A box full of reasons to be cheerful about 2012
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Our Lifestyle Editor explains: The news has been spreading like wildfire among resident queens throughout the holiday weekend. In the bars, saunas and tea rooms, they’ve nattered about little else. My elderly assistant, Yolande, hasn’t been so excited since she first laid hands on a copy of Physique Pictorial. It is such very special news, and has been so fervently awaited by all persons of delicacy and refinement, that it must be taken as a sign, an augury. Now only the most dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeons – Scrooges loitering unwanted after Christmas, like turkey scrag ends at the back of the fridge - can possibly doubt that 2012 will be a blissful year in The Land Of Smiles.
Yes, after several grim weeks of absence, enforced by supply problems arising from the floods, Kleenex Tissues are back in the shops! I mean real, genuine, capacious, sturdy and absorbent Kleenex, with the actual name “Kleenex” and the magic words “manufactured by Kimberly-Clark” printed on the box. The essential aid to an active private life has been restored to us, and we can cast away the flimsy pseudo-Kleenexes that we’ve been obliged to make do with despite their tendency to disintegrate at first wipe.
Of course, it would have been tactless to complain at length, while deprivations and alarms were spread hither and yon. You could hardly bend your home delivery boy’s ear about resorting to inferior clean-up requisites, when he’d just told you his auntie had found a crocodile in her kitchen sink. But the weekend’s tidings set the seal on the Kingdom’s glorious bounce back to its own most entertaining version of normality. It reminds us that there really is no finer place on earth, not least for gays of a certain vintage. With the restoration of authentic Kleenex to the shelves of the nation’s convenience stores, we can once again assert that we’ve got it all.
Not convinced? Well, time is short. I am eager to rip into my first box of Kleenex of the post-floods era, and Mr Lek (who is not small) will soon be here, courtesy of Donkey Boy Massage outcalls service. For those who need further persuasion, though, here are a few more reasons to be cheerful about life in The Land Of Smiles - in the New Year and, come to think of it, at most other times, too.
For a start, unlike in the west, you don’t have to worry about how old you are or how you look. If you’re a fitness freak, you can easily find a gym in any sizeable Thai town. If you crave a nip or tuck or round of botox to blur the effects of time, you can be swiftly separated from your wrinkles, and your dollars, at one of the nation’s proliferating beauty clinics. If being chic is a must, you’ll have no trouble finding the latest designer apparel, and some of it will even be genuine. The point is, though, that you’ll never feel an ounce of pressure to do any of these things. You’ll only ever be nagged by your western friends; they’re the ones who’ll complain that you’re putting on weight, or showing your age, or sporting the same pair of crumpled chinos you’ve been wearing all month.
Thais are the reverse of ageist, and few of them are snobs. They worry about their own appearance, but not yours. In Thailand, you can lurch around looking like the head of W H Auden on the frame of Oliver Hardy with all the fashion sense of a geography teacher, and you’ll still inspire a cheery greeting. In fact, as I know from Yolande’s experience, a person can stagger about resembling the head of W H Auden on the frame of Oliver Hardy in one of Shelley Winters’ old frocks, and that person is likelier to raise a cheer than a hoot of derision.
This is not to say that Thais don’t find westerners amusing. They place most of us on a scale between mildly comic and barking mad. But, for Thais, there’s seldom too much at stake in an encounter with a westerner, except perhaps the chance to make a bit of money. They welcome “farangs” with none of the baggage that Empire left behind in other parts of South East Asia, and without feeling the need to take us too seriously. Yolande and I love all this, because it means we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously, either. We play along. We join in the pantomime, and it’s all such a relief from the west, where it doesn’t do to show off.
Mind you, we sometimes feel we’re being observed with a measure of detachment by our Thai friends. We wonder if, when they’re dealing with us, their tongues aren’t always ever so slightly in their cheeks. In the shops and bars and hotel lobbies – in all the organs of Thai hospitality, where the English language is used so readily yet often so eccentrically - we suspect there’s an element of parody.
Not at all surprising. Thais are the world champions of copying things, and they’re intuitive performers. Have you ever met a Thai who doesn’t enjoy having their picture taken? They relax before the camera as if born to be photographed, to be looked at, enjoyed, admired. Theatre in Thailand is no great shakes, but it doesn’t need to be, because the whole nation is a spectacular, never-ending exercise in performance art.
Besides, neither Yolande nor I care if we’re being parodied, because we quite like parodying ourselves. It’s just another form of self-indulgence. Talking of which, Mr Lek is at the door and I must attend to him, if you’ll excuse me. Why not click Contact Us on the left and let us know your own reasons for being cheerful about life in The Land Of Smiles? Yolande and I would love to hear from you. Meanwhile, Happy New Year, and, er – where did I put the Kleenex?