A change

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Breathless with life and Chiang Mai, my friend and I walk to lunch.

I’m fresh from London, fresh from attending World Travel Market, being around like-minded people, people I genuinely like, in a world that isn’t fueled by plastic-chair-sitting and cheap beer guzzling.

I’m invigorated. I’m inspired. And, I’m done.

Done with Chiang Mai.

Not because it isn’t special to me. Not because I stopped caring about the elephants, the animals … but I’m done with feeling like I’m walking on eggshells with people. With a culture I have strived to assimilate into, but never quite did.

“D, you have to leave Chiang Mai,” my friend advises me under the late fall sunshine. “Leave now. Leave while you don’t hate it.”

I ponder this.

Leave while you don’t hate it.

I quickly sum up the history of my past moves: Vegas to Atlanta (hated Vegas and hated myself), Atlanta to Europe (hated Atlanta and hated myself), Europe to Vegas (out of money and needed a job), Vegas to Thailand (loved Thailand).

The fond cities — Vegas (the second time, but only by a hair) and Europe — stand out far more than Atlanta in terms of pleasing memories.

I look at where I am: in the heart of northern Thailand in an exotic place, in love (ok, like) with my life and definitely loving who I am.

It’s a far cry from the running away I’ve done in the past.

Leave while you like it.

Originally, I had planned to stay out my visa and then head over to Europe, but those words. Those damn words my friend has said roll around in my head. Bounce around. And sink deep into me.

“I guess I could …” I begin.

“You should,” he corrects me.

That night, before he heads back to Spain, he pulls up Skyscanner and looks at flights.

“Look,” he says, turning his screen to me. “A flight from Chiang Mai to London on Christmas Day. For 450 euro.”

Glowing in front of me is my future. A chance to talk about responsible elephant tourism more freely. A chance to boost my writing career. A chance to explore more of the world.

So, I do what any wanderlust-filled person who is (almost) ready for a change. I look at the possibilities of a future not in SE Asia. A future where I feel like a woman again. Where I don’t get tangled in cultural issues. Where I can speak and help without danger.

I book the flight.

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Diary The Dating Life

Why I’m still single (also known as the top first-date no-no’s for men)

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I get asked a lot why I am still single at 35. Other than waving my arms in the air pointing to a sign lit-up above my head with flashing lights that practically screams “I live in Thailand,” sometimes it leaves me befuddled. (Heh. I like that word.)

In other words: I am funny (or so I think). I am compassionate. I am passionate. I am kind. I am warm. I have my shit together. I know what I want. I love myself. I love other people. I’m pretty. So … what. the. fuck? RIGHT?

WELL.

The thing is this. I go out on dates. Even in Thailand, I go out. Despite swearing dating in Thailand off a couple of months ago due to one too many horrid experiences. I still go out, mostly because I have entirely removed the pressure of it being a date in my mind from the table. I only even communicate these days with people who seem to have their ducks in a row and have something in common with me (normally they are here long term and embrace a life of travel). The best laid plans.

And yet, dates never go past the first round. Now, I’m not saying I am the bee’s knees (OK, I am), but really, what is going on here is these first dates are so fucking god awful there is no way I would ever go on a second one. I have been on a string of really terrible first dates for years now. Perhaps I just have the world’s shittiest taste in men, but jesus. I mean, at some point there is supposed to be a second date, right?

I’m not saying I am perfect, or God’s gift to men, but also know a shitty date when I see one.

What makes these first dates stab-your-eyes-out terrible? The men’s antics.

In no order, these are some of the worst experiences I have had on dates, and the what-not-to-ever-do tips for you men if you EVER WANT A SECOND DATE.

1. Push back the date so you can continue drinking with your buddies. If you can’t curtail the booze for a night, why on earth would your date think you value her enough to go on a second one?

2. Show up to the date drunk.

3. Tell your date you would have looked nicer — and you normally do look nicer for first dates — but you got invited out before you had a chance to change. Or comb your hair. Or shower. Or brush your teeth.

4. Show up to your date 30 minutes late because the cab you took long-hauled your ass — even though you live in town — and then, when it comes time to pay the bill, inform your date that because you had to pay so much for the cab, you won’t be treating her to dinner or drinks.

