Confession of a Spoiled Thai Brat

Oakley and her family maid Pueng
Pueng and Oakley in front of the house

“Oh, Oakley! Get away from the table and give me that,” exclaimed my manager Angela as I was wiping down the glass conference table after a little office birthday cake party.

“What? What? What did I do?” I surrendered the wet paper towel and the spray bottle of Windex.

“You have maids back home, don’t you?” Angela asked, spraying the table with one hand.

“Yeah…and?”

“You clean like a princess. That’ll take all day.”

Clean like a princess? Well, hell I am the frelling princess (another story for another time)! But that’s not the point is it?

An average middle to upper class Thai household usually comes equipped with a live-in maid. Can I be blamed for growing up without having to lift my fingers to do anything?

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Dawg. 😉

I grew up in a household where my and my uncle’s families each had a maid and a nanny (who also doubled as a maid), my grandmother had her own attendant, and the household shared the cook, the driver (the cook’s husband—also our driver), the laundry lady, and a groundkeeper.

With all that help in the house, I, for one, had never really laid my hands on any household chores.

The first time I actually had to do dishes was in 4th grade in home economics after we cooked a meal, and then at 5th grade we had to wash our own dishes after lunch. The first time I actually had to iron my own clothes–outside of Home Ec–was in 1993, when I came to the US. The first time I actually used a broom for it actual purpose–not as a flying device for Oakley the Mighty Sorceress or the microphone for Oakley and the Rocking Teddy Bears band–was in 3rd grade when students had to take turn cleaning up the classroom after school. The cleaning up duties include straightening up the desks, cleaning the blackboard with sponge and a bucket of water, wipe down the teacher’s desk, sweeping and mopping the floor, and emptying out the trashcan.

Outside of school, my mom tried to train me before I’d leave for yet another international adventure. Like going down to the main kitchen to learn from my cook. (I wrote about earlier.) Like going to learn to iron your clothes and fold your laundry with the laundry lady.

So there goes my extent of housewifery! I never really have to clean up that much, or cook my own dinner for that matter. Although through the 12 years in the US (holy crap…it IS my 12th year anniversary this month!) I have learned to take care of myself.

I have come to realize I can’t run away from all of these chores, especially as they are my duties as a wife and a responsible adult. Yet, in the back of my head, I still long to live the easy life with my maid Pueng doing things for me.

Pueng started working in her teen years as my grandmother’s attendant. About the time my grandmother passed away, my nanny, the lady who raised both of my brothers and myself, was leaving us as her services were not required now that I was old enough. Our other maid was also leaving to get married. So Pueng came to us, and she’s been with us since.

Pueng has been with us when our whole household was full of people. And then the migration began. My oldest brother left for school in England, my other brother to Detroit a few years after, and a few years after that I left for California. My uncle’s family moved out. The cook and the driver retired. Ditto the laundry lady.

Suddenly, Pueng was the one-woman show, serving an empty nest. Just my mom and dad. She took on the laundry and helped my mom with cooking occasionally.

Every time I visited home, Pueng would be there to greet me. She’d lugged my huge suitcases up the stairs by herself. For the past 5 years I have forbidden her from doing that without someone else’s helping. She’s no spring chicken after all. Haha! When I got upstairs, she’d already had out the grubs I missed whether it was the fixings for boiled rice when I arrived from a late night flight, or bowls of noodles if I made it there in the afternoon. Bed is always made. A fresh towel every few days. No dishes or laundry to do or to put away, and never ran out of either. Food is either being bought or being cooked for me.

It’s the life of middle to upper class Thai. Not middle class American.

Many times I wish I have Pueng in my spare bedroom here in California so she could do my dishes and laundry. Many times I wish I could have a pot of Pueng’s delicious Panang Beef sent over via an intercontinental dumb waiter. She told me many times to pack her in my suitcase. Brandon and I damn near did that at our last trip since Brandon’s become so addicted to her Panang beef.

But in the end, it’s just me in the kitchen at 10 p.m. with stacks of dishes and pots and pans from my making dinner, and piles of laundry still has yet to be put away. And no killer Panang beef.

Gosh. I miss Pueng soooooooo much!

7 responses to “Confession of a Spoiled Thai Brat

  1. Hi Oakmonster,

    Interesting blog. A friend was looking for a new maid a while back after his previous maid had to quit. Since his wife travels as part of her own business and he works full time and they have a toddler, it was necessary for him to find someone for the job fast.

    He showed up at work looking haggard and when we asked him what was wrong and he told us “My maid quit!”. My single friends and myself had a nice laugh at his expense and I believe the term “sad bourgeoisie” was used to describe him.

    We were basing that our perspective as Westerners in which we were much more likely to have a friend whose mother worked as a maid than have one whose family employed one. You’re right though, different here.

    And on a mildly related note (i did work in moms): Happy Mother’s Day (Wan Mae) to all of the thai-blog moms!

    Cheers,
    BKK

  2. I remember the day, as a kid, when I figured out the trick of brooming… changing my focus from the dirt to the floor in the beggining. And then changing it back to dirt in the last stage! Works in other aspects of life too!!!

  3. Oakley, you keep thinking about being spoilt. You should not think of it. Everyone supported you because they could see the benevolence that would come out of you with their touch… that is what they wanted so much. So forget about other things, shower your kindness and feelings and learnings the reason your maid held you, the reason why others worked hard for you when you were a kid. You are part of a time and place. All we wanted is your kind words and here you are!!!

  4. Hi Oakley –

    I agree with what trangam said – I’m just a poor boy from Alabama (where poor means POOR!) but I’ve rubbed shoulders a time or two with some REAL spoiled brats and your way not like that at all! Even as one of the ‘newly domesticated’ you turned out all right with lots of Jai Dee na 😉

    Don’t every change ‘k?

    Wit

  5. Hehe thanks guys. 🙂

    To add to the Pueng’s story. When I call home, sometimes Pueng would pick up. If my folks are home, she’d alert my folks that I call, and later on she’d inquire with my mom to find out what I am up to. Once in a while, my folks would be out late or out of town, so I got Pueng by herself. She’d ask how we are doing in the US, what is new on Brandon’s Thai food menu, when she’d get to raise our baby, etc.

    For all I know, she’s not just the maid but family. 🙂

  6. I have a nanny/house keeper who started working with us in her teen year (about 15). She was there before I was born and she’s still here with us today.

    She’s a very kind person and always spoil me when I go back home to visit. She’s in her 50’s now. She took care of my grand dad until he passed away ahd my grand mom until she passed away last year.

    Now she’s still taking care of my aunt’s kids !!!

  7. ano po kau mag pinsan po ano mosiya ante o nanay cute mo mopo ate