Courage Under Fire

Brandon and Oakley in Chiang Mai

Wow. I didn’t think my previous post has touched so many lives and opened up a dialogue. And here I thought I was just being a whiny little b…well…person.

A relationship between a Farang man and Thai woman, platonic or romantic, in itself is already off to the rocky start in Thailand where social stigma comes standard to the woman.

After having read some of the comments on my last blog post, I am grateful to you Farang gentlemen out there who the basic knowledge of proper conducts. If you didn’t know before, now you do. And I’m glad. Knowing how things are regarding the interracial relationship in Thailand hopefully will help you when you visit the country next time, or when you develop friendship with Thai women.

As for those who have felt bad that they didn’t know if they had caused any problems for their lady friends, don’t be. They know what kind of unwanted attention and prejudice surrounding your friendship. By the fact that they remain friends with you this whole time, they indeed have admirable courage and confidence. We have to be secured enough with ourselves, have skin thick enough to withstand the looks, and believe in that relationship enough to give us strength to deal with it all.

I don’t play to the stares or feel too uncomfortable with it either. I used to care so much about how other people would think of me. Totally self conscious. But then, I discovered the most empowering idea: “I don’t give a hoot what you think.” It doesn’t apply only to my interracial marriage, but to my life in general.

I believe that my relationship is none of anyone else’s business. I love my husband. Here we are, Farang guy and his Thai wife. We’re just another married couple. You can stare all you want, and think what you want because your opinion don’t f*cking matter to me.

But I do respect my culture, and therefore I will keep to the codes of conduct deemed proper. When in Rome, you know. So yes, we are being respectful to Thai culture by not displaying our affections in public, and also not to feed unnecessary fire into the madness.

Sure, there are a few occasions when I feel self conscious about being with Brandon in Thailand. But more so, I feel disappointed. It’s my own people that point their accusing fingers at me.

As I said what other people think doesn’t matter to me. Sticks and stones, really. But the one that gets me more is when my mother is concerned about how I am being seen. Was she concerned about how I’m being seen, or was she concerned about how I’m being seen affect how she’s being seen? I don’t know.

And that was exactly the focal point of my monologue at Asian Voices last Thursday. (By the way, we brought the house down. The 132-person capacity theater has over 150 people in it!) Here’s a little snippet from that section:

Dressed like them. Mom doesn’t have to spell it out. I know what she means by them. The world’s famous Bangkok prostitutes.

Apparently, this [unwrap sarong to reveal shorts underneath] and a white husband makes me an instant boom-boom girl. At least according to my mother.

She made this prostitute comment to me when my husband Brandon and I were in Thailand last Thanksgiving. It was our first visit as a married couple.

Brandon and I have both been on our best behavior so far, as in not displaying any affection in public because of the whole prostitute thing. My choice for wearing shorts and sneakers is not so far off from what Farang—foreigner—tourists wear.

Mom’s got to be really ashamed of being seen with me in public that day. Ashamed of me, wearing shorts and sneakers; ashamed of me having a Farang husband; ashamed of me.

I’ve gone numb. It hurts so much it seems I’ve gone into shock.

If I was still single, I can understand why she is so critical of me. But I’m married now. I have a career. I have my own life. I don’t even f*cking live in the country. Why is this whole appearance thing still an issue? What’s wrong with being me, mom?

I’m Varavarai Oakley Boren. Sometimes you’d say that I’m too “Americanized” because I speak my mind, and I don’t try to pretend that I’m prim and proper. No Thai boys would take me now.

Do you ever think that I was already “Americanized” before I left?

Mom, I was born in a wrong country. I have to go to America to find me.

Either way, you still are ashamed of me. Aren’t you?

That’s why I don’t live there any more. I can’t live with that guilt hanging over my head everyday. I sure love to visit, and each time I visit I remember how good I had it growing up. But that is all gone in about a week into my stay. There is always that one comment. If it’s not the hooker thing, it’ll be something else about me that mom doesn’t like.

Folks, this is not just a Thai thing, the love-hate struggle with our more traditional mothers. From what I learned at Asian Voices, all Asian moms are critical that way. They want us to fit a more traditional mold of prim and proper, obedient and a little bit subservient, the way they have been, and the way they believe how we could get us a husband. (Oh well, I do believe Thai men of my generation still look for that too.) So it doesn’t fly with them when we, the next generation, come in with our mouthful of opinions, feminist ideals, and talk of sexual liberation. (Sexual liberation. Well that’s a whole OTHER can of worms.)

Then again, I digress.

It all comes down to us, ladies. How badly do you want this relationship or friendship to work? Will you have enough strength to stand up to the looks and the gossips? What about your family? Can you handle what your family would think and react to your relationship? Is all that trouble worth it to you?

If the answer is yes, I salute you. And that Farang friend of yours had better not take your friendship for granted.

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