5. Show up in a dirty white suit that reeks of stale cigarettes and BO.

6. Chain smoke in front of your date who just quit smoking.

7. Talk about all the weird first dates you have online.

8. Talk about anything do with jerking off, erections or weird boy things.

9. Stare at your date’s boobs.

10. Talk about your date’s boobs.

11. Get super drunk on the date. Unless both are getting super drunk, then it is ok.

12. Leer at the hot server.

13. At the end of the date, and your date doesn’t want to kiss you, trying to convince her to do so.

14. After the date, messaging her and asking on a scale of 1 – 10, how the date would be rated. And then telling her it was a 9. Then, the next day, when she says maybe the second date won’t work, you tell her you didn’t feel it anyway.

GUYS: we want to be treated like we are valuable. Like you actually WANT TO BE ON A DATE WITH US. And, we respect ourselves enough to not put up with bullshit when we feel like you don’t.

“Hey, this was nice. Want to go out again?”

Fuck. No.

|| End rant ||

Diary The Dating Life Uncategorized

Gracefully letting go

let go

 

In the two-plus years I have lived in Thailand, there is one woman I have marveled at continuously — for her strength; for her passion; for her never-ending love; for how gently she lives; and, for her ability to gracefully let go of things not meant for her, for us, for this world.

Lek Chailert.

Despite all of the things she has seen, how much she has experienced, there are few moments I have ever seen those instances eclipse the smile on her face.

She is a person I strive to be like, a person who I admire with all of my being.

For the first time in two years, I did something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do because of her: I sat with an abused cat, Belle, as she was released from this world. It was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable things I have ever done. That ache in my heart, that spread to my stomach and made it tense. The tears that flowed without apology, without regard for being in a culture which does not encourage the showing of emotions (even though I desperately tried to reign it in).

All my life, when animals I have loved have reached the end to their time in this world, I cried. I sobbed. I bawled. I said my thanks, whispered love into their ears, hugged them for the last time, and then stepped away. I could never bring myself to go with them to be put down. I could never let the thought even replay in my mind more than a few minutes without becoming paralyzed with emotion for my loss.

But, yesterday was different. Something inside of me has changed. Maybe it is this project. Maybe it is this job. Maybe it is this life. Or, maybe it is just being grown up.

I knew it was coming with Belle. The poor girl, who had been brought in to the vets and was the team’s treatment for a month while she was rehabilitated from a brain injury and back fracture from her owner, had shown promising signs. So much so that she was released from the vets and taken to my office where I quickly fell in love with her clumsy, timid steps as she learned how to put paw-to-ground and walk again. Late last week, she started to become stiff and lost her ability to stand. And then, she began to have seizures. Multiple seizures which destroyed all of the hard work she had accomplished in the month she was being cared for.

Saturday when I went to the vet to see her (she had to be readmitted because of her seizures and to try to control the attacks), she could not walk. She was not eating. Then, yesterday morning, the vet called me to tell me she had another one and that I should come in.

I went immediately and what I saw broke my heart. The little cat I had been with the week before was gone. Her eyes were empty. She laid in her cage, not being able to move anything but her head. I sat with her and the vet and tried to wipe the tears from my eyes as I gently stroked her face.

I thought of Lek and how she would handle this. With grace. With love. With compassion.

“If you have to put her down today, please call me,” I said to the vet. “I would like to be with her when the time comes.”

She agreed and said I would get a phone call later in the evening.

The call came earlier than I expected. Belle had suffered another attack and was suffering.

“You need to come right now if you want to be with her,” the vet explained to me on the phone.

“OK, ok,” I said through the tears I could feel, that choking of my throat, “I am on my way.”

I stood over her as her spirit left her body and moved on. I stroked her face, apologized to her for the life she was given here, and told her she was loved and that I could only hope her next life was better. I hated being there. I hated having to put this memory in my head. But, she deserved it. She deserved to have that love bestowed upon her after all of the pain she suffered. It was the least I could do.

How gracefully you let go of things not meant for you …

Yeah, I cried. Hell, you should see the tears spewing from my eyes right now, but I want to feel this. I don’t want to forget her. Her story, her life, deserved better and who am I to not honor her because I simply don’t want to feel pain?

