After three months in country, my opinion of the local women hasn’t changed, and I find that my opinion has long been shared by the local men as well.
I had dinner once with one of my more senior colleagues, and a couple of his Thai female friends. Both ladies were in their fifties, divorced, working, with children in school or already in workforce.
One of my other friends described one of his co-workers, a lady our own age, from a well-off family, well-educated, and quite well-built, who just filed for divorce from her husband.
The common thread among those three women was a husband who just couldn’t seem to be one, who had one or more current relationships with other women, or who just simply packed up and ran off with someone else.
It’s a story you can hear just about everywhere, from the girl who clerks the convenience store nearby, to the waitress in my favorite bar. I heard it often enough that I thought to find a couple of interesting facts:
- The national divorce rate hovers around 50%, and, as earlier implied, either spouse can file for divorce.
- Only in 1937 was it declared illegal for a man to have more than one wife on record. I phrased that statement in that particular manner because the Thai are said to never really have had native words, and hence concepts, that distinguish polygamous and monogamous relationships.
I can only imagine what relationships in Thailand can be like prior to marriage.
While I admit these things don’t paint the most complimentary picture of Thai males, or of men everywhere, I have been told that Thai females may have their own colors to show.
For having an affair, the more contemporary term is gig. People in a relationship may opt on occasion to step out of the normal bounds and have a gig with another party. It may be one time, or a ten year, multiple-entry arrangement. And women may be just as likely to have one as the men.
While these may be more attributed to the present Thai youth, I imagine that the former husbands of those older ladies had to run away with someone, all those years ago.
Before one gets the mistaken impression that all Thai relationships are one national merry-go-round, I would like to point out that I have met Thais who do have faithful and meaningful relationships with their partners.
But all of the things above did surprise me at first. My initial impression of Thailand was of religious devotion and adherence to tradition, as indicated by all the intricate temples and the pervasive and deep respect for the Royal Family.
This just shows all that can be hidden behind a smile.