Do you remember the first time you had a crush on someone?
The excitement-mingled-with-terror that you felt all over? Oh god and when they looked back at you, a knowing expression on their gorgeous face.
When you have a crush on someone, logic falls to the wayside and is replaced by the desperate need to get closer to another human. You want in on another person’s life, if only to decide whether or not you genuinely enjoy them. Crushing is the first step towards sparks developing (or fizzling) further down the line, and thus we endure the awkwardness and outright rejection, hoping for true love yada yada.
My daily experiences here so acutely remind me of the feelings I have when crushing on someone, it’s a bit uncanny. Hear me out, now– having a crush may not seem like the most obvious analogy to draw with my PC service but I’m telling you, it’s the one that feels like the best fit.
I’m tentatively calling this list Reasons Why Thai Culture Makes Me Feel Confused (Not Unlike Having a Crush):
- I never know if I should blurt out what I’m actually thinking or just smile and agree with everything. This is especially true of the cultural expectation here to never show true emotions but instead, focus on smiling and appearing agreeable. And who hasn’t had a crush that they just smiled at all day, who could do no wrong? In the 4th grade, there was this kid who I definitely creeped out with my incessant toothy grinning– sorry Matthew, wherever you are.
- “Oh, you like [NOUN] too? They’re my favorite.” I am constantly seeking to make connections with Thai people, even over the most mundane topics. If the woman who sells fruit tells me she likes the small bananas over the large ones, for the sake of the conversation I’m going to agree enthusiastically and even buy the ones I don’t like as much (sidenote: the large ones are DEFFFF better). This is not unlike the time in middle school that I pretended to love reading Orson Scott Card in the feeble attempts to impress(?) a guy. I read an entire series of books and only enjoyed ONE of them– probably not worth the effort because I never told him how cute he was and those books are longggg.
- Was-That-An-Invitation-to-Something-and-What-Does-It-MEAN? Classic over-analysis of conversations happens here on the regular. School events happen last minute or a group of people will be off to a ceremony and when I get the invitation to join in, I’m immediately racking my brain to figure out the WHY– what does it mean? What do I wear? Will I be expected to DO anything special? Like, do I even have to draw the comparison to the weird feelings we all get when someone cute asks to grab a beer? Or heaven forbid, a dinner/movie combo?!? My heart goes pitter-patter at the very thought.
- “It’s not them, it’s me”. I would be remiss to not include the lingering self-doubt that accompanies many of my interactions with Thai folks. Or the shockingly similar self-doubt we have all felt at the hands of our crush. Did I say/do/wear the correct thing? These thoughts can be helpful as well as hurtful– I have to remind myself that being this considerate is a noble thing, but being too hard on myself for not always understanding things is ultimately dangerous.
If we carry this analogy further, Thai people are actually much more generous than most of the crushes I have ever had. While most crushing is totally harmless and has historically been kept to myself (hello, middle school!), I have certainly felt the sting of disappointment upon realizing that I am never going to get somewhere with someone. It’s the kind of thing that sticks with a person, for better or for worse. And more and more, I’m grateful that my friendships with Thai people don’t have the same pressure that crushes have because even though I often feel similarly uncomfortable, the stakes here just aren’t the same. Thai people continue to show me love and grace as I try very hard to insert myself in to their lives.
Now if I know anything about having a crush on someone, it’s that you can’t force things to happen. If it’s not working, leave it alone– people don’t owe you anything. This is the one distinct difference between having a crush and living in Thailand: even as I struggle here, I get the opportunity to wake up the next day and try again. So here’s to more awkward exchanges, sweaty palms, and second-guessing– I am grateful to know this discomfort if it means I get to love Thailand.