It wasn’t about what I wanted, or what I didn’t want; it was all about her and giving her the respect and love she deserved. I finally got it. I finally understood why it is important to be with animals at the end of their lives. Because it is about them.

In loving memory of Belle.

Diary Get Your Shit Together

Because nothing is permanent

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Because ice melts. Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: net_efekt

They say animals love you, unconditionally. And us, them. But, beat up an animal enough, and that animal will eventually (and hopefully) bite the shit out of us; get bitten by an animal we love one too many times, and we’ll likely get rid of the abuser.

Even those unconditional notions … they aren’t aways here to stay. Unconditional love is not permanent; it is a privilege which, with abuse, can be rescinded.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about permanence.

When I take body pump at the gym, my friend and I always are in the very back, facing away from the others working out so we can watch our form (and see how good we look when we sweat) in the mirrors. I see those wrinkles around my eyes. The lines in my forehead. I watch as I age before that mirror, trying to become a healthier person, but knowing, at the end of the day, my life is not permanent. And, that youthful appearance (what remains of it) will go from crows feet to deep crevices cutting into the heart of my face.

And, I’m ok with that.

As I have aged (hell, I’m basically 35 now), this idea of permanence has ebbed and flowed. The first idea of permanence was growing up when I was asked what I wanted for my future. A job, a house, a family. All of those things seemed like my God-given right; these were ideas which were placed into my mind and ones which clearly spelled my future. A future where my career was my career, my house was my house, my husband was my husband until death do us part: permanence.

Then, it was Vegas. I remember so clearly walking the aisles of Macy’s looking for furniture.

“Get something quality,” my dad had said. “You want it to last.”

Because at that time, this move to Vegas, this furniture, it was the start of my new life. Of this new permanent because my future was Vegas and that was all I saw. It had to last as long as I was going to last. Or, as long as it took to get married, buy a new house and get all new furniture for kids to destroy.

Of course, if you follow along on d travels ’round, then you know that permanent life was politely exchanged not once, but three times. The first, to Atlanta, the second to Europe and then the third, back to Vegas.

Enter the fourth act: Chiang Mai.

For me, this city is about as permanent as they come. I know I love it because when I walk down the street, when I sit with Lek and the elephants, when I hop in a songthaew, the thought of not having these things in my life on a regular basis literally brings tears to my eyes. This city overwhelms me with emotion, with love, but also that yearning to either make it my place or find another one.

It is something I regularly battle with as I get older, my friends get married and have kids, and the mileage between my family doesn’t shrink. I never expected this stop to be permanent, so I never gave myself permission to truly settle in here. I have always refused to go to the Baan & Beyond and buy home goods because I know nothing is permanent, and that has been my thought process for too long now to correct.

 

But do I really want to be permanent anywhere?  I can hardly make a commitment on the color of hair I want, let alone  decide to hunker down for the long haul in one single, solitary location. There is always that desire to see. To learn. To soak up as much as possible before I no longer have that ability to soak things up anymore.

No, I’m not leaving Chiang Mai anytime in the near future. This project, with all of its “dig deeper” moments, has just dug up this idea lately about permanence, and that it doesn’t exist in my world.

Does it exist in yours?

Diary Get Your Shit Together

I heart boundaries

Peter Castelton

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Peter Castleton

Boundaries.

Let’s talk today about boundaries because they rock. And I say this as a person who, at nearly 35, has only recently learned to put them up without coming off as a total bitch. (Although lately the boundaries I have been having to establish have warranted downright bitchy behavior. Please refer to Dating in Thailand and FOF for reference of said TOTALLY WARRANTED bitchy behavior.)

I used to not have boundaries. It sucked.

Why?

Because I don’t think it is possible to live a happy existence constantly letting other people mow a person over. Or constantly passing on what makes me comfortable or happy because I am so scared to hurt the other person/people or disappoint the other person/people, that I just bend over and take it.

I like to make other people happy, don’t get me wrong. I am one hell of a loyal friend and would cancel a gym session for a friend in need (and at this point in my life, canceling the gym is, like, HUGE. I might as well put up a sign that says “I love you” because, I truly do love you if I am pulled away from spin class or body pump or (gasp!) both.)

