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The Fat, the Bald and the Ugly

There’s a certain kind of guy ever so common in Asia. They’re usually in their forties or fifties – physically in bodies of that age, mentally still trapped in the decades.

They waddle toad like down streets in their socks and sandals, bellies stretching taut the cotton of their cheap plain t-shirts.

Sometimes their shuffling stops at the approach of a pretty Asian girl. They size them up with a smile they probably imagine to be Jack Nicolson-esque. They may try to block her path with a sidestep, grinning lasciviously.

And they hate Western women. Loathe, blame and despise them.

I read a lot about misogyny and feminism. It might be common for men to concern themselves with these topics, I’ve no idea, but it should be. There have recently been some fantastically well written things, insightful, nuanced thoughts and, on the other side, petulant childlike fear masquerading as noble anger.

They have made me think about my responses to the misogyny I’ve heard directly. Not every older Western man in Asia is a wrinkly Vampire, but a sizeable percentage are, with views as deeply unpleasant and vile as any I’ve ever encountered.

What is the best response to this bewilderingly bitter idiocy?

My first experience was at a bar. My friend L and I were happily in the middle of a late night drinkathon, getting ourselves better acquainted with Johnny Walker. A small Australian – in every sense of the word – whispered in my ear.

Essentially he asked why I was bothering with a Western woman when so many Vietnamese girls were ‘way less work’.

We fell into conversation, and it didn’t come as a huge shock to find him no Oscar Wilde in the wit department. He refused to believe that L and I were friends. The notion of talking to a woman without the wish to have sex with her apparently alien to him.

He waxed lyrical on the appeal of Vietnamese girls – half his age and they don’t talk back. He’d prefer not to pay, but he didn’t mind doing so.

Then he moaned and complained and went on and on about Western women. Apparently they moan and complain and go on and on, which isn’t something men do.

He slapped my shoulder manfully and stared at me almost fatherly, while I struggled not to empty my stomach all over him. (Nothing to do with the drink, I swear). He looked into my eye and told me we were the same.

I looked back and told him that we really weren’t. From there, the conversation went downhill.

No, I don’t think women in the West are in a position of power I told his incredulous looking puffy fat face. At first, he put it down to my youth, condescendingly telling me that I’d learn. Pretty soon his plastic-spoon-sharp wit had deduced that I could only be a homosexual to have such ‘prissy’ views.

It might be nice to live in such a black and white world, where everything is so simple.

The first of a number of similar encounters. As a man, the worst of it is their notion that we are just the same. They like to whisper conspiratorially to you, like Eric Idle’s Mr Nudge, apparently safe in the knowledge that I’ll agree with their rancid opinions purely because we have the same genitals.

A 51 year old recently told me of the trouble he was having with a Vietnamese woman he was dating:

“I said to her, you’re 28. No-one is going to want you after you’re 30. If I wanted, I could date a 21, 22 year old. I’m being really nice sticking with you.”

Roses are red,

violets are blue,

do everything I tell you or

I’ll blackmail you.

I tried to explain how his words sounded, but he just didn’t seem able to grasp it.

I suppose trying to correct him is all that you can really do because, even if it is seemingly a waste of time, it’s better than saying nothing at all. I’ll happily take suggestions however, if anyone has any other suggestions.

 

A mother takes twenty years to make a man of her boy, and another woman makes a fool of him in twenty minutes.
~ Robert Frost ~

On Motorbikes and Butterflies

I’d never been on a motorcycle until a friend bought herself one. At any one moment, a number equivalent to the population of Belgium can be found on the roads of Saigon, adhering to a highway code straight out of Mad Max.

I got on the back with some trepidation, not entirely alleviated by her assurance that “I kinda don’t know how to ride this but we’ll be fine”.

We set off in a line which, had it appeared on a lie detecting device, would have been swiftly followed by a lengthy custodial sentence. We weaved and rolled like a half dazed wasp, eventually inadvertently mounting the pavement (sidewalk) and, in something I’ve seen in movies but never expected to live through, startled some stray chickens.

It become fun when death seemed less of a 50/50, and I will be eternally grateful to several Vietnamese pedestrians for their speed and dexterity in throwing themselves out of our path.

The City is exciting, but getting out for a while is required. If Vietnam had an illicit encounter with one of the prettier Greek islands, the product would be Hoi An. To a prettier place I may never have been.

Stone buildings of sunflower yellows and aquamarine blues sit in narrow little 19th century streets. During the day almost every shop is fronted by a hanging cage so that the only sound heard is the chirping of little lovebirds.

At night the little lanes are criss-crossed with coloured lanterns. A river runs through the middle, with restaurants and cafes either side, their  clientele spilling out onto the street-side tables and chairs.

It’s the kind of place to wander for days, bathing yourself in serenity. A short walk away, past paddy fields and trees is a beautiful tranquil beach, waves breaking in whispers.

On the way there I found the cream of all cafes, sat on stilts over the palm tree fringed river. In the distance rolling paddy fields, a dhow lazily lolling on the river, butterflies floating haphazard shapes among the reeds beneath me, and a camera whose battery knew the exact wrong moment to give up the ghost and die.

In Hoi An, I’m sure it died happy.

Image

 “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

Kurt Vonnegut

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