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My hair is gay? And why is that bad?
Dear Emma,
I recently received a comment from a young friend of mine that my hair looked “gay”. I got the feeling that while it was not necessarily an insult, neither was it a compliment. First of all, when did “gay” become an adjective describing things like hair and clothes and secondly, why is it a bad thing? Whilst I am not gay, this being Chiang Mai, I have several gay friends and they all dress impeccably. Unlike some of the other older foreign men I see around Chiang Mai wearing singlets, shorts and black socks that look like they forgot they are not on the beach, my gay friends look quite good.
Appearance does matter very much in Thailand I know and so I try to make sure that I maintain a stylish but not overly dressed up appearance and I am treated with respect and kindness most places I go. I recently went to my barber and had a different young man cut and style my hair and whilst it wasn’t necessarily a style I would normally choose I did not think it looked too bad until my young friend’s comment.
How can I tell the next person who makes this kind of comment that I find it offensive they choose this particular word to describe something? I don’t want to be rude but honestly, the term is rude.

Dear Offended,
Emma agrees with you, it is rude. If the person is a foreigner and are simply following a foolish fashion you could try a simple comment along the lines of “I find the use of that term as a derogatory reference offensive. If you must insult my hair, please choose a different word.” If they are Thai then most likely they are also simply following fashion but unaware of the connotations that go with use the term “gay” as if it were derogatory. Gently explain to them the how and why of it all. Most of my Thai friends prefer it to understand what they are saying and avoid things that cause offense. Usually it is done solely out of ignorance. Be sure you are tactful in your explanation and do not make the person feel bad, after all it was probably some television show they picked it up from.
Sadly, Emma finds this trend disturbing. In light of the increased acceptance of homosexuality and the growing understanding that gays and lesbians are due equal rights the notion that it is somehow acceptable to use the term “gay” as a derogatory descriptive is quite upsetting.

Met a woman and yet my friends think I can “do better”
Dear Emma,
I came to Thailand a few years ago and did the usual rounds of dating girls half my age until I realized that frankly, I need someone I can have a conversation with, I need someone to talk with that I have something in common with. I realized I need a woman closer to my age.
I met a lovely woman who is 5 years my junior, she is from just outside Chiang Mai and has a good job as she is an educated professional woman. Her parents, while elderly, are not in constant need of money, and her one daughter is grown and has a good job at a local bank.
We get along great, have a lot to talk about, enjoy going to dinners and concerts and I am thinking of asking her to marry me, if she will have me. My friends here in Chiang Mai, also foreigners, however, think I can “do better” and wonder why I am dating a woman who is older. Honestly, I am a bit stunned. Who cares if she is older? Is having arm candy really the be all and end all of a relationship here? I certainly hope not but given the regular jibes and jokes, I am seriously thinking of dumping these guys as friends.
Happy in love

Dear Happy,
Perhaps you should dump your “friends” as they do not sound to Emma much like they are true friends at all. It seems as though you have very little in common with them and that perhaps they are more acquaintances of convenience rather than real friends. This happens quite a bit when living overseas, one makes friends with people that would never be friends back in one’s home country, mainly because the pool seems so very small.
It is better to have a few quality friends that one shares common interests and values than many friends that one can barely tolerate.
As for the notion that your lady is “too old” and you can “do better”, to Emma it sounds as though you have done very well and are a very lucky man. If you love her and wish to be with her then Emma suggest you don’t dawdle too long. You may find that she slips away.

Missing holidays
Dear Emma,
I feel as though I am out of touch, I am American and all my American friends are excited for Thanksgiving, having it at some hotel or restaurant. Christmas as well. For me, I just can’t get excited about it, these are family holidays that are spent in the close company of loved ones and it just doesn’t feel the same here. I can’t get excited. My friends call me Scrooge and tell me I need to get in the spirit of things but since Thanksgiving is American and Christmas is certainly not Thai it all just feels so commercial here. I realize in the U.S. it has gotten very commercial too but at least when I spent the day with my family I could avoid that commercial aspect. Here it’s everywhere. I just have no interest in taking part.

Dear Scrooge,
Bah Humbug! Never mind what your friends say, do what makes you feel happy. Perhaps you would be better off staying at home and Skyping your loved ones instead? This way you can have the chance to see and talk to each other and in fact, if they are all together, you can see them all at once.
This may put you in the holiday mood or it may just satisfy your need to see your family, either way, it is worth a try!