Boundaries aren’t just about setting up guidelines and expectations; they are also about cutting bullshit from lives. You know, the toxic shit that we, perhaps, used to accept.

Like the excuse or defensive statement we sometimes take to justify a person’s not-so-good behavior. Maybe this rings a bell?

“So and so is just an asshole …”

Well, you know what?

I. Don’t. Like. Assholes.

In fact, I don’t want assholes in my life.

Boundary? Yes. Removal from my brain matter? Yes. Removal from my life? Oh, hell yes.

And it feels amazing.

But, there are those other boundaries, too. The boundaries we put up in response to how we expect to be treated. How we live our lives. What we will and won’t sacrifice.

These are all incredibly important. As I have come along with this project and become more secure in myself and what it is want, I have not only cut those jerk faces from my life, but I have also laid boundaries as to what I will and won’t accept.

How do you set up boundaries?

Diary Get Your Shit Together

Cut nose. Spite face.

fork in the road

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: Andre Chinn

“So, let me get this straight,” my new friend begins as we walk down Moonmueang on a balmy Saturday night. “You won’t go on a date with someone who is only here for two nights?”

“Correct,” I say, resolute in this decision.

“But, what if that person is the one you are meant to be with and you decide not to go because he is only in town for two nights? What if he’s the one?” he asks.

“I guess I would kind of know if he was the one,” I reason, “and what would happen if he was the one for me? He’s here for two nights and then off on some other adventure. I don’t want that.”

“If it was me, I would stay, I would stop traveling, if I met someone I thought was the one,” he says.

“Yeah, I guess there is that,” and then in the back of my mind, I think this guy is the exception to the rule. He’s not the typical traveler coming through here. He’s on his own. He’s 40. He’s mature. The guys who hit me up on OK Cupid, on Tinder, are not looking for the “one,” they are looking for a good time. Then, they’re off to Laos. Or Vietnam. Or down south to the beaches and bars.

And, then I announce, “You know, I’m really not looking for a relationship right now. I’m really not looking for anything. The idea of taking the time, the effort, to go out on a date with someone here for only two nights just does not appeal to me in the least. I’d rather spend that time on me and be selfish.”

I’d rather go to the gym, go to dinner with friends and go home and write, than make that effort, have that strained conversation and think that maybe, just maybe this random guy who has hit me up on the flavor-of-the-day dating site could possibly  be someone long term. I’m really happy just being with myself.”

For the first time in my life, I actually want to be by myself.

It took me until a few months ago to really realize that. I’d always just assumed that if I met the right guy, I would drop everything and balls-to-the-wall it with that man and embark on said relationship with gusto. Then, when I started that long distance Tinder relationship in June, things got serious really quick. Sure, we hadn’t met each other yet, but the conversations, the deep, deep conversations, the realizations that we had about each other,  the awe that we clicked that well, the sheer idea that this was like a little fairytale between us, made me start thinking about relationships more.

About what I was willing to give up in exchange for that partner in crime.

He was planning on coming here. We were going to see if it would work. And if it did, then we would figure out those all-important next steps. Those major steps that move one from their single life into that life of compromise.

Turns out, I’m not ready to give up anything. Yet.

I remember so clearly, sitting in the back of the songthaew, coming home from a rather intense workout. I looked out the window and just gushed love for my city, the moat, everything that makes this place my place (annoyances and all).

Was I ready to drop it for someone? Did I want to re-start my life in a foreign city? Did I really want to sacrifice the things I was working on (a book, a new project, travel, focusing on my health and well-being) because of a relationship? Was I willing to succumb to the pressure of being under relationship pressure?

Far too often in my life, I have made decisions based on others lives and my conforming to them. Was this a case where I would need to conform?

Ultimately, that was not what ended the could-belong-distance relationship, but I knew that instant, as we puttered along the Old City, that I wanted to be selfish. I wanted to focus on me. To not get distracted. I was not willing to sacrifice the point I am at in my life, the things I am doing for me, for anyone else or anything else.

And, that still stands.

