Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bangkok Nights

Bangkok Weekend

My second weekend trip was to Bangkok, Thailand. Originally it was supposed to be three of us from work, but one of the guys bailed out. According to him, he was never committed in the first place, but my version is that he ditched us. He had "stuff to sort out". But I wasn't sad or offended at all. Not even a little. <sniff sniff>

So despite missing our third partner in crime, we managed to have a very fun weekend. We left work a little early on Friday afternoon and headed to the airport for the two hour flight to Thailand. It's still mind-boggling to me that so many places are an easy flight away from Singapore. By 8 PM we were checked into the hotel and having a drink at the outdoor bar.

Bangkok skyline from the hotel

It had been a long week so Friday was a early night in hopes that we would actually have enough energy to be useful for the rest of the weekend. I enjoyed a long night of sleep before waking up for a leisurely lunch then heading out for a boat cruise around the city. I highly recommend the boat tour. At various spots along the river, you can rent a private boat for super cheap to show you the sights of the city. The sun was out. Life was good.

Autoawesome photo from the river

That night we met up with my friend's college buddy at Sky Bar, the world's highest open air bar (also featured in the Hangover 2). I had been there back in 2007 and remembered to tell my friend before we left Singapore that there was a dress code - no shorts or flip flops. I, of course, then forgot to bring anything but flip flops, and I had to buy a pair of way-too-small heels at a local shop. Apparently none of the women in Thailand wear size 9 shoes. We finally got into the bar, but unfortunately there was lightning outside so we couldn't enjoy the outdoor area. Still an amazing view nonetheless.

Can men and women actually be friends?

After Sky Bar we had an incredible dinner. Truly nothing beats authentic Thai food. Then we headed to an Australian bar for a few drinks. At one point the conversation topic was whether men and women can actually be friends. After growing up in the sports world, working in the tech industry and climbing mountains as a hobby, I had better be able to be "just friends" with men. Often the best and easiest way to make sure it isn't an issue is to befriend his significant other. However, if one of the two friends becomes interested in the other, and it isn't reciprocated, things become complicated and sometimes awkward.

The conversation then turned to how in Asia it's not that uncommon, and in some places almost expected, for men to have mistresses. While sternly frowned upon in the US, that certainly doesn't stop some men. I've been propositioned by men who are married or in committed relationships more times than I care to admit. It may seem arrogant or self-centered to say that, but in reality, it's usually just very uncomfortable when it happens, not flattering. I remember being 20 years old and looking for a friend to come along on a cross country road trip so I could bring my car out to college. A married coworker well over a decade my senior, who had kids nearly my age, offered to come with me. I politely declined and tried to avoid him until I could leave for school.

I am not a conventional woman. I do not intend to become one.

Switch around a few pronouns and a noun in a heading from my employer's IPO letter to shareholders, and the revised statement applies to me quite well. The life I lead is far from ordinary and often not very feminine. I would be miserable as a housewife. In fact I would be quite terrible at it. I admire the women who can play that role well and happily, but it's not for me. I quite deliberately chose to focus on my education and career, which has turned out better than I could have ever imagined. My work allows me the luxury to live abroad, travel freely and go on amazing adventures. The unintended consequence is that I am still single at 33, which is not how I saw that part of my life playing out.

When a married man expresses his interest, the conversation generally goes something like this - "I love my wife. She [has given me a family, always supports me, has been by my side, etc.]. But she [insert reasons he feels trapped / bored / unfulfilled and why they are now not getting along as well as they used to]. And you are so... different."

I know that this is intended to be a compliment. My life, seemingly unburdened by commitments, seems easy, carefree, fun, and exciting, but I'm often quiet and difficult to get to know, which is somehow an intriguing combination. While I don't have the desire to settle down and start popping out kids like many of my gender do, I still have most of the traits that men find irritating in their female partners. I can be jealous and insecure. I get upset if a guy I'm dating disappears and doesn't return texts. I need to feel loved and cared for. At times this idea that I'm "different" from the women who have managed to find husbands can wear on me. Am I so different that I'm doomed to a life without a mate?

In Japan, there are terms for single and childless women like me - makeinu (roughly translated as "loser dogs") or "Christmas cakes" (no longer good after the 25th). I don't at all pretend to have a full understanding of what this really means in Japanese culture, and from what I've read it seems that this stigma is decreasing there, but in reality there is still more of a stigma in US culture than most would like to admit.

I am 95% happy with where my life is today, and I'm not giving up on that other 5%. And with that, my OKCupid profile is up and running again. My first message - "I havent really have a caucasian friend before so am hoping you will be my first." This is going to be interesting. Stay tuned.

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