I wanted to be around people and have the chance to explore my country and the world.I enrolled in an English speaking and writing class. This helped me become who I am today — a real estate agent selling and leasing condominium units to Thai locals and foreigners. I am a Thai career woman who is currently dating someone with Western roots.Or at least I wondered if I’d paid too steep a price. Both asked me to break up with the other one, to choose, and I got mad, saying: OK, but neither of you will make me happy alone.Then I woke, and no breaking up or apart was necessary.By the time I was a graduate student, the idea that woman was man’s equal was regarded with hostility by the general population but as a mandate for change in universities. By the time I was 35, I was a professor who’d published two books but still hadn’t dated anyone who wasn’t a guy in a local band (he liked Alka-Seltzer with corn flakes for breakfast, hangover remedy); a small-time drug dealer (more than one of these, in fact); or a carpenter ready to knock off early if I’d just turned in a big project.So I was part of that shift of women trickling into what had been, until then, a mostly male profession. I didn’t get it that a few years of feminism wouldn’t undo centuries of convention about mating and dating, including the idea that men can date or marry women with less status, but when a woman does it’s a scandal, a secret. For years I lived with a rift between my days and nights, between my work self and what I thought was my real self.
He’d realized, he said, he didn’t want to be in a marriage in which both spouses had demanding careers.Some women navigated this impasse better than I did. I’d mention work, and my then-boyfriend would flash a silent, terrified smile. My second language was Old English, virtually foreign now, rife with bodies, weapons, food, exile.If someone at work asked me about my weekend, I smiled silently too. Buying a house in the woods and dating men who lived in the woods was no doubt a way of alleviating impostor syndrome, chronic worries I’d forget which Shakespeare play I’d just quoted, or that I’d be forced to say a word or phrase I’d read but never heard: "fin de siècle" or "deus ex machina" or "ribald."Then I met a man at a conference who’d studied Latin at top-tier schools. He liked that I was wisecracking and “sexually unapologetic.” He went home and told his girlfriend he loved me, then called daily.I grew up in a town known for hunting, fishing, bars, strip joints—even a house of ill repute, until it burned to the ground when, according to town gossip, a prostitute tried to make a grilled sandwich on a steam iron.It was like the setting for “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” only not suspenseful.