But then, with my friend the other night, and that conversation, I began to second guess myself. I’m nearly 35. I’m nearly 40. I’m nearly out of that range where if I wanted to have kids of my own, I could. Am I setting myself up for a never having this by turning my nose up at potential dates? Potential opportunities? Or am I giving myself a chance to fall deeper in love with me, and perhaps meet someone in the future who can love me as much as I love myself?

Am I regularly coming to forks in the road and choosing the wrong path? I feel like before I can be in a relationship with someone else I keep focusing on me and let the chips fall as they may because at the end of the day, it is ultimately up to me to find happiness within myself. The rest is just extra.

Thoughts?

Diary The Dating Life

Dating in Thailand: you’re f#%^ed. Definitely not literally.

dating in thailand

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: ngmmemuda

I used to joke with my married best friend here in Chiang Mai about dating. Wouldn’t it be great to write an anonymous blog about dating in Thailand as a western woman? I mean, the possibilities (ha)! That’s when she uttered this gem of a title: “You’re fucked. Definitely not literally.”

We had a good laugh about it that ended with that heavy sigh on my end. The sigh that means, “that’s funny as shit, but dammit, you are so right.”

So, with TCZP, I decided I would put myself out there, see what could happen. Even though I am perfectly content being single and not in a relationship. In fact, I don’t really have any desire to date. BUT, a part of this project is dating and meeting men on different online sites since meeting them here in my free time is pretty much not an option since when I’m not working, I’m working out. Or sleeping. Or spending time with people I care about.

A brief examination of the dating options in Thailand for western women seeking a western man:

OK Cupid

Since March, I’ve been fielding requests on OK Cupid for dates. Although I specifically state that I am interested more in learning about what men are looking for living here than a relationship, and that the date must be with someone who either lives here or is visiting longer term, it hasn’t stopped people from all over the world messaging me with ridiculousness.

Like these gems.

Some of which are just arrogant drivel that simply attempts to tell me I am wrong and can be better XX ways:

“I don’t know what’s worse: You writing about yourself in third person or you writing about being fat although obviously you aren’t. Well who am I to judge. Maybe you just master the angles. In that case I am sorry that you feel bad. And for me making fun of that. So I’ve read your post almost completely now. Never really hard from anyone that thai people would talking like that. Anyway. It shouldn’t be too hard to meet western men. A lot of them are actually no sexpats who would enjoy spending time with caucasian gal. So, enjoy your stay! And the best of luck. Maybe cut down a little on that ‘I am a writer and I am living my dream in thailand” crap and write some interesting stuff about ya. Just saying. Well anyway, I just came here because the pictures were cute. So there you have it.” [SIC] [SIC] [SIC]

Mind you, I responded to not one of those messages. And each sentence was an instant message.

One guy offered to fly up to see me from Bangkok, which just made me uncomfortable, particularly since we had exchanged maybe two lines of communication before the ask.

Then, there are the ones from somewhere far away, largely from India, that tell me they would like to get to know me better.

And, of course, the pervs who want me to read their erotica and tell them what I think.

So, delete. Delete. Delete. And delete some more.

After deciding that I don’t really give a shit knowing what men are looking for here because I see the men here and they are not men I want to date  … EVER … I decided to move on over to the dark side: Tinder.

Tinder

Tinder, as most of you may know, is  basically an App that lets you pick and choose potential “dates” based pretty much entirely on appearance and a super brief description. That’s it. And, in the not nice terms, it is largely used for people to go and have random sex and maybe, just maybe meet a suitable match.

Of course, the men I meet on Tinder here are in town for a quick jaunt mostly, and either the convo goes downhill quickly or I lose interest and have no desire to take a night off from the gym or my quiet days to go and have conversation with a passerby.

Things changed when I went to Europe though. The guys on Tinder there are locals. They stay put, and — joy of joys — they want to date a western woman. I was the one passing through, I held the intrigue and for the first time, guys were messaging me and asking me out, versus just engaging in mundane conversation of “how long you in town?” blah blah filler.

But, even those men living in Europe seemed to only want one thing: sex.

I mean, I started getting messages without even so much as small talk telling me they were staying at such-and-such location and did I want to come over because they are good kissers?

What? The? Fuck?

And, no. Just … no.

