Mail order husbands in Thailand

This is random, but then “Random” is my middle name when it comes to blogging–Or is it “Fitful”?—but The New York Times has an interesting report on Western husbands being “imported” into a poor region of Thailand. It appears to be big business.

A Thai Region Where Husbands Are Imported – NYTimes.com

UDON, THAILAND — The most dazzling creatures Nui Davis saw when she was a child were the village girls who had found foreign husbands, visiting in their Western finery and handing out candies to the children.

“For me, they were like a princess,” she said. “And I kept those pictures in my mind, and I made a wish that one day I would like to be one of those ladies.”

Today, at the age of 30, she lives with her husband, Joseph Davis of Fresno, California, in an air-conditioned, three-bedroom house with a driveway and basketball hoop, surrounded by flower beds and a well-kept lawn.

“My family keeps saying, ‘You got it. You got your dream now,”’ she said.

But unlike many other foreign husbands, Mr. Davis, 54, did not take his wife home with him, choosing instead to settle down in northeastern Thailand, a region known as Isaan.

He is part of an expanding population of nearly 11,000 foreign husbands in the region, drawn by the low cost of living, slow pace of life and the exotic reputation of Thai women — something like a brand name for Western men seeking Asian partners. “Thai women are a lot like women in America were 50 years ago,” said Mr. Davis, before they discovered their rights and became “strong-headed and opinionated.”

[MORE]

That’s a great line, that quip about Thai women being a “brand name” in this field. It hadn’t occurred to me, but it’s no doubt very true.

These men’s motivations in heading to the exotic “East” to get hitched may not be inspiring—though I’m not sure Western women should feel particularly shortchanged by their removal from the dating pool—but at least these Third World women who are trying to improve their material lot through marriage with a foreigner are—in contrast to the disturbing phenomenon of “mail order brides”—not being uprooted and cut off from their cultures, families and traditional support structures. And it seems like poetic justice for these gentlemen to have pay through the nose to acquire these “traditional” (i.e., submissive) wives by supporting the women’s extended families per the local mores.

Given that most of these marriages reportedly end in divorce—presumably after a considerable financial investment by the husbands given that the arrangement is predicated on their largess compensating for their otherwise complete undesirability as spouses—some of these women are turning the tables a bit on patriarchy and globalization, running their own con. If these guys are going to reduce marriage to a business transaction—unquestioned domestic authority in exchange for cold cash—they can’t very well expect their wives to approach the relationship idealistically.

To be fair, if all parties involved truly are benefitting from such an unsentimental arrangement, whose business is it? So long as no one is being exploited or harmed, I say, “Different strokes for different folks.” It’s not like people never get married in the US or Europe with ulterior motives, after all.

There was a time when I was quite interested in Japan and its culture. (I must have learned and forgotten the Hiragana and Katakana syllabaries 4-5 times during my 20s.) Not that I shared such men’s fetishes—and I wasn’t an otaku, either, for the record—but I remember reading reports by anthropologists in Japan on some Western men would flock to Japan in search of a traditional “Oriental” (i.e., submissive) wife. The funny thing is, these men were most likely to encounter “Westernized” Japanese women who were looking to escape those gender roles. (How many “traditional” woman in any society will be caught dead in a bar full of drunken expats on the prowl, much ones in a society that is unusually distinct, racially as well as  culturally—and conscious of being so–from the outside world?) Always got a kick out of imagining this karmically-fitting–and very Sisyphean—fate that awaited these guys with visions of geishas dancing before their eyes.

Speaking of The New York Times, I’m really enjoying using the TimesReader application to read it in more newspaper-style columns. If you’re a reader of the Gray Lady, you should really try it out. Its Adobe AIR-powered interface is much more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing than a normal website.

Sure hope more newspapers follow suit, as it’s much easier on the eye, and nothing beats being able to quickly navigate through a newspaper with your arrow keys.