If you ask someone what they associate with Thailand, prostitution will probably be up there. Prostitution - cunts - I should be having a field day but after spending a few days in sex-capital Pattaya all my words (& plenty of my other bits) have dried up.
I'm not opposed to porn, or prostitution, or ping-pong balls for that matter, but the particular combination here could almost make me cry. Pattaya is a town of cloned couples - overweight, ageing, pasty white men teamed with tiny, young, scantily-clad Thai women. Misery multiplied.
Weaving my way through the pimps & gaudy neon lights the other evening, for a stretch I found myself walking behind a couple. The man was middle-aged, hair greying at the temples, he was stocky & very short so that I was looking down at his balding crown. He was clutching the hand of a very slim young Thai girl - 17? 18? She was wearing long shorts, a singlet, scuffs, looking straight ahead. Occasionally I caught a glimpse of her profile - set & unsmiling. I'd hesitate to call her beautiful, in several years she might be. She had the potential perhaps to be stunning but for the time being she still had a coltish youthfulness about her - the glow of newness. She was the essence of loveliness but beautiful? No, not yet.
She pulled her hand from his and shook it but when she dropped it back by her side she let him pick it up again & it hung there, limp in his.
He kept nudging into her; she looked straight ahead. He lurched up onto his toes & tried to peck her on the cheek. She flinched away & he furrowed his brow - looked offended, hurt. He made attempts at trying to talk to her but she didn't look his way, she just abruptly shrugged her shoulder a few times as though a pinched nerve was troubling her.
And that dreadful hand - comatose between his fingers.
She was revolted by him.
He was her grandfather - probably, to her, incomprehensibly old. She wanted money. He wanted to fuck her but something more as well- he wanted to soak in her loveliness - to own her in some way. But it was beyond her, beyond her to pretend to enjoy him.
It seems that there is a lot more than bodies being commodified here - men come seeking not just sex but souls. It seems such a tragic farce for everyone involved. I don't understand how people can so easily make light of an industry so depressing. To ridicule & humiliate the women involved in a transaction that in its essence is ridiculous & humiliating is barbaric & easy. I feel sick (physically sick) at the ease with which people seem able to make 'jokes' about ping-pong balls & 'love me long-time' pick-up lines.
Of course it's not always such a stark mismatch as the couple I walked behind. Sometimes it seems the couples are close enough in age & appearance to make the scenario almost plausible (with a big nudge from poverty playing cupid, of course) but too often it's all just sad & freaky vaudeville parade.
I've tried to think of the girl spending her money. How would she spend it? I've imagined her getting a massage, a full body scrub, a haircut, a pedicure. I wonder what, if anything, she could possibly buy to make up for that terrible, dead, limp hand.