intentions regarding those friends (or potential long-term interests) when you go back home. As the song goes, "too many moonlight kisses seem to melt in the warmth of the sun."

Not to say all of the Thai are honest and sincere, but believe me, I've heard enough stories of "bad farang lie me" to last me a lifetime. If you've retired to Thailand, listen well and learn from others who have been there a year or three before you make emotional or financial investments.


Anonymous said...

Well, yes. What alarms me is the numbers of retirees who have completely broken their links to their country of birth and are living in a completely foreign country, usually alone. In the sixties and well into their seventies their health will probably hold up, but as they age time will exact its toll on their bodies and often their minds, and then what's to become of them? I have one friend who says, philosophically, "I hope they'll have invented a pill I can take to end it all by then". Perhaps there's an industry waiting to spring up?

khunbaobao said...

There are stories in the media there about farang who end their lives, and my guess is some of those aren't merely due to depression. Assisted suicide should be legal in all 50 states, in my opinion - if not worldwide. An elderly friend of mine recently moved to a state that allows an "out" for those who don't wish to waste away or linger indefinitely, and I supported his decision on that 100%.

As for cutting all ties with one's homeland I think that's overly severe, but I know some who have.

krobbie said...

You call them moobs, I call them manneries.

As ever an astute summation Bao-Bao.