Then, I met someone on there who was engaging. Seemed cute. Seemed to have his shit together. The only downside was we never got to meet when I was in Europe, which meant the conversation continued with 5,000 miles between us.

Let me tell you this — 5,000 miles between a potential match kind of opens one up to being more up front. Because what’s the worst that can happen? You stop e-mailing? So, I let loose. I opened up like I had never opened up before. It was a whirlwind and soon he was planning to come here to meet me.

But, there were warning bells going off in my head. Friends waving red flags to me. (I’m not going to get into it because it is all personal, and while I am fine opening up about me, I am not fine with talking about someone else on here and their personal life confided to me.) At the end of the day, I decided it wasn’t a relationship I wanted to be in so I ended it.

JDate

As someone who would like to end up with someone of my own religious upbringing, although I am not really practicing, my best friend suggested I check out JDate. In Thailand. Which kind of made me scratch my head a little, because really? JDate exists in Thailand?

Guess what?

It doesn’t.

Sure, there is a drop down menu that lets the user click on “Thailand” but then nothing comes up with the actual listing for cities.

JDate fail.

Expat Dating Sites

I also looked at the expat dating sites on the fabulous inter webs. After doing some inputting, my results were handed to me. About one page of men my dads age. So, nope on those. Apparently, the expat dating sites in Chiang Mai are not utilized by the eligible bachelors my age.

Match.com

Match.com, back in the States, was my go-to. It was less annoying than e-Harmony and the quality of men was far better than OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and others. So, I decided to take a little swim through Match the other week. Similar to the expat dating sites, Match.com is definitely not utilized by many foreigners here looking for a western girlfriend. There were about 10 results for Chiang Mai within my age group. I didn’t even narrow it down to any deal breakers or anything. I just entered in the ages. And, yeah …

The friend of a friend

This. This is where I made the ultimate mistake. I met a friend of a friend. A friend of a friend who was in town for only a short while. This FOF, however, was super cute. Super polite. And wanted to spend time with me. For a long weekend, we spent a lot of time together, going out, eating, drinking, canoodling.

One night, laying together, I asked him if he had a wife or a girlfriend. He said “no” and then kissed me.

Cue melting.

I mean, a nice guy. Single. Handsome. Heaps of vacation time at the ready. There were no wedding bells dinging in my mind or anything serious, but someone who comes to town and can hold a conversation and is nice and nice to spend time with? Yes, please. Even if it is not often. It’s … comforting.

This shit doesn’t exist in Thailand for me. I barely get a hug, let alone a kiss. So, this was big. Temporary, but big.

And then, the shit hits the fan.

If you don’t know a lot about Thailand’s tourism industry, please, let me enlighten you for a brief moment. There are the beaches. There are the elephants. There are the treks. And then, there is the sex tourism. I cannot name more than one or two men I have ever met here who have not had sex with a prostitute while in Thailand. (Unless they are traveling with their significant other, but that’s a different breed of tourist.)

Turns out, not only was this great (!) guy down in the seedy sex tourism city of the south, but also married. Of course, I didn’t know that until after we had promised to keep in touch and perhaps see him on his side of the world, and when he comes back here to visit.

The shock when I read that was mind-boggling. The fact that he lied. It felt like I had been slapped in the face over. And. Over. And. Over.

Not to mention the sheer disgust when I learned from my friend that this FOF planned this trip to be top-secret. I wanted to scrub my entire body raw and vomit glass, that’s how furious I was. I am not that girl

So, moral of this long story? FOFs are now out. Unless they come highly recommended, but most men I know here would rather their buddies get laid than ruin the chances. And, I’ve never met a FOF through a female here and don’t really even know any females here.

Yes, it is a sweeping generalization, but I am keenly aware that Thailand gives men –either in or not in relationships — permission to act like sex crazed teens and while they can do whatever they choose, I’m not going to take sloppy seconds after some hooker in Patong.

In conclusion

Dating in Thailand: you’re fucked. Definitely not literally. Except for very special occasions. This little portion of my project is officially over. And, I am oh-so glad to just be done with even trying to figure the shit out. I much rather just go back to working on me and making myself happy.

Single life for this girl is just fine. Fine. And far easier. And sparing my feelings. And pain-free.

 

Diary Featured The Dating Life